Does your home’s roof look a little worse for the wear? If you need a new roof, you’ll want to do a little research to make sure you’re getting the best roofing material to fit your home and budget. Whether you prefer sheet metal, asphalt, slate, wood, or another material, it’s important that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of the various materials. 

Your roof is what keeps you protected within your home. It provides you with peace of mind, knowing that you and your family are safe from rain, snow, hail, wind, heat, and cold. When it comes to choosing a roofing material, it’s critical that you select one that can withstand weather elements and has a long lifespan. 

Roofing Terminology

Before we talk materials, let’s talk terminology. Roofers don’t usually use the measure “square feet.” Instead, they talk in squares. A square is their basic unit of measurement—one square is 100 square feet in area, the equivalent of a 10-foot by 10-foot square. The roof of a typical two-story, 2,000-square-foot house with a gable roof will consist of less than 1,500 square feet of roofing area, or about fifteen squares.

Cost of a New Roof

A number of considerations will affect the cost of a new roof. The price of the material is the starting point, but other factors also must be considered. One is the condition of the existing roof if you are remodeling a house—if old materials must be stripped off, and if the supporting structure needs repair, that will all cost money. The shape of the roof is another contributing factor. A gable roof with few or no breaks in its planes (like chimneys, vent pipes, or dormers) makes for a simple roofing job. A house with multiple chimneys, intersecting rooflines (the points of intersection are called valleys), turrets, skylights, or other elements will cost significantly more to roof.

Roof System Components

All steep-slope roof systems (i.e. roofs with slopes of 25 percent or more) have five basic components:

  1. Roof covering: shingles, tile, slate or metal and underlayment that protect the sheathing from weather.
  2. Sheathing: boards or sheet material that are fastened to roof rafters to cover a house or building.
  3. Roof structure: rafters and trusses constructed to support the sheathing.
  4. Flashing: sheet metal or other material installed into a roof system’s various joints and valleys to prevent water seepage.
  5. Drainage: a roof system’s design features, such as shape, slope and layout that affect its ability to shed water.

If you’re considering replacing your roof, it can prove to be overwhelming navigating all the choices. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for help. Let’s take a look at a few common types of roofing materials you can choose from.

Different Types of Roofing Materials:

 

To help you narrow your options or choose a roof that will suit your home, here is a brief summary of each material discussed in more detail below.

  • Asphalt shingles: Cheap shingles are a good short-term choice if you plan to sell your home in less than 10 years; better shingles offer a good combination of cost and durability that is a good value over 20-25 years.
  • Wood shingles and shakes: If you want a rustic yet attractive look, these are your best bet. Wood is much more high maintenance than other roofing options, and be sure to choose an experienced contractor because quality installation is crucial for durability.
  • Metal roofing: If you want stylish, environmentally-friendly roofing that stands up to snow and ice better than the other materials, metal is a great option. It’s ideal if you plan to live in your current home for a long time, or want a roof with excellent resale value.
  • Slate roofing: Upscale brick and stone homes demand a slate roof to make them truly special. If cost isn’t an issue and you want the most distinctive aesthetic of any roof, choose slate.
  • Clay and concrete tiles: If a tile roof fits your home’s architectural style, strongly consider this material if it fits your budget. Clay is costlier but lasts longer than concrete roof tile. Fiber cement composite tiles are a good middle-ground option.

Now, lets take a deeper look into each different type of roofing material to make sure you find the right option for your home.

 

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are some of the most affordable roofing materials around. They’re the most common material chosen by homeowners for roof replacement, and are also very popular among new home builders. Asphalt shingles dominate the market because they are affordable, offer a variety of attractive options, and do a great job protecting your home from nature’s elements.

Asphalt shingles are available in two primary forms:

  • Three-tab: These are the most traditional and basic kind of shingles. They typically have a very flat appearance and generally weigh and cost less than dimensional roofing shingles. However, three-tab shingles are decreasing in popularity and have nearly disappeared from homes.
  • Dimensional roofing shingles: Most homeowners prefer these types of shingles because they’re available in a variety of colors, styles, and textures. Additionally, these shingles are typically thicker and offer more protection.

