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“Should I Go With Slate or Regular Shingles?”

by Prince Of Petworth May 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm 44 Comments

slate or shingles
Photo by PoPville flickr user Victoria Pickering

“Dear PoPville,

My house has slate roof on the front of my house. My roof started to leak, and a roofer came out to look at it. He says some shingles have fallen off, and the shingles are brittle and failing, and the entire roof should be replaced.. He took pictures and it’s true, some of the shingles are falling off and cracking. The roof is more than 80 years old.

I received an estimate for replacement with regular, architectural shingles for about $4,000, or replace with slate at $6,000.

Does anyone have experience with this? Is it worth replacing with slate, or should I go with regular shingles?”

  • Daniel
  • gotryit

    Consider also synthetic slate. It looks nice, but isn’t as expensive / brittle.

    • soozles

      we used synthetic slate on the eve on the front of our house. hard to tell the difference.

      • somebody

        It is still relatively high in price compared to shingles though. I’m getting my old slate roof torn off my house and spent weeks agonizing over what to replace it with. I went with shingles because the synthetic slate was going to still be nearly twice as high. Slate it really just too expensive for anyone to bother replacing with slate (unless of course money is no issue). I went for the nicest and priciest shingle I could find and it was still nearly $20K less than synthetic slate.

      • somebody

        I should add, the relative price difference OP notes is strange to me. It must be a tiny roof, or you have a questionable roofer. It was a frustrating process because I had three different roofers come out and all three gave wildly different estimates (shingle pricing ranged from $12k – $22K and slate pricing ranged from $20K – $60K). . I was really tempted to go with the guy who said he could do my entire roof in slate for less than the other two could do shingles. It really didn’t make any sense. So I went with my gut on it, decided slate was not affordable, and went with a good roofer with good estimates who took time to explain everything to me in detail.

        Either way, if you’re getting a roof replaced for $6,000, that sounds like a good deal.

        • jdegg

          OP here. Just the mansard part of the roof.

          • somebody

            In that case, if you’ll still have slate elsewhere, I’d definitely replace with slate. Unless of course the rest of the roof will need replacing soon and slate would be out of the price range for you.

    • KenyonDweller

      We used synthetic slate on the back of our house and a few years later put real slate on the front. I can definitely tell the difference. The real stuff looks better. I will echo what others have said below about the unproven longevity of the artificial slate and the relatively short life of asphalt. At the prices you have been quoted, I would go with real slate.

  • holdor

    Are you in a historic district? If you are, then you will need historic board approval for any repairs to the roof and they almost certainly will require slate replacements. If you are not in a historic district, you should still consider using slates — they are beautiful and durable, and the cost difference is not astronomical in your case.

  • walk around

    That’s a sweet deal! I replaced my roof at 13th and U, and it cost me 12k. And it leaked.

  • Rich

    Slate lasts longer (80 years in your case–shingles a lot less). With either one, you should be very concerned with the installation and recommendations for any roofer and make sure any warranty is in writing.

    • somebody

      To add to this, the labor warranty is more important than the material warranty. Material warranties are nearly useless because they will always find a way out of having to pay. If your installer doesn’t follow the instructions by the manufacturer to the letter, they can refuse to fix any issues. So, it’s better to have a warranty from the roofer to come fix any issues.

  • wdc

    Wait a couple months and get the solar glass ones!!
    I hate that I got (really needed) a new roof a couple years ago, before these were on the horizon.

    • anon

      Came here to say the same. As long as your spending the money anyway, why not pick a material that makes money for you? And then there’s the environmental cred/satisfaction.

      • somebody

        Because OP has said their roof is leaking, the Tesla shingles won’t be out for months, there’s going to be a waiting list, and you put $1,000 down to never know for sure when they’ll be ready for installation.

        Also, the solar shingles are only worth the money if you plan to live there for the 30 years it takes to make back the extra cost you pay for them in energy savings. I doubt they’ll contribute to your resale if you sell before then, but you’re definitely paying up front for the energy savings over the long haul.

