This comprehensive guide to types of roof materials is all the research you need to evaluate asphalt shingles, wood shingles and shakes, metal roofing, tiles in three materials, natural and faux slate and the new Tesla solar tiles.
For each residential roof type we cover the following topics:
- An overview including how the roofing is made
- Pros and cons including maintenance, repair, durability, options, home styles they work with and more
- Cost for materials and installation
- Choosing your roofing material/The “bottom line” summaries of each type
- How to save money on a new roof
Types of Roofing Materials
These most common options cover more than 95 percent of residential roofs in the United States, so unless you’ve got something unusual in mind like solar tiles – oh, wait, we’ve included those – or a vegetative green roof, the options you’re considering are likely discussed here.
More than 70 percent of US homes are roofed with asphalt shingles, though that number is slowly shrinking due to the incredible alternatives gaining popularity and the rising demand for eco-friendly materials. Shingles dominate the market because they are affordable, offer a variety of attractive options and do a good job protecting homes from the elements.
There are two types of asphalt shingles:
- Fiberglass shingles start with a fiberglass mesh mat that is covered in asphalt and topped with granules that provide color and reflect some of the sunlight. Shingles made with fiberglass are lightweight and resist tearing.
- Organic asphalt shingles begin with paper, often recycled, that is saturated in asphalt and covered with granules. The shingles are heavier and harder to work with than fiberglass, but they generally offer better stability in high winds.
Pros and Cons of Asphalt Shingles
The reasons to choose asphalt shingles are:
- Shingles are often the most affordable roofing, especially in good/better ranges
- The best asphalt shingles are a 30-year roof solution installed on homes located in moderate climates
- The cheapest 3-tab shingles are an affordable way to dress up a home before putting on the market
- Broad selection of colors and styles including affordable three-tab and architectural shingles that mimic shakes and slate
- DIY asphalt shingle installation is possible for those with good skills, experience and equipment
- No support beyond standard roof sheathing is required for shingles
- 3-tab shingles are rated for 60-70 MPH wind uplift, while standard architectural shingles are rated for 110 MPH winds; high-wind shingles are rated for 130 MPH
- High-impact shingles such as the ones manufactured by GAF should be used for heavily-wooded locations and areas where large hail is possible
- Some shingle repairs are easy and cost-effective
- Fiberglass shingles offer good fire protection
- Look good on most any style home
A few words of caution about asphalt shingles:
- The lifetime cost of shingles is higher than metal or slate because they must be replaced more frequently
- Cheap asphalt shingles last as little as 10-12 years in hot, sunny climates
- Walking on a shingled roof that is hot can result in damage
- A poorly vented attic will trap heat and significantly shorten asphalt shingle lifespan by cupping or cracking them
- While the asphalt shingle industry boasts that its products can be recycled for paving, few recycling facilities take asphalt shingles, and they are among the least eco-friendly roofing options
- After a second layer of shingles needs replacing, all layers must be torn off the roof, creating extra expense and a lot of potential landfill waste
- Mold or algae can be a problem on shingles in shady area unless treated with anti-algae/anti-stain treatments
- Organic/felt shingles are heavy; getting them to the roof in bundles can be a challenge
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Wood shingles and shakes
Wood delivers a natural dose of beauty to any roof. Cedar, redwood, cypress and pressure-treated pine shingles and shakes are available.
How are wood shingles and shakes 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 have a more rustic appearance. They’re thicker too, so slightly more expensive than wood shingles.
Pros and Cons of Wood Shingles and Shakes
The advantages of wood shingles and shakes are:
- Wood has natural beauty that ranges from rustic shakes to handsome, neat shingles
- Cedar and redwood contain oils that make them naturally resistant to moisture and insects
- Treated wood shingles have a Class A fire rating
- They can last 5 to 10 years longer than asphalt, which makes them competitively priced with asphalt over their lifespan
- Wood has an insulation value twice that of asphalt shingles (but your home’s insulation levels are far more important than the R-value of the roofing)
- Many shakes and shingles are made from salvaged trees – those that have fallen over from age or toppled by storm
- Wood is recyclable into wood chips, mulch or compost
- They enhance a range of architectural styles including Tudor, Victorian, Cape Cod, bungalow and cabin/cottage
Keep these disadvantages in mind when deciding on wood shingles and shakes:
- Non-treated materials have a Class C fire rating, but wood can cedar shingles and shakes are also available as a more-costly treated option
- Wood roofing is prohibited in some areas prone to wildfire, so be sure to check with your building department first
- 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
- While DIY installation is possible if you have good experience, faults in the installation can lead to quick deterioration of the roof which often includes serious leaks
- Staining of the shingles and shakes might occur as natural factors cause tannins to be released from the wood
- While wood is quite durable, but repairs will be expensive if they are required