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Roofing: Choosing Between Natural and Man-made Roof Slates

Many home-owners when building a new roof are faced with a common decision, choosing between natural slates and man-made roof slates.  There are quite a few factors to consider, longevity, aesthetics and availability but most often the key one; price – isn’t as different as it might first appear.

Natural Roof Slates

Roofing: Natural Roof Tile/Slate

Natural roof slates tend to be the most expensive option on the market with natural Welsh slates often being sold for over £3 per tile – however there are cheaper natural slate alternatives. We have just re-tiled the new Affleck office with machine-cut Spanish slates, which we were able to buy as little as £1.20 per tile.

Natural slates tend are already millions of years old and have fantastic durability and are less brittle than alternatives.  Most slates are likely to last at least 50 years although it is not uncommon for them to last 100 or more.

Although the slates are smaller than some alternatives, they often require less labour to install so on a smaller roof may only be marginally more expensive overall.  When maintenance costs are factored in natural slates offer the best value for money and will add significantly to the value of your home.

Man-made Slates

Roofing: Man-made Tile/Slate

There are various types of man-made slates, some entirely synthetic some blending ground-down natural slate which is then mixed with a synthetic resin.

For people looking to economise man-made slates seem like the natural choice given their greater area and lower cost.  When first laid man-made tiles look very good however are prone to deteriorate over time; the colour fading with the effect of UV rays.  Man-made tiles are usually guaranteed for about 25 years

After exposure to the sun man-made tiles tend to become more brittle, which adds to the maintenance cost and potentially hazardous water damage.

Roof Tile Cost Comparison


Natural Roof Slates

Man-made Slates

Cost per tile

£1.20 (Spanish) to
£3 (Welsh)


Size (inches)

10 x 20

12 x 24


50 - 100 years

25 - 30 years



More brittle/fragile

Colour / Aesthetics

Natural Grey

Start looking good but gain whitish fade over time

Slate Cost
(Typical Front of Pitched Roof: 25m2)

c. £510 - £1275
(425 Slates)

c. £240
(300 Slates)

Labour Cost (25m2)

c. £950

c. £950

Total Cost

c. £1460 –£2225
+ Sundry items

c. £1190
+ Sundry items


Natural Roof Slates are the clear winner, better looking much longer-lasting and only costing a small amount extra

If you're very tight for cash and looking for a short-term solution man-made slates may be better

Expert Roofer Opinion

If the condition of your roof is causing a problem with selling your house, man-made tiles offer the lowest cost solution.  However long-term, the savings made on the initial investment will be lost with higher maintenance and the need to replace. We would almost always advise our clients to opt for natural roof slates.