        • anon

          There are short-term stopgaps to deal with the leak.
          And of course solar power contributes to the resale value of the home. The idea that they wouldn’t is preposterous. Even if DOE hadn’t already studied this and found it to be true: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/realestate/solar-panels-and-home-values.html

          • somebody

            *significantly contribute. Estimates are that a Tesla roof would cost 2 or 3 times a regular roof and it would take 20+ years to recoup the difference in energy savings. I can’t see how that is a huge selling feature to people. At least not enough to drop $50-70K on a roof with them. I was at first disappointed they weren’t out yet when I had to move on my roof, but after doing some research, I didn’t hesitate to know it wasn’t worth waiting for them. You really could be 2 years out from getting them if you were to put your deposit down immediately.

          • gotryit

            I doubt those analyses take into account the specifics of DC, where we are VERY friendly to solar. If you take into account sale of the SRECs that the roof generates, I bet it’s a much sooner payback.

    • jdegg

      OP again. Guess what? My daughter started working for Tesla last week!!

      • anon

        Awesome! Get an insider deal!

    • David

      I don’t think there’s enough roof to make the solar pay off. Solar shingles will really pay off on a full size roof. Perhaps if solar were added to the flat roof part in back of the mansard.

  • LosLobos

    No love for copper?

  • Cat

    While synthetic slates look similar, their longevity isn’t really known as they are still a relatively new product. When they start to age they do not look as nice and become discolored. Their warranties also are typically not as great as they seem when you look at the fine print. I recommend authentic slate- it will last, it will look beautiful and historically accurate, and possibly maintain your home value.

  • msus

    Can’t help you, but $6k for a total roof replacement sounds like one hell of a deal.

    • textdoc

      I think it’s just the front of the house.

  • Shaw Guys

    We have slate on our forward mansard as well. Probably going to be in the market for total replacement in the next 5 years as well – previous owners/roofers seem to have used some sort of asphalt to put sliding tiles back in place, so would love to be in touch with a roofer who has a better sense for how to replace!

    That said the only data point we’ve gotten on slate vs. convention so far is that slate is about 3x heavier, so you could reduce the load on your roof joists (ours have slipped sometime long ago in the past), probably do to next-door construction.

  • Anonymous

    How long are you intending to stay at your house? We figured it wasnt worth the cost to replace entire roof since a repair job would suffice and we were intending to sell our house within a couple of years. We ended up just replacing a dozen slate tiles and it costs a couple of hundred dollars. The contractor was able to find a color that was similar (not exact) to the original slate. A couple of slates that needed to be replaced was on the front of the house, so the contractor just moved a few good ones from the back to the front and put all the synthetic tiles on the back.

    • somebody

      That’s a risky calculation though. I just bought a house and it was clear the homeowners had taken this approach and I negotiated a significant credit to help pay for the replacement. Any buyer with any sense will ask how old the roof is, the owners have to disclose leaks, and any inspector worth his fee will tell you what condition the roof is in.

      • textdoc

        Agreed — I too negotiated a credit to compensate for a roof with major deterioration.

  • MtProof

    I would not recommend trying to save a lot on roof repairs. Roofing work tends to be expensive and only gets more so if it has to be repeated. Leaks will degrade the roof, the masonry, and everything else, eventually. And once you get into fixing it you can discover there’s a lot of hidden damage. I would suggest you have the work done right and not worry about it again. The hassle cost of finding roofers is high, and you can spend a lot of energy worrying about the whole thing. A buyer and a home inspector ought to be able to tell the difference between homes that are well cared for and those with quick fixes. Overall, the market will reward the latter. Factoring in performance, aesthetics, and the various financial factors, I decided to go with original materials in a roof replacement. In my case these are glazed tiles, and the price difference was greater than what you report for slate.
    To explain the wide variation in quotes you’ve had, see if they are providing the same service. Some roofers will budget much greater allowances for repairing unknown carpentry or masonry issues. All will charge you in the end, so I would recommend that you try to pin down the parts of your job that are known and the parts that have uncertainty. And hope there are no surprises. Good luck.

    • BW

      I would also recommend you send the proposals to the other roofers and have them explain to you why their price is higher or lower — what are they including or not including that others are. I ultimately picked the roofer who wasn’t the cheapest but took the time to explain to me in detail the differences and why they mattered.

