This faux slate may be worth a closer look - Fine Homebuilding

  • Energy-Smart Details
    Energy-Smart Details
  • 7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
    7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
  • Design Inspiration
    Design Inspiration
  • Video: Install a Fence
    Video: Install a Fence
  • Basement Remodeling Tips
    Basement Remodeling Tips
  • Read FHB on Your iPad
    Read FHB on Your iPad
  • Tips & Techniques for Painting
    Tips & Techniques for Painting
  • Master Carpenter Videos
    Master Carpenter Videos
  • Clever daily tip in your inbox
    Clever daily tip in your inbox
  • 9 Concrete Countertops Ideas
    9 Concrete Countertops Ideas
  • All about Roofing
    All about Roofing
  • Magazine Departments
    Magazine Departments
  • 7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
    7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
  • 7 Small Bathroom Layouts
    7 Small Bathroom Layouts
  • Radiant Heat Comparison
    Radiant Heat Comparison
  • Remodeling Articles
    Remodeling Articles
  • Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
    Video Series: Tile a Bathroom

This faux slate may be worth a closer look

comments (10) March 19th, 2009 in Blogs
JFink Justin Fink, Senior Editor

Click To Enlarge Photo: Photo courtesy Davinci Roofscapes

I didn’t want to like Davinci Roofscapes synthetic slate roof tiles, I really didn’t.

The product isn’t really to blame. It’s just that I’ve been ruined by laminate flooring, foam trim, and vinyl siding, and (unfair as I know it is) now banish other “faux” products into the same far reaches of my brain (along with Beowulf and high school chemistry); hoping that they will just go away for good.

Let’s take vinyl siding as a representative example, which to me, fails on three counts:

1) I don’t like installing it

2) I don’t like removing it

3) I don’t think it looks real

So, why would I ever work with the stuff? Well, the simple answer is that as a remodeler I don’t always have a choice. Homeowners like faux products because they are less expensive, longer lasting, and less of a maintenance headache than the “real” thing they are meant to replace. Plus, as FHB author Brendan Mostecki likes to remind me, “we’re in the catering business.”

But after cruising through the Davinci Roofscapes website (, reading their FAQs, and watching their instructional DVD…I’m starting to come around.

I’m not a roofer, but I’ve done it here and there under protest. Hauling around heavy, floppy, gritty bundles of architectural shingles on a steep roof is not my idea of a good time. I can’t imagine what life must be like for that group of elite guys that are doing the same job, but with authentic slate roof tiles. The tools for working with slate are specialized, the work is hard, and the skills required are far from commonplace. In other words, a slate roof will cost you a lot of money.

So, with that in mind, Davinci’s synthetic roof tiles are a pretty attractive choice, though I admit that I’ve not seen a finished Davinci Roofscapes project in person.

The synthetic tiles are a full 1/2-in. thick (nice shadow lines), are sold in several colors, and are installed in basically the same way as asphalt shingles. They boast a 50 year warranty, and claim to be excruciatingly tested to eliminate color fading and UV degradation. I don't like the idea that I have to make cuts with a circular saw, but I suppose you can't have everything.

What I like most about this product is that I think it really offers a solution to a problem without sacrificing as much as some other faux products. Each bundle of tiles is factory collated to insure a random look without obvious repeats, and the spacing between each piece can be altered slightly to avoid making obvious cuts. The tiles install over conventional underlayments, work with conventional flashing and venting, and install with conventional roofing nails (no staples allowed). And though Davinci does have the advantage of a decent viewing distance to help hide the fact that it’s not real, I don’t think they would have much trouble with the reality of the product even if you could get up close and personal.

Davinci Roofscapes seems to me to be striking a good balance between convenience, cost, and beauty. Still, I’m no roofer. What do you guys/gals out there think?

posted in: Blogs, green building, remodeling, architecture, weatherizing, water and moisture control, roofs, siding, stonework

Comments (10)

Incroyable Incroyable writes: I like the appearance thickness and rigidity of the Davinci slate as opposed to the flexible Eco-star product, but I too wonder what the installer does when a tile has to be cut for a VALLEY OR at one end of the roof or the other in a straight run, seems you'll have to cut one and the hollowed back is a problem.
Posted: 12:26 pm on May 1st

RooferToTheGods RooferToTheGods writes: As a roofer, I'm a big fan of real slate. to even a semi-trained eye, nothing looks like slate but slate. I've installed all types of fake slate: Lamarite, EcoStar, DaVinci, Maxx etc. The only one I would consider for my own house is EcoStar. It's not perfect, but it is nice to work with and looks like a nice, fake slate.

