Toolbox Essentials: Q1 2022 Catalog
7 Types of Roofing Materials: Choosing the Right One for Your Roof

7 Types of Roofing Materials: Choosing the Right One for Your Roof

Between the endless repairs and the unattractive damage that kills your curb appeal, the wrong roof for your home can cause no end of headaches. However, with a dozen or more different types of roofing material to choose from, how do you know which one is right for your home? In this quick guide, we’ll cover seven of the most popular types of roofing material for homeowners and give you tips on how to tell which one will work for your roof.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most popular choice for homeowners in North America. The shingles are made from a blend of asphalt, fiberglass, and minerals. This blend makes them waterproof and moderately resistant to heat. The shingle design makes them easy to install on any roof, even if it’s an unusual shape. They’re also affordable to install, and it’s easy to make repairs as needed, without having to redo the whole roof.
As affordable and convenient as they are, asphalt shingles aren’t particularly durable or eco-friendly. They have a shorter lifespan than most other types of roofing material because they don’t hold up as well against the elements.
Extreme heat causes them to crack and fade. Extreme cold will also damage them. If you live in a place where summers are scorching hot and winters are below freezing, those fluctuations will damage the shingles in just a few years.
While you can replace individual cracked shingles as needed, the long-term cost of the regular maintenance required can end up making this low-cost option more expensive than a higher quality roofing material.

Pick This One If:

  • You need a budget-friendly option.
  • You roof has many different levels and angles, requiring a more flexible roofing material.
  • You want to handle minor repairs yourself instead of relying on professionals.
  • You live in a mild climate.

Clay Tiles

Clay tiles are an attractive roofing option that can add character to your home, in addition to protecting it from heat and rain. As you can guess from the name, the tiles are made of clay that’s been molded into interlocking shapes.
Given the right conditions—such as a quaint coastal cottage overlooking the ocean—a clay tile roof can last for generations. They’re resistant to heat, fire, strong winds, hail, and other inclement weather. Plus, the tile design means that damaged parts can be easily replaced without having to retile the whole roof.
They do best in Mediterranean climates (dry and warm) but can last for decades just about anywhere. Some of their many benefits include:

Improved Energy Efficiency

Clay has a heavy thermal mass, which just means it can store a lot of heat. The more heat your roof can stop from entering your home, the cooler your home will be. The cooler your home is, the less work your A/C has to do.

Eco-Friendly

Clay is a sustainable material that doesn’t produce a lot of emissions during manufacturing and doesn’t leach pollutants into water runoff. When tiles crack or become unusable, they can be ground into a powder and then remolded into a new tile, so your old tiles won’t go to waste.

Low Maintenance

Leaking is rare, and tiles are unlikely to break unless something heavy falls on them.
Given the high quality and the efficiency of clay tiles, they are more expensive than other roofing materials. They also add a lot of weight, so you need to make sure your house is capable of holding that load. Finally, tiles don’t work well on flat or low-slope roofs.

Pick This One If:

  • You live in a warm climate where heat resistance is a high priority.
  • You roof has a sharp slope 4:12 pitch or higher
  • You want a roof that will last a long time and require minimal repairs and you’re willing to pay more upfront for it.
  • You prioritize ecofriendly design.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing comes in two varieties: standing seam and shingles/shake. Standing seam metal roofs are made of long panels that lock together in raised seams. Metal shingles or shake look like a metal version of any other shingle or shake.
Both offer great durability, top-notch waterproofing, and eco-friendly design. Metal is 100% recyclable and doesn’t leach pollutants into water runoff. Once installed, a metal roof will last upwards of 70 years.
They also improve your home’s energy efficiency. Metal acts as a radiant barrier, a material that reflects heat away from your home. This will keep the temperature inside your house cooler, so you don’t have to rely as much on your cooling system.
While metal does a great job at being a roof, its key drawbacks are denting and noise. Denting can happen during hailstorms or high winds that knock branches against your roof. These same conditions can also be extra noisy. Rain or hail will start to sound like an angry god is banging pots and pans together at 3:00 A.M.
You can dampen this effect by adding an extra layer of soundproofing insulation underneath the metal roof, but that will cost extra. So, if you live in a climate with lots of inclement weather, metal might not be the best choice.

Pick This One If:

  • You live in a warm, dry climate (ideally without any trees within smacking distance of your roof).
  • You prioritize eco-friendly design.
  • You’re willing to spend a little more upfront for a longer lasting, lower maintenance roof.

Slate

Slate roofs are made of thin sheets of real stone. They look stunning and they last for centuries. Because they’re made of stone, they’re extremely fire-resistant, and a great choice for anyone who lives somewhere that’s prone to wildfires. Even if you don’t live in wildfire territory, slate is suited to any climate.
Because it can last for 200+ years, it’s also an eco-friendly choice, since you probably won’t ever have to toss it in your lifetime. Even when it does come time for your great, great grandkids to replace it, they will likely only have to replace the underlying materials holding the stone sheets in place. The slate pieces themselves can usually be reused.
Being the most long-lasting type of roofing material, slate is also one of the most expensive. It also needs to be installed correctly in order to get those centuries of longevity, and not every roofer is skilled at slate installation. If you’re going with this option, make sure you shop around and find a contractor with verifiable experience installing slate roofs.

