Roof Showdown - Tiles .vs. Slates

Which is right for your roof?

Do you know the difference between tiles and slates? Chances are you think both very similar, but in reality, they have subtle differences.

The easiest contrast to understand is that slate is a natural stone, whereas tiles are manufactured.

Yet it doesn’t stop there; choosing tiles or slates should not just be about the manufacturing process. You also need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each, to enable you to make an informed decision about which one meets your individual needs.

Roof Tiles

As already mentioned, tiles are manmade. They are manufactured from several hard-wearing materials, including fired clay and concrete. Because they are created rather than mined, they are available in many different designs, formats and colours, although all tiles have the same durability of about 50 years.

Larger tiles are easier to install, which means the cost is generally less. Big tiles are suitable for straightforward and large projects, whereas smaller tiles may be a better choice for more complicated projects, such as an irregular roof, or one with windows or chimneys. Tiles can also be made to look rustic, to fit in with particular builds.

Flatter tiles are simple to fix, and if layered you will increase the weather protection. However, layering also increases the cost. Tiles can also break or displace fairly easily, so keeping on top of repairs is essential for the longevity of your roof.

Clay tiles perform at pitches as low as 15 degrees, which offers flexibility for many different roof styles. They also offer more variations on colour as dyes can be baked into the material during firing. This firing process allows the tile to weather naturally, without losing its original colour.


Slate is naturally occurring, and therefore is mined. A fine-grained metamorphic rock, it can be split into thin layers easily, making it suitable for roofing. It tends to be grey, although colours vary quite significantly, depending on where it comes from. It also has a wide variety of textures and patterns, which allows for some flexibility of choice.

Slates are fitted to the roof with pegs and nails, and therefore need holes. Having to insert the hoes into slates can be a tedious job, so check they are pre-prepared. They can be layered for a more aesthetic finish, but tis lowers the wind resistance, leading to potential breaks and loose slates. Slates can only perform down to 25 degree pitches, which limits their use.

The UK has a good source of slate mines, particularly in places such as Wales and the Lake District. The quality is amongst the finest in the world, and so fetches a good price. There are also good imports which are usually cheaper. However, all slate is not equal, so check the supply carefully.

Slate is tested for strength, water absorption, discolouration, freeze/thaw cycles and must meet the European Standard BS EN 12326. Again, check your supply meets these exacting standards, as some Brazilian slate may not actually be slate. Some of it is mined from sedimentary mudstone, and is therefore not tested to this standard.

Slate lend an air of authenticity to buildings, particularly older properties. It also offers a high level of longevity and durability that is unequalled. Other properties include great fire protection, rot proof, and it’s impervious to insect damage. This means it is unlikely you will have to replace your roof any time soon - just keep on top of any repairs and your slate roof should last 2 or more lifetimes.

Slate tends to be more expensive than tiles. It is also double lapped to perform a watertight layer, which adds to the cost of installation. However, it’s long-lasting properties usually mean that after the initial cost, you will have very few expenses on your roof for many years to come.

Which is for you?

Of course, it comes down to personal preference and which one suits your property better.

Choose Roof Tiles

If you want a cheaper option that has more variety of pattern and colour. Suited to modern houses, although tiles can be made to fit any style house.

Choose Roof Slate

if you love the natural, authentic look to suit an older property. Longevity is increased, as repairs tend to be lower, but initial installation comes with a higher price tag.

So, there you have it. Both tiles and slates have a place on our roofs – the choice is up to you.

Posted on 19 January 2017 in Roofing, News, Roof Maintenance and tagged roofers, london roofing, slate roof, slate tiles.
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