On average, your home’s roof will last between 20 and 50 years. Of course, how long the roof lasts depends highly on the materials used and your region’s specific climate. Regardless, even the best roofing materials will eventually need replacement.
Replacing roofs isn’t the only reason you need a comprehensive understanding of material options. Around 20 percent of all new homes built are custom projects. This means your contractor may give you a choice of two or more different roofing materials.
But how can you decide which is the best roofing material for your home? First and foremost, you should have a general understanding of roofing material types and the different considerations you need to make. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know to make the best decision for your unique situation.
Before you can feel confident choosing the best roofing material for your home, you need to know the options available. Below we take an in-depth look at the most common roofing materials, their pros, and their cons.
Asphalt shingles remain one of the most popular roofing materials because of their affordability and easy installation. Most DIY roofing projects are done using asphalt shingles, although we recommend against doing roofing yourself. Additionally, asphalt shingles are fire-resistant, thanks to the fiberglass mat and ceramic granules used in their construction.
Unfortunately, the trade-off for these benefits is a significantly shorter lifespan when compared to alternative roofing material types. Asphalt shingles are also not environmentally-friendly, which could prove to be a deal-breaker for those hoping to create more eco-friendly homes.
Finally, these shingles are significantly more prone to damage versus alternative materials. Asphalt shingles tend to crack in colder temperatures and are easily blown away during strong winds. This means they may not be a good choice for those living in areas with harsh winters (like the American northwest) or areas prone to hurricanes (like Florida).
Clay tiles tend to be among the longest-lasting roofing materials because of their high durability and low maintenance requirements. Additionally, these tiles are resistant to fire, rot, wind, and damage from impacts. Using these unique tiles can significantly increase your home’s value and aesthetic appeal.
Eco-friendly homeowners will be pleased to know clay tiles are very environmentally-friendly, thanks primarily to their long lifespan. These tiles are also energy-efficient, which could help you save significantly on your home energy bills over time.
However, the trade-off here is price. Clay tiles are significantly more costly when compared to other roofing materials. Installing clay tiles is also tricky. This means you’ll likely pay more for installation, too, and not just materials.
Concrete tiles provide benefits very similar to those of clay tiles. Concrete tiles are long-lasting, low maintenance, and durable. They have the potential to increase curb appeal and raise your home’s value.
There are only two fundamental differences between clay and concrete tiles. First, the aesthetics of each roofing material are different, so you may prefer the look of one over the other. Second, concrete tiles are slightly more affordable and easier to install when compared to clay tiles.
Metal roofing requires high upfront costs, but these may be made up during the material’s long lifespan. Adding to long-term cost factors is that metal roofing requires little to no maintenance.
The costs of metal roofing vary greatly depending on what type of metal is used. Commonly used metals include aluminum, copper, zinc, and steel. Aluminum is the most affordable option, while copper is the most expensive.
Metal roofing is an environmentally-friendly option that’s resistant to both fire and high winds. While durable, metal is prone to dents from impact. Repairing these dents tend to be expensive.
Slate roofing is one of the most durable and long-lasting roofing material options. It’s water-resistant, fireproof, and requires little to no maintenance. Slate is an eco-friendly option that also has the potential to increase your home’s curb appeal and overall value.
However, slate roofing is also costly and difficult to install. Therefore, it isn’t a roofing material that you could even consider installing yourself.
The difficult installation goes beyond placing it on your roof. Slate is a heavy material that means installation generally requires extra reinforcement. Sometimes, an inspection from a structural engineer is necessary after the roofing has been placed, further increasing installation costs.
Wooden shakes and shingles provide a historical aesthetic many homeowners love. Additionally, wood provides natural insulation that increases energy efficiency. Cedar is generally the wood of choice for these roofing materials, but redwood and Cyprus are occasionally used.
Wooden shakes and shingles are resistant to high winds, fairly durable against impact, and are modernly fire-resistant. Most modern wooden roofing materials are treated with a fire retardant that provides additional protection.
This roofing material is moderately priced with an average lifespan, although both factors can vary. Price will vary based on the exact material used, size of the roof, location, and your roof’s pitch. Wooden shakes have a longer lifespan than wooden shingles because they’re thicker and more resilient.
The big downside to using wooden shakes and shingles is that they’re prone to insect infestations, wood rot, moss, and mildew. This is especially true in humid or wet climates, so wood isn’t recommended if you live in one.
