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Polymer Roof Problems and Benefits

Polymer Roof Problems and Benefits

Shake Guys recently began offering faux slate and shake roofing options (Learn more!) to Chicago’s residents and businesses in 2015. With these new products, come new concerns and questions. The following article will shed light on polymer roof problems and benefits by giving a straight account from former skeptics.

Polymer Roof Problems

Polymer Roof ProblemsSynthetic roofing shingles, also known as composite shingles, are relatively new. Hence, the greatest concern is longevity. Will they hold up for 50+ years? We’ve really only had them around for a few decades? Science says that they will but there isn’t a working model real life weathering and aging as a roofing system. This leads into the second polymer roof problem of decomposition.

Plastics are unfortunately Long Lasting, capital Ls meant, and only break down into smaller pieces. We all know that this is a large concern for landfills and our oceans. These shingles and tiles are a possible environment issue. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a massive ocean wasteland composed primarily of plastic pollution covers an area the size of Africa. Throw in the fact that the smaller aged pieces are susceptible to socking up the hazardous cancer causing chemical DDT.

Visually and aesthetically, most polymer roofing products don’t quite compare to the real thing in many cases. Composite slate from some companies comes off looking like some wacky homespun project made by a crazy uncle. Replicating the fibrous texture and tones of cedar shakes is typically a joke. Other original shapes or Spanish tile look tends to lack the matte nature that makes them appealing.

One easily overlooked aspect of composite shakes and slate is a lower insulation value. Simply put, you will spend a little more on heating and cooling. There really is no rebuttal to this one.

And finally, there is the price issue for most. Polymer based cedar and slate shingles and tiles cost about as much as the real thing. You might think this improbable but as with most emerging technology products, there is too small of a volume and sky-high start-up costs. The money involved isn’t just product based. These roofing systems are more time consuming and may rely on more expensive fasteners.

With all of the polymer roof problems, it’s hard to see what appeals might possibly exist. However, each of these pointers has a reasonable rebuttal.

Polymer Roof Benefits

Polymer Roof BenefitsScience is pointing to the fact that polymer roof problems may be over stated. Their longevity and durability claims have become more calculable with time and better fresh polymers seem to be the key.

Many synthetic roofing systems are made from 100% recycled materials. This is a huge win, environmentally speaking but the trend with these products is that their expected to last somewhere around 35 years. Compare that to virgin polymers designed for use in roofing – these products are poised to last upwards of 50 years. The good news about both styles is they are fully recyclable. The only concerns that are expected with age are brittleness and discoloration due to UV rays.

The general outlook for the environmental impact of these roofs is actually quite nice. It’s perhaps a tie with the benefits of real shake. Aside from the recycling benefit, polymer products have a few other environmental pluses:

  • Lighter weight means less fossil fuels burned transporting the product
  • Lower production cost to environment than slate and about relative to shake
  • Less likely to catch on fire from above than untreated shakes
  • They can be made from some of the nastiest polymers out there in terms of looks, size, color and composition.
  • They outlast an average shake roof with average care

So we believe they’ll last a good long time, but what about their appearance? At Shake Guys, we are firm believers that the most beautiful homes look their best with cedar and slate. That being said, we would only use a few polymer based brands that we deem to be the best of the best in terms of visual appeal and overall quality. You can see our preferred products here. There are those that exceed others in terms of colors, color mixing, texture, and gloss level. At the end of the day it’s up to a homeowner to decide if they want to use a faux shingle. The color retention factor is a huge selling point for real cedar shake fans along with the biggest plus of all…

Synthetic roofs need virtually no maintenance. Aside from freak of nature weather, the best of these products need no TLC. Poor quality products are brittle, needing the dreaded spot replacement from time to time, but reputable companies like Shake Guys won’t even offer them. Being inorganic is a plus as lichens, mold, and moss won’t grow on these roofing systems. Unlike asphalt, there are no granules to coat gutters. They really are easy.

As mentioned before, costs can be prohibitive for some but when you compare synthetic shakes and slate against the real thing you’re looking at an equal to lesser cost upfront, equal or better environmental impact, a great range of colors, equal or better longevity on the shake side, almost no maintenance, and a cohesive look that’ll last 50 years.



If you can think of anymore polymer roof problems and benefits you can email us at

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