How to Choose a Roof for Your Home

By: Joe Cuhaj


Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corporation

From natural materials like slate and wood to manmade products such as asphalt, sheet metal, and plastic polymers; there are more types and styles of roofing to choose from today than ever before. While each has its advantages and shortcomings, they all can add a distinctive design element to your home. So which one is right for you?

What to Look for in a Roof

There are many factors to consider when selecting a roof including:

  • How long will it last?
  • Does it hold up during natural disasters such as wildfires or hurricanes?
  • Is it too heavy for the existing roof framing?
  • Does the roof have enough slope?
  • Will the look complement the style of the house?
  • Are the materials eco-friendly and recyclable?
  • Is the type of roofing allowed by local building codes?
  • And finally, how much does it cost?

Pros and Cons

Some types of roofing may be better suited for your house than others. Factors such as the slope of the roof and strength of the framing could limit your choices. In areas prone to wildfires or hurricanes, look for a product with a high fire rating or good wind resistance. In addition, steps can be taken during the installation of many types of roofing to improve their resistance to fire or wind. Below is a rundown on the different types of roofing available.

Asphalt Composition Shingles


Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corporation

Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing for homes, comprising over 80% of residential roofing market.

  • Materials: Made of either an organic paper fiber mat (better for cold weather and wind resistance) or fiberglass (more fire and moisture resistant) impregnated with asphalt and coated with mineral granules.
  • Appearance: Available in traditional 3-tab shingles or thicker laminated “architectural” shingles.
  • Eco-Friendly: Petroleum based product that’s not eco-friendly. Can be recycled, though often taken to landfills.
  • Durability: Not very durable. Algae resistant shingles are available in humid climates to prevent staining.
  • Weight: Moderate in weight.
  • Slope: Can be used on fairly low to steeper sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Good fire resistance, fair wind resistance.
  • Cost: Inexpensive to moderate.

Metal


Photo Courtesy of Metal Sales Manufacturing Corporation

While more expensive than asphalt, metal roofing lasts longer and is more wind resistant.

  • Materials: May be composed of steel, aluminum, copper, or zinc alloy. Steel roofs come with either a zinc coating or painted finish. Copper roofs are installed unfinished and acquire a protective green patina with age.
  • Appearance: Available in sheets or in shingles that resemble other materials. Can be installed with the fasteners hidden (standing seam) or exposed.
  • Eco-Friendly: May be made from recycled materials and can be recycled when replaced. Absorb a third less heat than asphalt.
  • Durability: Fairly to very durable, depending on the material.
  • Weight: Lightweight.
  • Slope: Available for low or steep sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Good resistance to both fire and wind.
  • Cost: Moderate (steel) to expensive (copper).

Plastic Polymer

Roof with DaVinci Roofscapes plastic polymer roofing.
Photo Courtesy of DaVinci Roofscapes

These durable synthetic roofing shingles resemble either wood shakes or slate.

  • Materials: Molded from a high-tech plastic polymer material.
  • Appearance: Made to resemble slate or wood shakes.
  • Durability: Claimed to be long lasting and low maintenance.
  • Eco-Friendly: Some are made from recycled materials. Can be recycled when replaced.
  • Weight: Light to moderate in weight.
  • Slope: Can be used on moderate to steep sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Good fire and wind resistance.
  • Cost: Moderate.

Clay Tile


Photo Courtesy of Ludowici Roof Tile

While brittle and heavy, clay tiles can last a long time and are very fire resistant.

  • Materials: Made from natural clay which is fired in a kiln.
  • Appearance: Traditional Italian or Spanish look, can also be made to resemble wood shakes or slate.
  • Eco-Friendly: Made from natural materials but requires significant energy to manufacture.
  • Durability: Long lasting and low maintenance but brittle and can break.
  • Weight: Heavy, require reinforced roof framing to support.
  • Slope: Can be used on moderate to steeper sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Excellent fire resistance, fair to low wind resistance.
  • Cost: Expensive.

