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Clay vs. Slate Roof: Which Is Best For You?

December 10, 2021 | 4 min. read

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Receiving the news that you need a new roof is hard to swallow. While you now have to make a pricey investment in your home, the opportunities for updating your home’s curb appeal are endless. 


There are a ton of materials you can choose from to add a new aesthetic to your home. But it can be frustrating when you’re caught between two of them with no direction.


Rescue My Roof has served the greater Milwaukee area for over a decade, helping customers pick out the best roofing systems for their homes. Today, we are extending a helping hand to you.


If you love the rustic and clean lines slate and clay shingles provide but cannot decide which one is best for you, we will be covering the differences between them here. By the end of this article, you should better understand what shingle best suits your home.  


What Are Slate and Clay Roofing?


While they are often lumped together, slate and clay roofing are very different. 


Slate roof shinglesSlate shingles are made of natural stone. The stone is mined and then cut into individual shingles. 


As a result, each shingle will have a unique look while making the roof look uniform. The minor differences add a clean depth to the appearance of your roof. 


A Bright, Clean Clay Roof

Clay shingles are manufactured much differently. The clay is harvested and then hand-molded and baked at high temperatures. All of the shingles will look the same, unlike slate shingles. 





The Differences Between Slate and Clay Roofs


Slate and clay roofs share a few similarities, as they are both extremely durable and fire-resistant.


If you are caught between the two of them and don’t know which to pick, here are a few differences to consider:


1. The Price of Slate and Clay Roofing Systems


If you are sticking to a strict budget for your new roof, there is a great cost differential between the two materials.


Clay roofs cost approximately $15 to $25 per square foot. This means you get the durability and heat resistance slate also provides at a much lower price point. 


On the other hand, slate roofs cost anywhere from $20 to $35 per square foot. 


Ultimately, if you have a strict budget to stick to that may be the deciding factor between the two materials. 


Slate shingles are overall more expensive than clay but provide the same benefits. If you have a lower budget, clay shingles may be the right choice for you. 


2. Appearance


Slate and clay shingles can be thrown into the same category as they are natural shingles. However, they couldn’t be more different when it comes to appearance. 


Slate roofSlate shingles are made of natural stone, which means you are getting the stone’s natural gray and black hues.


The color palette of slate roofs will be more toned-down and neutral than their clay counterparts.


A Clay Roof with Varying Shingle ColorsClay roofing systems provide a much brighter, rustic color palette. They come in many shades of red and orange, which can create a pattern on your roof that adds a lot of depth.


If you live in warmer climates like Arizona or California, the red tones partner nicely with the desert scenery. 


The Similarities Between Clay and Slate Roofs


Now that we’ve gone over the differences, which can sometimes make or break one’s decision, we can talk about similarities. 


1. Installation Techniques


Installation techniques for the two roofing systems can be very similar. 


Both slate and clay roofing systems are best left to the professionals. Every step of the process, from the underlayment to the placement of the shingles, must be done with precision.


Slate and clay shingles are installed individually and often need to be hand-nailed. If not done carefully, the fasteners adhering the tiles to the roof can break the tiles and lead to additional material costs or leaks.


It is crucial to find a contractor that is certified by the manufacturer to install slate or clay roofing systems.


Additionally, look for roofing contractors that offer workmanship warranties. This will ensure that any repairs needed due to poor workmanship will be covered. 


2. Durability


Slate and clay roofs are incredibly durable and can withstand high temperatures.


Living in an area with high temps and wildfires can be scary, but you can add a little more protection to your home by choosing a slate or clay roof. 


As the materials are fire-resistant, they will not have an increased chance of sustaining damage due to any acts of nature. 


Slate shingles are one of the most durable roofing systems in the industry, lasting 50 to 100 years. If you are looking for unmatched durability to handle any weather, a slate roof may be the best option for you.


Clay shingles are also very durable, but only in high temperatures. If you live in a place with a cooler climate, the process of freezing and thawing can make the shingles more fragile. 


In this case, it would be best to stick to a roofing system like traditional asphalt or a slate roof. 


3. Time of Installation


As noted before, the installation techniques of clay and slate shingles require a delicate hand. 


Therefore, the two roofing systems take longer to install than an asphalt roof.


With an asphalt roof, you can expect installation to take about one to two days without delays.


With a slate or clay roof, the installation will take close to a week. 


The shingles have to be individually placed, cut, and hand nailed. To be done correctly, this will take time. 


If you need a roof immediately and don’t want to wait a week for the roof to be finished, then another roofing system may be the best way to go. 


4. You May Need to Reframe Your Home


Both clay and slate roofs are extremely heavy, and your home may not be up to the challenge.


Before installing a clay or slate roof, a structural engineer must evaluate your home. 


Parts of your home may need to be reframed with additional supports to be able to handle the weight of your new roof.


Without this step, your roof may be at risk of collapse. 


However, the cost of hiring a structural engineer and reframing your home may add up to $10,000 to the final price of your roof.


How to Decide Between a Clay or Slate Roof


While they may have similarities, there are key differences to consider before deciding which one is right for you.


In the end, it comes down to budget and the curb appeal of your home. If a warmer and brighter color palette works for your home and you have a low budget, clay tiles may be the best for you.


If you’d like a more neutral roof and have the money to cover it, a slate roof is worth the investment.


However, these aren’t the only two roofing systems available. If you want to learn more about your other options, learn more with “3 Things You Need to Know About Cedar Shake Roofs” and “Are Composite Shingles Right For You?

While Rescue My Roof does not install slate or clay roofs, we are happy to help with any of your other roofing needs. You can contact us today to ask any questions and receive a free roof estimate.