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5 Most Common Residential Roof Materials


roofThere is a variety of materials to choose from when updating your existing roof or installing a new one.  The material you choose will depend on several factors, including aesthetic appeal, cost, life span, and warranties. Also under consideration should be local building and fire codes and weather conditions in your area.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most commonly used material for a residential roof in the US. Their popularity stems from their low cost and ease of installation. In order to improve their durability, these shingles are often reinforced with fiberglass or cellulose. Asphalt shingles come in a wide variety of colors and are lower in cost than other roofing materials. However, your roof will have the lowest lifespan as opposed to other materials which last longer.

Regular 3-tab shingles give your roof a repetitive appearance. Designer styles, such as high definition, give a 3-D look to your roof and are generally more expensive than regular 3-tab.  Asphalt shingles hold and transfer heat downward into the structure, therefore are not the best for energy efficiency. Coating these shingles with a reflective coating to improve their efficiency is not approved or recommended by manufacturers, but there are shingles made with reflective granules available to purchase.

Asphalt shingles are especially popular with traditional suburban homes. These are the least expensive roof material to install and are generally guaranteed for around 20 years. 

Wood Shingles And Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes are preferred by many for their attractive, rustic look. They have been in use for hundreds of years. Shingles are usually machine cut and shakes are split by hand, which give them a rougher look. Wood shingles and shakes naturally have insulating properties and are very durable.

If you live in a fire-prone area, or an area that has restrictions on certain fire-ratings, you may still be able to use wood roofing. There are wood shingles and shakes that have been treated with a fire retardant coating, which gives them a Class A fire rating. Other considerations include the possibility of rot, splitting, and mold.

When it comes to housing styles, wood roofing works well with Craftsman, cottage, Cape Cod, bungalows and Tudor-style homes. While wood shingles can be slightly more expensive than asphalt shingles, they are still at the low end for cost and can last up to 30 years.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing comes in a variety of materials including steel, zinc, stainless steel, copper, and aluminum. This type of roof is very resistant to extreme weather, is sleek, long lasting, lightweight and recyclable. Unfortunately, this type of material is relatively expensive.

Metal roofing works well with cottage-style and contemporary homes, cabins, and bungalows. In most cases, metal roofing is slightly more expensive than shingles. When it comes to durability, metal roofing has a life expectancy of 40 to 75 years.

Concrete, Clay, and Slate Tiles

Concrete, clay (sometimes called ceramic), and slate (stone) tiles are often chosen for their distinguishing style and come in multiple designs such as scalloped, ribbed or flat. They are extremely durable, resisting rot, insects, and fire. If properly installed on your roof they can resist strong winds but are very heavy, sometimes requiring extra framing. It is best to call a professional roofer for installation because these tiles can easily break. Concrete is a cheaper more versatile version of clay, but with a heavier weight. Some clay, slate and concrete tiles are naturally insulating and reflective due to their lighter colors and earth tones. Some darker colors may need to be treated with a reflective coating for solar reflectance.

Concrete and clay tiles are best suited for Spanish, Southwestern, Mission and Mediterranean style homes. Depending on the type, custom color, etc, they typically run about twice as much as shingles. If maintained properly, they can last up to 40 years, sometimes longer.

Slate works very well with French, European and Colonial chateau homes. The price can start a little higher than clay or concrete but can possibly last longer as well.

Synthetic Roofing Materials

Polymer, plastic, and rubber are currently available as synthetic roofing materials. These synthetic materials can be designed to look like more expensive natural materials such as wood and slate.  They are easy to maintain, strong and lightweight.

The downside of these materials is the variation of quality between products. Newer products that have not been tested should be avoided for the most part. Look for products that have been on the market for at least 10 years to confirm their durability.

Most synthetic roofing materials are similar in cost to metal and have an average lifespan of about 50 years.

Make It a Cool Roof

Whatever material you choose, you can make it a cool roof (or highly reflective roof). This can be accomplished by using highly reflective paint, sheet coverings, tiles or shingles. A cool roof will decrease your energy consumption, saving you money in the long run. They reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a conventional roof. This decreases roof temperatures which may extend the life of your roof and reduce the energy used to cool the building. A cool roof translates into higher savings for you.




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