When it comes to durability, though, use caution. Never choose the cheapest asphalt shingles, even if cost is a major issue for you. Look for shingles that have a decent hail rating, a good indicator of impact resistance, and overall durability. Roofing material manufacturers are not legally required to report their hail rating, so if you don’t see one listed, this isn’t a good sign, and you should steer clear. Hail rating is particularly important with asphalt shingles. Because they’re so common, the quality of asphalt shingles ranges wildly.

The standard type costs roughly half as much, but laminated shingles have an appealing textured appearance and last roughly half as long (typically 25 years or more, versus 15 years plus). Prices begin at about $50 a square, but depending upon the type of shingle chosen and the installation, can cost many times that.

Asphalt is a petroleum-based material. This means that it’s not the most sustainable roofing material option available. Fortunately, asphalt shingles are recyclable—just find a local shingle recycling center and they’ll ensure that your asphalt shingles don’t end up in a landfill.

Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood delivers natural beauty to any roof. Cedar, redwood, cypress, and pressure-treated pine shingles and shakes are available. 

Wood has a life expectancy of about 25 years (like asphalt shingles) but costs an average of twice as much.

Wood shingles and wood shakes are different:

  • Wood shingles are machine-cut and feature cleaner edges and a smooth surface to produce a more uniform appearance.
  • Wood shakes are hand-cut from blocks of wood, so they have a more rustic appearance. They’re thicker, so they are slightly more expensive than wood shingles.

Wood shingles and shakes should last between 30 and 50 years. While they last longer than asphalt shingles, they are not as durable. Although they are fire resistant (and can be sprayed with fire retardant), they are not fireproof. Wood shingles and shakes are also prone to cracking, so choose a manufacturer with a good hail rating. Untreated wood shakes and shingles are high maintenance – they need to be cleaned consistently to prevent the growth of algae or moss, and debris needs to be cleared to allow the wood to breathe.

When it comes to energy efficiency, wood is a natural insulator—wood shingles and shakes are naturally about two times as efficient as asphalt shingles. And because they’re 100% natural, wood shingles and shakes are one of the most sustainable roofing materials on the market.

Metal

Like wood shingles and shakes, metal roofing will last from 30 to 50 years. However, it is slightly more expensive. Made of steel, copper, zinc alloy, or aluminum, metal roofs are impact-resistant and will serve you well in inclement weather.  Styles of metal roofing can mimic shingles, shakes, slate and tile, and dozens of colors are available. Also, they need a lot less maintenance than most roofing materials. They are very energy efficient; while asphalt shingles tend to stay around the outside temperature, metal roofs act as a natural insulator. This keeps your home cooler during warm weather and warmer during cold weather. Metal sheds rain and snow better than most other roof materials, which helps prevent ice dams during extreme cold.

Metal roofs are made from recyclable materials, making them 100% recyclable. However, the cost of metal roofing is higher than asphalt shingles and wood roofing, but that is usually offset by its durability and longevity.

Slate

A roof made from slate can last as long as 75–150 years. One of the oldest roofing materials, slate is also one of the most expensive. When it comes to durability, slate is in a league of its own. It’s both fireproof and virtually invincible in most inclement weather.

Slate is one of the most expensive materials because it will last for the better part of a century, and if the roof is properly constructed, more than 150 years. Plus, the luxurious beauty of a genuine slate roof is unmatched. Slate is one of the most environmentally-friendly roofing materials available due to its durability and longevity (less roof replacement over time means less roofing waste, which accounts for 3% of all the waste in landfills), the fairly low environmental impact of manufacturing (slate is a naturally-occurring material, so the manufacturing process does not produce toxins), and that it can be reused and recycled. Because slate is one of the densest roofing materials on the market, it’s incredibly energy efficient, helping to regulate your home’s internal temperature.

However, please note that because of its heavy weight and careful installation process, slate roofs should only be installed by contractors that specialize in slate, so you must do your due diligence before hiring an installer.

