Choose the Right Materials: Roofing

Top off your home with roofing that suits your style and fits your budget. Here's what's out there now.
Roofing 101: Composition Roofing 101: Composition

Composition roofing, usually called asphalt shingles, is the most common roof used on houses. It's lowest in cost and easiest to install. Characteristics:

-- Cellulose or fiberglass mats coated with asphalt and granules
-- Many colors available; lighter colors reduce cooling costs
-- Lightweight with flat profile
-- The heavier the shingle, the longer it will last
-- Algae-resistant granules available for warm, humid climates
-- Cost: Starts at $50 per square (100 square feet), uninstalled

Roofing 101: Laminated Roofing 101: Laminated

Laminated shingles are thicker and heavier than composition roofing. Multilayer panels produce three-dimensional profiles and shadow lines. Characteristics:

-- Fiberglass mat instead of cellulose core
-- Has a shake-like profile
-- Greater fire and wind resistance than composition
-- High-end products weigh up to 450 pounds per square
-- High-end products last 40 to 50 years
-- Cost: $60-$80 per square, uninstalled, more for premium or architectural product lines

Roofing 101: Wood Roofing 101: Wood

Wood shingles and shakes are made from cedar, redwood, and southern pine. Some local codes prohibit wood because it's flammable. Characteristics:

-- Wood's natural character blends with the landscape
-- Shingles are flat and machine sawn on both sides
-- Shakes are thick and may be hand split
-- Requires a roof with at least 4:12 slope to shed water
-- Lasts 15 to 25 years; apply preservative and fungicide every two to five years
-- Cost: From $100 per square, uninstalled

Roofing 101: Metal Roofing 101: Metal

Metal shingles are long lasting, lightweight, and fire-resistant, but they conduct heat and can be noisy. Characteristics:

-- Made of aluminum, steel, or copper
-- Come in standing seam, corrugated, or faux-shake styles
-- Can last 40 to 50 years; color coatings guaranteed against fading for 25 years
-- Aluminum won't rust, but lower grades can dent
-- Cost: Steel and aluminum, $100-$260 per square, uninstalled; copper, $250-$500 per square, uninstalled

Roofing 101: Clay Tile Roofing 101: Clay Tile

Clay tile is a heavy, durable material that complements mission and Spanish-style architecture. Characteristics:

-- Typically curved, but also available flat for English and French looks
-- Hundreds of glaze colors available
-- Molded from pulverized clay and water
-- Can weigh 1,000+ pounds per square; usually requires reinforced roof framing
-- Lasts 50 to 100 years; tiles can crack or chip
-- Cost: $250-$500 or more per square, uninstalled

Roofing 101: Slate Roofing 101: Slate

Historic and older homes are often roofed with this natural quarried stone. Characteristics:

-- Available in different colors and grades, depending on origin
-- Considered virtually indestructible
-- Requires specialized skills and expertise to install
-- Can weigh 700 to 2,000 pounds per square; usually requires reinforced roof framing
-- Lasts 100+ years; only maintenance is replacing broken tiles
-- Cost: $300-$600 per square, uninstalled

Roofing 101: Concrete Tile Roofing 101: Concrete Tile

Concrete tiles imitate clay and slate in appearance and durability; can also look like wood shakes. Characteristics:

-- Can be molded to interlock so they're easy to install
-- Roof framing may need to be reinforced to handle the weight
-- Lighter-weight types available
-- Some products come with limited lifetime warranties transferable to new owners
-- Only maintenance is checking for loose or cracked tiles
-- Cost: $150-$250 per square, uninstalled for standard types; $350-$500 per square for lightweight types

Roofing 101: Rubber Composite Roofing 101: Rubber Composite

Also known as synthetic slate, rubber composite shingles are molded from a blend of plastic and rubber bonded molecularly. Characteristics:

-- Convincing texture, like slate, with color through the material
-- Lightweight yet strong and flexible
-- Limited supplier network
-- Fifty-year limited warranties are typical
-- Only maintenance is checking for damaged shingles
-- Cost: $295-$400 per square, uninstalled

Roofing 101: Cost Comparison Roofing 101: Cost Comparison

Labor and material costs vary by region. Here is a general guide.