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What Types of Roofing Materials Do Contractors Use Today?

Is your roof leaking? Do the shingles suddenly look like a hyperactive toddler installed them? Are you the unintentional owner of a green roof?

All these aspects are signs that your roof’s seen better days. Roof replacement is far from the most exciting home improvement chore for any homeowner, but it is an important one.

A faulty roof is downright dangerous and can lead to serious injury, inconvenience, and unnecessary expense. So it’s best to bite the bullet and start to think about your options when it comes to roof replacement.

The good news is that roof replacement is one of the top money-spinners when it comes to ROI so you could recoup up to 65% of your costs when you sell your home.

These are the main types of roofing materials available for your residential roofing refurbishment nowadays.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles remain the most common roofing material in the United States. Around 80% of roofs worldwide comprise asphalt shingles.

This type of roof comprises shingles made from fiberglass or another material covered in asphalt which serves as a fire-retardant layer. Some shingles have asphalt coating on one side only while others have a double layer.

The shingle top’s coated with a fine stone material like quartz, mica, or schist. On the underside, there’s a layer of sand, mica, or talc to help the shingles stick together on the roof.

Asphalt’s highly effective in all kinds of environmental conditions and can last up to 30 years before you’ll need to replace them. It’s easy to replace individual shingles if they’re damaged too.

Clay and Concrete Roof Tiles

Despite the ongoing popularity of asphalt roof tiles, clay and concrete tiles dominated the roofing market in 2019.

They’re both extremely hardy roofing materials that can last up to 100 years. What’s more, they can withstand the forces of hurricanes tornadoes earthquakes, and winds up to 125 miles per hour.

This type of tile works best in warm dry climates, especially where the air is salty.

One of the drawbacks of clay and concrete tile is that it’s likely to break if you walk on it. It’s also exceptionally heavy and you’ll need to reinforce your roof structure to support its weight.

Clay tile comprises earthen clay molded into interlocking shapes and fired until it’s hard. Concrete tiles contain standard sand-mix concrete that’s dyed a range of colors. Most concrete tiles resemble clay tiles when installed but you can also get designs that imitate wood shakes.

Concrete tile is slightly cheaper than clay tile.

Wood Shingles and Shake

Wood roofs are a gorgeous addition to any home. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive to install.

In dry climates, these types of roofs can last for up to 60 years, but you’ll be lucky to get 20 years out of them if you live in a humid, wet climate. Wood is also a fire hazard and you shouldn’t install it if you live in an area where wildfires are common.

The most common type of wood roofs, such as those found on Cape Cod-style homes, come from cedar or redwood trees.

Shingles consist of precisely sawn wedge-shaped slabs of natural wood while shakes come from splitting wood. As such, they usually have a rougher texture than wood shingles.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing’s slowly becoming a more popular option for residences too. It’s available either in vertical panels or in shingles made to resemble slate, tile, or shake. Stone-coated steel is a type of metal roof that closely mimics the most popular types of shingles.

This type of roof can last for 60 years or more and it’s excellent for resisting a build-up of snow and rain. It doesn’t burn and also resists high winds.

Metal roofing’s one of the lighter options but the main drawback of this type of roof is that it dents easily and is noisy during heavy rainstorms.

If preferred you can install metal roofing over your existing roof for added protection. It’s cheaper than concrete tiles but more expensive than asphalt.

All metal roofs must undergo treatment to resist corrosion and you may have to repeat this treatment regularly if you want your roof to last a long time.

One of the best tips for choosing a roofing material that’s suitable for your climate is to consult a local roofing expert for advice.

Slate Roofs

Most homeowners consider slate roofing the most attractive type of roof for any home. This durable material resists fungus and mold it doesn’t burn and can last more than two centuries after installation.

You’ll probably never have to perform any maintenance on this type of roof.

It performs well in wet climates but is fragile when it comes to hail and may break if you walk on your roof.

Slate roofs are heavy, weighing up to four times as much as an asphalt roof. As such you’ll need to reinforce your roof structure to support it.

Genuine slate roofing’s made from thin sheets of real stone and requires specialized installation. You’ll also need to hire an experienced and specially trained roofer to install it.

Due to these two factors, it’s the most expensive type of roofing available. As such, you can expect to pay a premium for a home with a slate roof.

Since they last so long and cost so much to install, a slate roof isn’t a good choice unless you plan to live in your house for the rest of your life. It’s unlikely that you’ll recoup your costs if you sell your house.

Rubber slate

Rubber slate has a natural look that imitates real slate. Like slate, it has a long lifespan of up to 100 years but it’s impervious to shattering due to hail or other impacts as well as fungal growth and decay.

These types of roofs are also very resistant to wind and UV radiation.

