You don’t need to be a professional tradesperson to know that Welsh slate is widely considered the best in the world – and with a price to match!

The question is:

What is the best alternative to Welsh slate?

If you’re interested in buying slate tiles for your next roofing project, you’ve probably come across some alternatives, such as Spanish slate, Brazilian slate or even Chinese slate.


Chinese roof slate is perhaps the least well-known option, and many people dismiss it out of hand without giving it a second thought.

Guess what? They’re wrong!

Spoiler alert:

Chinese slate is a perfectly good choice in 2023.

And at Roofing Superstore, we’re going to show you exactly why that’s the case.

Here’s what we have in store for you.

Table of contents:

Chinese slate in the UK – the early days

The origins of slate in China go back around 400 million years. As elsewhere around the world, slate has been used in roofing applications in China for around 200 years.

However, Chinese slate exports to the UK, Europe and the US are a fairly recent phenomenon.

Here’s the deal:

Chinese slate first appeared on the UK market in the late 1980s, with an early peak in imports in the mid-1990s. At the time, many tradespeople and homeowners alike were wary of this new product – and with good reason.

Here’s why:

First, Chinese companies were still largely unaware of the higher demands of the UK roofing industry – especially rigorous quality control and minimum wastage.

Second, Chinese slate extraction methods were seriously lagging. This was largely a function of geography and underdeveloped (at the time) infrastructure. Most Chinese slate comes from the mountainous, landlocked provinces of Hubei, Shaanxi and Jiangshi which were difficult to access.

Third, most Chinese slate roof tiles that found their way to the UK were of the weathering variety. So, their colour would fade after a couple of years, and many would often crack when exposed to the elements.

But that was then – this is now.

Chinese slate in the UK – the situation today

Chinese slate roof

As you can see, when Chinese slate first came to the UK market, it had a bad reputation. Things began to change in the mid-to-late 1990s, as Chinese producers began importing European machinery, gained invaluable know-how and improved quality control by a long way.

What’s more:

Around this time, various UK and US consulting firms and professional organisations began to test Chinese slate offerings to British (BS 680: 1971) and American (ASTM C406-96) standards, testifying to their vastly improved quality.

Fast forward 25 years, and the situation has changed dramatically. Today, virtually all Chinese slate products available on the market are certified to CE / EN 12326 standards: A1-S1-T1, routinely passing each test with flying colours.

And that’s not all:

While the quality of Chinese slate has improved dramatically, by and large, it still is a cost-effective alternative to more traditional options.

How to spot high-quality Chinese slate roof tiles

ULTRA Chinese slate tile

Above and beyond certificates, there are a few easy tests you can carry out that will help you distinguish premium-quality Chinese slate tiles from cheap imitations.

Check this out:

  • Apply a tiny amount of mild acid (a few drops should do the trick) on top of a slate. Is it starting to fizz? The carbonate content might be too high, in which case the slates are unlikely to last too long.
  • Examine a slate for rust spots. These are typically caused by the decomposition of pyrites (yes, that’s the proverbial Fool’s Gold), which is going to undermine the structural integrity of the slates in the long term.
  • Place a slate on your knee and firmly tap it a few times. If it cracks or even breaks, you’ll know it’s a poor-quality batch. You could use a rubber mallet to do this but be careful not to apply too much pressure.

Why choose Chinese slates?

Chinese slate has come a long way since it made its debut on the UK market to a lukewarm reception in the late 1980s.

Produced to high-quality standards using the latest technology, today it’s up there with most other alternatives.

What’s more:

Chinese slate remains competitively priced, even as roof slate prices continue to rise.

That’s why at Roofing Superstore, we’re confident you won’t be disappointed with our new range of ULTRA Chinese natural roof slates. They’re not only aesthetically pleasing, with a classic dark grey colour, but also extremely durable thanks to their non-weathering properties which will keep them in excellent condition for a very long time.

But don’t just take our word for it – claim your free sample today and check for yourself!

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