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Slate roofing - What to know before getting it installed?

When homeowners face the issue of replacing the roof, they most often seek to upgrade to more durable and weatherproofing roofing material than their existing coverage. And their choice commonly falls on slate tiles made of natural stone. This roofing has a long history and was initially seen as a ready-made building material with perfect fire and pest resistance. These days, slate possesses the same qualities but has even better visual appeal and extended service life that can be as long as 200 years. No other roofing options can be compared to slate in endurance. However, you should be ready to spend wads of money to cover your roof with slate shingles.

Slate roofing - What to know before getting it installed?

We want you to make an informed decision about installing this costly roofing material. This article will help you consider its strong and weak points, upkeep requirements, and related costs. Keep reading to learn what a slate roof is and whether it makes sense to pick one for your house. We bet you will come to the right conclusion once analyzing all the given information. 

Table of contents

1. What is slate roofing?

2. Slate roofing - Advantages and downsides

3. The top slate roof styles to consider

4. Slate roofing vs. asphalt shingles - What is the difference?

5. The national average slate roofing costs

6. Why hire a narrow-focused slate roofing contractor?

What is slate roofing?

Slate tiles rank amongst the premium roofing materials of extra quality and durability. Their shining look and sturdiness are explained by their origin. Slate is made from a natural stone with a high mica content. It is mined, cut into flat pieces, and processed to use as a roofing material. In contrast to other roof coverages, slate tiles are installed one at a time.

This roofing coverage is considered a solid investment that brings a great return over time. Depending on the selected type of tiles, you can expect them to serve for centuries. Thus, hard roofing slates like purple or grayish-black ones can last 150 to 200 years. They're incredibly durable and have ultimate moisture and fire resistance. Soft sorts of slate roofing have a shorter service life, lasting from 75 to 100 years. That is why their price is considerably lower. 

Things to know before installing a natural stone slate roof

  • Consider the structural integrity of your home

One of the drawbacks of a slate roof is its weight. The structure of your home should be solid enough to hold heavy slate tiles that can weigh up to 250 pounds per square. Consider consulting a knowledgeable engineer about the structural integrity of your house and the need for extra reinforcement before installation.

  • Pick suitable complementary roofing materials for a slate

Want to ensure your roof will last its maximum service life? Pick a long-lasting material for roof decking to ensure it will have the same lifespan as most types of slate shingles. Any board glued together for the decking will take you a lower upfront cost but result in unnecessary repairs in the long run. Instead, opt for solid wood boards or durable synthetic materials for the sheathing. The nails should also be selected from the point of their longevity and rust resistance. Consider copper or stainless steel nails as they last longer than other metals. 

  • Check the originality of slate

When selecting slate roofing tiles, it's crucial to determine where they come from. The well-known American mines are located in Kentucky, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Major foreign suppliers of slate are Italy, China, and Brazil. When you have an idea of the rock's origin, you can predict the service life of your roofing and the length of its warranty.

  • Don't ignore using enough headlap

A roof made of slate must be installed with an adequate headlap. Otherwise, there is a risk of large gaps and premature deterioration. Consider using a four-inch headlap for lower roof slopes and a three-inch one for steep-sloped constructions. If your new slate roof has been installed with a headlap less than 2 inches, the chances it will fall one day. 

Slate roofing - Advantages and downsides

Slate tiles have multiple upsides that are explained by their organic origin. Natural slate is lauded for its unique eye-pleasing appearance and the super extended service life. However, slate tile roofs' costs are exorbitant. That is why you should consider both the advantages and downsides of this roofing material to ensure you get the right product for your home.

What are the main benefits of slate roofing?

  • Aesthetic appeal. Most homeowners, especially those who own luxury mansions, are lured by the beauty of the natural slate. They're ready to pay extra for the tiles of natural stone to create a dramatic curb appeal for their homes. Slate roofing has a classic appearance and gleams in the sun because of the high mica context. On top of that, you can choose among varying sizes, colors, and thicknesses of the tiles.
  • Durability. A properly constructed slate roof is meant to serve for a century and more. Natural stone is not prone to cracking or swelling and performs well in regions with regular temperature drops. If your roof is installed by a knowledgeable crew who can ensure properly mounted underlayment, headlap, and flashing, you can expect it to serve for 150 minimum.
  • Weatherproofing. Slate is a dense stone that resists heat and cold and does not absorb water. It has excellent insulation and thermoregulation properties, preventing uncontrolled temperature changes inside the room. Besides, slate is impervious to carpenter ants and termites.
  • Fire resistance. Slate is a fireproof material protecting property from burning caused by airborne sparks or embers. That's a significant advantage for homes placed in areas with a high risk of wildfires. 

What are the downsides of slate roofing?

  • Cost. Slate roofing costs 2.5 times higher than most roofing materials due to its origin and manufacturing specifics. Plus, slate shingles require installation and maintenance performed by certified roofers only. That doubles the upfront costs needed to install slate roofing. 
  • Weight. Few roofing coverages are heavier than slate. Shingles made of natural stone weigh up to 1.000 pounds per square. Soft slate might be a bit lighter, about 750 pounds per square. Nevertheless, an average residential roof probably won't bear its weight without reinforcement. 

The top slate roof styles to consider

Slate is one of the most attractive roofing materials available on the market. It looks fantastic on classic-style homes and fits in with multiple exteriors. Slate tiles come in many types and textures, allowing to experiment and develop spectacular roofscapes.

