Red Metal Roofing

The 10 Best Roofing Material Types and How to Install Them

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Whether your old roof needs to be replaced or you wish to make a roofing choice for a new construction, it’s important to learn how to choose the best material for a new roof. This choice has a significant influence when it comes to the long-term durability and curb appeal. Installing new roofing can get quite expensive, depending on the material you select. It could be tempting to base your roofing type decision only on price but it’s often worth spending a little extra for superior roof longevity that translates to better cost-effectiveness overall.

There’s no point in getting the cheapest roofing option out there if it will require frequent maintenance work or complete replacement after a short period. In this article, we’ll take a close look at the most common residential roofing materials that you can select for your home. You will be able to choose the best roofing type for your needs and budget once you figure out each material’s pros and cons. Without further ado, check out the best roofing material types and installation considerations.

1. Composite Asphalt Shingle Roofing

Composite Asphalt Shingle Roofing

At least three-quarters of all the residential homes in the US rely on composite shingle roofing based on asphalt. This material type is extremely popular primarily due to its affordable cost but other advantages make it an attractive choice as well. Despite the low cost, composite asphalt shingles provide a reasonably long lifespan ranging from 15 to 40 years.

As with other roofing materials, the quality of composite asphalt shingles can vary a lot. It’s recommended to opt for high-quality materials that offer great all-around durability and a stylish appearance. Intense sunlight, sudden temperature fluctuations, and mold/algae growths are some of the weaknesses of this roofing material.

Composite asphalt shingles are normally quite inexpensive but some types are costlier than others. Your budget can also be strained by labor costs that can be higher from one part of the country to another. This type of roofing should be installed by professionals but DIY-ers with the proper expertise can also handle the job.

2. Built-up Roofing (BUR)

Built Up Roofing BUR

Crafted with alternating layers of felt, fiberglass, and bitumen, built-up roofing represents a solid choice for flat types of roofs. BUR roofs are reasonably durable because the multiple layers are specially designed to create a thick barrier against general weather damage. When you take into account its cost per square foot, built-up roofing offers a decent lifespan of around 20 to 30 years.

The surface of a BUR roof can degrade in time without proper cleaning and regular maintenance repairs. The material is unsuitable for sloped roofs. When it comes to the installation of BUR systems, it’s important to mention that it involves bonding the layers together with hot asphalt. The process can be considered a little unpleasant considering the released smell. The layer on the top is reinforced with gravel for extra robustness while the reflective coating prevents overheating.

3. Standing-Seam Metal Roofing

Standing Seam Metal Roofing

Given the demand for durable roofing solutions that are eco-friendlier, metal roofing has experienced a notable resurgence in recent times. The roof is designed from sheet metal coils in different styles and metal types. One of the most popular options is standing-seam metal roofing. It’s crafted using large steel panels with overlapping seams.

Standing-seam metal roofs are extremely durable and don’t require a difficult maintenance process. Most high-quality options should last for around 50 years or even longer, depending on the conditions. Metal roofing seems to offer excellent value for the money. Getting a new home equipped with this type of roofing is a smart investment because re-roofing may never be necessary. Keep in mind that installing standing-seam metal roofing can typically be done only by professionals.

4. Clay or Cement Tile Roofing

Clay Tile Roofing

If you like the traditional look of clay or cement tiles, you’ll be pleased to know that this is still a popular option to consider. The materials have been modernized for more reliable long-term durability while keeping the charming look intact. Whether the tiles are based on clay, concrete, or fiber cement, they all provide a lifespan of 50 years or more. This type of roofing is resistant to fire and can bring a positive effect to curb appeal.

Installing clay or cement tile roofing is sometimes difficult because the material is heavy and requires additional framing support. Compared to more popular roof materials such as asphalt, wood, and metal, this roofing solution can be more expensive. Labor costs can get particularly high due to the requirement for skilled professionals to handle the installation. However, tile roofing is very cost-effective when you take into account its durability. Maintenance is pretty easy while the only notable vulnerability is cracking from walking on the surface of the roof.

