Why is Slate Used for Roofing?

Slate is a gorgeous building material. It looks so good, even on newer properties. And it’s
massively satisfying to work with (when you’re experienced with it, at least!).

Slate roofing has built quite a reputation for itself – which we suppose is to be expected of a
material used since ancient times. Slate roofing boasts exceptional durability, a timeless
beauty and overall reliability unmatched by even the most advanced modern materials.
So what is it about slate that makes it such a great building material? Why is slate commonly
used for roofing, and where does it come from? We explore its origins, benefits, drawbacks –
and the importance of professional slate roofing installation.

What is slate and where does it come from?

Slate is a natural stone, made in the Earth’s crust over millions of years. It’s formed when
layers of sedimentary rock are subjected to the intense pressure and heat found deep
It starts life as mineral-rich clay in waterways, which gets buried deeper and deeper over
time by building erosion and soil deposits. The layering of minerals is what creates the
unique layered structure of slate – but this also means it is isolated to specific geographies.
In the UK, Wales is celebrated for its slate, and so is Cornwall – but 90% of slate in Europe
comes from Spain.

Historical applications of slate roofing

Slate roofing tiles date back hundreds of years, and as a general building material, it has
been recognised since ancient times. Even the Romans built structures using slate.
Historically, slate’s natural beauty, relative scarcity and requirement for skilled labour meant
that it was reserved for castles and churches – but wherever slate was abundant, it could be
found in roofing.

Why is slate so good as a roofing material?

The benefits of slate roofing include:

● Long lifespan (centuries!)
● Low maintenance
● Resistant to fire, rot, mould and infestations
● Natural beauty
● Inert, reusable and low waste

Slate is highly resistant to weathering and tarnish, and can easily withstand harsh weather
over decades. Slow water absorption makes slate less susceptible to freeze/thaw stressing
and thermal shock – and thanks to its layered structure, water runs off it easily. It’s fire
resistant, mould resistant, and with proper installation and maintenance, slate roofing can
last for literally hundreds of years.


Maybe we’re biased, but natural slate does have a timeless beauty to it. It’s imperfectly
perfect, with variations in colour and texture that makes the roofing look like a natural
extension of the landscape.

Inert, low waste material
Slate is all natural and inert – meaning it won’t do any environmental harm. And its long life
makes it less likely to fail and need replacement than other materials, so it’s quite
ecologically sound in that respect, too. Yes, it’s quarried, and that has an impact on nature,
but it’s also recyclable and reusable, and it holds its value even when used or salvaged.
But like everything, slate does have downsides.

The downsides of slate roofing
Slate takes millions of years to form, so it’s not renewable – and mining it is invasive. It’s
also quite a lot more expensive than artificial materials, due to the relative rarity of it
compared to, say, clay tiles or concrete roofing.
It’s also heavy. Well, it is rock after all. This requires proper structural support – not just in
the roof, but throughout the building. It’s not always possible to fit slate roofing to a building
not designed with it in mind.
Slate can also chip and break during installation and maintenance – which highlights the
next point; the need for expert slate roofing specialists.
Installing and caring for a slate roof requires specialised knowledge and skills. It’s heavy and
fragile, and you’ve got to understand how it interacts with the rest of a building. Slate

definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted – but at Tenterden Roofing, it’s one of our favourite
materials to work with.

Slate Roofing Experts since 1984

Hire experienced slate roofing specialists with the necessary tools, techniques and training
to get an exceptional result. To get a quote, contact us at [email protected].