Best Roofing Materials for Homes 2021: Material Costs, Plus Pros & Cons

This comprehensive guide to roofing materials is all the research you’ll need to evaluate the top choices for residential re-roofing and new construction projects in 2021.

What to Expect: In this guide, we’ll cover the following most common roofing options: asphalt shingles, cedar wood shingles and shakes, metal shingles and standing seam metal roofs, concrete, clay, and fiber-cement tiles, natural and faux slate, and BiPV solar tile options.

Traditional PV solar panels on a new asphalt shingle roof

For each residential roofing material, 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 and Styles of Roofing Materials

The most common roofing options presented below cover more than 95 percent of all residential roofs in the United States, so unless you’ve got something unusual in mind like BiPV solar tiles – oh, wait, we’ve included those – or a vegetative green roof, the options you’re considering are likely discussed below.

1. Asphalt/Fiberglass Composition Shingles
2. Wood Shingles and Shakes
3. Metal Roofing
4. Concrete and Clay Roof Tiles
5. Natural and Synthetic Composite Slate Tiles
6. BiPV Solar Shingles and Tiles
7. Low-sloped and Flat Roof Options

Asphalt/Fiberglass Composition Shingles

More than 75 percent of all single-family homes in the US are roofed with asphalt shingles, though that number is slowly shrinking thanks to the more energy-efficient and durable metal roofing.

Asphalt (composition) shingles dominate the market because they are affordable, offer a variety of attractive options, and do a good job protecting homes from the nature’s elements.

There are two main 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. Although you can still see them on many roofs, organic shingles have been mostly phased out or discontinued over the course of last decade. Why? Manufactures have stopped making organic shingles due to their tendency to dry out, become less-waterproof and more prone to excess moisture absorption.

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Shingles

The reasons to choose asphalt shingles are:

  • Fiberglass shingles offer good fire protection
  • Look good on most any style home
  • Shingles are often the most affordable roofing option, 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

A few words of caution about asphalt shingles:

  • The lifetime cost of shingles is higher than metal, tile, or slate, because composition shingles must be replaced more frequently
  • Cheaper or low-cost asphalt shingles last as little as 10-15 years in hot, sunny climates
  • Rapid temperature changes can cause asphalt shingles to crack
  • 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 areas, unless treated with anti-algae/anti-stain treatments
  • Organic/felt shingles are heavy; getting them to the roof in bundles can be a challenge
New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

See costs in your area Enter Your Zip Code

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

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 potential disadvantages in mind:

  • 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

Read more

Asphalt Shingles Prices at Lowe’s & Home Depot: GAF, OC, Onduvilla 3D

How to Select the Best Type of Asphalt Shingles for your DIY Project when shopping at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s home improvement store, or Online:

OC TruDefinition Duration Driftwood shingle bundles for sale at Lowe’s

Need a Roofer? Get 4 Free Quotes From Local Pros:

Enter Your Zip Code:

We’ll save you the trip to each store (and gas) by providing the following details: Retail Cost per bundle and square (100 sq.ft.) of shingles, Best options for DIY roofing projects, and overview of each product/brand

Before we get into the details of how to select the best type of roofing shingles, let’s first discuss the general roofing shingle options that home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have to offer.

Both chains offer roofing products from the most popular roofing brand and the number one seller of asphalt shingles in America, GAF.

With Home Depot, GAF products represent about 80% of all asphalt shingle products available through the stores and online. Home Depot’s other roofing shingle option is the Onduvilla brand, which is available for online purchasing.

With Lowe’s, GAF shingles are roughly 50% of their overall offerings for asphalt shingles. Lowe’s also carries Owens Corning roofing products, which is another popular brand comprising another half of roofing shingles available for sale in Lowe’s stores and online.

The Onduvilla shingles are not the typical kind of shingles. Onduvilla specializes in what is known as 3D shingles, which have a wavy pattern and can be used as a stand-alone type shingle (like the popular types) but is more or less geared toward building owners with a metal roof that might benefit from this as an additional layer of roofing.

Because of how atypical this product is, we won’t be including it as part of the selection process, but we did want to mention it as a high-end and a fairly unique roofing option. The Onduvilla shingles cost about $50 per bundle (20 sq.ft.) or $250 per square, with 10 pieces in each bundle.

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

See costs in your area Enter Your Zip Code

Both Lowe’s and Home Depot stores provide all the roofing accessories including underlayments and Ice-and-Water shields, ridge caps, and vents, to make for a complete roofing system.

Below, we list the costs for each option, along with the required components. We won’t provide costs for flashing as that varies in purpose, and it’s therefore best to discuss with either a professional contractor or store specialist to make sure you are obtaining the most suitable product for the job.

Note: in many cases, prices on the products are almost exactly the same between the two stores. However, when this is not the case, we are providing the lowest cost from either store, and if there is significant difference, we’ll let you know.

Leak barrier / Underlayment material

  • GAF WeatherWatch Leak Barrier (aka Underlayment) = $49.50 for 150 sq.ft. roll
  • Grace Roll Roofing Underlayment = $138.00 for 225 sq.ft. roll

Starter Shingles

  • GAF Pro-Start Black Starter Shingles = $36.90 for 120 linear feet
  • Owens Corning Starter Shingles Black = $22.60 for 100 linear feet (through Lowe’s)

Ridge Vent

  • GAF Cobra Ridge Low Profile Exhaust Vent = $49.00 for 20 ft. roll
  • GAF Cobra 3 (Plastic) Ridge Exhaust Vent = $82.30 for 4 ft. piece
  • Owens Corning VentSure Plastic Roll Ridge Vent = $60.10 for 20 ft. roll

Read more

Corrugated Metal vs. Standing Seam & Shingles: Corrugation Myth Busters

Who Invented the Original, Corrugated Iron / Steel Roofing Style?

