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What Are The Different Roof Material Types? [A Full Guide]

Posted on March 15, 2024

What Are The Different Roof Material Types? [A Full Guide]

From afar, choosing from different roofing material types may appear a complicated task. The good news is that there’s something for everyone!

Whether you’re looking for weather-resistant features, traditional elegance, or eco-friendly solutions, the options are pretty diverse, and we’re about to show you the most popular of them.

Our experts at Preferred Roofing can help you select the right material for your needs.

13 Popular Roof Material Types

When looking for roofing materials, you’ll come across 13 different types that dominate the field. We’ll walk you through each one, highlighting their features, applications, costs, and life expectancy:

1. Composite Asphalt Shingles

Among the first options you’ll encounter is the composite asphalt shingle roof. That’s because it’s the most commonly used roofing material in the US for many good reasons. But first, what exactly are composite asphalt shingles?

The formulation of this composite varies depending on the manufacturer, but it usually includes a combination of rubber, plastic, and asphalt. 

This mixture is then shaped to resemble natural slates or wood shakes. And it’s not just gray; it’s also available in red, brown, blue, and other hues. That said, the colors of composite shingles are susceptible to fading due to sunlight exposure.

This roofing type is unique in that it’s affordable yet quite durable for its price! It’s easy to install and maintain because almost all contractors have experience with it. This material also shows strength in facing adverse weather conditions such as high winds and scorching sunlight. 

However, we should warn you their surface is extremely slick. If you live in an area where snow is common, install snow guards to prevent ice from avalanching people or property below.

  • Average Cost: $1.50 – $5.50 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 12 – 30 years

2. Clay Tiles

Rosemary red clay roof tiles

With their exceptional qualities and great curb appeal, clay tiles are a popular roofing material worldwide. They come in several styles, the most common of which are Spanish and flat tiles. They’re also available in many colors, including orange, brown, and gray.

You should note that these tiles are quite heavy and may necessitate roof reinforcement before installation. 

Clay tiles are an environmentally friendly roofing option as they’re made entirely of natural materials. They’re renowned for their incredible endurance, even in extreme weather conditions, and fire resistance. It’s no surprise they have one of the longest lifespans.

All this adds up to a hefty price tag. Their installation process even requires relatively more labor time, which results in higher costs. Another disadvantage is that they can be fragile, and replacing broken clay tiles isn’t cheap.

  • Average Cost: $10 – $18 per square foot 
  • Estimated Lifespan: 5 – 100 years

3. Rolled Roofing

If you’re on a tight budget and need a roofing solution that’ll get the job done, rolled roofing is your best bet. Because of its low cost in terms of material, installation, and maintenance, rolled roofing is a widely used choice. 

This roofing material, as the name implies, is made of long, thin rolls formulated of materials similar to those used in an asphalt roof. But, unlike asphalt shingles, these rolls are lightweight, so you won’t need to reinforce your roof before installing them. 

When you opt for rolled roofing, you should know that you’ll be getting more practical features than aesthetic ones. It doesn’t look appealing and is mostly used in black or white. This contributes to the fact that it lowers the resale value of homes. 

For optimal performance, you should install this roofing only on properties with low-slope roofs. They shouldn’t be used on flat roofs, as that can result in leaks. 

This roofing also tears when subjected to the stress of changes in construction (thermal contraction and expansion). Because of its low tolerance, it’s one of the roofing materials with the shortest lifespans. 

  • Average Cost: $1.50 – $3 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 5 – 8 years

4. Solar Shingles

To drastically boost the resale value, appeal, and functionality of your property, consider harnessing the power of solar energy. While you may have heard of conventional solar panels, there are now solar shingles on the rise. 

Solar shingles are made of photovoltaic (PV) sheets that can be installed on existing shingles or used as a replacement. These shingles, like panels, absorb sunlight to generate electrical charges, which eventually cause electricity to flow in a building. 

Not only do these shingles significantly reduce electricity bills, but they’re also designed to protect your home from weather elements. The best part is that they do it in style, adding an unrivaled contemporary flair to any property.

One of the many advantages of solar shingles over panels is that they’re much smaller in size. This means they won’t place any potentially hazardous weight on the roof. They’re also more durable and simpler to maintain. 

But here’s the catch: solar shingles will cost you a pretty penny. Even their installation is quite expensive, and not all roofers are familiar with it.

