A Gentle Introduction to 9 Types of Roofing Materials

Published: Aug 6, 2020
several types of roofing

Are you in the market to replace the roof on your home? There are many roofing materials to choose from, but if you live in the United States, chances are good that you currently have some form of asphalt shingles -- either inexpensive 3-tab or upscale architectural shingles. If you like the look and the longevity then your work is done.

But, if you’re open to exploring materials that may be more expensive but have interesting benefits (like the ability to offset your electric bill, double the expected lifespan of your roof or give you the look of slate at a fraction of the cost and weight), then read on.

Asphalt Roofing Shingles

The fiberglass supplies strength. The asphalt, usually in combination with other minerals, prevents water from passing. The ceramic granules provide shingles their color and help divert UV light. Comparatively light, cheap, and simple to install, asphalt shingles are the ideal option for the majority of homes. They are available in sheets which are layered onto a roof to provide the illusion of more costly single shingles, like slate or cedar, which are set up one shingle at one time.

Standard, entry-level 3-tab shingles are the most economical and the lightest weigh. They are marginally thicker and designed to resemble more expensive wood replacements. Multilayered architectural shingles are the most costly and thickest, and provide a similar appearance to wood replacements.

Read more about asphalt and architectural shingles

Ceramic Roofing Tiles

Ceramic tiles add elegance and texture to a roof. They generally require additional framing on the roof to accommodate the weight.

Read more about ceramic tiles

Green roofs

Green roofs are covered with plants and can improve air quality, reduce water runoff and insulate homes to reduce urban heat islands. Their projected lifespan is 40 years.

Read more about green roofing

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing can be built from aluminum, steel, copper, and even more expensive metals in a variety of shapes and textures. Since metal roofing can effectively reflect sunlight it may keep your home cooler in summer -- an advantage in warm climates. Be sure to hire a contractor who's experienced in installing metal roofs since the materials are more expensive and less forgiving than asphalt.

Read more about metal roofing

Rubber Roofing

Rubber roofing is supplied in rolls that are installed on flat roofs as long, overlapping sheets. They are attached with a strong roof glue. Seams are overlapped to help in house insulation and prevent air leaks.

Read more about rubber roofing

Slate Roofs

Slate is durable, fire-resistant, expensive and heavy. It is considered by many to be the most attractive (and perhaps the roofing material most likely to impress your neighbors). Expect to add additional framing to your roof and make sure you hire roofers that have decades of experience.

Read more about slate roofing

Solar tiles

Solar tiles work like solar panels, turning sunlight into electricity. However, they aren’t invisible -- they are often integrated side-by-side (but noticeably) with other types of roofing materials. They are especially great for homes that are part of HOAs (homeowners' associations) that occasionally prohibit solar panels. While they can help offset energy prices with solar energy, they also cost more than conventional solar choices.

Read more about solar shingles

Vinyl Roofing

Vinyl (or “PVC”) roofing is a durable roofing product sold as membrane sheets and as shingles.

Some eco-friendly PVC roof shingles are made from a mix of recycled materials, vinyl, and cellulose fiber, though other vinyl roofing shingles are made of natural limestone and resins. PVC shingles are installed in much the same way as slate tiles or cedar shakes with galvanized roofing nails.

Read more about vinyl roofing

Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood shingles are made from thin, wedge-shaped timber, such as yellow pine or cedar. They make for a very attractive roofing but are more tricky to set up and not recommended for DIYers. Be aware that growing fire dangers in certain areas has generated legal limitations on the usage of timber roofing materials. They aren't a fantastic alternative in almost any place where you will find seasonal wildfire dangers.

Read more about cedar shingles

Regardless of which kind of material you choose, make sure you hire a trustworthy roofing company. Get a written warranty that covers both the materials and labor, and make sure that you understand how to correctly care for them so that they can continue to serve you and your house for decades to come.