If you are overwhelmed with the types of roofing materials, you are not alone. The list of options might be long but not all materials are appropriate for all houses. At the same time, your choice today will impact your living conditions tomorrow. In this guide you will find everything you need to know about best roofing materials. We will also provide information about the cost, pros & cons for each material to help you make an informed decision.
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How should you choose the right type of roofing material for you?
The types of roof covering materials determine the aesthetics of your home, the degree of resistance against elements and natural disasters, the indoor energy efficiency, and last but not least durability and hence longevity.
Let me kindly remind you that the material you get will impact your family budget in the long run. This doesn't have to do with the initial roofing material prices. Instead, it has to do with how the material will handle elements and thus how comfortable your house will be.
This is important. The indoor temperatures and thus how much you use the HVAC system highly depend on the roof material. When you enjoy the cool indoor environment in a hot summer, give some credit to the roofing that stands in the first line of defense. The right material will absorb the heat or keep cold temps from getting in and this will help you save money down the road.
That's a lot to consider. I know the feeling. It's even harder to find roof materials that will meet all the above requirements. To get started here are some important questions that you need to consider.
- Is the material heavier than the existing framing can hold?
- What's the cost in relation to longevity?
- Is the roof material available in many colors?
- Is the material appropriate for the roof type?
- Does the material meet the local building codes?
- What's the material's performance in the local weather conditions?
- Does the material require frequent maintenance?
Main considerations before choosing roofing material types
The types of roofing materials vary to meet different requirements. What's best for a house in Toronto might not be the best option for a house in Dallas! But that's also true in a smaller-scale: what's best for you is not necessarily the best choice for your best friend. It depends on the geographical area and personal needs & expectations too.
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To begin with: it's easier to narrow down your roofing material options by taking into account the following factors:
Climate & weather conditions
What's the weather like in your area? Are the levels of humidity rather high? Does it get below zero in the winter? Need a roof that won't blow off during a hurricane? Not all materials react the same to the elements. Some are particularly strong. Some might corrode. So, your first consideration should be your geographic location and the weather conditions. Choose roof materials that hold well in salt, humidity, hurricanes, extreme heat, or heavy winters.
Durability, cost & lifespan
Not all roof materials are made the same. Naturally, durable materials stand the test of time, withstand elements, and so they last longer. The drawback? They are more expensive. What you need to ask yourself is whether or not you need the stronger possible roof material for your house. If this is a hurricane-prone area, you definitely want the most durable material which is tested to withstand high winds. But if you just need a roof for your beach house that will be resistant to humidity, you don't have to get the most expensive one on the market.
- Always choose the best possible type of roofing material for your home. Reroofing doesn't come cheap. And let's face it, it's a hassle. You want to keep the roof for as long as possible.
- When you are considering the cost, don't forget the possibility of having to replace the framing which adds to the roofing installation cost.
Having a durable roof is crucial. But appearances matter too! The style and color of the roof should complement the exterior décor of your home. Why is this so important? To begin with, a beautiful roof will increase the resale home value.
Wait, there is more to it! Your personal indulgence. Don't forget that you intent to spend thousands of dollars on reroofing. Shouldn't it reflect your home style too? The good news is that there are enough types, colors, and styles whether you own a rustic or modern home.
Most Popular Roofing Material Types
Do you have a flat or sloped roof? Not all materials are appropriate for all roof types. So, this is a main consideration too. The materials here are for sloped roofs.
With all this info on the table, let's jump right in and look into the best roofing material types, and start comparing cost, and pros and cons.
1. Asphalt Shingles
Most shingles are made of fiberglass topped with asphalt and then covered with ceramic granules. Up until a decade ago, manufacturers made organic asphalt shingles too. Now they are scarcely found on the market due to their inability to sufficiently resist water and high-moisture. Fiberglass asphalt shingles though are very popular. Why? Check out the advantages.
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- The most cost-effective roofing material option
- Fire resistance
- Great appearance
- A range of colors & styles
- Easy to install
- Easy to repair
- Last 15-30 years
- Cheap shingles last only 10 to 12 years in extreme climates
- Crack easily during temperature fluctuations
- Not eco-friendly
- They require regular maintenance
With $200 to $400 per square (approx. 100 square feet), asphalt is the most cost-effective material. The low price will allow you to stay away from the cheapest and thus poorer quality of asphalt shingles.
Top reasons to choose asphalt shingles
The main reason why most people turn to asphalt shingles is the low price. Since it responds fairly to winds but it provides good fire protection, this is a great value for money if there are no high expectations on your end. They will meet the local building requirements and increase the curb appeal. You also have a choice between flat and layered shingles.
- Layered or architectural shingles are thicker and resemble wooden shakes.
- Flat or laminated shingles are cheaper and thus a more frugal solution.
Additional considerations about asphalt shingles
Inexpensive options are cheap quality. You need asphalt shingles with good hail rating and tested to resist impact. Since asphalt's main ingredient is petroleum, they are not environmentally friendly.
