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What is a Slate Roof? 6 Things You Need to Know

December 7, 2021 | 4 min. read

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There are dozens of materials and colors you can use for your roof- how are you supposed to choose?

You’ve already chosen payment options, a contractor, and now this is the final step. But it’s surprisingly tricky. 

When picking a shingle type, you have to consider HOAs, your neighborhood, your budget, and ultimately your home’s curb appeal. 

If you are looking for the warm, desert aesthetic that slate shingles provide, there are a few things you need to know first.

Rescue My Roof knows that your top priority is making the best decisions for your home and getting a roof that keeps your family safe.

That is why we will let you in on a secret- the six things you need to know before purchasing slate shingles. By the end, you should be confident and secure in your purchasing decisions.

What Do I Need to Know About Slate Shingles?

Slate shingles are beautiful and very durable, which may entice people into buying a slate roofing system. 

However, don’t just purchase on looks alone. You’ll want to know what to expect with these shingles regarding price, installation, and maintenance. 

Here are six things you need to know about slate shingles: 

1. What is a Slate Roof?

Slate roof

A slate roof is made from natural slate stone, which is mined and then cut to form shingles.

It’s beautiful, long-lasting, and they are often so desirable that manufacturers make asphalt shingles that look like slate. 

The installation of a slate roof is different from other roofing systems. With an asphalt roof, shingles can be installed in 3-foot sections. With slate shingles, they are installed individually. 

This means a slate roofing system will take longer to install than a traditional asphalt roof. 

2. Your Home May Not Be Able to Handle the Weight

Slate roof

Slate roofs are very heavy, and many homes are not framed in a way that can manage the weight. 

You may have to add supports in your house and redo the framing to ensure that your roof won’t cave in. 

You will have to have an engineer come out and inspect the situation. They will help you decide what areas of your home will need extra support to help hold the roof. 

The framing of your home will have to be redone before the roof installation.

3. Slate Roofs Are One of the Most Expensive Roofs

Of course, we have to answer the question everyone has: “how much does a slate roof cost?”

Because the shingles are hand-cut, installation is complex, and they have unmatched durability, slate shingles are costly.

Slate roofs can cost approximately $20-35 per square foot. If your roof is the average square footage of 1,200 sq. ft., you can expect to pay $24,00-42,000 with no issues. 

Prices can vary depending on material costs, decking, and reframing that has to be done. 

4. You Need a Specialty Contractor for Slate Roofs

Slate roofs require different installation practices than other roofing systems. If you want quality workmanship, you will need a specialty contractor.

With slate shingles, you cannot walk on them during installation, and they must be hand-nailed. You will want a contractor experienced with slate roofing to ensure the job is done correctly.

Ask for references, and look for reviews before hiring a contractor. Additionally, ask them about workmanship warranties should another be done incorrectly. 

If you can’t find a specialized roofer in your area, you may have to expand your search area to find a contractor willing to travel. Keep in mind, travel time can impact how fast any potential repairs can be done.

Don’t skip this step. To protect your investment, finding an experienced contractor is crucial.

5. Slate Roofs Take Longer to Be Installed

We’ve discussed some of the differences in installing slate roofs vs. other roofing systems. Additionally, you must know how long the slate roof installation will take. 

Slate roofs can take up to a week to complete after installation begins. While an average roof replacement takes one to two days, slate roofs take much longer. 

The materials are more difficult to work with as the cannot be walked on and must be nailed by hand. The tiles are also placed one by one instead of in long slabs, which adds time. 

You will also need to consider the time it will take to get an engineer to inspect your home, and the time necessary for areas of your home to be reframed.

Altogether, this is a process that can take months. When the time comes for the roof replacement,  plan accordingly with pets, kids, and your vehicles so that the roof installation process can go smoothly. 

6. Slate Roofs are the Most Durable of All

There are certainly roofing systems that are durable for their price point- like composite shingles. 

A durable slate roof

However, slate shingles are incredibly durable after they are installed. They can last up to 50-100 years. 

Slate shingles can even outlast their underlayment. Every 30-40 years, the ice and water barrier and flashings may have to be replaced, but the slate tiles are so durable that they can be reused. 

Is a Slate Roof Right For Me? 

Is the beauty and durability of a slate roof enough to outweigh the potential reframing, long installation time, and price?

Now that you know some of the key factors of a slate roof, you may want to consider other roofing options, especially if slate roofs are too high in price.

Learn more about other cost-effective roofing materials with “Are Composite Shingles Right For You” and “3-Tab, Dimensional, or Luxury: Which Asphalt Shingles Should I Choose?

While Rescue My Roof does not install slate roofs, we can help with gutter installation, soffit and fascia replacement, or asphalt shingle roofing. If you live in the greater Milwaukee area, you can contact us today to schedule a free estimate.