Here are the primary styles of slate roofs you might be interested in:

  • Standard slate roofs. Also called uniform, tiles of this type are most common for modern residential buildings. They're made of 1/4 – 3/8 slate of standard width and length with square-cut butts. Tiles have a sleek design and are mounted in evenly spaced horizontal courses with alternating vertical joints. This roofing style is your best bet if you prefer minimalistic, clutter-free exteriors. 
  • Graduated slate roofs. This type of slate roofing has a long and quite interesting history. It originated in the UK in the 30s when stone pits mined slate on an available basis. That made roofers sort the available tiles on site and install the longest ones at the eaves. The remaining shingles of different dimensions were graduated into the roof in courses, with the narrowest ones placed at the very top. This mounting principle of graduated slate tiles remains up to this date. It's highly effective for diverting water from the roof's underlayment and preventing further damage. 
  • Patterned slate roofs. Tiles made of natural slate are available in different shapes and colors. They can be mixed and matched to create an authentic design. You can upgrade the home's exterior by adding a unique accent to your slate roof. These accents usually cover floral and geometric patterns as well as names, dates, and words. 
  • Random width slate roofs. These tiles share the features of a standard slate roofing with the difference in their texture and uniformity. They are laid in courses to ensure sufficient joint offset. An appealing textural effect is created by adding two slates on top of each other. During the mounting process, the lower row of shingles is dropped down a few inches while the top layer is raised up, ensuring a thicker texture.
  • Textural slate roofs. This slate roofing design is distinguished by tiles of a rough surface that vary in thickness, length, and width. They are mixed while installed to create a unique textural roof appearance that looks rougher than standard or graduated slate shingles. 
  • Staggered butt slate roofs. This slate roofing style is also called hand down. It is considered another architectural variation of a basic slate roofing, the installation of which involves the random use of tiles of different lengths that create a hang-down appearance. 

Slate roofing vs. asphalt shingles - What is the difference?

Two popular roofing materials worth comparing are slate and asphalt. They both have an attractive design and serve to protect a house from the elements. However, these are probably the only common features they have. Read on to understand what roofing option is better for your home. 

  • Appearance. Slate is rightly considered the most aesthetic roofing material. It has a classic charm of a natural material and complements multiple exterior designs, from minimalistic to fancy ones. Slate comes in a few styles and colors that give freedom for creativity. Asphalt shingles, in their turn, offer an even more comprehensive selection of colors and textures. Besides, they can mimic the appearance of slate roofing. 
  • Cost. There is a big difference in asphalt and slate shingles' costs. However, when comparing the budgets needed for these roofing options, it's crucial to calculate the cost of material, installation, long-term maintenance, and replacement. If you don't have a decent sum at hand to mount high-grade slate shingles, you better opt for asphalt ones. They're cheaper but less durable, and this is the rub of it. You skimp on the upfront payment but pay more in the long run.
  • Longevity. Slate roofs are champions in usable lifespans. As we said before, they can serve for more than a century if properly installed and maintained. Asphalt shingles are more fragile and prone to water damage. Their maximum service life is 30 years. 
  • Weight. The average weight of asphalt shingles per square ranges from 230 to 430 pounds depending on the selected type. Slate tiles are much heavier. They weigh from 800 to 1.000 pounds per square and require an additional roof reinforcement to be installed. 
  • Environmental friendliness. Asphalt shingles trail far behind when it comes to sustainability. First off, the production process of this material is not green. Secondly, asphalt roofs require replacement every 20-30 years. Slate roofing is the exact opposite option. This natural material is extracted from the earth's bowels, can be recycled, and serve for 100 and more years. 

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The national average slate roofing costs

The cost of slate roofing depends on the area and the type of tiles. The average price you should expect to spend per square foot of top-shelf hard slate ranges from $1.300 to $3.000. Soft slate has a relatively shorter service life and costs $900 to $2.000 per square. Please note that the final quote can be affected by the roof's slope, pitch, and size. 

Installing slate roofing also requires essential investment as the tiles are heavy and tricky to work with. Only a few companies are specialized in installing this roofing material. You will need to pay from $100 to $150 per square or $100 per hour. Besides, if your roof cannot bear the weight of tiles, you will need to add rafters and joists to reinforce its structure. Get ready to pay about $1.500 for this service. 

We also have to mention the difference between synthetic slate shingles and natural ones, as you can easily get trapped by their cost gap. Synthetic is a more affordable roofing material with a shorter lifespan and worse resistance to the elements. This option typically costs from $500 to $1.000 per square. So, be accurate when somebody offers you a synthetic slate for the cost of a natural one. Always do your research before dashing down to a local roofing store. 

Why hire a narrow-focused slate roofing contractor?

If you're ready to invest about $30.000 for installing a slate roof on your home, hire a real pro who has a bunch of expertise working with this type of roofing material. Don't try to skimp on labor, as this is the key determiner of your roof longevity. As long as slate tiles are correctly mounted, they will be in mint condition for dozens of years. 

No matter if you need a slate roof installation or replacement, hiring a proven roofing contractor is the recipe for your peace of mind. Whether you're on the hunt for a top individual roofer or a company in your county, let us help you expedite this process. Answer a few questions about your roofing project by this link, and we will get back to you with reasonable price quotations from experts operating nearby. 

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