More than ever, homeowners and building owners are using color and texture to personalize their roof and distinguish their property from others. Bold statements are being made with vibrant colors available with today’s composite slate. In fact, it’s not unusual now for a roof to have four, five, even six different colors of tiles.

The roof on this 8,800-square-foot mountaintop home in eastern Pennsylvania features a soaring gable along with several other gables and hipped sections that make up the roofline. InSpire Roofing in Pewter Grey was chosen for the roof. (Photo courtesy of Blair Custom Homes.)

More than ever, homeowners and building owners are using color and texture to personalize their roof and distinguish their property from others. Bold statements are being made with vibrant colors available with today’s composite slate. In fact, it’s not unusual now for a roof to have four, five, even six different colors of tiles.

While slate has long been prized for its classic textured beauty, today’s composite innovations allow for true-to-life recreations of that sophisticated look. With the resulting detailed dimension and creative hues running the full color spectrum, there’s no end in sight for what you can accomplish.

When it came time to replace the 45-year old roof on Kirkwood United Methodist Church, InSpire Roofing Products’ composite slate was chosen for the project. (Photo courtesy of The Tapco Group.)

Rejuvenating a Church's Unique Roof

With its distinctive bell shape rising to a height of 85 feet and a long, steep roof that ascends to vertical, the Kirkwood United Methodist Church near St. Louis is a dramatic structure. When it came time to replace the church’s 45-year old roof, InSpire Roofing Products’ composite slate was chosen to add charm, texture and color.

“The whole building is essentially roof, and it really improved the appearance. The people at the church are just amazed,” said Bill Broeker Sr., owner of Old Style Roofing, the project contractor. “InSpire transformed the building and made it look 110 percent better.”

Project designer Jim Diehl, Vice President of J & S Roofing Technologies, said the church’s eye-grabbing silhouette now has even more standout appeal thanks to the added dimension and the vibrancy of the four colors selected by the client: Slate Grey, Charcoal Grey, Red Cedar and Forest Green. “The original roofing was very basic, and didn’t have any pattern to it, or multiple colors,” said Diehl. “Now, you have the contrast, you have the texture, you have a roof system that just stands out among others. With multiple colors like these, the result is a beautiful building.”

A 4-foot by 8-foot mockup with the various colors sealed the owner’s selection. Offered in a total of 25 colors, InSpire’s palette includes seven selections for exclusive blended-color tiles. The roof’s design and its size - with a length of 140 feet and a rafter length over 50 feet - were a formidable challenge. A crew ranging up to 10 men worked on the job, removing the old, cracked shingles and installing 140 squares of new roofing over a new 3-inch vented nail base. They also put in new copper gutters and brass snow guards.

“We’ve done roofs that steep, but not that big. We tackle a lot of innovative and unusual projects,” Broeker Sr. said. “This is one of the more difficult roofs that I’ve done in more than 40 years of experience - not a job for a fainthearted man.”

The efficiency of InSpire’s InFlex tile design was a deciding factor in product selection. “The pre-curving in the tile is a big benefit and why we liked it for this roof. We figured it would hug the curved roofline better, and it did,” Broeker Sr. said.

“It saved on labor,” noted Bill Broeker Jr., Vice President of Old Style Roofing. “Just on shuffling and handling before the installation, it probably saved 20 percent. When slate tiles come out of the mold like that, it’s the absolute best way to do it. With InSpire, we didn’t have to worry about having to make sure each one was arched.”

For the complex installation, Old Style Roofing Superintendent Kirk Bregg had to come up with a number of ideas. “We actually attached ladders to the roof deck with walkboards stretched between and we also used an aerial lift for some of the installation. To transport the roofing, we devised a ramp system to get material up and over the snow guards,” Bregg said.

The project’s large scope and the fact that the Kirkwood United Methodist Church has long been a recognized symbol around St. Louis created a lot of interest in the job. “People would be driving down the road and they’d stop to look and watch. It caused traffic jams,” said Broeker Sr.

While the church was Old Style Roofing’s first installation of InSpire, the composite slate has quickly become a preferred product, according to Broeker Sr. As his company finished work on the church, it also sold InSpire on a 50-square job for two structures on a private estate and planned to bid it on another commercial job. “It’s priced right and it’s a quality product,” said Broeker Sr.

Diehl cited value, good looks, warranty and pre-bending in considering InSpire for future projects. “Pictures really do not give the Kirkwood church justice,” he said. “It’s gorgeous.”

With the many historical homes throughout Kirkwood, the church’s new roof is a good fit for the community, said Broeker Sr. “The importance of a roof is overlooked quite a bit, especially in a building of this nature,” he said. While commercial roofs make up two-thirds of his business, he said the look that composite slate like InSpire brings can make a huge difference in residential curb appeal.

