6 Types of Roofing Materials: Pros, Cons, and Price Comparisons

Kenneth Wilson

Whether you’ve been living in your home for years or just moved into a new home, it’s important to check the roof. Even if it doesn’t look worn out, you should still check it again. Since roofs are subjected to harsh outdoor elements and changing weather, it can easily get damaged.

We’re usually told that roofs can last for twenty years, but most of them take only ten years before it needs to be fixed or re-roofed. They don’t last long, especially in areas with extreme heat, high humidity, and strong rain showers.

They also need to be regularly maintained. While it might look good and there are no leaks, your roof might not be able to prevent leaks in an event of a hurricane if it’s not well-maintained. So my advice, especially for homeowners with a roof of over twenty years old, is to get a re-reroof.

Now, when you get a re-roof, you can opt to get the same material. But if you want to change the look or upgrade to a better material, no need to look further. Here are different types of roofing materials and each one’s pros, cons, and cost.

Asphalt Composite Shingles

This is one of the most commonly used materials for roofing. Asphalt composite shingles have a base made out of fiberglass or organic material such as cellulose with asphalt and mineral granules on top.

What makes this material popular is due to its durability and affordability. It provides waterproofing and can withstand extreme temperatures, adapting to the roof when it expands or contracts. It is also easy to install and replace individual shingles.

You can choose among a variety of colors, finding one that complements your home’s exterior, and make it look similar to slate, tile, or wood shingles. It also matches with different architectural styles. Since it is a widely-used material, you won’t have a problem finding a local roofing company that can install these. But be careful when sourcing your asphalt shingles, since the quality varies. 

Some of its other drawbacks are that it doesn’t provide the same insulation and has a shorter lifespan than other materials do. It is also on the heavy side, especially on large roofs. It is not recommended for locations with hail since the shingles can get dislodged or damaged by hailstones as well as in areas with high wind or prone to thunderstorms. 

It costs $0.85 to $3.50 per square foot or $5,000 to $10,000 to get asphalt shingles installed. For the material only, it would cost around $1 and $1.20 per square foot. Asphalt shingles can last for 12 to 30 years, depending on the quality, maintenance, and climate conditions. It is recommended to replace the shingles after 20 years, even earlier for homes in warmer climates. 

Metal Roofing

A popular among commercial and industrial buildings, metal roofing is durable, fire-resistant, and low-maintenance. No wonder it has also become a common material for residential homes. It even looks better as it can be made to look like traditional asphalt shingles, clay tiles, wooden shakes, or slate tiles. 

Metal roofs can be made out of aluminum, zinc, copper, or stainless steel and come in various styles and colors. Most aluminum or steel shingles and shakes are made from stamped metal and are covered with mineral granules or some baked-on coating. It can also be made into vertical panels, sheets, and tiles, and comes in different designs, such as a standing seam roof. This roof has steel or aluminum roofing panels with interlocking raised seams. It helps keep the moisture out and is recommended for areas with heavy snow. It is also fireproof, which is suitable for locations with risks of wildfire. 

In general, metal roofing is resistant to fire, insects, rot, and mold, and can easily shed heavy rain and snow. It is also lightweight and can be installed on existing roofs. You also won’t have to worry about the sun’s heat permeating through the roof since it's great at reflecting sunlight. 

But be prepared for the noise, especially during rainstorms and other extreme weather conditions. It is also not recommended for a hail prone area since it may dent. It will be difficult to install and not all roofing companies can do it. If you want an easy to install type of metal roofing, you could go for metal shingles.

Another drawback is its price. It costs around $5 to $14 per square foot or $7,500 to $21,000 to install a metal roof. The material costs around $1 to $4 per square foot. While it costs more to install than asphalt shingles, it would be worth it since metal roofs have a long lifespan, lasting for 30 to 60 years, or 75 years at best. If it does so happen that your metal roof has worn out or needs to be replaced, it can still be recycled. That’s why metal is one of the eco-friendly roofing material options.

Wooden Shakes or Shingles

A wooden roof is one of the more stylish roofing options that give a home a beautiful and rustic finish. Even after quite some time, they would still look attractive as they weather to a nice shade of gray. You can get a wooden roof in either shakes or shingles, which can both be made out of natural wood such as cedar, southern pine, redwood, or cypress.

This roofing material is a more environmentally-friendly option since most wooden shakes or shingles come from renewable sources. If you want to be sure, you also have the option to get refurbished or recycled wood for your roofing upgrade.

Besides having less impact on the environment, this type of roofing allows air to easily circulate throughout the home. If you have an attic, this material will help insulate it. It also has little to no effect on water runoff, so you won’t have to worry about harmful byproducts getting onto the lawn, into the soil and groundwater, or on landscaping plants.

