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Posted on: November 20, 2020

Roofs are an essential part of most structures, but did you know that manufacturers have come out with far more options than wood and asphalt shingles? 

In this guide, we’ll go over the top 11 types of roofing materials on the market, as well as additional roofing materials needed like nails, sealant, flashing, and drip edges.

man laying clay roof tiles; roof cleaning guide; roofing materials

11 Types Of Roofing Materials To Consider

The most important thing to remember about roofs is that some roofs are more appropriate for certain areas. For example, slate tiles only work on buildings with enough structural integrity to support the added weight. If you’re not sure which types of roofing make sense for your home, talking to an expert can help you narrow down your options.

Let’s get right into the materials, shall we?

*average costs don’t always include installation

1. Asphalt Shingles

aerial shot of man standing in front of home in driveway; roofing materials

Asphalt shingles have been a go-to roofing material for years and are extremely popular in areas where the weather is volatile. These shingles are fire-resistant, come in many different colors, and vary in quality. One of the best features of these shingles is that they are easily repairable and tend to hold up well.

Asphalt often provides an attractive layered look on roofs, with a mix of raised and lowered sections that suggest a thicker roof. Outside of the aesthetic appeal, these help channel rain and ensure that you don’t get too much flowing over one area. Modifying the flow of rainwater this way helps increase the roof’s lifespan.

Cost: Depending upon the quality and the style of the shingle, the average price is between $4.50 to $10 per square foot.

Lifespan: Depending upon the climate and the quality of the shingle, you can expect asphalt shingles to last anywhere from 15 – 20 years. It’s also essential to make sure that these types of roofs are inspected from time to time for them to reach the full lifespan possible.

Pros:

  • Come in multiple colors and styles
  • An affordable solution for your roof

Cons:

  • Shorter lifespan than many other materials on the market
  • It doesn’t provide insulation like other products on the market
  • Can be less capable of weathering large storms

2. Clay and Concrete Tiles

broken clay roof tiles; roofing materials

Spanish-style homes tend to boast concrete or clay tiles.

You might be familiar with the bright orange color of roofs in the south or on the west coast as your plane approaches the airport in these areas. Tile roofs have traditionally been very heavy but are becoming lighter. They also have a very long life expectancy.

The drawback to their attractive design and long life expectancy is the cost of installation—along with the fact that, like slate roofing, tile is very brittle. The wrong type of impact will shatter a slate tile, though replacing them is usually simple. If such impacts aren’t a concern, these are an excellent choice for any house tough enough to hold them.

Cost: What you pay will significantly range depending on the quality of the product you decide on, but on average, tile tends to run between $14.50 and $24.50. 

Lifespan: High-end clay tiles are going to last anywhere from 75 to 100 years before needing to be replaced. Lower to mid-range concrete is going to last around 50 years.

Pros:

  • Last longer than most products on the market
  • Clay and concrete are non-combustible
  • Energy efficient

Cons:

  • Very heavy and difficult to install
  • It won’t work in all climates
  • Will often require additional framing for installation

Metal Roofing

Metal Roofing; roofing materials

Metal roofs are becoming more popular in recent years because of their life expectancy and cost-effectiveness. Metal roofing can often be seen on farms, storage facilities, or larger structures. Today, however, it is commonly used in residential areas. This type of roof is remarkably durable, 100 percent recyclable, and can often be repainted instead of replaced.

One thing to note is that there are many different types of metal roofs.

Aluminum is one of the most popular options here, thanks to its excellent corrosion resistance. Most people install aluminum with a reflective coating that keeps the building below cooler, making this a great choice in sunny and warm regions. Aluminum roofs are also largely solid, so they don’t have many seams where water can seep down.

Copper is distinct enough that we’ll discuss it in more detail below, but the primary thing to know right now is that it’s one of the highest-quality roofing materials you can get.

Corrugated metal is among the most affordable options for a metal roof. They usually come with a wavy or rippled pattern, increasing structural integrity against wind and impacts. Corrugated metal is also lightweight, so you can install it almost anywhere.

