Overview of Roofing Materials
Many people seldom think about their home’s roof until it leaks!
Then, you realize that a roof is one of the most important major components of your home, since a failing roof affects almost all the other components.
And aside from “putting a roof over your head”, there are also aesthetic and safety considerations with the type of roof and roofing products used in home construction.
And you have a lot of choices when it comes to home roofing products; from asphalt shingles to wood shakes, ceramic tile to steel panels and green products like recycled rubber.
So how do you choose the right roofing material for your home? Cost, availability, style, durability, longevity and fire safety are among the criteria you should consider when making a decision on replacing a roof or what type of roofing to use on a new home.
Roofing Product Trends
As with most home building materials, roofing products these days are trending toward engineered materials.
One reason for this trend is the ever-increasing cost of natural materials like wood and stone.
Another is that building codes in most regions of the United States now require the use of fireproof roofing materials.
But perhaps the most important reason people are using engineered roofing materials is the return on investment they offer; while the up front cost of installing a roof is one consideration, the service life and maintenance costs must also be factored in order to determine which roofing material provides the best value.
Factoring Roofing Material Costs
The cost of various roofing materials ranges dramatically. An asphalt shingle roof will run from $50 to $150 or more per square (100 square feet). Tearing off the old shingles, which is advisable, adds $30 to $50 per square.
Metal roofing or concrete tiles can start as low as $100 per square but cost as much as $600 a square or more for high quality, coated steel and copper roofing products.
Installing a ceramic tile, slate or “fake” slate roof will cost the most. Clay tiles run from $300 to $500 per square and slate can run as much as $1000 a square, requiring highly skilled roofers and an extraordinary amount of labor.
Roofing for the Long Term
When factoring roofing cost you have to consider not only the initial cost of materials and labor, but also the total lifecycle cost. An asphalt shingle roof may last 20 years, but a quality slate roof can last as long as 100 years.
Some of today’s engineered metal and cement roofing products come with warranty periods of 40 or even 50 years, so the less expensive roofing product may not in fact save you money over the long haul. Combine this with the enhanced look many of these products offer over asphalt shingles and you may find that it makes more sense to pay the extra up front cost.
When considering durability and longevity of roofing materials, be sure to know what the term and conditions of the manufacturer’s warranty entails and purchase materials from a well known and reputable manufacturer you know will be there should a warranty need arise many years down the road!
Asphalt Roofing Shingles
Cheap and effective, standard three-tab asphalt shingles are used on almost 90 percent of all residential roofs in the United States. These products typically have a 20 to 30 year warranty, which can make them a great value.
A slightly upgraded variation on three-tab asphalt is the architectural shingle, which is typically about twice the thickness and is installed in staggered layers to give the roof a more pleasing look. For a modest price increase, the architectural shingle products typically have a 30 year warranty and will add a bit more style to your home.
Ceramic Roof Tiles
Coming from the Mediterranean style of architecture, ceramic tile roofing is quite popular in the warmer climes of the Southwest and Florida. A tile roof is very heavy and requires framing designed to support the additional weight.
Barrel tiles are the most common type of ceramic tile and look like half cylinders, typically about 16 inches in length. Other clay tile roofing products can be shaped like slate tiles or thick shingles, designed to suit other architectural styles.
While any tile roofing product will be more expensive than asphalt, many of these materials will last 50 years or more.
Metal roofs, formed from corrugated, galvanized sheets, were historically used on sheds, barns and other outbuildings on farms. Depending on the quality and style, a metal roof can be very cheap and long-lasting and are very popular in areas subject to heavy snowfall.
High end metals like copper can be at the far other end of the price equation, giving a custom home a very unique look.
Properly installed and maintained, metal roofing should last at least 50 years.
Wood Shake and Wood Shingle Roofing
For many, the look of a traditional wood shingle roof fits a range of home architectural styles. With time, wood shakes weather to a grayish or soft silver tone that helps a home blend in with the natural landscape.
The most common wood shake roofing materials used are Western Red Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar and Eastern White Cedar. Wood shingles are fairly smooth, cut to a uniform thickness, but vary in width. Wood shakes will be rougher and thicker than shingles, since they are split rather than sawn from the wood logs.
A wood roof is meant to breathe and laid over a substrate in order to allow air to circulate behind the shingles or shakes. Traditionally, skip sheathing is used, with wood battens or strips being nailed directly to the roof rafters. Other products, such as plastic or a pressure-treated lattice are sometimes used these days to allow proper circulation under a wood shingle or shake roof.
With the rising cost of wood, changing building codes and fire safety regulations, wood shake and shingle roofing has become very expensive and is less and less commonly used in home construction. Properly installed and maintained, a wood roof can last up to 30 years.
Engineered roofing products are also available now that simulate the look of wood shakes and shingles, made from cement materials with better fireproof qualities and, in some cases, superior durability to real wood and requiring very little maintenance.
Slate and Engineered Slate Roofing
In the Northeast slate was used traditionally as a roofing material on high-end custom homes. With a useful life of up to 100 years and excellent ability to shed snow and ice, like ceramic, it is quite heavy and therefore requires proper roof support and structure.
With natural slate being too expensive in most cases these days, manufactured “fake” slate products have become increasingly popular as an alternative. Made from plastic and recycled rubber composites, these engineered slate roofing materials are far more affordable, weigh about a third as much as real slate and can have up to a 50 year warranty.