Lamarites are too brittle. They shatter when dropped. I don't think they'll last too many freeze thaws. They also fade pretty bad.

Maxx fade the most, which would account for why they went out of business.

DaVinci makes a fine looking product, but to achieve the depth, they're hollow. You tell me what you do with that hollow edge of the slate when you hit a rake edge? with EcoStar you just nick it with a utility knife, and it looks like a natural edge. Just a better design.

Posted: 10:33 pm on April 20th

sjdehner sjdehner writes: Correction:

I suspect one reason the roof stood out as NOT being a genuine slate roof is the fact that it's a new installation - too shiny!

But that will fade quickly I'd imagine.
Posted: 6:53 pm on March 25th

sjdehner sjdehner writes: Justin -

Thanks for the update, I appreciate the information. I'm becoming increasingly curious about the roofing...

This afternoon while driving down the Maine coast I actually came across a remodeled winery, a former 1 1/2 story New Englander, that clearly used a similar synthetic slate-style roofing.

I can report that it did not look exactly like slate; but it looked really impressive! I liked it quite a bit (and so did my wife).

The roofing has a robust and pleasing texture that (to me) seems to be missing from an asphalt shingle roof. On the winery, each tile stands out while working together to form a handsome whole.

I suspect one reason it roof stood as NOT being slate roof is the fact that it's a new installation - too shiny! But that will fade quickly I'd imagine.

I'll echo the other posting too: I am also interested in a cost comparison.

Thanks again,

Posted: 6:50 pm on March 25th

BryanSayer BryanSayer writes: How does the cost compare to real slate, keeping in mind there is the cheaper 50 year stuff and 100 year slate.

If the price is the same, why not use real slate?
Posted: 4:00 pm on March 25th

JFink JFink writes: I've got a response for you from DaVinci, Shawn...hope it helps:

"To sell into California we had to do testing for Prop 65: The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Our products were tested and do not release or discharge toxins. The inorganic pigments are permanently bound within the polymer and cannot be released under reasonably foreseeable conditions."
Posted: 1:47 pm on March 25th

JFink JFink writes: Excellent question, Shawn. That's not something I'd considered, but I can definitly see where it would be a concern. I'm getting in touch with the folks at DaVinci Roofscapes to see if we can't get an answer on the topic of environmental saftey. Stay tuned...

- Justin
Posted: 11:30 am on March 25th

sjdehner sjdehner writes: I found a similar product (Authentic Roof Tiles) from New Zealand:

It is important when choosing a synthetic roofing manufacturer to make sure that the product is not made with any harmful materials that may lead to off gassing or leaching which could in turn be harmful for outdoor air quality and toxic rainwater runoff.

Authentic Roof Synthetic Slates according to Jimmy Crowe, the Executive Vice President of Authentic Roof, "is NOT made from any harmful and/or toxic chemicals whatsoever; neither does it emit or leach anything of the like - subsequent to installation. To further substantiate this claim, the Authentic Roof product has been tested, approved and certified by the governments of Australia and New Zealand in the department of contact immersion with water. As a result, Authentic Roof slates are used for the collection of rain water; to ultimately be used for drinking."

I'd like to see a similar statement from Davinci!

Posted: 8:25 am on March 25th

sjdehner sjdehner writes: That's leaching (not leeching) by the way!

I'm not too worried about leeches on the roof or gardening water.

Posted: 8:10 am on March 25th

sjdehner sjdehner writes: I agree that these tiles have an impressive look!

As an avid gardener who harvests rainwater for veggies one of my concerns would be potential leeching of the product.

The FAQ section of the company's website states that the tiles are "impregnated with a fire retardant" which, correctly or incorrectly, conjures up bromides, which are coming under increasing criticism (and bans).

Davinci offers a little more detail in the Sustainable/Green portion of the site:

"True sustainability demands manufacturing processes that protect the planet. That’s why we manufacture DaVinci tiles with two different types of ThermoPlastic Olefin (TPO), organic fire retardant, proprietary color and UV stabilizers and inorganic pigments that are safe for the environment."

I'm not a chemist. But I know that there are all sorts of brominated "organic" compounds in use. I'd definitely want to read a MSDS (which I could not find at their site) before purchasing the product.

I enjoyed your article and hope to learn more.

Thanks again.


Posted: 8:01 am on March 25th

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.