However, some types of corrugated metal are a little vulnerable to weather damage, so they’re not the best option in areas with heavy rainfall. Sunny areas can install these with less trouble.

Metal Slate roofs are an interesting mix where steel segments get covered in stone for aesthetic appeal and better durability. They’re lighter and cheaper than pure slate roofs while offering a nearly identical appearance, so many homeowners get these specifically for the aesthetics.

Steel is an affordable choice for metal roofing, costing much less than premium materials like copper. While not as durable as some other materials, steel’s overall efficiency and the ease of recycling components makes it a popular choice around the country.

Zinc is one of the oldest roofing materials most people have never heard of. Zinc folds well without losing structural integrity, which makes it viable for homes with unusual roof shapes. It’s also recyclable and impressively durable, lasting up to a century if installed well despite its low cost.

If Zinc has any downsides, it’s that some people simply prefer a tiled appearance instead of long lines. It’s an excellent choice for most homes, though, so it’s worth considering seriously the next time you want to change your roof.

Cost: The cost varies greatly depending on warranty and quality. You can expect to pay between $7.50 and $17.50 per square foot on average.

Lifespan: While these roofs are said to last a lifetime with proper care, they tend to have a 50-year warranty.

Pros:

  • Incredibly durable and tough against storms
  • It lasts significantly longer than asphalt or wood shingles
  • Offers high solar reflection for efficiency

Cons:

  • Metal can be fairly expensive compared to other roofing materials

Slate Tile

wisa slate roofing 1

Using slate as a roofing product is a practice that has been around for centuries. Slate first arrived in America during the 16th century, and the first slate quarry opened in 1785. While it isn’t as popular today, it was a state-of-the-art product for some time.

These roofs tend to last slightly longer and have a very distinct look to them. Slate is not a roofing material that you would ever want to try and do yourself. The individual tiles are heavy, and it requires a well-trained slate roofing expert to install them. The challenge, along with the cost of the material, is why these roofs tend to be more expensive.

Slate isn’t a good choice for houses that can’t hold up to the weight, but their impressive durability means they often cost less long-term than a material like asphalt shingles. Slate is functionally waterproof and fireproof, and neither mold nor fungus enjoys growing on it.

As if that weren’t good enough, slate is also extraordinarily resistant to weather damage. It takes winds of extreme force to damage slate tiles, and they’ll shrug off most impacts from branches or objects flung through the air.

Slate isn’t a must-have in all areas, but it’s easily a top option if you want to install a roof once and never have to worry about damage to it again.

Cost: The cost of a slate roof varies between $11 to $18 per square foot.

Lifespan: These roofs can last about 60 – 150 years, depending upon the type of slate and the quality.

Pros:

  • Very durable against storms and winds
  • Fire resistant
  • It’s a sustainable material and can be recycled

Cons:

  • Slate is a very expensive material to install
  • Requires extra framing and professional installation
  • The quality of the product can sometimes vary

Copper Roofing

wisa copper

Copper is, in many ways, the perfect roofing material. This is especially true if you enjoy the beautiful and timeless sparkle that this material provides. Copper roofing is almost entirely maintenance and repair-free, and this superior roofing material can last centuries upon centuries. It is also fire-resistant—as you might have guessed—and is very lightweight.

This material dramatically increases the value of your home because of its low price and longevity of life. Copper roofing is made primarily from recycled material, and the roofing itself is completely recyclable at the end of its life, making it a green and sustainable material.

The downside is that copper is one of the most expensive options on the market. It can also look strange in some styles of homes, although this is more of an aesthetic concern than a practical one.

Copper has one other downside to be aware of: noise. Like other metal roofs, impacts like hail can be much louder on a metal roof than something like asphalt tiles. You can mute the effect of this by installing the correct noise-dampening layers under copper, but if you’re sensitive to noise and experience a lot of extreme weather, copper may not be the best choice.

These details are mainly quibbling, though. Copper is an excellent material that offers an incredible lifespan, added home value, and a distinctive aesthetic appeal that no other material can match. In many respects, this is the single best material available.

