Roofing Materials: Which Kind Should You Use for Your Home?

rustic cottage with red tile roofing materials

Your roofing materials act as a barrier against weather and protect your home from water damage and other inclement weather. However, your roof also adds to the overall design of your home, making it stylish and aesthetically pleasing.

The materials you choose to use on your roof not only contribute to the functionality and design of your home, but also the value. You must keep your roof up to date to prevent damage and to ensure you qualify for homeowners insurance.

Things to Consider Before Choosing Roofing Materials

You may not realize that there are a lot of factors that go into putting a roof on a house or building. Think about the following before making any decisions:

  • What color are the roofing materials, and will it complement your existing design?
  • Will the material meet local fire codes?
  • Is there proper upkeep or maintenance involved?
  • Is the material heavy and will it require special framing?
  • Will the material hold up against any extreme weather conditions common in your area?
  • What is the cost?
  • What is the lifespan?
  • Does the product come with a warranty?

Answering these questions puts you well on your way to determining what type of material you need for your project.

Types of Roofing Materials

There are a lot of different types of roofing products on the market today. Here are some of the most popular ones.

Asphalt shingles

asphalt roofing materials on gray house in neighborhood
Image CC0, by Binyamin Mellish, via Pexels

Asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material in residential areas. A lot of people use them because they don’t cost as much as some of the other materials and they are easy to install.

You can reinforce asphalt shingles with fiberglass or organic materials like cellulose, and it doesn’t change the way the shingles look. It comes in a variety of colors, so it’s a great option for matching with existing colors and designs.

Because asphalt has a shorter lifespan than some other roofing materials, you may find yourself replacing it more often, and it doesn’t always provide the same level of insulation or quality and heavier, more expensive materials.

Asphalt is versatile and works with a lot of different architectural styles. It is especially prevalent in traditional suburban areas. If maintained, an asphalt shingle roof lasts twenty to twenty-five years.

Clay and concrete tiles

wavy clay roofing materials on roof looking up into the sky
Image CC by SA 2.0, by Daniel R. Blume, via Flickr

Clay and concrete roofing materials are very durable but extremely heavy, so they need to be installed by a professional. They add remarkable texture and a sort of Southwest elegance to your roof. You can get them in flat, ribbed, or scalloped designs.

Concrete tiles are less expensive than similar clay varieties but still more pricey than something like asphalt shingles. Both require extra framing to support the weight, so if the framing isn’t already in place, it could be an expensive job.

However, clay, or ceramic roof tiles, and concrete are both very long-lasting, non-combustible, and energy efficient, so they are exceptionally common in hot areas. Mediterranean, Mission, Southwestern, and Spanish-style homes often sport this type of roof.

Clay roofing materials are often red, and concrete is grey, so they don’t come in a wide variety of colors, but they fit in with the surroundings in which they are commonly used. While they are more expensive, clay and concrete tile roofs last about forty to fifty years if maintained properly.

Metal roofing

Barn with metal roofing materials in field lined with trees
Image CC by 2.0, by normanack, via Flickr

Metal roofing materials are extremely resistant to all types of weather. It comes in either panels or shingles and is available in aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and zinc.

They give your outbuilding, barn, or office building an industrial look. Because they are long-lasting and recyclable, they provide you with peace of mind when considering your impact on the environment. They also work well for harvesting rainwater, if you’re into that sort of thing.

While metal commonly gets used for industrial purposes, it also looks great on contemporary homes, cottages, cabins, and bungalows. It can be expensive but lasts up to seventy-five years.


Slate roofing materials of all different colors
Image CC by 2.0, by Tony Hisgett, via Flickr

Slate roofing materials are unique because it comes in alternating shades of black, gray, green, purple, and red. It looks beautiful when using a combination of all colors randomly. It is durable, fire-resistance, and recyclable.

Just like clay and concrete, a metal slate roof is very heavy, so you need extra framing to support it. The quality varies depending on whether or not it’s imported. It looks great on French chateau-style homes, colonial ranches, and European-style cottages.

Here’s the shocker: slate can last up to one hundred years or more. Wowza!

Wood shingles and shake

Wood shingles roofing materials on barn with a-frame roof
Image CC by 1.0, by Alan Levine, via Flickr

A lot of people prefer the look of wood shingles and shake, and they have been around for hundreds of years. They weather nicely and look very traditional. Because shakes are handmade, the color and texture vary a lot from wood shingles, and they look rougher.

Wood shingles are more uniform because a machine cuts them, but both types look rustic and natural. They typically come in cedar, redwood, or pine.

Both wood shingles and shakes are prone to fire, so they often come with a fire-resistant coating. Depending on where you live, many insurance companies won’t cover a home that has wood shingles or shake roofing.

Wood shingles and shakes are also prone to mold, split, and rot if they have to endure very wet conditions. However, they aren’t as heavy as some other roofing materials, so you don’t need extra support.

They fall into the price spectrum somewhere between asphalt shingles and expensive varieties like clay, concrete, and slate, but they only last a little longer than asphalt at twenty-five to thirty years.

Synthetic roofing products

Now available are rubber, plastic, and polymer roofing materials. These synthetic products were developed to provide the same color, texture, and design of things like slate or wood, but with extra strength and less maintenance.

Synthetic roofing products are often fire-resistant, durable, and lightweight. It has a leg up on a lot of the other products because it comes with the same safety features without the initial cost or the cost of maintenance.

They correspond with many different architectural styles, many come with warranties, and they last for up to fifty years.

Installation Processes

Roofing isn’t easy. You have to be comfortable with heights and in shape. It involves being exposed to the elements for many days while leaving your home vulnerable to all kinds of weather.

There are certain roofing materials you may be able to handle yourself because they aren’t as heavy and don’t require extra framing. Asphalt shingles, wood shingles, shake, and synthetic materials might be doable. Keep in mind you will be carrying these materials up the ladder many, many times.

If you still feel like you’re up to the task, then find your hammer and get to it.

Clay, ceramic, concrete, and slate, on the other hand, are best left to professionals. Because they require extra framing, are incredibly heavy, and break easily when dropped, you need more strength and more equipment to handle the job.

Commercial vs. Residential

Roofing materials vary from commercial to residential areas. You always need to take into consideration things like slope, weather, and cost. However, you can use any material on either a commercial or a residential property, as long as it’s appropriate to the design and the size of the area.

The primary difference is the maintenance involved. Commercial roofing material has to withstand the protection of a larger area. It’s harder to install because roofers have to navigate smokestacks, piping, and air flow systems.

Residential roofers are still very skilled but tend to have an easier job. The only obstruction they have to deal with is a chimney. Residential roofs are also much easier to maintain and have to cover a smaller area.

The Right Roofing Material For You

Take into consideration design, cost, and durability of roofing materials when selecting what you want to use on your home or building. There are a lot of options, but you should be able to narrow it down based on the style and functionality of the roof you need.

From natural to industrial materials, recyclable to heavy duty, the right roofing material for you is out there.


Feature Image: CC by SA 2.0, by Dennis Jarvis, via Flickr


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