Whether it’s time to replace your roof or you’re building a new home, the roof you choose is essential to the longevity and visual appeal of your home. There are many roofing materials to choose from, including asphalt, which is the cheapest and most common, to tile and slate, which are more expensive.
In this article, we look at the slate roof and why it’s a good value for the price, and why you should consider this option when choosing a new roof for your home.
What is a Slate Roof?
Slate tiles are constructed from rock which comes from volcanic ash and clay. Slate roofs are among the oldest used and date back centuries because of the availability of the material and the longevity of the tiles. There are slate roofs built hundreds of years ago that still hold up to this day.
There are two types of slate roofs available — hard and soft. The hard variety is strong and durable, making it ideal for areas that experience harsh weather. Hard slate tiles are also fire resistant and don’t absorb water, which makes them less prone to warping.
The soft slate tile isn’t as durable as the hard slate, but it does retain the fire and water resistance of hard slate. People may opt for the soft variety because it is somewhat less expensive while providing much of the same advantages.
How Long Do Slate Roofs Last?
As mentioned, slate roofs can last for a hundred years or more with proper care and maintenance, and many factors come into play when discussing the longevity of a slate roof. On average, a well-maintained slate roof in ideal conditions lasts about 60 years.
Weather plays a significant factor in the longevity of slate roofing tiles, and you will have to replace the underlay about every 30-40 years to maintain the health of the roof and the integrity of the tiles. Also, the longevity is mostly dependent on the maintenance you do, taking care to fix small problems before they turn into large ones down the road.
What is the Cost of a Slate Roof?
One reason many people steer clear of slate roofs is the cost, and to be fair, it is one of the more expensive roofing tiles you can buy. If your current home has a slate roof, the cost to upkeep it is minimal, and you likely won’t have any large expenditures during ownership.
However, if you’re installing a brand new slate roof, you can expect to pay about $1,500 per square, and in roofing terms, a square is a 10×10 foot area. By way of comparison, asphalt shingles typically cost about $200 per square, so you can see why so many people opt for asphalt over slate.
Another thing to consider when talking about the cost is the installation. Asphalt shingles are ubiquitous, and almost every contractor is familiar with this material. Because it’s so widely available, and because of its familiarity, the labor cost to install an asphalt roof is relatively cheap compared to more exotic materials such as slate or concrete.
Also, since not every roofing contractor is skilled at installing slate, you need to hire one who has the experience, which means higher labor costs. You don’t want to cut corners on a slate roof installation because doing so will cost you more money in repairs due to a shoddy job down the road.
Common Issues with Slate Roofs
While slate roofs sound like the perfect option, if you want a long-lasting roof that offers protection against fire and the elements, there are some disadvantages to installing these as well.
The major disadvantage, as mentioned above, is the cost of the tiles themselves and the cost of labor for installation. Depending on the type of slate you decide to install, the roof can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000 a square installed. Also, as mentioned, not every roofing contractor has experience installing slate roofs, which makes it more difficult to find a qualified installer in some areas.
Thickness of Tiles Can Be Uneven
Another disadvantage to slate tiles it that they’re sometimes not gauged, which means the thickness varies from tile to tile.
Slate Tiles are Heavy
The weight of the roof is also something to consider. Slate tiles are heavy, and the deck of the roof needs reinforcing to deal with the weight. Slate roofs can weigh up to 1,500 pounds, and you’ll need an inspection of your roof’s support system to make sure it can handle the weight before you go down that road.
Difficult to Find Tile Replacements
Finally, slate roofing tiles can become damaged if you have roofers who have to go up and work on the roof. If tiles get broken, it can be challenging to find a replacement that matches the exact color.
Do you Need a Contractor to Fix your Slate Roof?
The best advice if you want to keep your slate roof in tip-top condition is to hire a professional when you need fixing or maintenance; however, because of the high cost, you can usually handle minor repairs and fixes yourself if you know what you’re doing. When you have your slate roof installed, ask the roofing contractor if they offer a maintenance package or maintenance services to keep the roof in shape.
The good news is because slate doesn’t warp, corrode, or attract mold, it doesn’t require as much maintenance like other roofing materials. Make sure you keep trees that overhang the roof trimmed to avoid any damage caused by falling branches and be aware of animals that may climb up on the roof and crack the tiles. Other than that, you should be fine.
Slate is a gorgeous and durable roofing material that is sure to give your home value and curb appeal. If you’re willing to shell out the high up-front expense and take care of it, you will have a roof that will likely last your entire lifetime.