2. Wood Shingles and Shakes
There is actually a difference between wood shingles and shakes in terms of how they are made. Wood shingles are machine-cut as opposed to shakes, which are hand-cut. Will that be of any significance to you? It will affect the style. Shakes are rather rough and thick and thus an excellent choice for rustic homes. Shingles are thinner and thus more refined and great for crisp looks.
- Good insulation
- Excellent aesthetics
- Good resistance to winds
- Demands frequent maintenance
- Susceptible to fire damage
- Expensive to install
- Life expectancy is from 20 to 25 years
The price ranges from $400 to $900 per square based on wood type. The consideration here is the longevity. Pricing and lifespan go hand in hand. In the case of wooden roofs, you need to take into account their maintenance. This will add to your future expenses. So weigh the cost of the initial price, installation, and maintenance and crisscross that with the life expectancy of these roofing materials to see if either of them is a good fit for you.
Top reasons to choose wood shingles and shakes
The looks! Nothing beats the natural elegance of wood. And then you have choices among wood species - cedar, pine, cypress and more. Although the expected lifespan is not the best you can get, don't despair. With regular maintenance, wood roofs may last up to 50 years. When should you choose wood shakes and shingles? Wood roofing is the perfect match for Victorian homes and Tudor styles. It's great when you want an average priced roofing for your ranch, cottage, or traditional home. Or when you simply love wood and how well it blends in the natural environment.
Additional considerations about wood shingles and shakes
Be warned: wood is susceptible to water damage, insects, rot and mold. Don't get discouraged though. Just be prepared for maintenance. That's the main drawback of wooden roofs but if you don't mind treating them regularly, problems are prevented.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I must also pinpoint that non-treated wood has a poor fire rating. To make matters even worse, in some areas where wildfire is possible, wood roofing is not allowed.
3. Metal Roofing
Thumbs up for the metal roofing choices: steel, copper, aluminum, and zinc alloy. Why? Because metal roofs have proven their longevity. Although each metal reacts differently to the elements affecting the roof's longevity and the maintenance requirements, today things are not the same. There is new technology and hence improved options among metal roof panels and shingles.
Image credit: Bieshu
- Last about 30 to 50 years
- Hardly need maintenance
- Most metal materials are recyclable
- Energy efficient
- Available in many colors
- Can mimic slate and shakes
- Some metal roofs have a class A fire rating
- Great for any roof type
- High impact resistance
- Metal doesn't rot or crack
- Noisy when it rains
- Susceptible to impact
We've got some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that metal roofing doesn't come cheap with some styles ranging from $600 to $800 per square and copper being the most expensive option. Why is it more expensive? It's highly resistant to corrosion and much heavier than other metals and so copper roofs are ideal for regions prone to high winds and moisture.
The good news is that metal roofs save you money in the long run. Why? They make the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and so their higher cost compensates with the energy savings in the long run.
Top reasons to choose metal roofing
What's not to like about metal roofs! Clearly the pros outnumber the cons. Metal doesn't burn, sloughs off rain and snow, lasts for many years, is almost maintenance-free, saves money, and comes out in different styles. But remember that each metal is different and so their pros & cons vary.
Additional considerations about metal roofing
Beware of which metal you choose. You need rust resistant metals. There are also two more considerations you shouldn't take lightheartedly.
- Make sure they are installed correctly and in accordance with all standards to resist high winds.
- When it comes to sloped roofs, you need to consider glare. Some metals might blind drivers.
4. Slate Roofing
The traditional slate roofs are made of stone. Slate is one of the oldest roofing material types distinguished for its unparalleled durability and high resistance. It has been the king of roofing materials for a very long time but lately it has been substituted by synthetic materials imitating slate. Why? Because natural slate has its shortcomings too. But let's take one thing at a time. Let us examine the advantages and disadvantages of natural slate roofing first.
- Luxurious & distinctive
- Its life expectancy ranges from 100 to 150 years
- Fire resistant
- Withstands all weather conditions
- Energy efficient
- Very heavy
- Difficult to install
- Might crack if walked on
Natural slate roofing is expensive with the prices starting from $800 per square. Don't forget that slate roofing is extremely heavy and demands good framing. If the structure of your building cannot hold the weight of slate, you need to replace framing too. And that's an extra consideration but not the last one. You also need to check framing every ten years or so to make sure it can still hold the slate's weight. Overall, slate will outperform framing.
Top reasons to choose slate roofs
This is a world-class choice for high-end properties of Spanish, Colonial, and Mediterranean architectures. Color options include gray, black, green, and red. It will last for a lifetime and increase the value of your home. Since it lasts for such a long time, it's eco-friendly too. As for the indoor environment, it will allow you to control temperatures.
Additional considerations about slate roofs
The slate installation techniques are demanding. You need to find an expert pro. Apart from checking the framing every few years, you need to consider the difficulty of roof repairs. One wrong move and slate might break. Not that broken slate is not replaced. But it's always more difficult and expensive to transport and replace materials, which break easily.
