Once the domain of thick, ugly, concrete ‘wedges’, synthetic slate roof tiles can now be found manufactured from a wide range of materials. New manufacturing processes have even bought improved levels of quality (especially to colour fastness) and refinement to their appearance.
Often usable at lower roof pitches, man-made slates can also be lighter and contain recycled or more eco-friendly materials that may help you gain ‘credit’ in the sustainability assessment of your planning policy statement. Prices of the cheaper man-made slates can also be significantly less than natural slate.
Due to their standard design, man-made slates can also be fixed quickly by inexperienced roofers. However, do note that many products require special fixing clips or the use of copper disc rivets to prevent wind lift.
Fibre cement – smooth, dark-grey and black fibre cement slates manufactured by SVK, Marley Eternit and Cembrit are the most well-known, possibly due to their low cost and ease of availability (expect to pay £10-£12 per square meter). Also available in different colours and textures, fibre cement slates have a typical lifespan of 30-50 years, although colour fastness can be considerably less. Due to the materials used in their manufacture, manufacturers recommend the use of copper fixings.
Plastic or rubber slates are becoming increasingly popular, mainly because of their eco-credentials and ease of installation. Because of their use of recycled materials and claimed lifespans of 50+ years, they can be of great interest, especially to the eco builder. Prices do tend to be expensive (higher than even the best quality natural slate), and that’s before you factor in the price of fixings.
Reconstituted stone and reconstituted slate tiles are typically made up of 60-80% recycled materials. Offering a more natural appearance than pure plastic or rubber slates, these weather naturally over time to provide a unique patina to every roof.