It’s a versatile and hardy type of roof that you can cut to fit any roof shape. It’s ideal for Victorian-style roofs with steep slopes as well as valleys, crickets, and turrets.

Rubber shingles are usually made from recycled materials such as car tires. One roof can use up to 1,000 old tires.

Despite all these benefits, rubber roofs also have some negative associated with them. These are:

  • Rubber melts and so these roofs only have a Class C fire rating
  • It has a strong, distinctly rubbery smell when first installed
  • There are much cheaper options available

Installing these types of roofs is a fine art and it’s difficult to find professionals who are up to the task nowadays.

Solar Tile

This new and innovative type of roof made of photovoltaic shingles is an alternative to solar panels. You can expect every 100 square feet of this tile to generate about 1 kilowatt of energy.

They’re an excellent option if you live in a housing development that forbids solar panels as they mimic conventional roofing like slate or asphalt.

Although solar tiles can help reduce your energy bills much as conventional solar panels do, they’re a much more expensive option.

This type of roof can last for 30 years or more after which their energy output becomes increasingly limited. Installing solar tiles can increase the value of your home by as much as $15,000.

Green Roofs

Another energy-efficient option, green roofs are a modern-day answer for global warming.

They’re covered with plants and have environmental benefits too. They help reduce water runoff, improve air quality, and help reduce urban heat islands.

Because plants get heavier as they grow, green roofs always need extra structural support. They also need thermal insulation, extra waterproofing, drainage, filtration, and a vapor barrier.

Green roofs consist of a layer of waterproof membrane topped with compost and plants. Usually, these are lightweight species like moss to create an extensive roof. An intensive green roof can support the weight of large plant species as well as people.

This unorthodox type of roof is a promising innovation for a greener future. Large scale implementation of these roofs could help to reduce carbon emissions significantly.

Roofing Materials for Flat Roofs

Flat roofs are hardly ever a practical option for residential roofs but they are popular in some areas. Flat roofs are most commonly used for commercial and high-rise buildings.

There are a few types of flat roofing available nowadays:

Built-up roofing

Built-up roofing consists of several layers of felt, tar, asphalt, and adhesive topped with an aggregate embedded in a layer of hot tar. It’s applied over a concrete roof to form a durable thick barrier that’s impervious to inclement weather.

These tar and gravel roofs are commonly used for roof-top decks that experience heavy foot traffic. Due to their asphalt component, they can become sticky in very warm weather.

It’s difficult to keep snow off flat roofs in general and the rough surface of BUR makes it even more difficult. Other drawbacks associated with this type of roofing include slow installation times and the hazardous fumes involved.

Built-up roofing can last up to 25 years before you’ll need to resurface it.

Rolled Roofing

This type of flat roofing consists of long rolls of asphalt and bitumen-impregnated material coated with mineral granules. The strips are an inexpensive, quick, and convenient way to cover flat roofs or those with a gradual slope.

You can apply it with roofing nails or by melting it in place with a blowtorch. It can last for up to 10 years before you’ll need to replace it.

Rolled roofing has significant disadvantages that make it unsuitable for inhabited buildings. It’s by far best suited to workshops, shed, and the like.

Some of the drawbacks of rolled roofing include:

  • It’s only available in black or grey
  • It’s less durable than shingles
  • It’s inflexible and inclined to tear with temperature fluctuations
  • It’s not an attractive option for roofing
  • It loses grains and develops bald spots quickly
  • It can decrease the value of your home

You’re far better off installing a more durable and expensive type of roofing on your house.

EPDM Roofing

Membrane roofs are another top choice for low-pitch or flat roofs. There are a few types of synthetic materials commonly used for this purpose, namely:

  • Neoprene (polychloroprene)
  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
  • Chlorinated polyethylene and chlorosulfonated polyethylene sheets
  • Polymer-modified bitumens

EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer)

EPDM is one of the most advanced and best of these. It’s also referred to as rubber roofing and consists of large sheets of EPDM sheets rolled onto the roof.

Despite its synthetic origins, EPDM’s an environmentally-friendly roofing option that reduces your heating and cooling bills. Very little energy’s needed to manufacture this material so it has a low carbon footprint, and it’s 100% recyclable.

You can also place pot plants and container vegetables on this type of roof if you want to create a rooftop garden.

These types of roofs provide good protection from leaks, are fire-resistant, and can last up to 35 years.

Consider All Your Options When Choosing a New Roof

Due to the long lifespan of most roofs, your choice of roofing materials will impact your well-being for many years to come, so it’s important to choose wisely right at the outset.

So, if you’re considering a roof replacement soon, bookmark this page for future reference and browse some more of our home improvement articles for more roofing tips.