If you're considering a traditional-looking roofing alternative to asphalt shingle, you might want to check out synthetic products that simulate the appearance and texture of slate and wood shakes.

Synthetic slates and shakes are manufactured primarily from polymers or rubber as well as UV inhibitors, fillers, and impact modifiers. Some products use recycled rubber or plastic, while others use virgin rubber and plastic. Offering such benefits as low maintenance and durability, most synthetic slates and shakes are backed by 50-year warranties. Most are also Class 4 impact-resistant and Class A fire-resistant.

Compared with natural shakes and slates, synthetic products offer easier, faster installation and generate less waste, says Pat McGrady, general manager for Mundelein, Ill.–based EcoStar, which makes Majestic Slate. They can be installed using pneumatic nailers, unlike real slate and wood shakes, which can break from the pressure of high-powered tools. It does, however, take longer to install synthetic slates and shakes than to install asphalt roofing.

Because synthetic alternatives are priced comparably to other premium roofing materials, they are better suited to luxury production and high-end homes. The products also appeal to condominium and townhome developers “because they're looking for a long-term solution,” says Brian Eberle, vice president of marketing and sales for Chat-ham, Ontario–based Wellington Polymer Technologies, maker of Enviroshake. “The last thing they want to do is go back and rip off a roof that didn't perform well.”

Even if the cost of installing synthetic roof products is prohibitive for general use by mainstream production builders, the products can be ideal for dressing up the look of a neighborhood in niche applications, such as window and door roof overhangs, gable ends, gazebos and sheds, and the roofs of community buildings, manufacturers say.

“We've had a lot of guardhouses in gated communities or accessory buildings in neighborhoods [use Lamarite],” notes Neil Robinson, creative director of marketing at Tamko Roofing Products in Joplin, Mo., maker of Lamarite Slate and Shake. “A lot of builders are picking this product up.”

For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog, at www.builderonline.com or www.ebuild.com.

SHAKE DOWN: Made from a polymer-based composite, Lamarite Shake Composite Shingles mimic natural wood shakes with deep grain patterns. The Class 4 impact-resistant shakes, which come in widths of 5, 7, and 12 inches, are available in two colors with natural shade variations for a realistic appearance. Preformed starter course shingles, hips, and ridges are also available. Tamko Roofing Products. 800-641-4691. www.tamko.com.

ROUGH IMPRESSION: Modeled from actual slate pieces but made of a polymer blend, DaVinci Slate roofing shingles feature a coarse surface with a cleft appearance and rough edges with a layered look. The Class 4 impact-resistant and Class A fire-resistant shingles come in widths of 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, and 12 inches. Several colors are available, including the new Vineyard Blend, which mixes grays, purples, taupes, and mustards. DaVinci Roofscapes. 800-328-4624. www.davinciroofscapes.com.

TEXTURED EFFECT: Featuring variegated textures, edgings, and colorings to provide a more natural appearance, Max Shake polymer-based roofing shingles measure 18 inches wide but give the look of random-width shakes. Exposure lines assist in placing the shakes to achieve 7¼-inch and 8¼-inch exposures. Max Shakes are Class A fire-resistant and Class 4 impact-resistant. Sixteen solid and seven blended colors are available. Max Roofing Products. 877-768-9663. www.maxroofingproducts.com.

TOUGH SLATE: Manufactured from a polymer compound using impact modifiers, Dura Slate roofing tiles look like slate, but install easily without the structural requirements of slate. Dura Slate will not dent, chip, or spall, the maker says, and it offers UL Class A fire resistance and Class 4 impact resistance. The tiles feature installation guides for exposure settings, nail holes, and spacing. Five low-gloss, variegated colors are available. Royal Building Products. 800-387-2789. Royal Building Products.