Nothing lasts forever, and that includes your roofing system. Whether you are building a new home or have lived in the same one for decades, every roofing system inevitably falls into a state of disrepair and will need to be replaced.
Adding one more home improvement project to your to-do list can feel overwhelming and inconvenient, but it’s best to prioritize roofing repairs or replacement over any other home improvement project. Why? Because your roof directly affects the overall visual appearance, long-term durability, and proper functionality of your property.
And a roof replacement is the perfect time to make big changes to those features, including the top protective layer of your roof: your shingles.
Which type of shingles are best for your property? There isn’t always a clear answer to this question because there are many important factors to consider when selecting your roofing materials. For instance, your regional climate, your available budget, and your preferred home aesthetic are just a handful of critical factors that will greatly influence your decision.
Types of Roofing Materials
All kinds of home improvement sectors have boomed within the past century, thanks to technological advancements, product innovations, and many other reasons. The roofing industry has not been left behind in those significant transitions and changes.In today’s world, homeowners have access to an abundance of unique roofing materials, shingle products, and many other roofing-related solutions that can be outfitted on just about any property.
Each product category has multiple sub-categories and specializations that are far too granular to dive into here. That said, these are just a handful of the most popular types of roofing materials available for your property today:
- Asphalt Shingles: Thanks to their amazing affordability, color variations, and easy installation processes, asphalt shingles have become the most common roofing solution in America. While asphalt shingles can vary in quality from one manufacturer to the next, you can expect most asphalt shingles to be highly durable and withstand many different types of weather conditions (e.g., high winds, snowfalls, etc.). However, asphalt shingles sacrifice longevity for lower prices.
- Wood shingles or shakes: Are you interested in outfitting your home with a more natural and traditional appearance? If so, wood shingles could be the perfect choice for your needs. While these products are relatively affordable, provide good insulation, and offer a cozy aesthetic, it’s important to note that wood shingles require regular maintenance, can be prone to wood rot and insect infestations, and may pose fire hazards in many areas of the country.
- Metal roofs: Compared to asphalt or wood shingles, metal roofing systems offer an entirely different aesthetic! Most commonly, you will find metal roofing products widely available as panels rather than shingles. Throughout the entire home improvement industry, metal roofing products have gained widespread recognition for their outstanding durability, long-term reliability, and high energy efficiency standards.
- Clay or concrete tiles: These roofing materials are popular for their aesthetic appeal and longevity. Roofing tiles are fire-resistant and require minimal maintenance. However, they can be heavy, which means they can’t be installed on all roofs and require proper roof framing.
- Natural slate: Similar to clay or concrete tiles, slate tiles are a premium roofing material known for their elegance and long-lasting performance. Slate materials can be an expensive option but offer timeless beauty and exceptional durability.
Let’s dive into each of these roofing materials in greater detail for your comparison.
1. Asphalt Shingles
It’s estimated that approximately 80% of American homes have asphalt shingles, however, that percentage obviously varies by market and region. Just because your friends and family members have asphalt shingles protecting their homes, that doesn’t mean those shingles are the most appropriate option for your property.
- Low Costs: Exact prices vary by the market, the manufacturer, and the roofing contractor, but three-tab asphalt shingles are typically priced at around $30-$35 per bundle or $1-$3 per square foot. If you’ve got a tight budget set aside for your roof replacement project, you won’t find better product pricing than asphalt shingles.
- Simple and Straightforward Installation: If you ask any roofing contractors which shingles are easiest to install, every time they’ll say the same thing: “asphalt shingles.” The installation process is not only easy and simple, but roofers work with these materials all the time, so they are quite knowledgeable about the installation processes associated with asphalt shingles.
- Variety of Colors: From traditional hues to alternative variations that mimic other materials, the variety of aesthetics offered by asphalt shingles empowers homeowners to perfectly match their roof’s appearance to their dwelling.
- Fire Resistance: Whether you use GAF, Owen’s Corning, or asphalt shingles produced by other manufacturers, these products offer greater fire resistance compared to other roofing materials. This aspect holds particular significance in regions prone to wildfires or areas that are subject to stringent building codes.