Concrete and Clay Roof Tiles

This ancient roofing option has been thoroughly modernized with newer and stronger materials that look fantastic. Today’s products are made in three versions:

  • Traditional clay tiles reinforced for strength and durability
  • Concrete tiles formed with a lightweight blend that makes them very tough but easy to work with
  • Fiber cement tiles composed of wood and clay blended into the concrete for lightweight strength

The finished tiles are glazed or coated with waterproof coating. Most often concrete and clay tiles often feature earth tones, an unglazed finish, and a curved shape, but their design isn’t limited to such Southwestern and Mediterranean home styles. Their casting allows for many style options to suit almost any type of architecture. Both concrete and clay tiles come in a large variety of colors and may be offered in glazed or unglazed finishes. The most common shapes include flat, fluted, and interlocking tiles that can be matched to an array of home designs. Tiles that are constructed to mimic the look of wood shakes are best suited for Craftsman, rustic, or log homes, while others are designed to mimic classic European architecture.

Clay and concrete tile roofs are incredibly durable, and can last anywhere from 50 to 150 years. The tiles resist fire and insects, and are recyclable. Due to a high thermal mass and the fact that they reflect sunlight, clay and concrete tiles do a better job of regulating the temperature of your home, thereby reducing your heating and cooling bills. However, clay and concrete tiles are much heavier than most roofing materials and some types require extra framing support at a higher cost. The cost of tile is higher than asphalt, metal, and wood, and clay and concrete tiles are extremely prone to breakage, making chimney and other roofing repairs trickier.

Things to Consider

A roof system’s performance is affected by numerous factors. Knowing about the following will help you make informed roof material buying decisions:

  • Sun: Heat and ultraviolet rays cause roofing materials to deteriorate over time. Deterioration can occur faster on the sides facing west or south.
  • Rain: When water gets underneath shingles, shakes or other roofing materials, it can work its way to the roof deck and cause the roof structure to rot. Extra moisture encourages mildew and rot elsewhere in a house, including walls, ceilings, insulation and electrical systems.
  • Wind: High winds can lift shingles’ edges (or other roofing materials) and force water and debris underneath them. Extremely high winds can cause extensive damage.
  • Snow and ice: Melting snow often refreezes at a roof’s overhang where the surface is cooler, forming an ice dam. This blocks proper drainage into the gutter. Water backs up under the shingles (or other roofing materials) and seeps into the interior. During the early melt stages, gutters and downspouts can be the first to fill with ice and be damaged beyond repair or even torn off a house or building.
  • Condensation: Condensation can result from the buildup of relatively warm, moisture-laden air. Moisture in a poorly ventilated attic promotes decay of wood sheathing and rafters, possibly destroying a roof structure. Sufficient attic ventilation can be achieved by installing larger or additional vents and will help alleviate problems because the attic air temperature will be closer to the outside air temperature.
  • Moss and algae: Moss can grow on moist wood shingles and shakes. Once it grows, moss holds even more moisture to a roof system’s surface, causing rot. In addition, moss roots also can work their way into a wood deck and structure. Algae also grows in damp, shaded areas on wood or asphalt shingle roof systems. Besides creating a black-green stain, algae can retain moisture, causing rot and deterioration. Trees and bushes should be trimmed away from homes and buildings to eliminate damp, shaded areas, and gutters should be kept clean to ensure good drainage.
  • Trees and leaves: Tree branches touching a roof will scratch and gouge roofing materials when the branches are blown by the wind. Falling branches from overhanging trees can damage, or even puncture, shingles and other roofing materials. Leaves on a roof system’s surface retain moisture and cause rot, and leaves in the gutters block drainage.
  • Missing or torn shingles: The key to a roof system’s effectiveness is complete protection. When shingles are missing or partially torn, a roof structure and home or building interior are vulnerable to water damage and rot. The problem is likely to spread-nearby shingles also are ripped easily or blown away. Missing or torn shingles should be replaced as soon as possible.
  • Shingle deterioration: When shingles are old and worn out, they curl, split and lose their waterproofing effectiveness. Weakened shingles easily are blown off, torn or lifted by wind gusts. The end result is structural rot and interior damage. A deteriorated roof system only gets worse with time-it should be replaced as soon as possible.

 

Additionally, don’t forgot to ask about warranties and installation coverage as you price out potential contractors for the job. Ask them to cover exactly what’s included and excluded in terms of warranty, and whether or not the protection is transferable if you decide to sell your home.

Your roof is one of the most important levels of defense between your family and elements outside, so make sure you’ve done enough research in advance to make the best decision for your home!