The Best 9 Roofing Materials – Features, Advantages & Costs

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two types of roofing materials close-up

There are a number of types of roofing materials you can choose for your home. While every roof should blend with the aesthetic look of the structure, the alternatives are a personal choice. Some roofs work better in densely wooded environments, while others repel sunlight and reflect heat. Choosing the right roof for your home requires weighing the pros and cons of each material and finally the cost.

Selecting the best roofing materials is a personal decision, governed by a few important factors. Of course, you want to blend with the appearance of your home and community, but you also want to consider durability and cost. Here are nine of the best roofing materials, which will provide you with a nice array of choices to meet your particular needs.

1. Composite or Asphalt Shingles

The most common type of roofing materials is a composite type shingle, usually with an asphalt base. They are economical and have reasonable durability. Composite shingles use a three-tab design made from fiberglass, or an organic compound, then topped with asphalt. The final coating is a mineral granule that can have different colors.

While they do not have the longevity of slate or metal type roofs, standard composite shingles are one of the more cost-effective types of roofing materials. That is one of the biggest advantages. If you lose a shingle for whatever reason, they are easily replaced. Standard composite shingles average between $1.88 to $7.75 per square foot installed, depending on the thickness and quality of the shingle rating.

2. Rolled Roofing

Rolled roofing is one of the simplest and least expensive types of roofing materials. While it is not all too appealing to look at, it meets the needs of out buildings and barn-type structures. Many people use rolled roofing as a first layer before adding shingle type roofs.

However, rolled roofing is a super choice for flat roofs that cannot be seen from below. It provides an excellent moisture barrier, and additional layers can be added for extra protection. It frequently comes in 300-foot rolls and is by far the least expensive type of roof material.

3. Synthetic Roofing

Synthetic roofs are somewhat like rolled roofing. They come in larger sections, so installation time is far less than conventional roofing materials. Synthetic products such as plastic, rubber, and other polymers are used to make synthetic roofs. Many of these materials are fire-resistant.

Synthetic roofs can have unique contours and designs that appear to be other types of materials. The cost is slightly more than what rolled roofing costs, and it isn’t very labor intensive to install. Synthetic roofs do not have the years of testing like many of the other materials do, but time is proving this a viable option for your roof.

clay roof shingles close-up

4. Wood Shingles

For centuries, the only type of roofing materials available was either wood or stone. Stone had obvious drawbacks before the invention of cranes and lifts, so wood was the go-to alternative for roofs. To this day, people still love the nostalgic appeal of wood shingles as their most preferred of all roofing materials. Wood shingles are manufactured, so each shingle shape is precise.

This makes them relatively easy to install in the same manner as asphalt shingles. The only cutting and fitting required are in oddly shaped roof sections. Just like asphalt shingles, wood shingles are easy to replace, if a section is damaged. Be aware that some communities have fire codes that prevent the use of wood for roofs, so check with your local code enforcement officer before electing to install wood shingles.

wood shingles close-up image

5. Wood Shakes

Shakes are similar to wood shingles, but they are hand cut, each one having a unique shape. This is the old-fashioned way of producing the roofing materials used for a wood roof. A wood shake roof is one of the more original looking of all the types of roofing materials. To improve durability, you can elect to have a number of wood preservatives and coloring agents added during installation.

Fire codes limit the use of wood shakes as well, but you can spend a little more for a fire-resistant shake type shingle that meets code requirements. Wood shingles and shakes have about the same life expectancy, both estimated upwards of 40 years. Ironically, each type of roof costs less than 25 percent more than a standard composite shingle roof.

6. Slate Roofing

Slate may be one of the most eloquent roof materials available. It is durable and comes in color varieties to meet most any aesthetic desire. Slate is fire resistant, and the tiles can be recycled to make new roofs. Using slate for your roof does require an inspection of the roof structure since it is a heavy roofing material.

Slate roofs fit particular house styles very well. It was a staple in Colonial and early European style homes. It does cost more than any of the previous materials but is tremendously durable. Slate roofs are still standing that are over a century old. Another appealing feature of a slate roof is its beauty.

installing a new slate roof

7. Steel Roofing

The most common type of metal roof is steel. It provides a heavier and sturdier roof than aluminum, but it does weigh a great deal more. While one of the most appealing features is the remarkable durability, the framework of the home must be sufficient to hold a steel roof. There are a number of factories applied and durable coatings, which protect and prevent corrosion.

The first coating is a zinc-coated polymer, which is then sealed using a baked-on acrylic top coating. One nice benefit of the extra layer of protection is that it comes in a variety of colors. Steel roofs average between $5 and $12 per square foot but have longevity nearly four times that of a standard shingle roof.

8. Copper Roofing

Copper roofing is the oldest type of metal roofing in the world. It has been used for centuries, with evidence of copper roofing materials existing back over 200 years. It obviously has the highest rating for durability, but it is also a more costly type of roof material.

For this reason, copper is suitable for small sections of roof that endure more weather related elements. It is one of the best types of roofing material for small cottage type homes. It’s realistic to assume that a copper roof will long outlive the occupants.

9. Zinc Roofing

The greenest, most environmentally conscious of all types of metal used for roofing is zinc. Zinc has a lower melting point than all the other types of metal, plus consumes about one-quarter of the energy necessary to manufacture composite shingles. The only roofs that are more economically friendly than zinc are wood and shaker shingles.

Zinc is 100 percent recyclable, with characteristics similar to aluminum. Be aware that is a soft metal. So, it can be damaged in areas prone to falling limbs, or hail. The cost of using zinc for your roof is about the same as copper, slightly more than a straight steel metal roof. As zinc ages, the natural color turns an appealing blue-gray giving your roof a rustic appearance.

Let’s Recap

Roofing materials are constantly being perfected, with new options and improved designs welcomed to the market. When choosing the right kind of roofing materials for your home, consider the aesthetic image you want to portray, and then factor in cost and durability aspects of each choice. It’s wise to narrow your decision down to a couple of options, and then pick the one that best suits your needs.

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