  • Average Cost: $21 – $35 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 25 – 30 years

5. Membrane Roofing

Top view dark flat roof with air conditioners and hydro insulation membranes modern apartment building residential area.

A membrane roof is one of the go-tos for flat or low-sloped roofs. It has many appealing features; it’s lightweight, reasonably priced, easy to install, and lasts a long time. 

However, it’s worth noting that the presence of protruding structures on the roof makes its installation more challenging and costly.

As you shop in this category, you’ll find multiple types of membrane roofing available. Each type is made of specific materials and is better suited to different applications. 

EPDM roofing is the most common variety, and it’s also known as rubber roofing because it’s technically a large synthetic black rubber membrane. It stands out from the crowd due to its high durability. PVC roofing, a single-ply white membrane, is another membrane type known for its resilience.

What makes membrane roofing fall short is the material’s susceptibility to developing punctures due to age, harsh climate, or other factors. The seams between each sheet are also prone to coming undone and causing leaks.  

  • Average Cost: $4 – $8 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 20 – 35 years

6. Standing Seam Metal Roofing

One of the most durable roofing materials on the market is the standing seam metal roof. It gets its name from the unique design in which the vertical seams protrude from the roof’s surface. 

Along with having a bold, modern aesthetic, it’s available in various shades, including black, gray, burgundy, and green.

This metal roofing withstands almost all severe weather conditions. It’s impervious, so there won’t be leaks during downpours, and it’s robust, so heavy snowfall won’t cause significant damage. It’s also fire-resistant.

Another perk of installing a metal roof is its ability to reflect sunlight rather than absorb it, which helps keep your home cool in scorching temperatures. 

All these characteristics, as you might’ve guessed, contribute to a lengthy lifespan and, well, a high cost! You’ll also need to hire a specialized roofer to install it because not all contractors are familiar with it. 

  • Average Cost: $10 – $20 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 50 – 80 years

7. Wood Shingles

Going for a rustic look? Wood shingles are the answer. Aside from their high-end appearance, this type of wood roofing is long-lasting. Although it’s mostly made of cedar due to its rot-resistance properties, it can also be found in other species, including oak and redwood. 

One of the fantastic properties of wood roofs is the thermal insulation they provide. They’re pretty effective in retaining heat in homes, making them a lifesaver in cold climates. You might end up recouping the large lump sum you paid for these shingles through lower energy bills.

Wood shingles are sturdy and have proven their stability even in high winds. But, when water or fire enters the picture, things change. Wood is susceptible to absorbing moisture and developing permanent damage. It also catches fire easily. 

If you live in an area prone to heavy downpours or high humidity, educate yourself on how to protect wood shingles. They can also be treated to be fire resistant if wildfires are a risk where you live.

  • Average Cost: $4 – $9 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 20 – 50 years

8. Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing, or BUR, is another type of roofing material that’s ideal for flat or low-pitched roofs, and it’s quite affordable. It’s one of the oldest roof materials, having been around for over a century.

This roofing type has several layers. The three major ones are a thick insulation layer at the bottom, layers of asphalt separated by ply sheets in the middle, and gravel or crushed stone on top. 

The insulation embedded in BUR makes it an excellent energy-efficient solution. The asphalt layers provide the roofing with a high level of resilience to withstand various climates. The upper layer renders the roof impervious to wet weather conditions.

If your roof doesn’t have proper drainage, you may experience some issues with BUR during rain or snowfall. When water sits on the surface for an extended period, it can cause premature roof failure, and in some cases, water ponds can cause the roof to sag. 

  • Average Cost: $2 – $5 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 15 – 30 years

9. Slate Shingles

When it comes to longevity, slate roofing is the winner, and this is its main selling point! If properly maintained, this roofing material can last two centuries while maintaining its classic aesthetic! 

Slate roofs are a high-end option, and it looks like it; they add a luxurious feel to the property. The shingles are made by splitting natural metamorphic rocks into thin sheets. This plays a role in their weight, so you may need to add an extra support structure if you install them. 

They do, however, come in two varieties: soft and hard. The soft variety is lighter, while the hard variety lasts longer.

Since slate shingles are essentially rocks, they’re incredibly resilient and, at the same time, prone to cracking when struck. Their natural characteristics also contribute to their fire resistance and eco-friendliness. 

