Most Affordable Roofing Materials for Homes – Are Cheap Roofs Worth it?

What's a Typical Cost To Install a new Roof? Average Price: $5,960 - $12,740
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The most affordable roofing materials for your home are 3-tab asphalt shingles and basic dimensional shingles. The cheapest roofing material of all is rolled asphalt roofing. Corrugated steel is somewhat less affordable, but lasts longer than asphalt roofing, so the lifetime value is better.

In this guide, we explore inexpensive roofing options for homes, with focus on viability and practicality, value and installed cost, top products and brands, and expected performance.

Most Affordable Roofing Options: Cost Comparison

Materials Installed Cost per Sq. Ft. Cost for 2,000 Sq. Ft. Roof
Asphalt Roll Roofing $2.50 – $3.50 $5,000 – $7,000
3-tab Asphalt Shingles $5.00 – $8.50 $10,000 – $17,000
Dimensional Shingles $6.00 – $10.00 $12,000 – $20,000
Corrugated Steel Roofing $7.50 – $12.50 $15,000 – $25,000
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3-tab Asphalt Shingles

CertainTeed XT 25 3-tab strip shingles available in nearly 30 colors

The most popular cheap roofing material for residential use is 3-tab shingles, also called strip shingles.

These shingles are a single piece of material, a fiberglass mesh core coated with asphalt and topped with tinted ceramic granules. The granules give the shingle its color and reflect sunlight to help limit how hot the roof gets.

The lower half of the shingle is cut to create three separate tabs, and hence the name.

The installed cost of 3-tab asphalt shingles is $5.00 to $8.50 per square foot or $500 to $850 per roofing square (100 square feet). For most homes measuring 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, the total cost will range from $7,000 to $17,000, depending on the roof shape, accessibility, and location.

Cost Factors: The cost of a 3-tab asphalt shingle roof depends on whether you tear off the old roofing material or install the new shingles over the existing shingles. In most cases, you can add a second layer of asphalt shingles before having to do a tear off.

If starting with a bare roof deck, your choice of underlayment, water/ice barrier, ridge vent, and other accessories have a minor impact on the total cost. The largest potential cost factor is DIY installation, which could save you anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 per square foot. However, before you go the DIY route, consider any local building code requirements, permitting and job inspection requirements, OSHA safety requirements, product warranty considerations, etc.

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Longevity: Strip shingles last 12-20 years depending on initial quality and your climate. Replacement is necessary more quickly in hot, sunny regions.

Brands: All shingle brands make cheap 3-tab options. Among the most popular 3-tab shingles are Owens Corning Supreme, GAF Royal Sovereign, CertainTeed XT25, IKO Marathon Plus AR, Atlas GlassMaster, Tamko Elite Glass-Seal, and Malarkey Dura-Seal.

Consumer Reports gives the highest rating to Atlas GlassMaster among those choices. Pros prefer Malarkey Dura-Seal, but they are regionally available and not part of the CR ratings.

Are 3-tab shingles worth the cost?

3-tab shingles can provide decent value when installed on homes located in areas with temperate climate. But, if your home is in an area that experiences is subject to extreme climate conditions like high winds and rapid temperature changes, then your best bet is to go with higher-end dimensional shingles that are heavier than 3-tab shingles and can withstand strong wind gusts while providing a longer-lasting protection from the elements.

Note that 3-tab shingles can sometimes be more difficult to install compared to architectural shingles due to the alignment of the shingle tab lines that need to form straight vertical lines when looking at the roof from the ground. If the installer is not careful, your lines can shift and appear off. This visual aspect associated with “runaway” or “distorted” shingle tab vertical lines is not really an issue with the more costly architectural shingles.

Inexpensive Dimensional or Architectural Shingles

Owens Corning Duration – dimensional shingles

Affordable dimensional shingles are a step up from 3-tab shingles. They are also called architectural shingles. Each shingle features 2-3 layers of material for a more robust appearance and deeper shadowing that better mimics wood shakes or stone slate.

Midgrade and premium dimensional shingles are manufactured too, but at higher costs. We’re keeping it cheap here by pricing entry-level dimensional shingles.

The installed cost for the most affordable dimensional shingles is $6.00 to $10.00 per square foot. The expected total cost range is between $8,000 to $20,000 for most homes.

Cost Factors: As with 3-tab shingles, the biggest cost factors are who installs the roof and whether a tear-off of old material is needed. There are slight differences in cost, but entry-level dimensional shingles are competitively priced. Accessories you choose affect materials cost, and the complexity and height of the roof impact pro installation cost.

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Longevity: A decent architectural shingle can last 15-25 years in most climates. The best durability in any region comes with a roof that is properly vented at the ridge, gables, and eaves.

Brands: Best-selling affordable dimensional shingles are CertainTeed Landmark, GAF Timberline, Tamko Heritage, Owens Corning Duration, Atlas Pinnacle Pristine, IKO Cambridge and Malarkey Legacy shingles.

Among those, mid-priced Duration shingles get the top rating followed closely by most of the rest. Surprisingly, Landmark shingles get CR’s lowest rating in this category.

Are dimensional shingles worth the cost?

Yes, an entry-level dimensional shingle is worth the money where 3-tab shingles would be out of place or are not allowed by the neighborhood homeowner’s association (HOA).

