Choose The Right Roof Material For Installation, Replacement & Repair

Whether installing a new roof or replacing an aged or weathered roof you are faced with the task of selecting the proper material for your existing structure, or perhaps your personal taste.  Keep reading for our crash course in roofing shingles & materials.

Things to consider when choosing a roofing material:

  • Architecture and style of your home and neighborhood.  Ceramic or clay tiles will look great on a Spanish Mission style home, but a metal roof would feel out of place.
  • Cost of material, installation, and maintenance.  Keep in mind that the removal of existing roofing material can cost $3 to $5 per square foot.  Cost may also be affected by your location, the slope of the roof, the height of the building, lack of access to the building or anything else that might complicate the installation.
  • Building codes in your area.  In many communities fire codes mandate the use of fireproof building materials which could rule out a material like wood shingles.  Asphalt shingles offer Class A fire protection and affordability making them a popular choice of roofing material.
  • The climate in your area.  How will the temperatures in your area affect your chosen material?  What type of damage is your roof likely to sustain?
  • Warranty.  Check with the manufacturer to see if the warranty will cover installation of a new roof or just new roofing materials should the material you choose fail.  Keep in mind that most warranties won’t cover the replacement of a roof damaged by an “Act of God” such as hurricanes, hail, straight line winds, or tornadoes.

Asphalt Shingles

Various Asphalt Shingle ColorsBy far the most popular roofing material in the US, asphalt shingles come in a variety of colors and styles, making them appropriate for numerous home styles from contemporary to historic.  Asphalt shingles come as a three tab strip.  A glass fiber mat (for reinforcement) shaped like the shingle is coated with asphalt that contains mineral fillers that help the asphalt adhere to the mat.  It is then coated with a second coat of asphalt and then embedded with ceramic granules.  The ceramic granules protect the asphalt from UV ray damage.

The popularity of the asphalt shingle may be attributed in part to their excellent value.  An asphalt shingle roof can be installed for around $2.20 per square foot and up and has a 20-30 year life span.  However, climate can affect the life span of a shingle.  Asphalt can scar in high temperatures, so shingles in northern climates tend to last longer.  But the constant freezing, thawing, and refreezing that occur during a harsh northern winter can cause cracking and splitting.  Water exposure during warmer months can also lead to the growth of fungus and mold on the roof.  Other common damages that can occur include loss of the ceramic granules from severe rain and hail and curling of the tabs.  The good news is that asphalt shingles are cheaply and easily repaired.

Wood Shingles and Shakes

Diagonal detail of brown wood roof shinglesA wood roof can lend a natural look to home, weathering to a soft gray over time, and is ideal for a home in a natural setting.  The most common type of wood used on roofs is cedar, but spruce and pine are also common.  Shingles are smooth and of a uniform thickness, although they can vary slightly in width.  Shakes are hand split from the log instead of mechanically sawn like shingles so they tend to be thicker and rougher.  Wood shingles and shakes will cost $4 to $7 per square foot installed.  They also require regular maintenance.  Mildew and moss needs to be removed and the woods needs to be oiled with a wood finish product.  Wood rot, mold, insect damage, and splitting are common ailments, but individual shingles can be easily removed and replaced.  A well maintained wood roof can last 20 years or more.  Check your local building codes.  In areas with strict fire codes wood shingles may not be permitted, even though most wood shingles are treated with fire retardant.

Ceramic or Clay Tiles

Detailed Photo of Ceramic Roof ShinglesCeramic barrel tiles are half cylinder shaped and about 16 inches long.  A water proof membrane is laid directly over roof sheathing and the tile are laid one by one on a dollop of mortar, one upside down, the next right side up, overlapping.  The labor intensive installation makes the cost of a ceramic tile roof significantly higher than the cost of a standard 3 tab asphalt shingle, around $5 per foot square installed.  Repairs can also be a challenge due to the fragile nature of the tiles, which can be easily damaged by walking.  Even repairs to chimneys and gutter cleaning can be complicated.  Also, clay tiles are heavy which may require the roof to be structurally reinforced. Ceramic tiles are ideal in warmer climates as they don’t absorb as much heat as other materials and keep their color.  They are not often used in colder climates as they are prone to damage from ice and snow.  In ideal climate conditions a good quality ceramic or clay tile roof can last up to 50 years.

You may also consider concrete roofing tiles.  They are lighter weight than ceramic and are less fragile.  They are fire resistant and can withstand the harsh freeze-thaw cycle of winter, high wind speeds, heavy rain and hail, offering some of the longest warranties in the roofing industry.  The best part:  they can be manufactured to mimic the look of wood, ceramic, and even slate shingles.

Slate Shingles

A slate roof lends a distinctive, upscale look to a home but comes with a fairly hefty price tag.  Installing slate shingles can run you anywhere from $9 to $40 plus per square foot, depending on the quality of materials and complexity of the installation.  Like ceramic tiles, slate is heavy and brittle, making installation and repairs more complicated.  However, it is incredibly durable and resistant to snow, ice, and insects, lasting up to 100 years in some cases with proper maintenance.

There are several products on the market now that are manufactured from recycled rubber and plastic that can be made to look like slate tiles.  At a third of the weight and cost, approximately $7 per square foot installed, these synthetic shingles are a great alternative, and are typically guaranteed to last up to 30 years.

Metal Roofing Materials

A metal roof isn’t just corrugated, galvanized sheet metal on a farm or utility building.  It’s a great choice for this application as it is cheap, durable enough to withstand high winds and hail, low maintenance, and easy to install.  However, metal roofing materials are available in various styles (shingles and sheets joined at water tight standing seams) and materials.  Steel, aluminum, tin, and copper will each provide a different look.  Metal is even paintable.  It may even be the “greenest” of roofing materials.  It is energy efficient, absorbing less heat than other materials, can be made from recycled materials, and can be installed over an existing roof so there is no throwing old roofing into the land fill.  The installation of a metal roof could cost you anywhere from $3.75 to $11.00 per square foot, which is initially more than asphalt shingles, but considering there is little maintenance required and a metal roof can and last up to 50 years, the cost evens out over time.

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