Roofing Material Guide

Whether you're remodeling a roof or choosing a roof for your new home, compare and contrast these popular roofing materials to find the best type of roofing for your budget.


Whatever architectural style takes your fancy, you'll find attractive roofing materials -- both natural and synthetic -- that are made to last.

Composition Shingles

Material Type: Composition (Shingles)

What You Need to Know: Cellulose or fiberglass mats coated with asphalt and mineral granules. Look for Class A fire rating (greatest fire-resistance). Order algae-resistant granules in warm, humid climates.

Other Considerations: Lightweight with flat profile. The most economical material and the easiest for do-it-yourself installation. Not much textural beauty.

Durability/Maintenance: The heavier the shingle, the longer it should last. Standard weights should last 15-30 years. Make biannual checks for cracked, curled, and loose shingles, which should be replaced.

Cost: Start at $50 per square (100 square feet), uninstalled. Premium asphalt shingles can overlap laminated fiberglass shingles in price.

Wood Shingles

Material Type: Wood

What You Need to Know: Shingles are small, light, and sawn on both sides. Shakes are thick, often hand-split. Preferred wood is grade 1 Western red cedar. Fire-retardant coatings improve safety. Cedar resists decay.

Other Considerations: Natural character blends with landscape. Little color variation. Requires a roof with at least 4:12 slope to shed moisture.

Durability/Maintenance: When grade 1 was first-growth timber, it lasted 50 years or more. Now, second- or third-growth wood lasts 15-25 years. Apply preservative and fungicide every two to five years.

Cost: Prices vary according to species (cedar, cypress, redwood, pine), format (shake or shingle), grade, and weight. From $100 per square, uninstalled.

Metal Roofing

Material Type: Metal

What You Need to Know: Metal roofing includes pieces or panels of steel, aluminum, or copper in standing-seam, corrugated, or faux-shake styles. Metal conducts heat; insulate below and look for reflective coatings.

Other Considerations: Weights range from 45 to 200 pounds per square. Metal roofing can be installed on almost-flat roofs and over composition shingles. Fire-resistant and recyclable. Can be noisy.

Durability/Maintenance: Can last 40-50 years; color coatings guaranteed against fading for 25 years. Aluminum won't rust. Lower grades can dent.

Cost: Steel and aluminum, $100-$260 per square, uninstalled, depending on style and finish. Copper, $25-$500 per square, uninstalled.

Clay Tiles

Material Type: Clay Tiles

What You Need to Know: Molded from pulverized clay and water, curved or flat clay tiles can weigh more than 1,000 pounds per square. Get professional advice about the need to reinforce roof framing.

Other Considerations: Hundreds of glaze colors. Energy-efficient and noncombustible. One of the most expensive roofing materials; high installation costs.

Durability/Maintenance: Overall surface is durable, lasting 50-100 years. Occasional cracked or chipped tiles are possible—check annually to biannually.

Cost: $250-$500 or more per square, uninstalled.

Slate Tiles

Material Type: Slate tiles

What You Need to Know: Slate tiles are natural, quarried stone. Grade and color vary by source. Because of weight (700—2,000 pounds per square), it usually requires reinforced roof framing.

Other Considerations: Fire-, moisture-, and insect-resistant. Moderate range of colors. Expensive and heavy; requires professional installation.

Durability/Maintenance: Natural slate tiles can last 100+ years. Replacing cracked or missing slate tiles is the only maintenance.

Cost: $300-$600 per square, uninstalled, depending on where quarried. Shipping and labor-intensive installation add to expense.

Concrete Tiles

Material Type: Concrete tiles

What You Need to Know: Concrete tiles come in a variety of shapes including those that imitate clay, slate, and wood shakes.

Other Considerations: Some tiles are molded to interlock so they're easy to install. Roof framing may need to be reinforced.

Durability/Maintenance: Several products come with limited lifetime warranties, transferable to new owners. Annually or biannually check for loose or cracked tiles.

Cost: $150-$250 per square, uninstalled, for standard-weight types; $350-$500 for lightweight types. Also consider additional weight-related expenses of shipping and framing.

Laminated Roofing

Material Type: Laminated

What You Need to Know: Thicker and heavier than composition shingles, these have a fiberglass core instead of an organic core. Multilayer panels produce three-dimensional profiles and dramatic shadow lines.

Other Considerations: From afar many have attractive shakelike profiles. Greater fire and wind resistance than composition shingles. Algae deposits can occur in warm, humid regions.

Durability/Maintenance: Forty to 50 years for high-end products weighing up to 450 pounds per square. Perform biannual checks for signs of loose or damaged shingles and replace.

Cost: $60-$80 per square, uninstalled, with variation for premium or architectural product lines.

Rubber Roofing

What You Need to Know: Rubber roofing is molded from a blend of plastic and rubber and bonded molecularly. Also known as synthetic slate. Optional fire-resistant type.

Other Considerations: Convincing texture with color through the material. Lightweight yet strong and flexible. Limited supplier network.

Durability/Maintenance: Fifty-year limited warranties are typical. Perform annual to biannual checks for signs of damaged shingles and replace.

Cost: $295-$400 per square, uninstalled, depending on weight, style, and fire rating.

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