- Lifespan: Don’t hold your breath and hope that your asphalt shingles will last longer than 15-20 years. Once you hit that mark, you’ll likely need a complete roof replacement because your asphalt shingles will be in disarray and will need a lot of work to repair.
- Limited Insulation: Asphalt shingles are not as great as other roofing materials at supporting internal temperature regulation. Because of their limited insulation, it’s unlikely that your asphalt shingles will help cut energy costs or improve energy efficiency in your home.
- Not Eco-Friendly: Composite asphalt shingles are made from petroleum-based materials and other harmful compounds. As a result, you cannot recycle asphalt shingles and, instead, they must be in landfills. If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint or the waste that your home generates, then you need to carefully contemplate the long-term environmental impacts of asphalt shingles.
See Also: Do’s and Don’ts of Residential Roofing
2. Wood Shingles
From western red cedar to pine, spruce, and cypress, wood shingles can be constructed from a wide range of lumber types. These materials undergo a unique manufacturing process involving pressure treatments and other applications to increase lifespan and reduce the chance of mold or other unsightly changes.
- Curb-Appeal: Wood shingles and shakes have a unique appearance that provides a more rustic and authentic look.
- Eco-Friendly: Since your shingles are made of wood, they can easily recycled or disposed of without harming the environment. In addition, many manufacturers also make the effort to plant new trees to replace the ones used to make wood roofs.
- Lightweight Design: Of course, exact weights vary from one type of wood to the next and by the manufacturer. However, you can generally expect wood shingles to weigh roughly 2 lbs per square foot. As a result, the lightweight design allows wood shingles to be installed on any sloped roofing system. In addition, the design not only makes them very easy to move and install, but they may also reduce labor costs because your roofers don’t have as much weight to move around.
- Discoloration: Wood shingles can endure a lot of tumultuous weather patterns, but the constant sun exposure and occasional weather events can cause your shingles to lose their original hues. For instance, light brown wood colors can transform over the years into darker browns or silver-grays.
- Poor Fire Resistance: Of all the roofing products listed in this article, wood shingles are the most flammable options. Unfortunately, that means if you live in a fire-prone area, wood shingles are likely banned or restricted by your local and/or regional government(s).
- Rotting Risks: Wood absorbs water when it gets wet, and this can lead to rotting and warping shingles on your roof.
- Insect Infestations: Many types of wood-loving insects will attempt to build nests in your wood shingles, so be prepared.
- High Maintenance Needs: These shingles can be easily repaired and replaced, but to avoid fires and pest infestations, you’ll need to re-apply certain chemical sprays to your roof every 2 years.
3. Metal Roofs
When we talk about metal roofing systems, we aren’t referencing the old corrugated tin roofs you see on dilapidated barns or in rustic settings. We’re talking about well-designed and well-engineered metal panels that blend well with any aesthetic.
- Exceptional Durability: Of course, product lifespan depends on many factors like climate, maintenance, and so on, but you can generally expect a metal roofing system to last for roughly 40 to 70 years. That means they can outlast many other roofing materials.
- High Solar Reflectance: Unlike asphalt shingles or wood shake products, metal roofs have a reflective quality that directs a portion of sunlight away from your home. In turn, the improved solar reflection leads to lower cooling costs because your home uses less energy to cool your internal spaces during the summer.
- Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Metal roofing systems are 100% recyclable, which means less waste ends in landfills.
- The abundance of Metal Roofing Options: If variety is important for your property aesthetic, you’re in luck! Your metal roofing system can integrate an array of metal panels, from lightweight and corrosion-resistant aluminum to copper, zinc, stainless steel, and more. However, it’s important to keep in mind that each type of metal has different advantages and downsides, so be mindful when comparing metal products.
- High Price Point: Unfortunately, metal roofs tend to be much more expensive than other roofing systems. Costs for the materials alone can run between $120 to $900 per 100 square feet.
- Dents Can Occur: While metal roofing panels are designed to withstand extreme weather, some metal products can still be dented by large hailstones or falling branches.