“In many cases, homeowners don’t know what color their roof is until they go out and take a look,” Broeker Sr. said. “When they want a new roof, they often put a 20-year or 25-year roof on and don’t think anything of it. That’s until a neighbor puts on a nice architectural roof, then they say, ‘Wow, wish I’d have done that.’”

The church’s roof is 140 feet long with a rafter length of over 50 feet. Its distinctive bell shape rises to a height of 85 feet and ascends almost to vertical. (Photo courtesy of The Tapco Group.)

Elevating the Beauty of a Mountaintop Home

One place where they did put up a nice architectural roof is on an 8,800-square-foot mountaintop home in eastern Pennsylvania’s Upper Saucon Township. The contours of the site were an integral factor in its design. Sixty miles north of Philadelpia, the home is in an affluent community set in the rugged, scenic terrain of the Lehigh Valley, steeped in tradition and history dating to the early 1700s.

Sitting on three acres, the home’s angular floor plan backs out to a dramatic drop-off delivering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. “It’s a completely unique design that also brings in a lot of crossover style. The home has a bit of European influence, but also a very contemporary look with the main gable,” said the home’s designer, Chuck Harrison, AIBD and VP Architectural at design-build firm Blair Custom Homes of Bethlehem, Pa.

“I anchored the home’s aesthetics through the large gable that runs from the entryway through the back of the house. The roof is an integral part of the first impression as a person drives up,” said Harrison.

The soaring gable, along with several other gables and hipped sections that make up the roofline, feature InSpire Roofing. Since the homeowners wanted a traditional slate look, Pewter Grey was the color chosen for the roof. Pewter is one of four shades of grey InSpire produces. The slate texturing complements other exterior materials of stone veneer, stucco, cedar posts and PVC trim.

While it’s not unusual for a Blair home to cost millions, the firm does everything from renovations to substantial developments. Having worked with both natural and composite slate, John Blair, President of Blair Custom Homes, said the degree of InSpire’s authenticity is impressive. “I’d be hard-pressed to bring a lot of people by that house and have them know the difference from real slate as they looked at it from the street.”

“The look is absolutely amazing,” added Harrison. “There have been people that pulled up to the jobsite and made comments thinking it was actually real slate. I’ve had that happen several times. They’ll say, ‘Wow, that slate roof must have been really expensive.’”

The true-to-life realism of InSpire is achieved by using various molds cast from natural slate, producing richly detailed edges and surfacing. The tiles are crafted from compression-molded limestone and virgin resins. The advanced materials and processing result in a Class A fire rating and a limited lifetime warranty. Unlike slate, the tiles won’t delaminate, lift or break, and they stand up to harsh conditions such as wind-driven rain and sea-spray.

While America’s first commercial slate mine was actually operated in eastern Pennsylvania, slate’s reign as the most expensive roofing material makes it cost-prohibitive for many, even in the historical northeast. Blair Custom Homes is noticing an increase in client demand for composite slate.

“Slate has become a boutique item, not just because of the expense with the material, but also because of the structure itself that you have to prepare for with slate,” Harrison explained. While InSpire weighs just a fraction of natural slate, it can be installed five times as fast while yielding five times less waste.

“InSpire is a great alternative because it achieves the look you’re trying to get with these projects,” notes Harrison. “It offers very clean roof lines, but also a warm, charming look. We’re in this indigenous area with a lot of tradition around us, and it’s just a perfect fit.” Efficiency innovations like large nailing guides, alignment tabs and pre-cambering of the tiles did not go unnoticed by the design-build firm. The pre-cambering delivers cost-savings, while also accounting for downward pressure allowing for InSpire’s 110 mile-per-hour wind uplift rating. “InSpire is very accessible and incredibly easy to install – that’s one of its biggest benefits,” said Harrison. “And when you get to the caps, they’re all pre-shaped so there’s not a lot of cutting there.”

“I can see InSpire becoming an exclusive product that we would use for clients who want premium roofing,” Blair said. Sustainability is also a consideration, according to Harrison, who said environmental factors are among the top several reasons to choose InSpire, which contains recycled content and is recyclable.

“Sustainability is becoming a bigger key in building materials decisions, and I think it’s going to become automatic when it comes to composite roofing,” Harrison said.

Factors of quality, aesthetics, durability, and providing a great fit for historically influenced homes are all reasons why Harrison plans to specify InSpire. “InSpire delivers complete distinction. It sets a home apart from those with asphalt or fiberglass roof shingles. The homeowners of this project love the roof.”