The Best Roofing Material For Every Budget

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There are many choices in roofing materials used on homes today. Deciding on the roof that is right for you will depend on a number of factors, including the type of roof you currently have, location of your home, climate zone, desired architectural look, maintenance, and cost.

Wood Roofs: Shakes and Shingles

  • Cedar shakes provide a traditional look with reliable, modern durability. They are a good choice for historic homes or homes in new developments with high appearance standards. Cedar shakes are an environmentally friendly option also. The life expectancy of cedar shakes is up to 30 years, if quality materials are used. A potential concern with cedar shakes is that many communities will require pressure-treated, fire retardant shakes, which lowers the fire hazard but increases the cost of the materials.
  • Composition shingles are widely used on homes in the United States. These are made of an organic or fiberglass base, then saturated with asphalt and coated with minerals on one side to resist weathering. Fiberglass shingles are more flexible and stronger than organic shingles. Both shingles come in a wide variety of colors. The life expectancy of composition shingles ranges from 20 to 30 years. Most manufacturers will cover a composition roof under warranty, if a certified roofer installed it.
  • Dimensional shingles are very similar to composition shingles, but are thicker, and can be used to create a better shadow line for each course of shingles. Dimensional shingles also have a much better lifespan, with an expectancy of up to 40 years.

Clay And Concrete Tiles

  • Clay tile is usually used in the traditional Spanish look. But, clay is now available in several other patterns. Tile is a very durable material and is able to withstand some of the harshest elements such as hail, wind, and fire. There is one drawback to tiles, however: their weight. They require certain structural standards for the frame and decking of the roof. They have a great life expectancy of 40 to 50 years. Tiles may need to be predrilled and nailed if you have a steep pitch roof, or even supported by metal brackets, all of which could increase the cost associated with this type of roofing system. Most tile manufacturers offer a minimum of a 50 year limited warranty on their products.
  • Concrete tile has essentially all of the benefits of clay tile. Concrete tiles also have the advantage of being available in a greater number of styles including traditional clay and slate.
best roof materials budget best roof materials budget


Metal 

In areas where forests, moss, or heavy precipitation are present, metal roofs are a great solution for a new roof. Usually made of steel, aluminum or copper, metal roofs offer some of the best protection for your home. Metal roofs withstand high winds, shed snow and rain very effectively, and are fire resistant. Metal roofs are very lightweight, weighing about one quarter of the weight of tile roofs and nearly half as much as asphalt shingles. Metal roofing is generally more expensive than asphalt roofing, but cheaper than tile or slate roofing. When properly installed a metal roof will usually last as long as the house with manufacturer warranties of 50 years. 

Slate And Synthetic Slate 

A slate roof is the most expensive roofing material on the market. It is also the most durable and one of the more attractive solutions. Slate is cut from slabs of stone. The roof tiles are most commonly grey but do occur in a variety of subtle color variations. Slate roofs regularly last over 100 years.

Slate roofs require little maintenance, are resistant to mold and insects, and are fire damage. Slate is a heavy roofing material and can only be used on roofs that are properly supported for such weight. Most residential homes will require additional materials and labor to increase the roofs strength. Synthetic slate tiles are another option. They are made from a mixture of slate dust and glass fiber resin, or a combination of cement and fiber. Synthetic slate isn't as brittle as real slate, and it offers many of the same protective qualities.

Environmentally Friendly Roofing Materials 

Green roofs are on the rise in popularity. They are energy efficient and earth friendly. A green roof covers the traditional roof with vegetation that provides many benefits to the structure and the environment. A green roof will have a number of layers; a soil layer, and layers for drainage and waterproofing, with the vegetation layer on top. The roof may have an irrigation system installed for maintenance of the plants.

There are a number of advantages to having a green roof:

  • It reduces much of the heat from the roofs surface.
  • It’s a good sound insulator.
  • It reduces the amount of pollutants that run off with rainwater from roofs.
  • It retains much of the water in the soil and the plants will actually absorb some of the pollutants, purifying the water before it leaves the roof.

Finding the right roofing material for your home depends upon which material will fit your needs and budget the best. Keep the weather in your area in mind when picking a material to ensure it will withstand storms and rough conditions, as well as look nice on your home. Taking these steps will ensure you make the best purchase with the greatest value for you. 

Last Updated: January 25, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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