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Guide to Synthetic Slate Shingle Roofing

Many factors influence the cost of installing synthetic slate shingles. When homeowners are looking at the cost of shingles, they should take into account the various underlying materials, the vicinity in which they are purchased, the quantity and the quality. See how to break it all down below with our material estimator. 

The Costs

  • Highest average price: $150 per square

  • Lowest average price: $50 per square

Asphalt shingles made to look like slate shingle roofing will usually be the least expensive and are frequently used as a price baseline. Asphalt shingles simply laminated to look like slate will be the most affordable from the perspective of overhead cost. Composite shingles that integrate multiple building substances for strength will be significantly more expensive but far more durable and usually come with better warranty options. These shingles are the closest to genuine slate that will be generally available.

The vicinity in which the homeowner lives can influence the cost of shingles. Homeowner's associations have certain requirements that residents must adhere to. Some require the houses to have shingles that resemble slate, so that all the homes are uniform throughout the neighborhood.

Buying shingles in bulk will save money as a rule as even basic hardware stores tend to support this. A homeowner should research whether or not they can save money by purchasing shingles in bulk on their own rather than having a contractor do it. Contractors may get special deals from home improvement stores. In other cases, homeowners may be able to find a contractor who had a canceled job and is willing to unload the shingles at a good discount.

Shingle installation will vary in cost greatly with the actual material used. However, it can be expected that synthetic slate shingles will be less expensive as traditional installation tools can still be used. A proper installation of true slate requires much more specialized devices.


Asphalt and composite are the two primary types of materials used in synthetic slate shingles. Asphalt shingles are made of pulped and pressed paper and wood fiber that has been treated for weather resistance. For their durability, they are relatively light. After they have been assembled, asphalt shingles can be coated with laminate that resembles slate. This laminate provides the appropriate look as well as an additional level of weatherproofing. Some asphalt shingles are double-layered, giving them additional weather resistance at the cost of additional weight.

Composite shingles are very similar to asphalt shingles in construction and sometimes use a layer of asphalt integrated into them. They are usually made of a synthetic polymer, custom-formulated for the task, giving them optimal weather-resistant properties and weight. The additional asphalt is sometimes used for additional weight to make them more useful in storm situations. The polymers used are also much more resilient to changing temperature and very low temperatures. These are the primary vulnerabilities of true slate shingles, which grow very brittle in cold temperatures.

In some cases, synthetic slate will refer specifically to these composite shingles that are designed to seem like slate from the core up. Generally, higher-end, higher-quality shingles will match this profile. However, it is important to understand the difference from a perspective of value. Composite shingles do more to improve the value of a home, which may make them a better choice for homeowners that will eventually consider selling their home.

Advantages of Synthetic Slate Shingle Roofing

Synthetic slate shingle roofing material is energy efficient in most any form when compared to true slate. True slate tends to absorb a lot of thermal energy, requiring underlying insulation to be useful in actually insulating the home. Composite and laminated asphalt shingles are much more efficient for this purpose. Multi-layered asphalt can be used to increase insulating properties, and composite shingles are designed materially to prevent the transfer of thermal energy.

Slate is particularly popular for its aesthetic properties. It is frequently required by homeowner's associations for the look it provides. Synthetic slate, by extension, is gaining in popularity as a less-expensive, more efficient alternative. Synthetic slate is generally indistinguishable from slate to the naked eye, but real slate often has odd differences in the way it is formed and must be laid. These eccentricities and irregularities would be a downside in many forms of roofing, but they are the primary tell for slate, which is considered a luxury item. Experienced roofers may be able to place synthetic slate shingles to more-closely resemble true slate.

Synthetic slate is much more durable than true slate. True slate is prone to shattering and cracking if improperly installed or when walked on. It is exceedingly vulnerable to shattering in cold temperatures which limits its installations to warmer seasons. This factor also makes maintenance and emergency repair in the winter much more difficult. Rapid changes in temperature can cause stress to the material, eventually causing small fractures and fissures that will stress its ability to insulate effectively and destroy its durability. Synthetic slate does not suffer these vulnerabilities, making it a better choice from a technical perspective.

This durability makes extended warranties much more viable. Most shingles sold have 20-year warranties, but high-quality models can be found with lifetime warranties under certain installation conditions.

Disadvantages of Synthetic Slate Shingle Roofing

The installation requirements of synthetic slate are not as challenging as real slate, but they can still spell difficulty. The biggest drawbacks lie in the nature of the faux-slate surface in the case of laminated asphalt shingles and in the nature of the cores of composite shingles. Composite shingles, while ideal as a roofing material, must be treated with utmost care during installation to prevent the cracking of their cores. 

The broad variety of synthetic slate shingles on the market can actually be seen as a disadvantage to some homeowners. Because there are so many different options that might be suitable, all with slight advantages and disadvantages, it makes the selection process even more difficult. It is generally best and often necessary for homeowners to consult a roofing specialist in order to determine the best shingles for their given situation.

Last updated on Jun 17, 2014

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