If you are in the process of buying a new home, you probably want to know the age of the roof and how much longer it will last. Similarly, if you’ve lived in your home for a while, you are probably also wondering about the current condition of the roof and whether it’s time to consider some viable replacement options.
This guide outlines the expected lifespans of most popular roofing systems for homes. Print it out and use it to assess the life expectancy of any roof when buying a new home or planning for future roof replacement needs in your own home.
Right Off the Bat: A typical asphalt shingle roof will normally last anywhere from 15 to 25 years (and up to 30+ years in some rare cases) before requiring a replacement.
That said, there are several different kinds of asphalt shingles, as well as other roofing materials to consider when estimating longevity of a particular roofing system. Let’s get started.
Average Lifespans for Most Popular Residential Roof Systems:
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 2022.
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 stone and faux slate/synthetic shingles, and the latest BiPV solar tile options.
For each 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 material 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
More than 75 percent of all single-family homes in the US are covered with asphalt shingles, though that number is slowly shrinking thanks to the more energy-efficient and durable materials like metal.
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.
Old-school organic asphalt shingles (almost non-existent today) would normally have paper, an organic material, 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
The advantages of asphalt shingles are:
Fiberglass shingles offer good fire protection
Look good on most any style home
Shingles are often the most affordable roof covering 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
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.
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.
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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
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
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.