The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Roof

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Roof

Where do you start when choosing a new roof for your home? There are many materials to look at, each with its own set of pros and cons. Take a look at this guide to help you figure out which roof is the right choice for your home.

An Overview of Roofing Materials

Asphalt Shingles

These days, you can find asphalt shingle roofs in both organic and fiberglass varieties. Organic asphalt shingles are made with a mixture of paper, ceramic and asphalt. Fiberglass shingles are made with the glass fiber mat, a waterproof filler and a coat of asphalt.


Asphalt shingles are one of the most common roofing choices for a variety of reasons. First of all, they are inexpensive to purchase and easy to install. Since shingles are a durable material, they often come with up to a 30-year warranty. They also come in a wide variety of colors and styles, and they are flexible if your roof has a curved design.


If your climate is subject to extreme temperature shifts, it can be hard on an asphalt shingle roof. The shingles will sometimes warp or crack. There is also the potential for shingles to lift or blow away in a windstorm. In humid climates, asphalt roofs often grow moss or algae. If left unchecked, the growth will deteriorate the roof in a matter of years.

Asphalt Copper Shingles

One of the newest roofing varieties is asphalt shingle that has been treated with copper granules. These shingles come in mostly neutral shades such as grays and browns. They cost a bit more than regular asphalt shingles. Asphalt and copper shingles last anywhere between 20 and 30 years.


The major benefit to asphalt copper shingles is their ability to prevent moss and algae. The copper granules in this type of roof stop moss growth and the dark streaks that are caused by algae.


Since the copper is designed to leach out over time, you will only see about 10 to 12 years of protection against moss and algae. Just like regular asphalt shingles, these shingles can lift or blow away in high winds. Temperature extremes can cause warping and cracking.

Wood Shingles

Wood roofs come in two types: shingle and shake. Wood shingles are machine-made so that each shingle is uniform in size and shape. Shake roofing is hand-split from wooden blocks, which gives the material a more rustic look. Wood shingles and shakes are typically made of red cedar, although it is possible to find pine shingles and shakes. Many people enjoy wooden roofing because of the weathered look it develops over the years.


On the right home, a wood shingle or shake roof can be gorgeous. Since wood is a variable material, each wooden roof is unique. Another advantage is that wood roofing tends to be a good insulator while allowing a house to breathe. These roofs last for anywhere between 30 and 50 years.


Wooden roofing material is expensive and more difficult to install than most other roofing types. Wood shingles and shakes also require a lot more maintenance. The wood can mold, rot, grow moss or suffer insect damage.

Tile and Cement Roofing

If you’re going for a Spanish, Southwestern or Italian look, clay roofing might be the right choice. This type of roofing material is generally made from clay, but you can also find tiles that are made of sand, ceramic or cement.


Clay roofing tile offers more choices than any other roofing material. The tiles can be curved, diamond-shaped, hexagonal or square. You’ll also have access to a huge range of colors, from natural shades to rich jewel tones. It stands up well to damage from UV sunlight, and it won’t rot, rust or suffer insect damage. Tile roofs are fire resistant and highly durable, often lasting as much as 50 years.


Clay roofing is very costly and it is extremely heavy. If your home needs structural additions to support the weight of a tile roof, that will drive up the installation costs even more. While clay roof holds up well to weather, it is weak against impact damage. Hail, tree branches or even someone walking across the roof can shatter the tiles. You will also have a more difficult time if you plan to install any rooftop equipment such as a satellite dish or antenna.

Slate Roofing

Slate roofing is a type of shingle made from stone. Slate roofs are commonly found on older homes. Today, owners of upscale homes like to install natural stone roofing. Slate ranges in color from dark gray to reddish-brown, and it can be cut to a variety of shapes. While square slate shingles are most common, you can also find diamond cuts and rounded slates.


Slate is fire resistant and it won’t rot, rust or sustain damage from insects. It also lasts for a very long time. Different slate quarries offer different life expectancies. Slate mined in Pennsylvania is usually expected to last at least 50 years, while Buckingham slate from Virginia has been known to last up to 175 years. Vermont slate roofs have an indefinite lifespan. There are accounts of homes with Vermont slate roofing that has lasted more than 200 years.


Slate is similar to clay tile in that can shatter easily. While slate is a little stronger against hail damage, it can break if you walk on it. Like clay tile, slate is also very heavy – your home may need additional support to bear the extra weight.

Metal Roofing

When people think of metal roofs, an image of old corrugated tin comes to mind. However, roofing technology has come so far that the metal roofs of today are quite different. You can still find the traditional corrugated styles in a variety of durable materials. You can also find metal roofing materials that emulate stone, wood and shingle.

Aluminum Roofing

Aluminum is becoming more popular as a roofing material. It is available in many different styles, from shingles to a tiled look or even the old-fashioned look of a tin roof. Aluminum roofing materials also come in many colors, from natural shades to bright tones. You can even find aluminum shingle that emulates the look of copper.


Aluminum roofing is a corrosion-resistant material. Since it is a highly recycled metal, most modern aluminum roofs are made of between 25 and 95-percent recycled aluminum. Another advantage to an aluminum roof is its longevity – these roofs often last for 50 years or more.