      Also be happy you only have a small area to consider. My estimate to replace my slate roof with slate was $58,000. Needless to say, I went with shingles

  • Erin

    Slate. Without question.

  • saf

    Do slate. It lasts forever.

  • Z

    YOU SHOULD WAIT and go with….


    • jdegg

      My daughter works at Tesla, so I am good to go!

  • Crawte00

    We are right in the middle of slate replacement on the front of our house. 6800 for the front of the house and to fix the metal flashing around the dormer window. Went with 100 year slate. Call Durable Slate.

  • JohnH

    Get slate! Something to brag about to your friends.

  • Eleanor liver

    We bought a house 40 years ago with a 75 y-o slate roof. We are still living under that roof. Find yourself a roofer who will replace individual slates. If it is beyond hope and the sun is shining through the shingles onto your bed. There is material that is called “Faux Slate” It won’t last 100 years, but it should last 50. If that is good enough for you go with the faux-slate. Asphalt slate will look shabby and you will look cheap. It might pay off in curb appeal when you have to re-sell your house.

  • LeDroitPark

    My slate roof is pushing 137 years old and had it not been for the nails holding the slates on finally rusting through, the roof would probably last another 20 or more….youll never get 1/5 of that lifespan out of asphalt shingles. At the prices you have been quoted, slate for certain, just be sure that the roofer can produce lots of examples of your type roof where they have applied slate. It requires skill to install correctly especially around eaves, etc.

    Tesla solar roof in slate is at least a year away, and the style is modeled after French slate, which is uncommon in DC…. ours were more Buckingham or Vermont Slate so Historic, etc may not approve the color or size of the tile. Also, DCRA/HPO have not yet seen the Tesla product so if you are in a Historic district… there is a slim chance you’ll get approval until its more commonly installed in non-HPO controlled areas of the city….so plan on 2+ years.

    Finally, if you do install slate, you should consider and price having all flashing, gutters, and downspouts done in copper so that the whole roof and drainage assembly works together and lasts as long as the slate will. I recommend talking to Maggio Roofing as they have a lot of experience in Slate and historic roofs….they’ll be doing mine as soon as I can figure out a way to afford it.

    • BW

      1. Maggio Roofing was completely not responsive when I contacted them for an estimate. They called three weeks later after I had made my decision and moved on. They also have fairly mediocre reviews online.
      2. Is OP going to live 137 more years? I think if you’re expecting to live out your days in this house and pass it on to children, sure, go with slate. And here, the relative cost is minimal compared to shingles so I agree, do slate. But for most people, the benefit of 100+ years of life of slate versus the cost compared to other products makes less sense in a market like DC where it is rare for people to live out their days in the same house and/or pass it on to children. I have no kids and basically said, I’ll be dead in less than 50 years or so probably and probably won’t even be living here when that happens, so why spend twice as much for a slate roof. For me it was a difference of over $25,000 so it just didn’t make sense to me. I was sad to rip off the old slate but my roof was 110 years old and was leaking and had been patched all it could. Eventually you just have to do it to save yourself the stress.

  • D

    My 90-year old slate roof in the front is still in good shape with no leaks. My neighbor down the block replaced theirs with asphalt shingles and within several months, a bad storm ripped off some of their shingles (and my roof is still good). I am not sure if it is the quality of the roof itself or the roofer’s quality of work, but seeing that makes me want to stick with slate. It also looks much better!

  • SC

    We went with slate on our mansard roof (front of house only) cost was roughly what OP detailed here. Difference between slate and asphalt was small due to the amount of custom metal work required on the mansard (built-in gutters, arched window dormer, caps on the party walls, misc. flashing). Nice to know that I will never need to worry about replacing that roof again for as long as I own the house.

  • jdegg

    OP here again with the outcome of the story.

    Because of the fine people of Petworth who commented about my roof, I decided to work at home today to meet with one final roofer. Good thing, because he says my slate roof is in great shape and just needs a repair which will cost about $1000. In fact, he’s out there doing it now.

    • KB

      Any chance you are willing to share the name of the winning roofer? I may need some slate repair and could use a reliable company.


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