  • Average Cost: $10 – $30 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 70 – 200 years

10. Concrete Tiles

Roof tiles background

With its numerous shapes, styles, and shades, concrete tiles are a fantastic customizable roofing material!

You can get them in any color you want, and some varieties mimic other beautiful roof materials like wood shakes. They’re also unique in that they require little maintenance. 

These tiles are made of several ingredients, primarily cement, and sand, which are molded under extreme pressure. This process results in tiles that have remarkable durability and fire resistance.

Just like clay roofing, concrete roofing is brittle and doesn’t handle impacts well. They’re also in the high price range, so repairing them can be costly. 

Another feature both these tile materials have in common is their weight; so, before placing concrete tiles, have a roofer inspect your home to see if it can support them.

  • Average Cost: $10 – $20 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 30 – 50 years

11. Metal Shingles

Metal roofs come in a variety of styles. Aside from the standing seam type we mentioned earlier, there are metal shingles that are as equally as popular. 

Some homeowners prefer metal shingles as they believe the standing seam variety has a more industrial appearance. Whereas metal shingles closely resemble asphalt shingles that are a trademark for residential properties.

Not only do they look great, but they also retain all of metal’s superior qualities. From extreme durability to low maintenance to insulation, they come with all the features of metal roofing.

  • Average Cost: $8 – $20 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 50 – 80 years

12. Green Roofing

Green roofs, or living roofs, are one of the types that bring unrivaled benefits and properties to the table. This roof type relies on growing vegetation on the surface.

Aside from creating a tropical paradise on your roof, you can expect to save money on your upcoming energy bills. This roof effectively cools the surface of buildings to combat heat waves; it can even help mitigate the effects of the Urban Heat Islands.

Green roofs have also been shown to improve air quality and absorb stormwater, which usually results in extensive damage.

Since these roofs are composed of multiple systems and layers, they necessitate evaluations and professional design. This translates to a high price range and costly installation. 

You’ll come across two living roof types: intensive and extensive. 

An intensive green roof is typically used to transform roofs into gardens. It can accommodate large plants like shrubs and trees, as well as structures such as benches and water features. 

But the extensive type is much lighter and only used for its environmental benefits.

  • Average Cost: $10 – $35 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 40 – 50 years

13. Rubber Slate Tiles

If you want the classic look of slate roofing but not the price, let us introduce you to rubber slate tiles. This roofing material, also known as synthetic slate tiles, is made of recycled rubber products to mimic natural slate. It’s available in brown, black, and gray hues.

Rubber slate tiles are distinguished by their lightweight, requiring no support structure to be installed. They also have a high impact resistance, so there won’t be cracking incidents as with the stone variety. 

This roofing material performs well in various climates and will last you a long time, but not as long as natural slate. 

  • Average Cost: $9 – $12 per square foot
  • Estimated Lifespan: 30 – 100 years

How to Choose the Right Roofing Material

Now that you’re familiar with the various types of roofing materials, we’ll walk you through some crucial factors to consider when deciding which one is best for your property:

Local Weather Conditions

One of the first aspects to take into account is the weather in your area. Knowing this will enable you to reap the benefits of the roofing material while saving money on maintenance, as opposed to choosing an incompatible roofing type.

For example, if you live in an area prone to heavy downpours, you should choose water-proof, impenetrable roof materials like composite asphalt and metal.

General Costs

roof material types - Quality and cost in balance - pictured as balanced balls on scale that symbolize harmony and equity between Quality and cost.

Setting a budget for your roof greatly helps in narrowing down your options. But it’s not just about the Cost of the roofing material. Long-term cost considerations, such as energy efficiency, lifespan, or maintenance, can influence choices despite upfront expenses.

House Design

The architectural design of a house should play a major role in your decision because roofing materials can either enhance or degrade its curb appeal and, thus, resale value.

For instance, a contemporary home will look good with sleek metal roofing, whereas a traditional or rustic-style house will look better with clay tiles or cedar shingles.

Final Word

You shouldn’t just focus on one aspect of a roofing material but rather look at the big picture. Consider the material’s properties, Cost, and style, then determine whether it matches your requirements.

You should also remember that installation can make or break the functionality of your roof, so make sure you hire a reputable roofer. Our contractors at Preferred Roofing have years of experience in the industry; get in touch with us today and get a free inspection!


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