Cost: Such an excellent roofing material comes at a high price. However, different grades can be chosen, which can make it more affordable. On average, people are spending between $16 and $32 per square foot.

Lifespan: As previously stated, these roofs can last for an extremely long time with no maintenance. On average, the less expensive options will last around 50 years while the higher-end can last 100+ years!

Pros:

  • High curb appeal
  • It weighs less than most competing options
  • Better energy efficiency

Cons:

  • It does not buffer noise as well as most roofing
  • More expensive than most other options

Tin Roofing

Unlike copper roofing, tin roofing is a steel sheet coated in tin. Tin roofing is strong and, when properly maintained, can compete with the lifespan of other similar products. These products range significantly in cost depending mostly on the type of building and slope of the roof you have.

One of the downsides to a tin roof is the protective coating that needs to be applied every 5-7 years. However, most roofs can benefit from protective coatings, so this issue isn’t unique to tin.

Cost: Depending on the building that the roof is being applied to, the cost will run between $9 to $17 per square foot installed.

Lifespan: Most tin roofs will last around 40 years with proper maintenance but can last longer.

Pros:

  • Excellent durability
  • Low risk of leaks
  • Holds up well in areas with high wind

Cons:

  • More slippery than traditional shingles
  • It may be louder in some types of weather

Wood Shingles and Shakes

wisa cedar shakes 1

For hundreds of years before asphalt shingles were even a thought in someone’s mind, wood shingles and shakes were the go-to. Every new home had them installed, and they were tediously taken care of. Today wood shingles and shakes are only installed from time to time when requested by homeowners. Because of the costs associated with upkeep, many homeowners have chosen to stay away from products like this.

Pros:

  • Offer a rustic and natural look
  • Usually made from pine or cedar
  • All-natural material

Cons:

  • Prohibited in some areas due to fire codes
  • Can be a concern in wet climates due to mold and mildew
  • Upkeep is required to keep the shingles in good condition

Composite Roofing

Composite roofing looks very similar to wood shakes or wood shingles. This type of roofing uses a mixture of several common roofing materials. In a way, composite is like a hybrid of roofing materials.

Composite roofing tends to last a long time, with most materials carrying a warranty from anywhere between 30 to 50 years. Another great thing about composite is that it has a large variety of color options.

Composite roofing can also be an eco-friendly option because of its life expectancy and because it is often made from recycled materials. So, while not being as natural as a wood shake or metal roof, it is still a good option if you’re concerned about the environmental effects of replacing your roof.

Cost: Composite roofs tend to be priced pretty competitively at anywhere from $7.75 to $15.50.

Lifespan: The lifespan of this shingle is dependent on what you’re willing to pay for it. A cheaper option is not going to last quite as long as something that runs more. On average, you can expect to see 15-50+ years depending on the type and quality of composite that you purchase.

Pros:

  • Not as fragile as most traditional products
  • Easy to install
  • Extremely cost-effective

Cons:

  • Can have a shorter lifespan
  • Some products will absorb water
  • Some products may fail due to not having the right amount of product testing

Tar and Gravel Roofing

gravel roofing

Low slope or flat roofs will often have tar or gravel roofs installed as a cheaper and simpler option for shedding water.

Most gravel roofs are on commercial buildings or larger buildings, as it’s relatively uncommon to have a single residence home with a flat roof. Often referred to as built-up roofs or BURs, the gravel on these roofs is laid into or on top of the last layer of asphalt to help protect the roof against bad weather.

Cost: These roofs are specialized for a specific type of structure, but they are incredibly cost-effective. A new tar and gravel roof is going to run $4.50 to $6.50 per square foot while replacing a previous roof will run slightly more at $6 to $8 per square foot. These prices do reflect installation.

Lifespan: These roofs tend to last between 20 to 25 years, depending on the weather conditions that they are subject to. 

Pros:

  • Better for flat roofs than most other products
  • Much more affordable than many other products
  • Excellent resistance to UV radiation

Cons:

  • Doesn’t last as long as other roofing options
  • Emits noxious fumes for a little while after installation

Rubber Roofing

redcanyon rubber roofing

What rubber roofing lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in lifespan and cost-effectiveness. Rubber roofing tends to have a longer lifespan and can be a great option if you aren’t bothered by how plain it is. Maintenance tends to be fairly minimal, with the need for repainting every 10-12 years.

