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7 Roofing Materials You Should Know About Before Replacing Your Roof

The roof is arguably one of the most critical and important factors that make up your home since it plays a huge part in keeping you, your belongings and the rest of your home’s components safe and dry. A roof keeps out the rain and snow and aids in insulation, ventilation and energy efficiency. Roofs also add style and beauty and there are lots of roofing material options to style your home just the way you want it.

types of roof materials

The material you choose will depend on several factors including cost, appeal, warranties, your roof’s shape, the type of environment you live in, how long you need it to last, local building codes, energy efficiency and more. Here are the 7 most common roofing materials, from least to most expensive.

1. Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt (composition) shingles are the most popular roofing material selection in the US. In asphalt shingles, organic paper fiber mat (cold weather) or fiberglass (warm weathered areas) sits between asphalt and ceramic mineral granules. They last anywhere from 15–30 years (sometimes longer) and you can opt for 3-tab shingles or laminated architectural shingles (two layers and more wind resistant). They can be used on all roof pitches and should be laid on top of a layer of underlayment for extra moisture protection. High-impact and high-wind shingles are available as well.

asphalt roof shingles pros and cons


  • Least expensive material used in the US
  • Easy to install
  • Attractive on almost any style of home, with many options in style and color
  • Fire resistant
  • Easy to repair and replace individual shingles if the wind should catch one or two
  • They flex and move with the roof’s expansion and contraction
  • Requires minimum maintenance
  • Some manufacturers offer higher warranty coverage


  • Less durable, need to be replaced sooner than most other roofing materials
  • Not eco-friendly (although they CAN be recycled, most go to the landfill)
  • Not energy efficient
  • Easily crack (caused by quick temperature changes or by an improperly vented attic — heat gets trapped, cracking and cupping the shingles)
  • Can mold or grow algae in shady areas unless treated
  • Fixing damaged shingle roofs can be wasteful and expensive — you can typically get away with laying a second layer of shingles on top of a damaged or old layer, but once that layer needs to be replaced, all layers must be taken off. Also, keep in mind if you layer shingles, you lose the opportunity to inspect or repair the decking and flashing that is underneath.

2. Wood Shingles and Shakes

Shingles are machine cut and shakes are hand-cut with a more rustic look. Both are made from woods like cedar, redwood, pressure-treated pine and cypress, some of which are rot-resistant. Wood roofing is installed with underlayment and felt on the upper end of each row. It lasts 25–50 years and is good for a moderate to steep-sloped roof.

pros and cons of wood roof shingles and shakes


  • Very stylish, making it quite eye-catching
  • Comes in many beautiful colors ranging from red to golden yellow to brown to weathered grey
  • Fire-resistant, when treated
  • Eco-friendly — Many are made from salvaged trees that have fallen & wood is recyclable into wood chips, mulch or compost
  • High insulation value
  • Certain woods contain oils that keep off moisture and insects
  • Good wind resistance


  • Not fire-resistent if untreated — if you are in an area prone to wildfires, non-treated wooden roofs may be prohibited in building code
  • Untreated wood is high-maintenance, requiring constant cleaning
  • Expensive to repair
  • Difficult to install (not for the average DIYer)
  • Can mold (doesn’t work well in shady or wet areas)

3. Metal

Metal roofs are made with metals such as aluminum, stainless steel, copper, or zinc. Manufactured with a variety of styles, shapes and textures such as corrugated, ribbed or standing seam sheets, shingles, shakes, tiles and can be painted whatever color you want. It's not unheard of for metal roofs to last 50–100 years and they typically have an excellent warranty. Good for low or steep pitched roofs and installed over an underlayment.

metal roof pros and cons


  • Strong and durable — can withstand high winds, extreme heat and other weather conditions and is resistant to impact
  • Fire and insect resistant
  • Environmentally friendly — they are recyclable at the end of its life and typically made out of recycled materials
  • Energy efficient (thanks to reflecting the sun), saving money on utility bills
  • Long-lasting, protecting your home for a lifetime
  • Resistant to extreme weather conditions
  • Low maintenance
  • Can be installed over existing single layer roof (but then you forego the chance to inspect what’s below it)
  • Unique in design, easy on the eye (especially copper, which forms a natural greenish patina look)
  • Great resale value


  • Expensive; Copper is the most expensive
  • Noisy in a rainstorm if your home doesn’t have proper insulation
  • Expensive to replace
  • Can dent if hail or anything else hits it (could give your home character!) — look for metals that are rated to withstand abuse