5. Synthetic Slate Roofing
Although nothing beats the durability and elegance of natural slate, the material is not broadly used today. The roofing industry introduced imitation slate to the market to make the price tags more attractive without losing the appeal. And so the synthetic slate was born. This is often made of plastic, polymer or rubber. These roofing materials cost less, weigh less, and don't require special techniques for their installation. Does this mean that synthetic slate is better? In some ways, yes. But they too have their shortcomings.
- Weather resistant
- Some are eco-friendly
- Easier to install
- Tolerate better foot traffic
- Although cheaper, not cost-effective
- Not all synthetic slate roofs are fire resistant
- Might warp
The cost of fake slate is one-half or one-third of the cost of natural slate. But here's the problem. Since imitation slate is the new guy in the roofing market, we don't know if these roofs stand the test of time yet. And that makes it hard to weigh cost & strength to decide whether or not it's worth investing in this product. But as an overall, it's a good choice for those seeking slate roofs without paying the expensive price tag of the real thing.
Top reasons to choose synthetic slate roofing
It's the best alternative to natural slate. Since there are several types of imitation slate roofs, you have options. But you need to remember that each type has its pros and cons too.
Additional considerations about synthetic slate roofs
Fire resistance and durability are both important factors to consider before you select a roofing material. The fake slate roofs have different properties. Simply put, some are class A and some are Class B and C when it comes to fire resistance. Some are made to withstand impact and some are more susceptible to damage.
What's the bottom line here? Do research, ask questions, and don't take long warranties for granted. The greatest consideration with imitation slate is that the materials are new and thus their durability is not proven yet.
6. Roof Tiles
The most popular roof tiles include clay, concrete, terracotta, and fiber cement. In spite of their differences, they are all strong enough to last for over 50 years. Which are their main features?
- Clay tiles are traditional roof types in light color and thus retain less heat than their darker counterparts. Today, they are reinforced with special paint treatments to make them more resistant to water and to resemble slate.
- Terracotta is baked in kilns and this process makes them stronger and hardly porous allowing them to withstand elements. Made in an S or barrel shape, they interlock enabling rainwater to slide through.
- Concrete tiles are heavier and solid since they are made of a cement, water, and sand mixture which undergoes a baking process to make the material extra durable against elements.
- Fiber cement tiles are made of clay and wood mixed with concrete to make the material strong without adding extra weight.
- Great value for money
- Durable & long-lasting
- Visual appeal
- Fire & insect resistant
- Last 50 years or more
- Available in many styles and colors
- Not forgiving on roof traffic
- Quite expensive
- Not suitable for fluctuating weather conditions
- Quite heavy
The cost of terracotta and clay tiles start from $800 per square while cement and concrete are cheaper with their price starting at $300 per square. The problem is that they might break in harsh climates or during roof repairs since they are not tolerant on foot traffic. And that's not all. Here's another cost consideration. Tiles are rather heavy and so you might need to replace or reinforce the framing.
Top reasons to choose roof tiles
Tiles keep homes cooler in the summer and that's a good thing. Energy bills go down. In other words, they are excellent choices for dry and warm climates. Tile roofs last for a long time.
Additional considerations about roof tiles
Wet weather might take its toll on tiles. Tiles might snap. Although the newest treatments and products reduce this possibility, it won't hurt to check their weather resistance.
One more thing: tiles are quite heavy. It's wise to check if the existing framing can hold the weight.
7. Solar Roofing
They look like typical roof tiles, but are photovoltaic shingles generating approximately one kilowatt of energy/sq. ft. In other words, they store solar power and turn it into electricity. And so they are energy saving options if you live in a sunny area.
- High hail rating
- Energy efficient
- High cost
Solar roofs just made their debut a few years back and so they are very expensive – the prices start from $2,200 per square. Although it costs a lot to buy and install solar roofs, you may qualify for tax credit since this is a way of being environmentally friendly. That's intriguing.
Top reasons to choose solar roofs
With this type of roofing material, you actually invest in a photovoltaic system. And here is the interesting part. The solar cells cannot be seen. So you get a product which is both appealing and energy efficient.
Additional considerations about solar roofs
The here & now cost is the main consideration. You might save in the future but you need to pay today unless you can get a loan. Since these types of roof materials are still brand new, they haven't been tested in time. Chances are that they will get better and eventually their price will drop too. But for now we walk in an unknown territory. And there's one more problem. Your location. It must be sunny often. If it rains 340 out of the 365 days a year, then you won't get the benefits of solar roofs.
This is the point where we put a full stop
We have taken a closer look at the best roofing materials and types for sloped roofs trying to point out their pros & cons, cost and other considerations, and the reasons why you could be interested. To wrap things up, decide which roof you are going to get by taking into account your location's climate & personal aesthetics and weighing the pros and cons of each material. This will be a good starting point.