Concrete Tile


Photo Courtesy of Eagle Roofing Products

Less expensive than clay tiles, concrete roof tiles are also heavy but can last a long time and are very fire resistant.

  • Materials: Made from a mixture of Portland cement and sand.
  • Appearance: Can be made to resemble traditional clay tiles, wood shakes, or slate. Color can be throughout tile or only applied on the surface.
  • Eco-Friendly: Made from natural materials but requires significant energy to manufacture.
  • Durability: Long lasting and low maintenance but can break.
  • Weight: Heavy, require reinforced roof framing to support.
  • Slope: Can be used on moderate to steeper sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Excellent fire resistance, fair to low wind resistance.
  • Cost: Moderate.

Slate

Slate is one of the oldest roofing materials. Though brittle and expensive, it is very durable and resists both wind and fire.

  • Materials: Made from natural slate rock.
  • Appearance: Usually dark gray with irregular appearance.
  • Eco-Friendly: Made from natural materials.
  • Durability: Long lasting, durable (depending on where quarried).
  • Weight: Heavy, require reinforced roofing structure to support.
  • Slope: Steep sloped roofs only.
  • Fire & Wind: Good fire and wind resistance.
  • Cost: Very expensive. Requires specially trained workers to install.

Wood Singles and Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes made from rot resistant woods have low fire resistance unless treated.

  • Materials: Commonly made of cedar, but can also be made of other rot resistant woods, such as redwood.
  • Appearance: Gives natural look, weathers to a silvery gray. Available in sawn shingles or thicker split shakes.
  • Eco-Friendly: Made from natural materials.
  • Durability: Short lifespan and requires periodic maintenance.
  • Weight: Moderate in weight.
  • Slope: Can be used on moderate to steep sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Good wind resistance, poor fire resistance (can be treated with a fire retardant).
  • Cost: Moderate.

Roofing Comparison

The following table gives an overview of the various materials available. Weight and cost are listed per square of roofing (100 square feet) and include both labor and materials. Actual price may vary depending on the particular product used, the complexity of the job, and labor costs in different parts of the country. The cost per year indicates the price of the labor and materials per square over the roof’s projected life.

Product Weight/Square Lifespan Cost/Square Cost/Year
Asphalt (3-tab) 190-250 lb. 15-20 yr. $75-$125 $4-$8
Asphalt (laminated) 240-340 lb. 20-30 yr. $125-$200 $4-$10
Metal (coated steel) 80-150 lb. 30-50 yr. $250-$450 $5-$15
Plastic Polymer 70-300 lb. 50+ yr. $400-$650 $7-$13
Clay Tile 600-1,800 lb. 50+ yr. $800-$1,000 $13-$20
Concrete Tile 550-1,000 lb. 50+ yr. $300-$500 $5-$10
Slate 800-1,000 lb. 75+ yr. $1,100-$2,000 $10-$20
Wood (cedar) 200-350 lb. 15-25 yr. $350-$450 $14-$30

Warranties

There are two warranties to consider when roofing your home. The manufacturer’s warranty covers defects in the roofing material. A separate warranty may be issued by the roofing contractor to handle problems arising from improper installation.

A warranty is no better than the company that writes it, so make sure the product comes from a reputable manufacturer with the financial resources to stand behind it. This applies to the roofing contractor as well, since a fly-by-night roofer may be long gone before their guarantee expires.

It is important to read the warranty carefully to see what is covered and excluded. Some warranties are not transferable when you sell your house while others are limited to the cost of materials or are prorated over time.

Your roof is your home’s single most important defense when it comes to protecting it from the elements, so it makes sense to make sure it’s done right.

Further Information

Asphalt:

Tile:

Metal:

Plastic Polymer:

Slate:

Wood:

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Comments

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30 Comments on “How to Choose a Roof for Your Home”

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  • April Cook Says:
    June 2nd, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    WE need a new roof, and I didn’t know there were so many option! I am leaning more towards a tile roof. I like the price of the concrete tiles, but the clay tiles remind me of home. Is it expensive to add reinforced roof framing if yours isn’t strong enough to hold the tiles? Thanks for the help!