While aluminum roofs aren’t as costly as some of the high-end roofing materials, they will cost you more than asphalt shingles or steel. They can also be very slick, which makes it dangerous to walk on them, particularly if they are wet. During a rainstorm, an aluminum roof can make quite a bit of noise.

Steel Roofing

Steel roofing is one of the most popular choices available these days. Most steel roofing comes in a corrugated design, but it is possible to find steel shingles or textured styles. It comes in nearly any color you can imagine and it is very durable. Some insurance companies will give homeowners deep discounts for the installation of steel roofing.


Steel roofs are easy to install, which lowers your installation costs. They are fireproof and they are resistant to wind, hail, and other types of damage. Modern steel roofing material is rust and corrosion resistant. Like most metal roofs, a steel roof should last at least 50 years.


There are a few places that still sell low-quality steel roofing that is prone to rusting. You’ll need to make sure you get a good quality product with a long warranty. Steel roofs also tend to make a lot of noise when it rains. The biggest issue with steel roofing is snow. When you have a thick snow cover that starts to melt, it will break away in huge chunks that can tear down your gutters. You can install snow guards as a precaution, but they detract from the uniform look of a steel roof.

Copper Roofing

Copper roofing is usually used on high-end architecture. You’ll find copper on steeples and ornate gabled homes. Copper shingles are a popular style on upscale country cottages. It is an interesting roofing material in that it will never look the same from year to year. With time and weather, it will build a patina that ranges between dark reddish-brown and pastel green or blue. On a copper shingle roof, the patina can be different from shingle to shingle, creating its own interesting natural pattern.


Copper roofing is a beautiful addition that can seriously increase the appeal and resale value of your home. It is are also resistant to fire, wind and water damage. A properly maintained copper roof can last indefinitely. In Europe, there are many structures that boast copper roofing dating back to the 18th century. Unlike aluminum and steel roofing, copper roofs are not particularly noisy during rainstorms.


Copper roofing is one of the most expensive materials. As temperatures rise and fall, copper – more than any other material – will expand and contract. You will need to hire a very experienced contractor that is capable of accounting for temperature shifts to get the most from your copper roof.

Costs of Roofing Materials

Roofing costs are highly variable depending on the materials you select, their quality and the size of your home. The following estimates are based on an average-sized ranch home with a 1,700 to 2,100-square foot roof. These estimates also account for professional installation costs and the removal of your existing roof.

  • Asphalt shingle will cost between $1,700 and $8,200. For asphalt roofing treated with copper, your costs will be towards the high end of this average.
  • Cedar shakes and shingles can run anywhere between $6,800 and $20,000. Pressure treated shakes and shingles will cost more, but they will also last longer.
  • Clay and cement tile roofing ranges between $9,000 and $21,000. Clay tiles are usually on the cheaper end while cement and ceramics cost more.
  • Slate roofing is costly at between $17,000 and $84,000. Much of this cost will depend on the quality of the slate – you can expect Vermont slate to cost more. Another factor that drives the price up is the structural reinforcement that may be necessary.
  • An aluminum roof can cost between $7,000 and $20,000. However, the longevity and durability of an aluminum roof can offset the extra cost compared to less expensive roofing types.
  • Steel roofing can cost between $6,000 and $17,000 to install. Despite the fact that it costs more than shingle, it is a popular choice because of its extreme durability.
  • As the most expensive choice, copper roofing is typically reserved for high-end homes and historic buildings. A 1,700 to 2,100-square foot copper roof can range between $16,000 and $42,000.

How Location and Climate Affects Your Roofing Choice

Your location plays a huge role in the type of roofing that will be best for your home. For instance, people living in coastal areas sometimes avoid metal roofing options because salt spray can cause them to corrode more quickly. Shingle roofs tend to deteriorate faster in areas with extreme temperature shifts, and humid climates can take their toll by causing moss and algae growth. Copper roofing is also susceptible to cracking and shifting as temperatures rise and fall. In hot climates, such as the southern United States, options like steel and aluminum roofing are often preferred as a reflective heat barrier.

Natural Disasters and Your Roof

There is no roofing material that is completely impervious to natural disasters. However, each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Consider the types of natural disasters that are common in your area and choose your roof accordingly.

For example, if you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, choose metal, slate or tile roofing since it has higher fire resistance than asphalt or wood. Areas with high seismic activity should avoid slate and clay tile roofing – a minor seismic shift can cause a lot of damage and put you at risk for further damage or even injuries due to falling stone or tile. If you live in an area with a high likelihood of high winds from thunderstorms and hurricanes, shingle roofing may not be the best option. Heavy materials like stone and clay will not blow around, while sheet metal roofing is nearly impervious to wind damage.

Hail is another consideration. Because of their flexibility, asphalt shingles are the least likely to suffer massive hail damage. Wood shingles and shakes are also relatively hail resistant. While hail may not puncture metal roofing, it can leave dents. In hail-prone areas, you may prefer to use a textured metal roof to hide the marks left by hailstones. Clay, ceramic and stone roofing should be avoided if you have regular hailstorms since even small hailstones can shatter slates and tiles.

Making Your Decision

For most people, cost is the prime consideration. Once you’ve thought about cost versus value, consider your climate, location and common natural disasters to make the best choice. Aesthetics are also important, but keep in mind that each roofing type comes in a wide variety of colors, textures and styles – you should be able to find a design you like in the material you need.

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