For most of us, the roof is an afterthought and we don’t pay much attention to it — at least until it starts to leak. Then we suddenly realize how important that surface of our house’s exterior really is.
A good roof protects everything underneath it. Roofing materials options are more abundant than ever and choosing the right product for our roof can be quite difficult and overwhelming. Fortunately, it’s much easier to make the right choice when we possess detailed information about each type of material available in the market. We would like to present you some pros and cons of different materials and help you make a decision on the best fit for your house, your life, and your budget.
What to look for in a roof
There are many crucial factors to consider when selecting a proper roof including:
- What is the life span of the material?
- Does this material offer good performance in extreme weather conditions?
- Are there any special installation or maintenance issues to remember about?
- Are the materials recyclable and eco-friendly?
- Is this kind of roofing allowed by our local building codes?
- Will the look complement the style of our entire house?
- And finally, what is the cost?
The answers to those questions will help you determine the best choice for your house. Here is a short rundown of some of the most popular roofing materials.
1. Asphalt shingles
When we think of roofing materials, asphalt shingles are usually the first thing that comes to our mind. There are two main types of asphalt shingles on the market: fiberglass shingles and organic shingles. Fiberglass asphalt shingles have the following layers of materials: a woven fiberglass mat, a layer of waterproof asphalt coating and the top layer of ceramic granules. Organic shingles are manufactured from recycled layers of felt paper, which are saturated in asphalt. It’s important to notice that much more asphalt goes into the manufacturing of organic shingles than the fiberglass ones, which makes them heavier, more expensive and very harmful to the environment.
Asphalt shingles remain the most common and popular roofing material for a variety of reasons. The biggest benefit that asphalt shingles have is probably their low price; they are relatively cheaper when compared to wooden or slate shingles. Asphalt shingles are also quite easy to repair and maintain. What’s more, they come in a variety of designs and colors, allowing us to customize our home the way we want.
However, asphalt shingles have also some disadvantages, and the biggest would be their incapability of handling fluctuating temperatures. Although they are quite durable (an average life expectancy can range from 15 to even 50 years), severe weather can cause the shingles to break or even fly off the roof completely. Moreover, asphalt roof covering is for sure not eco-friendly choice. Such roofs emit dangerous substances into an air when exposed to sunlight and they contribute to the ‘heat island effect’ of higher temperatures in urban areas.
2. Clay roof tiles
Clay tile roofing is one of the oldest types of roofing in the world. There has been evidence found of its use dating back to 10,000 BC. Clay roofing tiles are made by baking molded clay. Colors of clay tiles range from shades of brown, white, orange, and yellow. We can also add enamels to the tile and make any color of roof tiles we want. Such type of process is called “ceramic” and it involves spraying enamel over the tiles before baking them.
The advantages of clay roofing tiles:
- They are made from naturally occurring components, so they are environmentally friendly and easily recycled.
- They maintain their color for a long time.
- Clay roofing tiles cannot be destroyed in a fire, they are resistant to strong winds. They are also not susceptible to mold or rot.
- Clay tiles have reflective properties, which help to increase the efficiency of cooling and heating systems.
- This roofing material can last for over 100 years.
The disadvantages of using clay roofing tiles:
- They are much more expensive than other types of roofing materials.
- They require the help of professional roofer to install or repair.
- Tiles can be very heavy – so heavy that extra roof support can be required.
3. Metal roofs
This type of roofing was once used mainly for industrial and agricultural buildings. However, nowadays a metal roof is quickly becoming popular among residential builders as well. One of the main advantages of metal roofing is the amount of options that we can choose from. Zinc, tin, galvanized steel, aluminum, and copper are all metal roofing options that we can select from. This allows us to customize our roof based on the style, durability, and price that we are looking to obtain. Aluminum and steel are by far the most common because they are economical, durable and they hold paint finishes well.
