04 Jun 2018
Slate and Shake Alternatives - featured image

You’ll find a variety of roofing materials on some of northern Michigan’s historic homes.
We don’t install a few types of roofing – for good reasons. We typically replace these historic home roofs with asphalt, metal or flat roof alternatives. Learn why these antiquated roofing techniques aren’t necessarily in your best interest.


Slate is billed as a roofing material that lasts 100 years or more. It’s got a long history in Europe and a lot of curb appeal. It is not, however, without problems.

– Cost

Depending on the grade, thickness, and quality of the slate tiles – it can cost between $5 and $8 per square foot, just in materials. As a complicated installation, you’ll find the final price anywhere from about $10 to $20 per square foot.

– Fragile and Replacement Problems

While one of slate’s selling points is durability – it is not impervious to damage. Hail can damage slate if it is substantial, if the tiles are soft or deteriorated, or if it was installed using a side-lap style that only offers a single layer of slate. Simply walking on a slate roof without training to do so is likely to result in damage.
Because of how slate is made, it is created in manufacturing lots – each one different. If your original roofer or builder reserved extra tiles that you keep on hand, you’re one of the lucky few to have a perfect match.

– Heavy Weight

Installed slate tiles run on average over 1,000 pounds per square (100 square feet). Many homes don’t have the structural support necessary for proper weight distribution of a slate roof.
Wood Shake
Traditionally split by hand, shake roofing is among some of the oldest roofing techniques. This beautiful custom roof also isn’t without its detractors.


Cedar and redwood are among the most common selections for shake shingle roofs because of their natural resistance to decay, and pests. Even modern shakes chemically treated to add extra resistance to rot and pests degrade over the years in the elements. Because of sun exposure, south-facing shake shingles tend to deteriorate faster.

-Roof Pathogens

Roof pathogens like moss and lichen often set in more quickly in wood shakes lifting the shingles – exposing the roof deck to the elements. As is typical with any roof – this is exacerbated in shaded areas.


As the sun dries out wood shingles, they become prone to splitting or curling – often taking a concave shape.

-Fire Hazard

Even modern shakes (treated with fire-retardant chemicals) will eventually lose their resistance and become as dry kindling on your roof.


The irregular beauty of shake shingles is an irregular surface that traps leaf litter and pine needles. This debris can retard the shedding of water and retain moisture for pathogens. Power-washing is another conventional technique to remove debris and prolong (inevitable) discoloration. This same discoloration causes replaced shingles to stand out drastically.


Typically more cost-effective than slate – wood shakes are more expensive than even premium asphalt shingles. More complicated to install they also feature a higher labor cost.

Polymer Shingles

Synthetic roofing shingles, known as composite shingles, are designed to mimic shake and slate tiles to almost perfect imperceptibility – though the results vary widely. As a new product, their longevity has no track record to stand on. With a typical lower insulation value, and untested track record from solar damage, one might expect significant cost savings over the original shingle being replicated – but these cost almost as much like the real thing.

Alternative: Premium Asphalt Shingles

Northshore Exteriors installs Certainteed® Grand Manor® and Belmont® lines. Both of these shingles look like natural slate to include chamfered corners, a high-contrast design, and beautiful variations. We also install Certainteed’s Presidential Shake® that look like authentic hand-split cedar shakes.

These come with a lifetime warranty for the first owner of the roof installation, and up to 50 years from the installation for the next subsequent owner. These shingles are so good; the manufacturer offers a “SureStart” period when the roof warranty isn’t even prorated. (currently ten years.) Additional warranty coverage included factors wind warranty and algae resistance.