Rolled Roofing

This is the cheapest roofing on the list. Mostly used on sheds and other outbuildings, roll asphalt roofing is the low-cost option for any home where it is allowed. It is also called rolled roofing and mineral coated roll roofing.

Roll roofing is a thin core of fiberglass mesh coated in asphalt and topped with granules or crushed minerals. The rolls are typically 3-4 feet wide and are installed horizontally starting at the roof eave. Successive layers overlap at least 4”.

Expect estimates from roofing contractors between $2.50 and $4.50 per square foot, also priced as $250 to $450 per roofing square (100 square feet). You can save around $2.00 to $3.00 per square foot by DIY.

Total cost for most homes is $4,000 to $8,000, although this roofing material is rarely used on homes. More commonly, rolled roofing would be installed over a shed or garage, not a residence.

Cost Factors: DIY vs pro installation has the most impact on price. This roofing is applied over bare wood roof sheathing or over roofing paper (felt paper or tar paper). If a tear off is needed, the cost will be significantly higher on the cost spectrum. Some local building codes allow a second layer of roll roofing, but it can’t go over asphalt shingles or other roof types that will show through the material.

Longevity: Expect 5-10 years of durability from roll roofing. The average is 7-8 years.

Brands: Most asphalt shingle manufacturers produce roll roofing. GAF Liberty (self-adhering) and Mineral Guard (nailed or stapled), Owens Corning Mineral Surfaced Roll and CertainTeed Flintlastic SA are the top sellers.

Is roll roofing worth the cost?

Roll roofing isn’t worth the money for most homes. The appearance is substandard for residential neighborhoods, and its longevity is poor. High winds, hail and falling debris from trees can easily gouge or tear the material because it is thin. Roll roofing is used in short-term, quick-fix scenarios.

Corrugated Steel

5V Crimp corrugated steel roof on a residence via Gulf Coast Supply

Corrugated metal is a classic metal roof that offers excellent strength. Coatings are available in a range of standard and premium colors. And rusted steel, which is also called weathered steel or by the trademark Corten or Truten, is a popular rustic choice.

The cost of corrugated metal roofing is about half the price of standing seam metal roofing, according to Western States Metal Roofing of both types.

Most steel roofing is installed by specially trained professional metal roofers. Estimates can range from $12,500 to $25,000 based on home size and roof complexity.

Cost Factors: The quality of the finish is the major material cost factor. For durability, consider a product coated in Kynar or Hylar. With professional installation, the height and complexity of the roof are always considered when giving price estimates.

Longevity: A corrugated steel roof lasts 30-50 years, but it takes more maintenance than standing seam steel roofing.

Brands: Because of high shipping costs, brands tend to be regional. Look for Bridger Steel, Western States Metal Roofing, EconoRib, Hardy Rib, Corrugated Metals, Holland Roofing, Gulf Coast Supply, and Creative Building Supply. And your roofing contractor should be able to advise you on the best corrugated roofing available where you live.

Is corrugated steel roofing worth the cost?

Most homeowners are happy with their corrugated steel roof. The key to happiness is being familiar with the look of the finished roof before you install it. Take the time to view homes like yours with a corrugated roof to see if the appearance appeals to you. Or use a visualizer tool from Gulf Coast Supply, then choose GulfWave roofing to picture your home with a corrugated steel roof.

Is Cheap Roofing a Good Idea?

There are pros and cons of choosing affordable roofing over the most expensive roofing options.

You’ll save money with a low-cost roof. But it won’t last as long. For example, a 3-tab or cheap dimensional shingle lasts an average of 15-20 years while a premium asphalt shingle should last 25-30 years in most areas.

Cheap roofing usually has shorter warranties, and/or they are prorated more rapidly than warranties on premium roofing products.

Roll roofing warranty: 10-15 years, prorated.

3-tab shingle warranty: 25 years to lifetime, prorated after 3-10 years.

Dimensional shingle warranty: 30 years to lifetime, prorated after 5-10 years.

Corrugated metal roofing warranty: 25-40 years.

Your return on investment will be best when the roofing you choose fits the neighborhood profile. The most affordable roofing materials are appropriate for starter homes, middle class neighborhoods and rural areas where a wide variety of roofing materials is acceptable.

Your ROI might actually be higher on a cheap roof than a premium roof. For example, if you plan to sell your home soon, then installing the most affordable CertainTeed Landmark dimensional shingles won’t hurt your resale value. And the cost will be $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot lower than the cost to install premium CertainTeed Grand Manor or Carriage House shingles.

If you aren’t planning to sell your house, then the most affordable roofing may not be the best option. Yes, the upfront cost will be lower. But because cheap roofs must be replaced sooner, the long-term cost of keeping a roof over your home might be higher.

Buying two roofs over the course of 35 years at a current cost of $6.00 per square foot will cost more than buying one roof at $10.00 per square foot that lasts 35 years without replacing. Pricing might look like this when inflation is considered:

  • Roof #1 @ $6.00 per sq. ft. + Roof #2 @ 9.00/ sq. ft. = Spending $15.00 per square foot on your roof in 35 years.
  • Roof #1 @ $10/sq. ft. = Spending $10.00 per square foot on your roof in 35 years.

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What's a Typical Cost To Install a new Roof? Average Price: $5,960 - $12,740
See Costs Near You

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