Roofing 101: Natural vs. Artificial Slate Shingles

If you’re considering crowning your home with a slate roof, it’s wise to weigh the difference between natural slate shingles and artificial slate shingles. U.S. Exterior by Seidel, an established roofing company serving Buffalo Grove, Highland Park, Glenview, and the great Chicago area, discusses the pros and cons of each style.

Natural Slate Shingles


The biggest upside to natural slate shingles is in the name – “natural”, meaning these shingles are composed of natural stones. All of the advantages offered by natural slate shingles stem from this fact. For example, natural slate shingles are fire-resistant, don’t attract insects, and won’t grow mildew or mold. Moreover, when properly maintained (i.e. checking for rusted nails and cracked slates) by our professional roofing contractors, natural slate roofing possesses exceptional durability. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a well-tended natural slate roof to last more than a century.


Slate is a bit of a paradox: it’s an exceptionally heavy stone, but depending on its quality it can also be very brittle, to the point where softer slates will crack under pressure. Slate roofs should only be inspected and walked on by an experienced roofing contractor. For all of these reasons, installing a slate roof is a time-consuming, challenging process that is often very expensive. In some cases, a home’s roof framework requires reinforcing before installation. Also, although slate is fire-resistant, it’s vulnerable to hail as well as cracking in freezing temperatures. Another concern regarding natural slate shingles is its dependence on specific geographic areas for quality. For example, quarries in Vermont and Virginia are known for producing more durable slate than quarries in Pennsylvania.

Artificial Slate Shingles


As with many other synthetic substitutes for the “real thing”, artificial slate shingles are less expensive than their natural counterparts, yet difficult to tell apart due to manufacturers’ ability to capture natural slate’s texture and appearance. Artificial slate was developed to solve some of natural slate’s downsides: specifically, artificial slate is lightweight, more durable (it won’t crumble or shatter when walked on), and it performs well in cold weather. Moreover, artificial slate shingles offer better energy efficiency than natural slate, and they’re made of recycled materials, thus helping them compete against natural slate in the “eco-friendly” category. And whereas natural slate comes in a limited amount of colors, artificial slate expands a homeowner’s color palette tenfold.


Artificial slate’s greatest advantage (being a less-expensive but visually-appealing alternative to real slate) is also its biggest weakness: to wit, artificial slate doesn’t last as long as natural slate. This setback is partially due to the fact that artificial slate is still relatively new to the roofing market, and there is plenty of room for improvement and refinement. Another downside to artificial slate that homeowners should be aware of is that it won’t deliver a significant bump to a house’s value. Homeowners should bear in mind too that artificial slate is costlier than asphalt roofing, which has been around a lot longer and offers some of the same benefits as artificial slate.



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