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What are Some Different Types of Roofing Materials?

By Patrice La Vigne
Updated May 17, 2024
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The possibilities seem endless when it comes to roofs. From shingles to concrete to clay to metal to slate to rubber, each type of roofing material has its advantages and disadvantages. Consumers need to consider the location of their house, climate and desired look, as well as maintenance and installation costs before choosing a roof type.

Most residential roofs in the United States are built with composition asphalt shingles. These roofing materials come in a wide variety of colors and have a life expectancy of up to 30 years. Another type of shingle that is similar but thicker is the dimensional shingle. These shingles have a slightly longer life expectancy of up to 40 years.

Shingles are easy to install and the most economical option for homes. However, moss buildup and the need for adequate venting may be some of the disadvantages found with all kinds of shingles. Some more modern homes have moved from shingles to cedar shakes because they look traditional, but are environmentally friendly and have a life expectancy of up to 30 years.

Because metal roofs typically consist of steel, aluminum or copper, these roofing materials are best for many different areas. This is especially true for areas prone to wet weather.

Metal reflects heat from the sun and withstands high winds, snow and rain, so the metal material does not have problems with moss buildup like the shingles do. Although metal is more costly than asphalt, it is still cheaper than other roofing materials. Additionally, they are expected to last up to 50 years.

Clay or concrete tile roofs have traditionally been found in warmer climates or those with a Spanish influence. These roofing materials can be used anywhere. The clay is a very resilient material and can withstand harsh weather elements. Another bonus is that they have a life expectancy of up to 50 years. Still, clay or concrete are costly and heavy, which is not the best choice for certain homes. Historically, people had the most limited color selection with clay or concrete, but the selection has broadened over the years.

Slate is the most expensive roofing material, and is commonly found on high-end houses and municipal buildings. Although many people choose slate for roofing material because it is aesthetically pleasing, there are other benefits. Slate roofs do not harbor mold or insects. Additionally, they can last more than 100 years.

Perhaps among the most unique roofing materials are plants. A living roof, also known as a green roof, is a thin layer of soil or other substrate that allows for a garden of shallow-rooting plants to grow on a rooftop. Naturally, this type of roof is only practical for flat or nearly flat roofs, and only where the climate is appropriate. The primary advantages to a green roof are that they offer very effective insulation to the building, and they improve local air quality.

Other types of roofing materials include rubber and mixed material. Rubberized roofs are energy efficient and can be used for any shape of roof, but are not intended for areas that receive a high volume of rain or snow.

Both built-up roofs and modified bitumen roofs are inexpensive, but are also not designed for areas that get high rain or snow. These materials are meant for roofs with a low pitch. The built-up roofs contain several layers of saturated felt covered by hot tar or asphalt and usually contain three to five layers, while the modified bitumen roofs also contain a mix of materials, such as polyester, fiberglass and bitumen.

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Discussion Comments
By Roxy01 — On May 01, 2011

In terms of shingles, cedar shake shingles present a really classic appearance along with being really natural and environmental friendly so those are my favorite. They have the same life expectancy as asphalt shingles as well. Metal roofs are really interesting as well because there are so many different kinds. Slate roofing, though most expensive, sounds to be a worthy investment and probably very classic looking. One thing I've never seen though is a living roof. I wonder what other kinds of living things are on a roof made of plants.

By Alaskablues — On Apr 28, 2011

Most people don't know there are so many roofing material types because they're used to seeing asphalt shingles. Those are the standard black, sticky, small, easy to handle shingles that come in bundles. There are other more innovative designs for shingles and so the black ones aren't the only ones you see out there. What kinds of roofing interest you?

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