Slate Roof Guide – Pros, Cons, Costs and Lifespan

slate roof guide

If you’re looking at homes in downtown Richmond, you’ll inevitably notice the beautiful slate roof tiles.  But, if you’re more familiar with asphalt shingles, you might be curious if buying a home with slate shingles is a good idea. In this slate roof guide, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of slate roofs, their costs, and their lifespan, with a special emphasis on Virginia slate.

What is a Slate Roof?

A real slate roof is one crafted from natural stone that has been quarried from sedimentary rock, cut, and drilled to create shingles1. This form of roofing is highly regarded and prized for its authentic beauty and exceptional longevity. Although slate roofs fall into two primary categories – hard slate and soft slate, Virginia homes typically only have hard slate.

this what a slate roof looks like

The Uniqueness of Slate

Slate is a type of metamorphic rock that’s formed under immense heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust2. This unique formation process makes slate a very dense, durable, and resilient material. Furthermore, the mineral composition of slate gives it its distinctive color, which can range from blue-grey to black or even green, red, or purple2. The beauty of a slate roof comes not only from its color but also from its natural texture and slight irregularities, making each slate roof one-of-a-kind.

Pros of Slate Roofs

Slate roofs offer numerous benefits that make them a popular choice for homeowners who are willing to invest in the long-term value of their homes.

1. Durability

Slate roofs are incredibly resistant to harsh weather conditions, including heavy rain, wind, snow, and even fire1. This resilience makes slate roofs an excellent choice for homes located in areas prone to severe weather.

2. Long Lifespan

The longevity of a slate roof is truly remarkable and one of the huge upsides. If properly maintained, a slate roof can last for over a century. In some cases, slate roofs have been known to last for up to 150 years1. This lifespan far surpasses that of most other roofing materials, making slate a lasting investment.  For example, the life expectancy of an asphalt shingle roof is typically only around 20-30 years.

3. Aesthetic Appeal

Natural slate tiles possess a unique, elegant appearance that can significantly enhance the curb appeal of any home. The natural beauty of the slate can complement virtually any architectural style, making it a versatile choice for roofing. Plus, since slate is a natural material, every slate roofing tile has a unique look. There are many different types and different colors, giving homeowners plenty of choices to match their home’s current aesthetic.

4. Eco-Friendly

Slate is a natural, sustainable material. When a slate roof reaches the end of its life, the slate can be recycled3. Additionally, due to their long lifespan, slate roofs generate less waste compared to other roofing materials that need to be replaced more frequently.  In fact, some die-hard slate roof lovers will use slates from an old roof for their roof replacement.

Cons of Slate Roofs

While slate roofs have many advantages, it’s also important to consider some of the challenges associated with them.

1. Cost

Slate is among the most expensive roofing materials available, both in terms of the material itself and the cost of installation3. A slate roof is a significant investment, and homeowners should carefully consider their budget before choosing this option. However, the high cost is offset by its long life. In other words, although a new slate roof has a higher total cost than other roofs, it has one of the lowest costs per year of life.

2. Weight

Slate is a very heavy material, and not all homes are built to support the weight of a slate roof without additional structural support4.  On average, slate roofs weigh about 1000-1500 pounds per 100 square feet. Although most new roof structures can accommodate the weight, some older structures need additional support first.  Homeowners considering a slate roof should have a structural engineer assess whether their home can handle the weight.

3. Difficult Installation

Installing a slate roof requires specialized skills, and not all roofers are trained in this area3. Plus, it’s difficult to find a local roofing contractor to perform repairs and maintenance work.  It’s crucial to choose a roofer with experience and expertise in slate roof installation to ensure the longevity and performance of the roof.

Costs of Slate Roofs

The cost of a slate roof can vary depending on several factors, including the quality and origin of the slate, the size and complexity of the roof, and your geographic location. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $25 and $50 per square foot for materials and installation5.

For a more detailed estimate, it’s recommended to contact local roofing professionals. They can assess your home and provide a detailed quote based on your specific needs and preferences.

Lifespan of Slate Roofs

A slate roof can last over a century with regular maintenance and roof inspections. The lifespan of a slate roof primarily depends on the quality of the slate used and the installation process1. High-quality slate installed by experienced professionals can result in a roof that lasts for generations.

Maintenance for slate roofs typically includes regular inspections, replacing damaged or missing slates, and checking flashings and other roof components. Homeowners should plan for these ongoing maintenance costs when considering a slate roof.

The Virginia Slate

Virginia Slate is particularly renowned for its exceptional quality and distinctive aesthetic appeal. This type of slate displays a rich, deep blue-black color that is often slightly irregular, adding to its charm6.

In addition to its unique appearance, Virginia slate is known for its excellent durability and longevity, making it a preferred choice among homeowners and roofers. This slate has been used for roofing for over a century, demonstrating its time-tested performance.


Buying a home with a slate roof can be intimidating, and  Although the initial cost can be high, the long-term benefits in terms of durability, aesthetic appeal, and lifespan make it a worthwhile investment for many homeowners. If you’re considering a slate roof for your home, be sure to explore the unique offerings of Virginia slate to add a touch of classic elegance to your home.

Note: This blog post was created using information up to the date of 2023 and may not reflect recent changes in costs or other factors. Always consult with a professional roofer before making decisions about your roof.


  1. National Slate Association. (2020). Why Choose a Slate Roof?  2 3 4
  2. (n.d.). Slate.  2
  3. Bob Vila. (2020). The Pros and Cons of Slate Roofing.  2 3
  4. HomeAdvisor. (2021). The Pros and Cons of Slate Roofing. 
  5. HomeGuide. (2021). Slate Roof Cost, Pros and Cons, Facts, and FAQ 2021. 
  6. Buckingham® Slate Company, LLC. (n.d.). Unfading Black Roofing Slate.