Oftentimes rubber roofs are made from recycled materials, and they take less energy to manufacture than other roofing materials. They are also 100% recyclable at the end of their life. Another great thing about rubber is that it is easy and very cheap to patch or repair the roof if it ever is punctured or begins to leak.

Cost: The cost of rubber roofing is competitive at roughly $6.25 – $8.25 per square foot installed.

Lifespan: Rubber roofing technology is continuing to get better, and because of that, they are now often rated to last at least 50 years on the high-end.

Pros:

  • Surprisingly high lifespan, especially for its price
  • Requires almost no maintenance
  • Resists weather well

Cons:

  • Not as attractive as some other options
  • Requires certain types of backing for maximum effectiveness

Synthetic Roofing Products

Synthetic roofing materials come in many forms. Some types of asphalt, slate, and composite roofs use synthetic materials to augment their structure. Fully synthetic roofs are usually much lighter than the materials they resemble while also being more durable.

It’s difficult to discuss these in detail because there are so many possible options. Synthetic slate is especially popular, though, since it has better impact resistance than regular slate and should still last anywhere from fifty years to more than a century.

Cost: Variable, but usually between $5 and $15 per square foot installed

Lifespan: Variable, but better synthetic materials can last more than a century

Pros:

  • Available in many colors and textures
  • Excellent durability compared to common choices like asphalt
  • Reasonably affordable on most budgets

Cons:

  • Some types of synthetic materials look a little fake
  • Synthetic options may be hard to acquire

Other Roofing Materials and Components

The primary choice of materials for a roof is a big deal, of course, but most roofs also use secondary materials to keep the roof in place, protect it from damage, and otherwise ensure things look good. Here’s what you should know about these.

Roofing Nails

Roofing nails are usually 1-2 inches long and made of steel, copper, or aluminum. Most have small, circular heads, but a few come with broad square heads to help fasten felt and other materials below the main roofing material.

Roofing nails also come with smooth or ringed outsides. Ringed nails are significantly stronger than smooth ones, so they’re the best choice anytime you want durability. They are more expensive than smooth nails, but nails are a tiny fraction of the cost of replacing a whole roof, and you probably won’t notice the difference in price.

Roofing Sealant

Roofing sealants aren’t a replacement for fixing a damaged roof, but they can help stop leaks and significantly extend the lifespan of your roof. These are particularly important on flat roofs where standing water can cause damage, but even slanted roofs can benefit from a good sealing layer.

The right type of roofing sealant depends on your other roofing materials. Products that work with copper may not work with slate, for example, so the easiest way to figure out what makes sense for your roof is to find a great contractor in your area and get personalized advice for your roof.

Contractors can apply roofing sealant without replacing your whole roof, so this is a great thing to look into if you want to protect an existing roof.

Self-Adhesive Waterproof Underlayment

This product is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s an excellent option in areas that expect a lot of rain.

Underlayment is functionally a second roof below the first. It’s not as durable as the top layer, but it doesn’t need to be because it’s not nearly as exposed to the weather. If your main roof springs a leak, underlayment can catch the water and stop it from going all the way into your house.

Self-adhesive underlayments are easy to apply and have limited seams where water can collect and squeeze through. The only downside to these is that you can only apply them when you’re installing or replacing a roof. If you’re looking for a solution for an existing roof, try roofing sealant instead.

Most waterproof underlayments are made with felt, but some locations do better with rubberized asphalt or synthetic materials.

Roof Flashing

Roof Flashing is a special material that helps direct water away from openings in your roof, such as those for vents and certain forms of chimneys. Water can seep through extraordinarily small cracks, so flashing is an important part of ensuring that your roof doesn’t spring obvious holes and leaks. It’s also vital for valleys on roofs where two slopes meet.

Most flashing is made from solid metals like steel, although installers may use copper or aluminum for aesthetic reasons. Regardless of the material, roof flashing has a long lifespan and is more mandatory than optional on some types of roofs. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about this because contractors will usually select the best choice for your roof.