Pick This One If:

  • You want a roof you’ll never have to replace again.
  • You live in a wildfire-prone area.
  • You want a roof that adds aesthetic value to your home.

Wood Shingles and Shake

Wood shingles make for an attractive roofing option that’s more affordable than the other aesthetic roofing materials, like clay or slate. They’re priced just above asphalt shingles (the cheapest option) but have a more natural, appealing look than the bare, industrial appearance of asphalt.
In addition to their looks, wood shingles offer great wind resistance without adding nearly as much weight to your house as slate or clay. They are also less likely to crack when you walk on them or if something heavy falls on them.
With that said, wood isn’t really suited to most climates. In rainy or humid places, wood shingles are prone to rot. In extreme heat, wood becomes faded and brittle. In wildfire territory, a wooden roof is the last thing you want. It’s also beloved by many insects, like termites, wasps, and other pests that you wouldn’t want making a home in your roof.
Even with so many vulnerabilities, a wooden roof in the right conditions can last up to 60 years, which puts it on par with metal and synthetic options. If your home isn’t in the right climate, though, you should expect a lifespan closer to 20-30 years.
To extend that life, make sure you do regular inspections to catch any insects trying to claim squatters’ rights in your roof. The earlier you get rid of them, the less long-term damage they’ll cause.

Pick This One If:

  • You live in a dry climate, but far from any forests that might catch fire.
  • You need a budget-friendly option.
  • You want a roof with good curb appeal without the price tag.

Synthetic Slate

Synthetic slate roofs are usually made of rubber, but are designed to look identical to natural stone slate. While you can tell it’s synthetic when you’re up close, from the ground, it’s almost impossible to spot the difference.
The synthetic alternative is a popular choice among homeowners whose house isn’t rated for the weight of a real slate roof (which can be thousands of pounds). It’s also a good choice for budget-conscious owners who want the elegant look of slate but don’t want to shell out that much cash to get it.
Because it’s just a rubber or plastic polymer, synthetic slate won’t last nearly as long as the real stuff, but you’ll still get about 50 years out of it. It’s not as fire-resistant and won’t hold up as well against extreme heat or cold compared to slate. Even so, it’s fire-resistance, heat-blocking abilities, and durability are still comparable to asphalt or wood. So, it’s still a reliable choice.

Pick This One If:

  • You want the look of slate but not the price tag.
  • Your house can’t withstand the weight of heavier roofing materials like slate or clay.
  • You live in a mild climate (or at least not anywhere that’s wildfire prone).

Green Roof

A green roof is a roofing system that uses living plants to provide insulation, weather protection, and heat blocking for your home. They come with drainage systems, root barriers, and localized designs that include plant species that are suited to your climate.
In addition to looking great, green roofs offer a lot of practical benefits to homeowners:

Filters Pollution Out of the Air Around Your Home

Plants are natural air filters that will pull pollution and CO2 while releasing fresh oxygen.

Improved Stormwater Management

Green roofs conserve stormwater better, and what little does run off into the sewers contains fewer pollutants than water that has run off an asphalt or synthetic roof.

Actively Cools the Air Instead of Just Blocking Heat

When plants heat up in the sun, they release moisture in a process called evapotranspiration—it’s like sweating for plants. This vapor actively lowers the temperature of the surrounding air.

Energy Savings

When the air your A/C is taking in from the outside is already pre-cooled by the plants’ evapotranspiration, it doesn’t have to work as hard to get it down to your desired temperature. You’ll spend less money on electricity and put less strain on your cooling system (meaning lower maintenance costs).

Low Maintenance

Because green roofs are designed to tolerate the climates they are in, they don’t need to be watered. The only ongoing maintenance is pulling weeds once a year and getting an annual inspection of the underlying roof system (something homeowners should do for any roof).
As beneficial as green roofs are, the initial investment to set one up is high. It requires layering of expensive insulation materials and a drainage system. It will more than pay you back in the form of lower utility bills and fewer roof repairs in the long run, but not every homeowner is ready for the steep initial costs.

Pick This One If:

  • You live in a hot climate where you need the best possible heat reduction benefits in your roof.
  • You want to maximize energy efficiency and air quality in your home.
  • You have a flat roof and would like to install a functional rooftop garden space to hang out in (you would need to install what’s called an “intensive” green roof in this case).
  • You are cottagecore-obsessed and have always secretly wanted to be a fairy plucking fresh herbs and flowers from your little green roof.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully our helpful and informative article has given you a good overview of the different types of roofing materials available, and allowed you to narrow your selection. Whichever type you choose, with the proper installation and regular maintenance, your new roof will serve you well for years to come.