- Excessive Noise: Yes, insulation and sheathing will minimize the sound heard from your roofing system. However, heavy rain or thunderstorms can still cause tons of noise on your metal roof.
4. Clay Tiles
Even though asphalt shingles have gained notoriety in our modern era, clay roofing systems have been the universal favorite for centuries. Yes, you read that right: “for centuries.” Historians and researchers have actually found historical documentation that proves clay tiles were used for roofing purposes all the way back in the Neolithic Age. That kind of long-term reliability is simply unheard of in the roofing industry.
Clay tiles are made from natural clay and offer a timeless aesthetic that will enhance curb appeal instantly. Additionally, they are resistant to fire, insects, and rot, and require little upkeep.
- Exceptional Durability: Clay tiles stand out for their remarkable durability. With a few exceptions, clay roofing tiles can last for roughly 50-100 years, and some even pass the century mark too. In addition, clay roofing systems are resistant to fire, pests, and rot, offering a reliable, long-lasting roofing solution.
- Environmentally Friendly: Similar to metal roofing products, clay tiles are 100% recyclable. That means your tiles won’t end up in a landfill and will be repurposed for another use.
- Natural Insulation: Compared to other products like asphalt shingles, clay tiles can keep your home’s temperature well-regulated all year round. Your home will stay cool in hot weather and warm during cold weather.
- Low Maintenance Needs: Clay tiles do not require much upkeep over the years, aside from routine cleaning.
- Additional Framing Support: Due to their excessive weight, clay tiles necessitate extra framing support during installation. This can increase overall installation costs.
- Susceptibility to Breakage: Although clay tiles boast resistance to high winds, fire, and hailstorms, individual tiles are brittle and are more prone to breakage. Pressure or impacts can cause a crack in an instant.
- Higher Cost: Clay tiles often come with a heftier price tag compared to alternatives like asphalt shingles or metal roofs. In fact, depending on the region and the market, clay tiles can cost three to four times more than asphalt shingles.
Different Styles & Colors Available in Clay Tiles
Clay tiles come in various colors, ranging from traditional terracotta to reds, browns, and grays. This flexibility ensures a seamless fit with any architectural style. There are three distinct styles of clay tiles that you need to know about:
- Spanish Tiles: Characterized by their distinctive curved shape, Spanish tiles infuse homes with Mediterranean charm.
- French Tiles: Featuring a refined and symmetrical design, French tiles exude an elegant appearance.
- Scandia Tiles: Geared toward modern preferences, Scandia tiles offer sleek, minimalist lines.
5. Slate Roof Shingles
A very similar product to clay tiles, slate shingles are one of the oldest types of roofing tiles. They use natural stones quarried directly from the earth for manufacturing.
- Resistant to Rot, Decay, Insects, and Fire: Because slate tiles are made from inorganic materials, they won’t succumb to rotting or infestation.
- Amazing Longevity: No other roofing material lasts as long as slate. These tiles have an average life expectancy of 50 to 100+ years.
- Recyclable and Reusable: Just like clay tiles, slate can be reused as shingles or can be ground up and used for other applications, so nothing ends up in the landfill.
- Heavy Weight: Similar to clay tiles, slate weighs upwards of two to three times more than composite asphalt shingles. This means not all roofs can withstand the weight of these materials.
- Expensive to Install and Repair: You can expect slate tiles to be the most expensive roofing material in your market.
- Difficult to Install: Because many roofing contractors are used to asphalt materials, they may not have the experience or skills to properly install slate tiles.
Trust Your Gut and Your Contractor
Selecting the most appropriate roofing material for your home is a choice that warrants careful consideration. After all, your roofing system has a direct influence over the long-term condition of your property; the wrong decision today can lead to rework and increased costs down the line.
Remember: You don’t need to rush this decision. Take your time to carefully think through all of the factors we’ve outlined today for each roofing material and consult with your trusted roofing contractor too. They’ll be able to provide personalized insights for each material option and can share recommendations on which roofing materials are best suited for your property.