5 Roofing Materials You Must Know All About

Roofing materials become an important line item on your home improvement agenda once the skeleton of your new house is finished. The box made up of wall sheathing and your sub-floor is completed by your new roof. While many considerations affect the cost of your roof, your choice of roofing materials is one of the biggest. Not only does the roofing material you use impact immediate expenses, but also longer term costs on repair and renovations.

There are 5 popular roofing materials you should know everything about. But before getting into them, here are some general tips. All roofing materials are not suited for every roof. Flat roof construction is significantly different from sloping roofs. Steeper pitch roofs need roofing materials that are different from flatter ones. And roofs with frequent interruptions from gables, chimneys, dormers or vent pipes will need specific adaptations to match their uniqueness.

So what are the five roofing materials that fit the bill in almost every kind of home or roof?

Asphalt Shingle

Of all the roofing materials used, asphalt shingle is easily the most common. There are two major reasons for this – it is inexpensive, and easy to install. Asphalt shingle has a fiberglass base into which asphalt is impregnated on both sides. Some forms of asphalt shingle also have granules embedded to give it a textured appearance.

There are two general kinds of this roofing material – standard and thicker. The standard single-thickness type is less expensive but also looks cheap and is less durable. The thicker laminated type has a nicer looking texture and is more long lasting, typical lifespans being 25 years or more.

Like all roofing material, asphalt roof shingles price must be analyzed in context. Though indicative rates are around $50 per square, this does not include laying costs which can be much higher depending on the kind of shingle you select. Another variable to keep in mind is the boost in longevity which saves you ongoing expenses.


For decades long past, wood was the predominantly used roofing material for home construction across the world, more so in countries where wood was cheap and plentiful. Wood roofing material is still a viable option, though the relatively lower fire resistance and increasingly stringent laws around this have limited their use in certain areas.

Wood roofing material is usually of cedar, redwood, pine or rarely teak. Wood shingles can be machine sawed or hand-crafted, or split to design. Life expectancy of wood shingles is around 25 years. The expense, however, is the biggest drawback with a wooden roof likely to cost you twice as much as asphalt shingle.


Various metals have been used in roofing for a long time with excellent results. Aluminum, copper, steel, copper mixed with asphalt and lead are all durable metals for roofing. Metal roofs can be installed as shingles or sheets, and are manufactured accordingly.

Lead and copper with asphalt metal roofing material is typically sold as shingles. Aluminum and steel roofing comes as seamed roof sheets, with individual lengths joined through soldering. They are more expensive than asphalt, with costs ranging around $250 per square and going up to as high as $750 per square.

Tile and Cement

Certain architectural roofing types are designed with tile and cement roofing materials. They present a wavy appearance that is aesthetically appealing and functionally effective. Some cement roofs can present a wavy appearance like tiles.

The drawbacks of tile and cement as roofing materials are the higher cost and the significantly greater weight of the roof. This means your entire house superstructure must be planned to withstand the load of your roof, adding to the overall cost of construction.


The most durable of all roofing materials is slate. Though there are mild differences in quality based on where the slate is quarried, it is common for slate roofing materials to outlast the fasteners that hold it in place!

Slate from roofs that are over one hundred years old have been recycled for re-installation, with the possibility that it will last for another century. Like tile and cement roofing material, the drawbacks of slate are the higher cost (around $800 per square and up) and the greater weight.

Which Roofing Material Is Right?

Your choice of roofing material will depend upon many different factors. If you are repairing or remodeling an existing building, you will be constrained by the structure of the building which may force elimination of some roofing materials as unsuitable.

If you’re building a new house and can pick and choose, then variables to keep in mind are color, appearance, weight and durability in addition to roof shingles price. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb can be to look at other buildings like yours and see what kind of roof they have installed. You can’t go wrong copying what works!

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