I’ve worked on a lot of natural slate roofs in my 20 years as a roofer and general contractor, but it wasn’t until last year that I got my first synthetic-slate job. The client was building a new home in northern New York state, and he wanted to use Authentic Roof slates (Crowe Building Products, 888/533-3358, authenticroof.com). After carefully reviewing the product literature and grilling a roofer who provides manufacturer-sponsored training, I felt confident that there wouldn’t be much difference between installing the natural and synthetic materials.

Authentic Roof slates weigh about the same per square as high-quality 30-year architectural shingles and about one-fourth as much as real slate. That weight difference appealed to me, but an even bigger advantage on this project proved to be the fact that these slates are much easier to work with than stone slates. Besides being large (40...

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