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As many self-builders are aware, roofing slate is available in both natural and man-made varieties. In order to make the most suitable choice for a project, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the unique qualities of both, as well as the kinds of application for which each is best suited.

The natural choice?

Natural slate is a traditional building material and offers a fantastic combination of aesthetic appeal and exceptional durability. A well laid slate roof will enhance any building and give problem free protection for the lifetime of the building.  As a sustainable material, natural slate can be salvaged and re-used. Natural slate, tested to BS EN 12326 Part I and meeting the highest relevant ratings will be unaffected by normal extremes of temperature, and highly resistant to acids, alkalis and other chemicals. This means that it is resistant to acid rain and atmospheres that contain sulphur dioxide, whereas man-made products commonly discolour due to weathering or the growth of lichens.

Natural slate often respects the traditional or local character where it is used and, as a natural product, features variations in colours, sizes and textures.

Fibre cement slate

Fibre cement slates come in a uniform size, thickness, and shape eliminating the time needed to sort on site, as well as offering added versatility. They are pre-drilled for quick and easy fixing saving time on site, and therefore lowering costs. The slates can be cut and mitred using simple hand tools which adds to the ease of installation and reduced waste on site through breakage.

Budget considerations may lead some to fibre cement slates, since they are cheaper than natural slate.  Although natural slate may be favoured in conservation areas, the visual quality of fibre cement slates means that they can blend seamlessly with historic surroundings when natural slate cannot be sourced or is too expensive. In less sensitive areas fibre cement slates can offer the self builder versatility on complex designs as well as a huge variation in colours available. High quality products have an appearance close to that of natural slate. For example, Cembrit’s Moorland slate has an attractive dressed edge making it an ideal solution where presentation is important.

Which slate for the job?

Natural slate is great to look at, and is extremely tough. It does need to be sorted and worked with, which adds time on site. Fibre cement options provide a cost-effective alternative, and the improved quality of modern fibre cement slates has improved their durability and strength, some coming with a 30 year guarantee. They are resistant to fire, chemicals and fungal growth, and unaffected by temperature changes as well as being vermin and rot proof.

In a nutshell, fibre cement slates offer consistency and convenience, whereas natural slate provides authenticity and character.  As a supplier of both natural and fibre cement slate, we are in a great position to give unbiased recommendations as to which product suits your project.