5. Rolled Roofing

Rolled Roofing

A good pick for low-slope roofs and more utilitarian buildings, rolled roofing provides durable covering at a low cost. It’s designed from rolls of asphalt-impregnated material and mineral granules. The appearance isn’t particularly remarkable, making rolled roofing materials more suitable for practical structures. The material is very similar to the one used for asphalt shingles.

In terms of installation, the process is fairly straightforward. Rolled roofing is mounted by laying strips lengthwise. You don’t necessarily need to use the services of roofing contractors because rolled roofs are easy to DIY. Keep in mind that its lifespan of up to 10 years makes rolled roofs less reliable for residential homes. It’s mostly intended for covering sheds and garages as well as roofs with a flat peak.

6. Wood Shingles

Wood Shingles

Anyone who likes the aesthetic of wood should be aware that wood shingles can be the right choice for increasing the curb appeal of many homes. This type of roofing is built using clean-cut shingles made from cedar, redwood, and other wood options. Thanks to the smooth finish of these shingles, the roof can look very attractive. The natural oils of some types of woods such as cedar will provide natural resistance to moisture and pests.

Installing wood shingles can pose a challenge for DIY enthusiasts. Assuming good conditions, this type of roofing won’t disappoint in terms of longevity as the shingles can last for up to 30 years. The main weakness of the material is fire. That’s why wood shingles are not recommended for areas with seasonal wildfire hazards. With proper maintenance, wood shingles can last for a very long time but you will need to deal with moss problems and repair any damaged shingle.

7. Wood Shakes

Wood Shakes

Although similar to shingles, wood shakes show off some notable differences. The visual characteristics make this roofing choice stand out more effectively. Wood shakes are hand-cut and thicker while providing more rustic aesthetics. The construction makes this roofing option more durable compared to wood shingles. The shakes are just as vulnerable to fire, however, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Installing wood shakes is a complex process that’s not really manageable by DIY-ers. The material is costlier than wood shingles while the lifespan is about the same. Wood shakes are fussy when it comes to maintenance. There’s a lot of work required to keep a wood roof in top shape but the resulting look could be worth it.

8. Slate Roofing

Slate Roofing

Natural slate is the most durable roof material you can get your hands on but it also comes with some disadvantages. The heavy style of slate makes it difficult and costly to install. Many regular roofing contractors are not specialized in installing slate so you will need to spend extra to get trained craftsmen on the job. Considering that slate’s lifespan can easily outlive you, this is considered a luxurious roofing material.

Genuine slate roofing can last for more than a hundred years with good maintenance practices such as quick replacement of broken tiles. It’s fireproof and highly resistant to water damage while the material doesn’t rot or grow fungus. Coupled with the timeless beauty of shale available in many visually-pleasing hues, it’s safe to say that natural slate represents a great investment as long as the roofing fits your budget.

9. Synthetic Slate Roofing

Synthetic Slate Roofing

If you like the look of slate but don’t have the budget required for this roofing type, consider opting for synthetic slate options instead. Recent innovations allow you to cut down on costs while still taking advantage of the beauty of natural stone with composite slate materials that are extremely similar looking to the real thing. Rubber slate tile is also considered an eco-friendlier option compared to genuine slate.

When it comes to durability, synthetic slate roofing options provide decent fire resistance. The lifespan of the material is not as long as natural slate but you can typically expect it to last for up to 50 years. The appearance of synthetic slate is pretty much indistinguishable from real slate when seen from the ground. Another great advantage is the lower weight of rubber slate that simplifies the installation by removing the need for extra reinforcement.

10. Membrane Roofing

Membrane Roofing

Made with a special thermoplastic membrane, this type of roofing has become very popular due to its unique appearance and great energy efficiency. It’s recommended to consider a membrane roof for flat or roofs featuring a low pitch. The term membrane can refer to different materials that are used in the manufacturing process for this roofing solution. Examples include neoprene, PVC, EPDM, and polymer-modified bitumens.

Ethylene propylene diene monomer or EPDM represents an excellent membrane to consider because of its general durability and stylish aesthetics. It’s installed similar to rolled roofing with sheets designed to prevent water from seeping through the material. As long as it’s well maintained, a membrane roof offers a decent lifespan of around 25 to 30 years. The material also comes with the advantage of great tolerance to high temperatures while the high level of reflectiveness prevents UV damage.


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