  • Nathan Johnson Says:
    May 24th, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for going over the different roofing options out there and their benefits. I am glad that you put pictures so I could imagine what these different roofs would look like. I love the metal roof and how it looks. It is also cool that it can be very durable, but is still lightweight. I will have to look into this some more. Thanks for the info!



  • Pancho Says:
    May 10th, 2016 at 9:33 am

    I’ve been looking to replace my roof, and I was looking for, great alternatives to my old roof. After reading your article, metal is the material that sticks out to me the most. It’s Eco-friendly, durable, and looks amazing. I will love having a metal roof.



  • Bill S. Preston Says:
    April 23rd, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    We installed Brava Roof Tiles composite slate roof tile. When researching a synthetic product, I could not find a more realistic and durable option. Here is the tile we decided to you. http://www.bravarooftile.com/



  • Mrs.Yetty Oduwole Says:
    March 9th, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Just built a BQ and need to roof it.its a two room self contain.just need ordinary roofing.thank you.



  • Teresa Callins Says:
    November 21st, 2015 at 12:39 am

    I am looking to have my roof done. I live in OK, we have high winds, tornadoes and rain. I thought about a metal roof. Are the metal roofs noisy when it rains and are they durable. I am trying to keep cost down, but also need to be protected from the elements of the weather. Thanks for your assistance. God bless.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 12th, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Hi AJ,
    To find a roofing contractor that installs DaVinci roofing in your area, go to the Locate a Contractor page on the DaVinci website at http://www.davinciroofscapes.com/locate-contractor/ and fill out and submit the form.



  • AJ Says:
    November 11th, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    What an excellent article! Thanks for adding the advantages and disadvantages of all types. We’re in the process of obtaining roof estimates from roofing contractors in Wood Dale, IL. Does anyone know of a DaVinci roofer? We are looking at cedar shake roof from DaVinci Roofscapes.



  • Sonia Demafeliz Says:
    September 29th, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    My roof needs replacing, existing roof is concrete tile, do I have to stick with same material? Concrete tile cost is moderate, I’m in a very tight budget, paycheck to paycheck. Already received one estimate, I don’t know if I can afford it but my roof needs repair badly. I need advice



  • Jabu Mdletshe Says:
    September 16th, 2015 at 6:55 am

    I am renovating my house and I have a space that is roomsize which can be converted to a second lounge for children. The problem is it is underneath a one and a half square metre open roof space. around which there are gutters. I need your advice as to how do I close this open space in the roof. Can the persplex corrugated roofing work, or can a skylight be installed in a space where four roofs slope, if you know what I mean, Sir?



  • Raam Says:
    September 11th, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks. Great level of details.

    Can you please also highlight which ones

    1. Energy Efficient (also compared to each other)
    2. Possibility of leaks over the period



  • Mohan Singh Tewatia Says:
    September 3rd, 2015 at 5:55 am

    Pls advice, which roofing material is the best and useful for construction on the top floor of the flat.



  • Peace Says:
    June 12th, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you for explaining the difference. Was very helpful. God bless!:)



  • Gloria Says:
    March 12th, 2015 at 11:52 am

    What roofing materials are advisable for an building with an attic in the tropics??



  • Ahmed Idamatin Says:
    March 3rd, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Please what is the advantages of Zinc Roofing sheets over Aluminum roofing sheets?
    I have three bedroom and two bedroom attached together to be covered,and I am not able to get a budgetary estimate for this until I do the wood work and rafter. what is/are the best ways to save money for such project?



  • Phebe Fletcher Says:
    February 17th, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    My understanding is that cement IS NOT ECO FRIENDLY. Natural materials but the processing uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuel, etc.



  • Sid Alpert Says:
    January 8th, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Has anyone heard of problems with polymer synthetic slate roofs especially Da Vinci in hot climate. Any issues with shrinking, warping, changing shape? Thanks.



