Imitation slate is a less expensive option for replacement of an original slate roof. It looks like real slate and is acceptable in most every city for use in historic districts. The benefits of using manufactured slate are numerous. One excellent reason to use is because it weighs less than real slate, which is a benefit for previously non-maintained older homes with questionable roof structures.
Probably the biggest reason the imitation slate is chosen is because of the cost factors involved. It is approximately 4 times the cost of architectural asphalt shingles, but is significantly less than real slate, both in material cost and labor for installation.
There are basically two companies that manufacture imitation slate. There is Eco-Star Majestic Slate by Carlisle and the Lamarite Slate Composite Shingles by Tamko. It is a personal choice as to which brand to chose as both have very good warranties when installed by a certified installer, as well as very similar characteristics.
Both brands come in various options such as color, width and style. If your home is a Victorian Style then perhaps the beveled, beaver tail or chiseled point from Eco-Star will your best choice. There are many older Victorian homes that have different patterns of color and style. These patterns are many and very unique, they also will require extreme skill in both the layout and installation.
As a general contractor specializing in historic restoration, I recently asked my main slate repair guy to check out a barn roof that has real slate on the front and imitation slate on the back. To save time the typical way to inspect an existing slate roof is by using binoculars, looking at the roof from the ground. This method minimizes more broken slate from walking on the roof during the inspection. I had forgotten to tell him about the imitation slate on the back and received a call from him expressing amazement at the excellent condition of the slate on the rear of the barn, in comparison to the numerous repairs that were needed in the front.
As an old-timer in the slate trade, he was shocked and slightly embarrassed when he was informed that he had mistaken imitation slate for the real thing. Yes, the look alike slate had been on the roof for over 8 years and had developed the typical weathered look that real slate always has, so he couldn't be faulted.
Keep in mind though, that whether you pick real slate or imitation slate, the snow will slide off fairly easily, so you should spend the money for the correct snow guards or when the winter snow comes, someone could get hurt by the ton's of snow avalanching off the roof.
Which ever brand you wish to be installed on your home, make certain the installer follows closely to the manufactures installation instructions and you will have a roof that will last and look great for many years.