4. Synthetic/Faux Slate, Wood, or Other High-end Style Roofs

While it looks just like a real luxury feature, synthetic roofs are lighter and made from a variety of materials such as plastic/polymer, rubber, asphalt, clay, etc. These roofs can last 40–60 years with a variety of colors and blends. It’s strong and durable and can be reused and recycled, all factors depending on which material used for the faux look.

synthetic roof pros and cons


  • Cheaper than the real thing, yet almost as beautiful
  • Strong and durable — not nearly as brittle as natural slate and holds very high impact resistance
  • Fire resistant, depending on which product you use
  • Lighter weight than real stone
  • Can be reused and recycled and made out of recycled materials
  • Energy efficient, reflects heat and helps save money
  • Easier to install than natural slate
  • Hassle-free and maintenance-free
  • Stylish


  • More expensive that the traditional asphalt roofing material
  • Lifespan yet to be proven — there is no data to determine that it will really last as long as the warranties suggest since it is a fairly new product
  • Lower than desired fire rating, depending on the synthetic material you use

5. Concrete, Fiber Cement or Clay Tiles

This type of roofing has been around for a very long time and has been perfected over time with individual tiles that are finished in a glaze or coated with waterproof coating, overlapping in layers. It can be installed on most roof slopes in a number of different ways including mortar, adhesive, nails, screws or wire, over an underlayment. Known to last well over 100 years.

clay tile roof pros and cons


  • Long-lasting, strong and durable — able to resist earthquakes, hurricanes, monsoons and other disasters (May be the only roof you ever need!)
  • Fire and insect resistant
  • Very beautiful, classy, high-quality appearance
  • Diverse — comes in many colors, shapes and sizes and can be made to look like wood shakes or slate
  • Eco-friendly — depending on the color you choose, it can reflect the sun and reduce heat intake, making great insulation to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter
  • Recyclable
  • Low maintenance


  • Heavy, so needs extra support
  • Expensive
  • Brittle and breaks easy if not cared for (try not to walk on them)

6. Natural Slate

Natural slate has been around for a very long time and lasts 100–200 years or more, easily. Made from actual rock mined in a quarry. This material is typically only for steep slopes and is attached over underlayment with nails, hooks or both.

natura slate roofs pros and cons


  • One of the most durable roof materials
  • Very long lasting (lasts more than a lifetime!)
  • Wind and fire resistant
  • Beautiful irregular, dark grey natural slate rock
  • Eco-friendly and can be recycled
  • Very little maintenance
  • Luxury material and a must for a luxury home


  • Expensive
  • Brittle
  • Very heavy (arguably the heaviest roofing material) and needs extra framing and support
  • Difficult to install — not for the average DIYer; may be hard to find someone qualified to install
  • Difficult to replace broken pieces because you cannot walk on it

7. Solar Tiles

One of the newest types of roofing material, solar tiles are made up of glass/photovoltaic cells and wired into your home's electrical system. The rest of the roof can be covered in non-solar glass tiles with no PV substrate. If you consider going solar and also need to replace your roof, have them both done at the same time. Because of the complexity, you will probably need a roofer and a structural engineer involved.

solar tile roofs pros and cons


  • Energy efficient — can produce 100% of your home’s electricity through solar energy, saving you a ton on utility bills
  • Tax credits, rebates, discounts and incentives are available when switching to solar roof tiles
  • Have a lasting warranty and guarantee
  • Stylish and innovative


  • Very expensive
  • Not as many choices for qualified installers

Every homeowner will need a new roof sooner or later. If your roof leaks, you do not want to wait to get it repaired because you could run into so many other problems if left untreated for too long. If a new roof is necessary, make sure to shop around and get estimates from a few reputable, licensed and insured contractors that specialize in the type of roof that you want. Get a building permit, look at their license and insurance, and sign a contract so you know exactly what you are getting. When they are done installing your new roof, make sure they run a magnet through your yard at completion to get all of the nails! Throughout the life of your roof, continue to inspect and maintain it to the best of your ability to avoid unnecessary costs.

Want more advice about all things home — including homebuying or selling advice? Nestiny is a great place for homebuyer education and to help you gauge how ready you are to buy a home. Journey Homeward allows you to enter all your wants and needs while the True Affordability Tool will break down your budget, showing what you can comfortably afford. You will also receive a Ready Report that will give you a vital head start in the home buying journey, saving you valuable time and money.

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