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5 Things to Know Before Choosing a Natural Roofing Material

September 30th, 2022 | 6 min. read

5 Things to Know Before Choosing a Natural Roofing Material

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There’s a roofing material for every budget, style, and situation. While there are common options like asphalt and metal, there are other premium options like cedar shake and slate. 

But unlike asphalt and metal, cedar shake and slate are naturally occurring materials. Because of this, there are different considerations to keep in mind when deciding if a natural roofing material is right for you versus a manufactured material. 

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners find the perfect roofing material fit for their upcoming roof replacement. Now, I’ll help you determine if a natural roofing material is the right choice. 

This article covers the following 5 things you need to know before choosing a natural roofing material:

  • Availability of products
  • The installation required
  • Aesthetics
  • Material warranty
  • Pricing

1. Natural roofing materials may not be readily available

Manufacturers of natural roofing materials don’t keep stockpiles of their products. Slate tiles and cedar shakes are usually made to order, which means they might not be readily available in your area. 

But it’s not just the availability, you also have to consider where the natural materials are made. Cedar shake shingles come from the Northwest United States or Southwest Canada, while slate tiles are usually mined in Italy.

So, not only do they have to be made to order, but they also have to ship from wherever they are in the world. Because of this, you’re looking at weeks or even months before the materials arrive. 

2. Installing natural roofing materials takes experience and skill

The day your roof is installed is the most important day in your roof’s life. This is especially true for natural roofing materials like cedar shake and slate. 

While installing any type of roofing material takes skill, installing natural roofing materials takes years of experience. This comes down to the natural material themselves and the installation process. 

For the installation process, cedar shakes and slate tiles are installed one at a time. Not only is this time-consuming, but it also requires patience and skill to do it right. 

The roofing contractor also has to account for the fragility of the slate tiles. Slate tiles will easily break if not handled, installed, or walked on correctly. 

But they aren’t just fragile, slate tiles are also heavy. Your home has to be able to hold the weight of a slate roof before installation can begin. 

You’ll actually have to pay to retrofit your home if it can’t handle the weight. This gets expensive quickly, but it’s better than your roof caving in. 

No matter which one you choose, it’s absolutely crucial to hire a roofing contractor with experience installing that specific natural material. 

3. Natural roofing materials develop aesthetic issues as they age

Slate and cedar shake roofs are two of the best-looking roofing materials on the market. But every roof loses some curb appeal as it goes through wear and tear. 

With that in mind, natural roofing materials develop aesthetic issues as they age. While a slate roof will experience wear and tear, this section is really about a cedar shake roof. 


Natural cedar shake shingles rot, crack, and curl as they age. They also change from a fresh cedar color to a worn (or aged) color as the years go by. 

Some homeowners don’t mind this look, but some never expected it to happen in the first place. The last thing you want is to invest in a cedar shake roof for the curb appeal without knowing about a potential aesthetic issue later. 

4. You’ll have no material warranty on natural roofing materials

A new roof usually comes with two types of warranties to protect your investment. The first is on the roofing contractor’s workmanship, and the second is on the roofing materials themselves. 

The workmanship warranty and number of years vary from roofing contractor to roofing contractor. But a huge difference between natural roofing materials and other roofing materials is the material warranty

Because cedar shake shingles and slate tiles are naturally occurring materials, there’s no manufacturer material warranty. This means you’ll have to rely on your roofing contractor’s workmanship warranty to take care of any problems. 

So, you may want to reconsider a natural roofing material if a material warranty is important. But a synthetic shingle is a great substitute if you want the look of a slate or cedar shake roof without sacrificing a material warranty. 

natural slate and synthetic slate shingles(Left: natural slate; Right: synthetic slate)

Synthetic shingles do a really good job of mimicking the look of a cedar shake or slate roof while also coming with a material warranty. For example, Davinci Roofscapes’ synthetic shingles come with a limited lifetime material warranty. 

natural cedar shake shingles and synthetic cedar shake shingles(Left: natural cedar shake; Right: synthetic cedar shake)

This is pretty uniform across synthetic shingle manufacturers, but the definition of “lifetime” may be different for each. 

5. Natural roofing materials are very expensive

No matter what type of roofing material you choose, a new roof is a sizable investment. But natural roofing materials are considered a “premium” roof system. 

Because they’re a premium roof system, a cedar shake or slate roof comes at a premium price point. While I would love to give you an exact number, it’s impossible due to all the factors that impact the cost of a new roof. 

However, I can at least give you an idea of the budget you’ll need for a cedar shake or slate roof. 

natural slate roof

A natural slate roof costs around $15.00 per square foot to start and has the potential to get up to around $30.00 or more per square foot. If you have to retrofit your home to handle the weight, it’ll be at the high end of the price range. 

natural cedar shake roof

A natural cedar shake roof costs around $25.00 to $30.00 per square foot. If you have a more complex roof and invest in the best quality grade of cedar shakes, you’ll be towards the higher end of the price range. 

I get that the prices are intimidating, but remember that the materials aren’t readily available and the labor costs are incredibly high. Combining all of this, most homeowners won’t be able to afford a natural roofing material. 

Get the guide you need to choose the right roofing material

Now you know 5 things you need to know about choosing a natural roofing material. As I said, most homeowners won’t be able to afford a cedar shake or slate roof. 

Because of this, you need to know the other options available. That’s why I created The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof. 

The buyer’s guide includes the advantages and disadvantages of the most common types of roofing materials, plus cost, lifespan, and warranties. It also helps you hire a trustworthy roofing contractor, how to pay for a new roof, and so much more. 

Make all the right decisions and go into the roof replacement process as knowledgeable as possible by getting The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof today. 

Since 1990, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided high-quality roofing services to thousands of homeowners in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee areas. We take the time to educate and guide you through your entire roofing project. 

If you’re local to Nashville or a surrounding Middle Tennessee, don’t hesitate to Contact Us today for any of your roofing needs.

Here’s Your Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof to find the perfect roofing material for your upcoming roof replacement.

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