Drip Edge

Drip edges are strips of material, usually metal, that go along the outside edge of a roof. These are fundamentally similar to flashing, but they’re mostly horizontal and focus on keeping water further away from the edge of your house. Otherwise, water may crawl up behind your gutters and end up rotting things out.

Felt Paper

Felt paper is the same thing as waterproof underlayments, as described above. Some people refer to this instead of underlayments because it’s better known.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Roofing Material

When you begin to look into different materials for roofing, you have to look beyond the aesthetic appeal of some of the different types of roofing.

Sure, the overall curbside appeal of your roof is important, but it needs to be durable as well. You also want to make sure that it makes sense for your budget. The last thing you need is a roof that doesn’t last as long as it should or that costs you more than you need to spend or can afford.

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The Weather

If you’ve ever been to Florida or someplace warmer, you might notice that their roofing materials tend to look a little different than the materials that are used in colder climates. In the northern Virginia area, the weather can be very unpredictable and, at times, very taxing on your roofing materials.

Virginia, on average, can expect to see 35-45 inches of annual precipitation. That’s a lot of water coming down in the forms of rain, snow, and ice.

Temperatures in Virginia can fluctuate from lows in the 20s to highs in the 90s. This makes for a diverse climate that needs a roof to be able to handle it all.

Hazardous Conditions

No roof will hold up against bad storms completely, but a high-quality roof that is installed properly will hold up much better than a mid to low-quality roof that is installed quickly and carelessly. 

The state of Virginia has tornados, high winds, and potentially even cyclones or hurricanes. You can’t easily prepare for these unpreventable conditions, but it’s critical to do whatever you can.

Lifespan Of Roof Materials

Outside of uncontrolled disasters, there is no reason that your roof shouldn’t last at least 15 to 20 years. Different materials have different lifespans, so be sure to discuss what is right for you with your contractor.

Roof Warranty

When considering lifespan, it’s also important to check on the warranties offered by the manufacturer of your roofing material or by the contractor. Asking these types of questions can help you guarantee you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Fire Rating

Make sure that you know the fire rating of your roof. Whether you live in Maine or Arizona, it’s important to be prepared to face wildfires or house fires. While some roofs—such as tile, cement, metal, etc.—are all going to be completely resistant, other types of roofing materials—like wood shakes—can, at times, not be at all fire-resistant.

Most modern wood, rubber, and asphalt roofs are going to be treated and manufactured to be fire-resistant. You must know for sure what your roof is going to be able to withstand.

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The Future of Roofing

Different types of roofing materials and solutions to roofing are always being improved to keep water out and heat in, efficiently. While the future for roofing materials is very bright, there aren’t any specific products that are better than those that are already on the market.

The future of roofing will see continued improvement in the lifespan of products and, hopefully, in the cost as well. It is expected that roofs will continue to be stronger to meet the demand of consumers.

Lastly, with the increase in solar energy, we can expect that there will be more and more solar panels on top of houses in areas where it is beneficial.

This may make stylish roofing materials less desirable and will require roofing to have more structural integrity to support the weight it will bear. Some designers are working on creating solar shingles to help improve the aesthetic and make solar energy more desirable.

Alternatives to Replacing Your Roof

You might not have known that there are several alternatives to replacing your roof. At WISA, we offer options that allow you to repair your existing roof. We do this because we care about you, the customer, and want to make sure that you’re being taken care of.

Everything from repairing to replacing is right up our alley, and we’re happy to inspect your roof to make sure that everything is taken care of.

Choosing the Right Contractor

Finding the right material for your roof is only half the battle. The second half of the battle is finding the right contractor. If you’re in the market for a new roof or if you’re not sure when the last time your roof was replaced, then we would love it if you reached out to us!

Not only do we want to help you find the best solution to your roofing needs, but we want to help you better understand what is going to be best for your home. It’s important to us that you find the right fit for your project.
Give us a call at 703.337.4344 or fill out this form on our website to start setting up your free consultation. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!