Metal roofs are fire-resistant, durable (50-75 years) and nearly maintenance-free. They are also considered amongst the most energy efficient types of roofs due to the fact that they reflect a greater share of the sun’s rays and keep our home cooler during hot summer days. However, metal is much more expensive than the majority of other roofing materials. We should also be aware that metal roofs can be quite noisy in the event of hail or heavy rain.
4. Wood shingles and shakes
The main difference between wood shingles and wood shakes is that shakes are handmade and look more rough and rustic than shingles, which are usually cut by machine. Wood shingles and shakes have a natural appearance and blend in with the environment. They are usually made from redwood, cedar, and southern pine. Because of variations in color, thickness, width, or cut of the wood, no two wooden roofs will ever be the same.
However, a wooden roof demands the right maintenance or it will not last as long as other types of roof coverings. Rot, mold, and insects can be a serious problem. Most wood shakes are unrated by fire safety codes but there are shakes that are impregnated with fire retardant and meet national fire safety standards.
5. Concrete roof tiles
Concrete roof tiles are made from a mixture of sand, cement, and water. Some are coated with enamels, plastics, or thin metals. Concrete tiles are designed to mimic the appearance of other roofing surfaces (including slate, clay, and even wood).
The advantages of concrete roofing may vary a bit from product to product, but generally, they are durable and long-lived, require low maintenance, and they are not susceptible to rot, fire, water damage, or insect activity. The most common drawback is the fact that concrete is more expensive than other roofing materials, and the earliest versions of concrete tile roof had some problems with the material curling, breaking and changing color. However, improvements in the technology have largely eliminated these problematic issues.
6. Slate roofing shingles
There are also some people that want to have a stone roof. Why not, everything is possible. All we need is a material that is natural and will last for many years. Slate is one of the few naturally flat stones and it’s perfect for this application. In most of the modern roofs, we use pieces of slate that have been cut and shaped into shingles. This means they have specially shaped edges, and from a distance, they may look like asphalt but when we get closer, we can notice the different layers and slight color variances.
Slate is one of the most environmentally friendly roofs. There are no chemicals used to make slate and no harmful byproducts. Slate is also the most durable roofing material, lasting up to even 150 years. It takes an incredible amount of force to break, it doesn’t decay, it doesn’t rot, it won’t dent, and it won’t blow away. However, a slate roof is positioned far on the high-end of the spectrum for the cost. Moreover, slate roofing materials take a special skill set to install, and that increases the installation costs.
7. Solar shingles
Harnessing the power of the sun is nothing new. In fact, ever since humans have been on the earth they have been using the sun to collect passive solar energy. Solar shingles, or photovoltaic shingles, were made available to the general public in 2005. They mimic the appearance of regular shingles and incorporate solar photovoltaic panels to convert solar energy into electricity for the entire house.
Advantages of solar shingles:
- They reduce energy bills. Each shingle can produce about 50-200 watts of energy, depending on the brand of shingle.
- They cut greenhouse emissions.
- They look neater than other solar panel installations.
Disadvantages of solar shingles:
- Solar shingles are still an experimental product and as such they’re quite expensive and not yet widely available. However, they are an investment that will pay for themselves in energy savings over a course of a few years.
- They are susceptible to hail and damage from strong winds.
- A professional is needed to install these solar shingles and finding a qualified one in our area may be difficult.
8. Green roofs
A yard on the top of our house? Why not, the sky’s the limit. The idea behind a green roof is simple: a roof with plants on it. Sometimes called living roofs, vegetated roofs, or eco roofs, green roofs offer a number of sustainable advantages on an otherwise empty, unused space. However, there are many important elements that need to come together to make such a roof work: a strong roof structure, adequate integrated insulation, a waterproof membrane, good drainage and proper plants. A green roof blocks UV rays and reduces the urban heat island effect. We can grow mint, strawberries, carrots or even small trees up there. Last, but by no means least, green roofs are simply beautiful.
From natural materials like clay, wood or slate to manmade products such as asphalt, concrete, and sheet metal; there are much more types of roofing materials and styles to choose from today than ever before. While each has its advantages and disadvantages, they all can add a distinctive design element to our home. And which one is right for you?