Real Vs. Artificial Slate – Which One Should You Choose?

The use of slate in roofing has been prevalent for centuries across Europe and it has continually found takers in the U.S. as well. Not limited to homes, you can still find churches, libraries and other important structures that come with slate roofs. Longevity has played an important role in this material not going out of fashion.

While hard slate can come with a lifespan on 75 to 200 years, soft slate can last for 50 to 100 years. When roofing contractors are required to reroof homes with slate shingles, the first thing they should do is identify if the existing slate is hard or soft.

Not all roof shingles are made from slate. Other materials that have been used include wood, metal, fiber reinforced cement, flagstone, plastic, ceramic, and asphalt. Roof shingles have been used commonly in different parts of the U.S. and they all basically function in the same way. The typically rectangular flat shingles are laid in lines upwards, from the bottom edge of the roof, with every successive line overlapping the one below.

How Much Does a Slate Roof Cost?

This depends on multiple factors such as the thickness, grade and overall quality of the slate and well as the complexity of the job. Typically, the slate shingles will cost around $5 to $8 per square foot. The cost of installation can vary from $10 to $20 per square foot. While installation costs depend on your location as well as the difficulty levels, you might end up getting considerably different quotes for the same job. Don’t think about compromising on quality because you can find cost-effective alternatives that will work better than substandard slate.

Where Can You Find Real Slate Shingles For Sale?

Several companies across the U.S. deal in genuine slate shingles meant especially for roofing. Some of the popular brands include Evergreen Slate Company, American Slate, and TruSlate. Some companies buy salvaged roofing slates. If you can find one locally, it can be a good source for acquiring slate shingles at lower-than-usual prices, and you can even chance upon antique roof slates if you’re lucky. Most businesses that deal in slate shingles have an online presence, so you can use the Internet to search for suitable options.

What are Synthetic Slate Roofs?

Synthetic slate roofs rely on the use of synthetic shingles that are typically made using combinations of rubber and plastic. While some brands use virgin rubber or plastic, some others also incorporate recycled industrial materials. The polymeric composition of these injection-molded shingles usually includes impact modifiers and UV inhibitors as well. Most manufacturers of synthetic roof shingles offer warranties of up to 50 years, and you can find options that come with Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) certification for Class 4 impact-resistance and Class A fire-resistance rating.

How Much Will a Synthetic Slate Roof Cost?

Different factors will affect the cost of installing a synthetic slate roof, which include materials, labor, and where you live. As a result, when you’re trying to find roofing contractors, it is best that you compare the quotes of two or more before deciding which one to select. The table below gives you some indication of how much it might cost to install a 100 square foot artificial slate roof in Beverly Hills, California.

Material Prices Installation Cost Total Cost Average Cost per Square Foot
Basic Quality $148.50 to $157.50 $198.00 to $216.00 $346.50 to $373.50 $3.60
Good Quality $171.00 to $189.00 $238.50 to $252.00 $409.50 to $441.00 $4.25
Best Quality $198.00 to $225.00 $270.00 to $306.00 $468.00 to $531.00 $5.00

Pros and Cons of Slate Roofs

Real slate roofs come with their share of benefits and downsides, and here’s what you need to know.


  •         Aesthetic appeal. There is no dearth of homeowners who’ve opted for slate roofs simply because they look good.  While slate typically comes in different shades of grey, from pale to dark, you can also find real slate in green, purple, and cyan.
  •         Durability. Depending on the kind of slate you get, your roof can last for 50 to 200 hundred years. Besides, slate, by itself, is virtually fire proof.
  •         Helps the environment. As much as five percent of the waste that makes it to landfills is a result of the waste that comes from reroofing. Much of this is attributed to asphalt roofing that tends to need replacement in two to three decades. Installing a roof that will last 100 years or more ensures that lesser waste reaches the landfills.


  •         High cost. Getting a slate roof installed comes with a hefty price tag, and this is definitely is biggest downside.
  •         Incorrect installation. Not many roofing contractors in the U.S. have the expertise that is required to install real slate shingles on a roof. However, this does not deter many from giving it a go, so if you plan to get real slate on your roof, select a contractor carefully. While a well installed roof can last a lifetime, one that is not installed properly may start giving your problems almost straightaway.
  •         Weight. Real slate shingles can weigh in between 8 to 15 pounds per square foot. As a result, you’ll need to get your home evaluated to find out if it can take the added weight of a slate roof.
  •         Replacements. Replacing broken slate shingles is not particularly easy mainly because you’ll get to buy them in lots. In addition, finding replacements that match your home’s existing shingles perfectly is near impossible.

Real Slate Roofs vs. Artificial Slate Shingles

Several roofing contractors across the U.S. have the required knowhow when it comes to installing artificial slate roofs, and an increasing number continues to make the cut. This, unfortunately, is not the case when it comes to proficiency in dealing with real slate roofs. Artificial slate scores over real slate in other aspects too.

  •   Artificial or synthetic slate shingles are considered green alternatives because they can be recycled when replaced.
  •   Most synthetic slate alternatives come with advanced ultraviolet inhibitors so they offer increased protection from the sun.
  •   Impact modifiers found in synthetic slate helps the shingles withstand storm damage. The UL Class 4 impact-resistance rating you’ll find with these tiles is the highest level for roofing materials. Many even come with the highest possible Class A fire-resistance rating.
  •   Synthetic slate shingles are considerably lighter than real slate shingles, which makes them easier and more economical to transport.
  •   Their light weight ensures that your home will not need any special reinforcement.

Synthetic slate roofs have entered the mainstream and are here to stay, which is good news for many homeowners as they get a range of options from which to choose. The fact that these alternatives come with long-term warranties to emphasize on durability only makes the case in their favor that much stronger.