  • Mathias Nkonya Says:
    October 24th, 2014 at 7:31 am

    I have roofed my house with Zinc corrugated iron sheets with blue color. However they appear to be soft and noisy during wind blows and rainfalls. Also whenever someone climbs on top of the roof they do shrink and loose its shape. I think the manufacturer should enhance its hardness.



  • Ryan Says:
    October 8th, 2014 at 6:53 am

    what are your suggestions for a concrete roof, and options to make it stylish.

    thanks.



  • Wendy Says:
    August 16th, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    How many 3 tab shingle packs make up a square? I know a square is 100 sq. ft. Thank you for your help.



  • Habibeh Says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I am very confused! Asphalt which is what 80% of homes have, is cheap, but not durable and is NOT eco-friendly, as a lot of it can end up in landfills.
    Concrete tile is moderate in cost, is eco-friendly and is durable but can break?!
    Clay tile is long-lasting but brittle and can break? It’s eco-friendly but expensive.
    Plastic Polymer is moderate in cost, claimed to be long-lasting, is moderate in cost, can be re-cycled and has good fire and wind-resistance. Compared to asphalt though, it’s more expensive, but compared to concrete it’s cheaper!



  • DeDe Yeatts Says:
    May 25th, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I have heard metal roofing severely reduces cell phone reception, is this true??



  • Kent R. Rieske Says:
    September 23rd, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I got a new EagleLite lightweight concrete tile roof made by Eagle Roofing Products in August 1995. It looked great for several years until triangle corners (1.5″) started to break off many of the tiles. Now, September 2013, my roof is leaking because of major fractures in the tiles. Upon inspection I find five (5) tiles are broken horizontally just below the tile above and the lower pieces slide down several inches to expose the tar paper below. The sun burned through the tar paper and the plywood is now exposed to the rain. The tile also break easily in the vertical direction but the tar paper is still covered enough to prevent the sun damage and the resulting rain leakage.
    I am very disappointed with the low strength and ease of breakage of the Eagle concrete tile. Eagle says the tile is “lite” but it is very heavy to the point of causing structural problems in the house. This roofing system is NOT recommended. Frankly, my neighbors cheap asphalt roof is in much better condition and it doesn’t leak. My other neighbor’s aluminum tile roof is in excellent condition and doesn’t leak, but it is noisy during rain storms. I wish I had chosen either plastic polymer or aluminum.



  • Luoming Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Can some one answer my question? what roof materials are better to risist mold or easily to get rid of mold, and meanwhile have less noise under heavy rain?
    Thanks in advance!


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    May 20th, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Hi Luoming,
    There are several possibilities. If what you’re calling mold is green moss, then check out our article on How to Remove Moss from a Roof. If it’s a black stain on an asphalt shingle roof, it’s probably a blue-green algae known as Gloeocapsa Magma which is covered in our article on How to Remove and Prevent Black Algae Stains. If the culprit is plain old mold, a metal roof is probably your best bet, though it mayl be noisier than asphalt or wood shakes. Mold can grow on anything, including glass, so given your climate, whatever type of roof you have will need to be cleaned from time to time.



  • Luoming Says:
    May 11th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I am living in Washington State and there are a lot of rain and most houses’ roof have mold that are very difficult to get rid of. Among all the different roof materials, which one has the best ability to resist the mold or easily get rid of the mold without using drug (environment polution) or when using high pressure water but withut damage the roof. Appreciate the answers!



  • clay roof tiles Says:
    January 19th, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I understand that clay roof tile colors do not fade with time… that is also guaranteed by the manufacturers.



  • Jenny Dean Says:
    May 11th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I have a DaVinci plastic slate roof. It is awesome. Check it out at http://www.davinciroofscapes.com/



  • Nick Says:
    October 29th, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    clay roof tiles are highly reflective and offer energy star rated products, too. They provide natural insulation and last many many years.



  • judy cash Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Would ‘living roofs’ be used on top of any of these types you have listed? And how do you support them?
    Thanks.


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