But with this material, your roof will need to be regularly maintained. Wood shakes need to be sealed properly and constantly, especially in areas with extreme weather conditions. They are also not suitable for locations prone to moisture due to molding, splitting, or rotting, and in locations with a high risk of wildfires. But nowadays, you can find a variety of wooden shakes or shingles that are treated with a fire-resistant coating. 

It is also expensive to get a wooden roof, usually around $4.50 to $14 per square foot or $14,000 to $27,000 in total. For the shingles or shakes itself, it costs around $1.75 to $3 per square foot. This type of roofing has a shorter lifespan compared to other materials, lasting around 20 years in a damp climate. But in drier areas and with proper care and maintenance, a wooden roof can last up to 40 years.

Slate Shingles

Another stylish as well as classy cover for your home is a slate roofing. An authentic slate is made out of thin sheets of real stone sourced from areas with clay or volcanic ash. This is one of the most attractive roofing materials, and it comes in a variety of styles and beautiful natural colors. It can come in hues of black, grey, green, purple, and red, giving it a timeless and elegant appearance.

This material is low-maintenance and doesn’t rot, mold, or grow fungus. It is durable, even suitable for homes located in hurricane-prone areas, as it is able to withstand plenty of water and resists heavy snow and high winds. It is also recommended for homes located near wildfire-prone areas since this material is completely fireproof.

But if you live in a hail prone area, this material is fragile and will get easily damaged. It also won’t hold up well against foot traffic and is on the heavy side. Extra support, framing, or reinforcement is needed to hold it up. With all these limitations, it will require special skills to install slate roofing, so you need to be careful when looking for a contractor. They should be reputable and trained for installing slate roofing.

It is also expensive, with a cost ranging from $9 to $18 per square foot or $11,000 to $35,000 in total. The material costs around $3 to $5 per square foot. But this would be a worthy investment since you probably won’t need new roofing after since slate shingles can last for 50 to 150 years. There are still functioning slate roofs that are over hundreds of years old. If you do want to change to a different rooting, this material can even be recycled.

Rubber or Synthetic Slate Tiles

If you want the look of slate shingles, but your home can’t support its heavy weight, you can get rubber or synthetic slate tiles. It is made out of rubber, recycled plastic, or engineered polymers, and can be made to look similar to slate and wooden roofing, down to its color and texture. These are also lightweight, sturdy, and low-maintenance. Depending on the material, this roofing can also be fire-resistant. 

But similar to slate shingles, rubber slate does not hold up well against foot traffic and hail. Be careful when sourcing this material since the quality varies, with some that are very water-absorbent. You should also look for a specific roofing professional since not all companies have the skill to install synthetic slate tiles. But this material will still be easier to install and is less expensive than real slate shingles. 

It costs around $4 to $14 per square foot or $8,000 to $18,000 to get synthetic slate roofing installed. For the material cost, the price can range from $0.75 to $5. While it may not have a long lifespan as an authentic slate roof, it can still last for 15 to 30 years.

Clay Tiles

Clay roofing is another popular choice among homeowners due to its rustic appearance and beautiful finish. It has a reddish-orange color and is made from earthen clays, which were molded into interlocking or rolled shapes and then fired for hardness. 

This material is durable and fire-resistant. Clay roofs are suitable for locations with a hot climate or salty air, which is why it is popular for structures near the sea or in coastal regions. They are also recommended for hurricane-prone areas as this type of roofing can withstand damage from tornadoes and strong winds. While it is easy to maintain since it does not rot, it needs to be regularly checked since it tends to crack over time.

Similar to slate shingles, clay tiles are also fragile and heavy. It won’t hold well against foot traffic and can easily break when walked on. This type of roofing will also require extra support or additional framing, as well as difficult to install. You will need to find a roofing professional who is specialized in installing clay roofs. When sourcing the materials, whether by you or your contractor, make sure to check if the color has been properly fired on, or else, the tiles may quickly lose their color. 

Other similarities between a clay and a slate roofing are their costs and long lifespan. The cost of installation can range from $10 to $18 per square foot or $15,000 to $32,000 in total. For the materials only, it can land you around $4 to $7 per square foot. The price would be worth it since this is a long-lasting roof with a lifespan of 50 to 100 years. There are even some clay roofs that last for more than a century.

Now, most of these materials require professionals who are highly-skilled and trained to install them. If you want an easy way to get estimates from multiple contractors, head on to HomeAdvisor to find local roofers in your area. You will find licensed and insured contractors, saving your time and effort on researching and comparing prices.

Kenneth Wilson
September 10, 2020
Cost Guides, Roofing

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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