What is a Slate Roof

October 6, 2023
Posted in Roofing
October 6, 2023 Summit Construction Group

What is a Slate Roof

When it comes to roofing materials, we’ve got a lot of choices these days. It can be a tough decision. We’ve got to weigh functionality against aesthetics, and find a compromise that fits our budgets. A slate roof can fit that bill perfectly. 

If you’re familiar with slate roofs, you already know why they’re such a versatile and durable material. If you’re new to them, it’s worth your time to learn a little about what slate roofs are and the benefits they offer. 

What is a Slate Roof?

Slate is a natural material that combines great looks with incredible strength. It’s formed in the earth over hundreds of millions of years, and consists of compressed sediment and minerals. Slate is mined and cut into slate tiles, and installed on your roof one tile at a time. It’s a laborious process, but provides the aesthetic bang we’re after in a package that’s strong enough to last a lifetime. 

The fact that it’s a natural material means it will contain minor imperfections that add incredible character to your home. No two slate roofs are exactly alike. The specific slate roof material you choose can add a touch of personality that you can’t get with just any material. Beyond that, there are plenty more great reasons to choose slate.

Benefits of a slate roof

When it comes to roofing, slate delivers some benefits that set it high above your other material choices. Most are directly due to the hardness and longevity of the material. If you’re considering a new slate roof for your home, these benefits may help you make your decision.


First, you can expect a slate roof to last a very long time. Properly installed slate roofing can last a century or more, depending on environmental conditions. Many installers will warranty a slate roof for 50 years or more, meaning you likely won’t need to replace your roof again as long as you live in your home.


Also, a slate roof holds up better than most other materials when it comes to common causes of roof damage. It doesn’t burn, wildlife won’t eat it, and it doesn’t absorb moisture. That means that the most common elements that reduce a roof’s lifespan won’t be a problem. Durability wise, slate is second to none.

Aesthetic Appeal

Slate also looks fantastic. Whether you’re redoing the roof on a historic home or building your dream home from the ground up, a slated roof delivers an aesthetic appeal that works well across the board. That can increase the value of your home and make your home stand out in the neighborhood. The wide variety of options means you can match nearly any style you’re after.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Slate Roof

If a slate roof sounds like a good solution for your next construction project, there are some things you need to know before making your decision. Not all homes are ready to be fit with a slate roof, it’s expensive, and you’ll have it for a very long time. Brushing up ahead of time will help you make the right move.

Can your roof support a slate roof?

The first thing you must consider is whether or not your home can support a slate roof. Slate is a substantial material, and requires a stronger support system than most other types of roofing materials. If your roof can’t handle the added weight, you’re in for additional work. 

Most structures can be retrofitted to support the additional weight, but it must be done prior to installing your slate roof. If you go this route, you can expect to endure additional costs. Your best bet is to consult a qualified professional to understand whether or not your roof can handle the weight before getting too deep into the process.

Can you afford the upfront costs?

Slate is expensive. That said, the lifetime cost of a slate roof is comparable to many of the other materials you have to choose from. The reason is that slate lasts much longer than many of the alternatives. While the upfront costs of an asphalt roof are much cheaper, it will only last you 15-20 years. Compare the upfront cost of slate with replacing your roof every couple of decades or so, and you can see how cost effective this versatile material can be over time.

Choose a color you love

Slate tiles are available in a number of various colors, depending on where they’re sourced from. Since slate is formed out of mixed minerals and sediment, the unique composition of each stone results in slightly different colors. Let’s look at a few common color options on the slate tile roof market.

  • Gray and Black Slate – When we think of slate, we often think of dark stone. Slate gray, to be exact. Gray and black slate contain an abundance of carbon, creating the color we all know and love.
  • Reddish Slate – Slate that contains a lot of hematite, a common iron oxide compound, usually has a reddish to purple color. 
  • Green Slate – Slate is also available in green. Green slate contains an abundance of fine chlorite particles in the stone. 

Each of the different slate colors can deliver an amazing color pop on their own, but mixing and matching slate materials can provide even more visual interest. If you’re unsure what color or combination will work best for your home, consult with a design/build contractor. You’ll get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

The shape will make a difference

Aside from choosing the right color, you’ll want to choose the right shape for your natural slate roof project. Slate can be cut into a variety of shapes with different textures. Each different tile type will produce a different look. Whether you want a standard uniform look, an intricate pattern, sophisticated scallops, or a rustic texture, slate has you covered.

slate roofingMaintaining a slate roof

When you have a beautiful new slate roof installed, it’s important that you practice some basic inspection and upkeep. Slate roofs last a very long time, but if any of your tiles become damaged, it’s important to replace them as soon as possible. Here are some tips for keeping your slate roof going for the long haul.

Inspect your roof often

Your first line of defense is going to be keeping a watchful eye. Spotting damage early will prevent you from shelling out big bucks to fix bigger issues. It’s recommended to inspect your slate roof once a year. That frequency should help you spot any cracks or surface damage before they lead to bigger headaches.

Keep your roof clean

Part of a proper inspection involves the ability to see all parts of the roof. If you’ve got leaves or other debris blocking your view, you won’t be able to clearly see all potential damage. This includes keeping your gutters clear as well as the tiles themselves. 

If you’ve got a lot of built up debris in your gutters, it can hinder water flow and create pooling at the base of your roof. If that water makes it into your walls, you’ll have an expensive fix on your hands. Keeping your slate roof clean is key to getting the maximum lifespan out of it and keeping it beautiful.

Choose a reputable roof installer

When it comes to slate tiles roofing professionals need a specific skill set. That’s why choosing the right installer is such an important part of the process. While strong, slate can be easily damaged by an inexperienced installation crew. Damaged slate roof tiles can lead to leaks and significantly reduce the lifespan of your new roof. There are some key things to look for.


If an installer has only been in business for a few months, they haven’t had enough time to develop a proven track record. Choosing a contractor that’s been in business for at least a few years allows you to access reviews, testimonials, local awards and other recognition. 


Going with a licensed contractor is a great way to get some peace of mind. A contractor that keeps up with licensure doesn’t cut corners, and that’s what you want. Especially when that company will be working on your home with a material that demands attention to detail.


You’ll also want to choose an installer that maintains open lines of communication with their customers. This will ensure they understand your needs and are able to meet them. You’ll likely be able to determine their commitment to communication through reviews and testimonials from former clients.

Local Knowledge

Knowledge of your region and its seasons is also an important consideration. National companies often have years of experience, but that doesn’t mean they’ve specialized in your region for the same length of time. 

Going with a local company ensures your contractor has experience with slate roof installation in your area. They know what kind of temperatures and precipitation you can expect. This goes a long way toward an installation that will stand the test of time and look great for years to come.