Henry Robinson Palmer learned his civil engineering under Scotsman Thomas Telford, the greatest builder of roads, canals, and bridges in the British Empire in the early 19th century.

Standing Seam Vertical Panels

In 1821 Palmer applied for a patent for a single elevated rail supported by pillars spaced ten feet apart that sported wheeled carriages hanging down from either side that would roll along the rail when pulled by a horse. Henry Robinson Palmer had invented the world’s first monorail.

Need a Roofer? Get 4 Free Quotes From Local Pros:

Enter Your Zip Code:

If you research Palmer’s life today, every source details the creation of the monorail. For most thumbnail sketches of Palmer’s life that is the end of the story, but Palmer himself did not concern himself much with the monorail after building the first one in 1825, about one mile long, in Cheshunt, a town twelve miles from London.

Two years later the 32-year-old Palmer landed a job as resident engineer for the London Dock Company. It was his responsibility to construct the walls along the Thames River to keep the world’s busiest port humming.

The aging wooden docks were in constant need of upgrade. To keep up Palmer patented a lightweight metal building panel that was self-supporting due to a series of waves or folds molded into the sheets.

Palmer’s manufacturing process consisted of pushing his sheet metal across fluted rollers to create the ridges that gave the metal strength. He called this “corrugation”, from the Latin word for “wrinkled.” It remains a common method for manufacturing corrugated metal today.

Palmer erected the world’s first corrugated building on the Thames River docks in 1829 and he continued to patent improvements in the construction of arches and roofs.

It is ironic that today Henry Robinson Palmer is remembered for the invention of the monorail, which is rarely encountered outside of amusement parks, airports, and a classic Simpsons episode. He is scarcely recognized for the development of corrugation, which became so ubiquitous in the 19th century for cheap shelter that most people – and historians – assumed it had been with us since antiquity.

Historical Significance of Corrugation

Corrugated metal roof-on a single-story house

Without corrugated metal there would have been no rapid development of the United States frontier, a less frantic California gold rush, much slower settling of farmland on the Great Plains and much harsher living conditions on the battlefield.

The strength to materials imparted by corrugation extended beyond the sheet metal shop to other industries; it was critical to the development of the cardboard, for instance.

Metal Roof Construction

metal-roof-on-a-log-home

By stiffening the metal sheets, corrugation permits a greater span across a lighter framework, ideal for the balloon construction techniques that became widespread in the 19th century.

However, metal for roofing has been used for centuries, although it was rare in early America. Thomas Jefferson was a metal roof fanboy and installed tin-plate iron on the roof of his beloved Monticello in rural Virginia.

A metal roof could be fabricated with steel shingles or a “standing seam,” a technique which involved folding the edges upwards and laying the sheets over one another. Fasteners would hide under the upraised ridge where the sheets interlocked, producing clean, aesthetically pleasing lines.

monticello roof

Metal Shingles Vs. Standing Seam Vs. Corrugated Metal Sheets

New steel shingles roof

While metal shingles are also available today and can be produced to mimic any material, standing seam and corrugation remain the two most common types of metal roofs. Let’s have a look at them side by side as you consider your upcoming remodeling project.

elegant standing seam metal roof By Gast Architects

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

See costs in your area Enter Your Zip Code

Materials

The earliest metals used in roofing were lead and copper. Both could last for centuries, which is fortunate since those metals are prohibitively expensive! Today, lead is most often found in roofing as a coating for steel, and copper is mostly reserved for flashing or architectural details.

Tin and its close cousin terne, a lead-tin mixture that appears lackluster (hence its French name which translates as dull), were the most common metal roofing materials of the 19th century and are important in authentic historical renovations.

Zinc had a brief run of popularity in the early 1800s as a roofing material, but it became most critical to metal roofing in 1837 when French metallurgists coated iron and steel with zinc to invent galvanization and (mostly) rust-proof metal.

In the 21st century, galvanized steel is the go-to metal roofing material. It is the least expensive roofing material and can be coated in many ways for appearance. Corrugated metal can be fabricated from a high-end G-90 steel suitable for residential applications or G-60 steel that is thinner grade and less expensive.

Standard standing seam roofs can be made from G-90 grade steel, a higher-end Galvalume steel, or aluminum.

Galvanized steel is fabricated in a range from 9 gauge (0.1532 inches) to 32 gauge (0.0134 inches). Standing seam metal panels typically begin as rolls of 26-gauge or 24-gauge steel (G-26 or G-24) or the thicker 22-gauge (G-22) before ferrous metal coatings are hot-dipped.

Corrugated steel paneling can be formed from G-26 or G-29 steel, which makes its cost less expensive; standing seam roofs will never use steel thinner than 26-gauge.

standing-seam-panels

Even galvanized steel can corrode. Galvalume is a trademarked product from U.S. Steel that takes carbon steel and coats it with an aluminum-zinc alloy that performs like galvanized steel on steroids.

But even Galvalume will eventually lose the corrosion battle against the salt spray of ocean near the coastal regions. In such cases, aluminum is the metal of choice. Although more expensive than steel, initially, aluminum’s longer life expectancy helps level the eventual bottom lines.

Read more