Rolled roofing is a common choice for roofs with little to no pitch. Pitch is how steep your roof is. Roofs with higher pitches will generally allow for better water or snow runoff and more effective removal of gutter-clogging debris.
Thus, roofing with less pitch requires different materials than those with average to high slopes. This is why rolled roofing is also a popular choice for sheds and other outbuildings.
Rolled roofing comes in long rolls of material that has been impregnated with minerals and asphalt. The materials are topped with mineral granules for additional stability.
The most significant benefit of rolled roofing is that it’s incredibly affordable. The trade-off here is that it has a very short lifespan. Rolled roofing is also not a good choice if your roof has a normal to high slope.
Membrane roofing is another alternative if your roof has little to no pitch. However, it is also not a good choice for roofing with a normal to high slope.
Membrane roofing is moderately-priced and can even seem expensive compared to rolled roofing. However, membrane roofing lasts three times as long as this alternative.
Various materials can be used in membrane roofing, which comes in long sheets similar to rolled roofing. A few of the most common materials used to construct membrane roofing include:
- Chlorinated polyethylene
- Polymer-modified bitumen
Now that you understand the range of roofing material options, you can start deliberating on the best for you. When choosing the best material, ask yourself the questions below.
You may find it helpful to write the questions and answers down on a sheet of paper. This can help you see which roofing material meets the most considerations for you. It’s possible (or even likely) that your answers will include more than one roofing materials type.
Before deciding on a roofing material, you must set a realistic budget. A realistic budget is something you can afford without putting yourself in a significant amount of debt.
A beginner’s budgeting mistake is only looking at the initial cost of materials and installation. However, this doesn’t give you a realistic idea of cost. You should also consider the costs of routine maintenance and potential repairs.
Asphalt shingles are generally the most affordable option for normally pitched roofs if your budget is tight. However, if your roof has little to no pitch, the most budget-friendly option is rolled roofing.
If your budget would allow you to choose any roofing material, consider the option with the most durability and the longest lifespan. Concrete tiles, clay tiles, and metal roofing are all popular options. Membrane roofing is a more durable option for roofs with low slopes than rolled roofing.
Aesthetics may not be the only thing to consider when it comes to your roof. But, let’s face it, you’ll be looking at your roof for years to come. So you want to find something that you’ll enjoy looking at.
The answer to this question is entirely personal. In terms of visual appeal, there are no right or wrong answers.
Some roofing types aren’t well-suited to specific climates, particularly areas with severe winters, heavy winds, excessive heat, or high humidity. Additionally, areas prone to natural disasters should consider using the most durable option they can afford.
If you live in a mild climate with no severe weather, this question doesn’t apply to you. However, most people live in an area where at least one weather or climate-related factor needs to be considered. Below are a few examples where considerations should be made.
- Live in an area with high winds or excessive heat? Avoid asphalt singles
- Live in a humid climate? Avoid wood shakes and shingles
- Live in an area with excessive rain or snow? Avoid wood shakes and shingles
- Are hurricanes, tornadoes, or severe thunderstorms prevalent in your area? Metal roofing, clay tiles, and concrete tiles may be good options
- Do you experience at least one blizzard or severe snowstorm annually? Metal roofing may be a good option
If you don’t mind replacing your roofing materials in a few years, use other questions to make your decision. If you’d prefer a roof that lasts decades (or even a century), look for the longest-lasting material that fits your budget.
The longest-lasting roofing materials include clay tiles, concrete tiles, metal roofing, and slate roofing. Among these, the most expensive option is usually slate roofing. The most affordable option could be either concrete tiles or metal roofing, depending on your location and the type of metal used.
Sometimes one roofing material may complement your home’s style better than alternatives. Some materials may clash enough to make your home look strange. Consider which appropriate material (as decided by other questions) best compliments your home.
Asphalt shingles go well with most modern home styles, including wooden homes like cabins. However, they may clash with metal buildings.
Clay and concrete tiles compliment clay, concrete, and red brick homes. Since they’re available in so many styles and color options, they’ll go well with most modern home designs. However, they may clash with metal buildings and not suit historical natural wood homes (like cabins).
Metal roofing goes well with most modern homes, including metal buildings. However, metal may clash with historical natural wood homes.
Slate roofing goes well with clay, concrete, and brick buildings. However, due to their heavy weight, slate roofing isn’t generally an option for wooden buildings and may not be an option for certain metal buildings.
Wood shingles and shakes are the perfect options for historical natural wood homes. They pair well with many different home styles but aren’t a good match for metal buildings. Naturally colored wooden shingles and shakes may not be a good match for brightly-colored homes, either.
Both rolled and membrane roofing can pair well with almost any low-pitch building. With flat and nearly flat roofs, the roofing materials aren’t seen much. Thus, aesthetics become less important in these situations.
Roofing materials don’t only provide different pros, cons, and aesthetics, but they also have different weights. Every home and building has weight restrictions. These restrictions are how much your structure can reasonably hold without becoming unstable.
Theoretically, you can add additional support to your home or the roof itself to support greater weight. However, you should consider that this adds significant costs to your total and needs to be factored into your budget.
Slate roofing is the heaviest material and isn’t appropriate for all homes without reinforcement. Asphalt shingles and wooden shingles are generally the lightest roofing materials and are suitable for all homes.
Wooden shakes and metal roofing would be in the lower middle, making them appropriate for almost all homes. Clay tiles and concrete tiles are slightly heavier than this, so they may be a little too heavy for some homes. Of course, these are only generalizations, and the exact materials used may change these facts.
Not every material will be offered by every company. When looking for a reliable roofing contractor for your project, be sure to ask what materials they work with. Some materials may require additional certifications or training that not every contractor has received.
Ask a reliable roofing contractor if you’re still unsure which roofing material is best for you. They can offer you a professional opinion based on their experience and training.
Choosing the best available roofing company is as important as selecting the best materials for your project. Shoddy roof installation could decrease the lifespan of your roof and even cause safety hazards. A few tips on choosing the best local company for your roof project are detailed below.
Some roofing companies will travel to work in various locations. It’s always recommended you choose a roof construction company local to you. There are several reasons for this.
A local company will be well-versed in the specific considerations you should make based on your location. As discussed earlier, the climate and natural disasters an area is prone to can have many effects on which roofing materials you should choose.
Additionally, a local contractor will still be around should something happen. Tracking down and scheduling a return visit with a traveling company could cause significant headaches.
Always look for a company with as much experience as possible. Experience includes both the time a company has been in business and each contractor’s experience. Looking at the experience of individual contractors (especially the project managers or business owners) can help determine whether a newer business is worthwhile.
Each state has its unique licensing requirements for roofing contractors. Research the minimum requirement in your state and ensure the company you hire meets these.
In terms of insurance, look for a company that carries at least liability and workman’s comp. Liability insurance will cover any accidental damage to your home during the roofing project. Workman’s comp will cover any injuries sustained by the contractors working on your roof.
It’s helpful if you can find a roofing company that’s also bonded, but this isn’t a requirement. When a company is bonded, it means they’ve placed a certain amount of money away to be used on insurance claims.
Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of both licensing and insurance. A roofing company with nothing to hide won’t be offended. They’ll understand how integral your home’s roof is and what a significant purchase decision a new one is.
You can read online business reviews on websites like Yelp or Angi (previously Angie’s List). These websites give previous clients the ability to rate roofing contractors they’ve used and provide additional details through written reviews.
Most review sites let customers rate a company between one and five stars. Avoid any contractors who receive an average of three or fewer stars across websites. The more reviews given, the more confidence you can feel in the average number of stars.
While it can be tempting to rely on ratings alone, you should take a few minutes to at least skim the written reviews. This can give you a solid idea of a company’s strengths and weaknesses.
The roofing materials used aren’t the only cost consideration. Different companies may charge varying amounts for installation and labor. If you’re torn between two reputable roofing companies, a slightly better deal could help you choose between the two.
Minor variations are normal and expected. However, be mindful of companies charging significantly less than others in your area. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
There are two types of warranties you should be asking about – roofing materials and company-specific warranties.
Most manufacturers provide some type of warranty for their roofing materials. This warranty would cover repairs or replacements due to material defects.
Reputable roofing companies will generally offer a limited warranty on the installation. This would cover any repairs or replacements necessary due to contractor errors.
There are numerous roofing materials you may choose for your home. To make the best decision for your unique situation, you need a thorough understanding of the available materials, as well as which considerations should be made.
Do you have more questions about choosing the best roofing materials for your home? Or would you like a professional opinion and quote on your upcoming roofing project?