The best roofing materials for your home: types, pros, cons, and cost

Ben Zientara

By Ben Zientara

October 15, 2020, updated March 2, 2021

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When it comes to installing a new roof for your home, there’s plenty of different materials to choose from. Whether it’s as simple and cost-effective as 3-tab asphalt shingles or something more sophisticated like clay tiles, each type has its own purpose and set of pros and cons. In this article, we’ll discuss the best roofing materials to choose from and determine which type is right for your home.

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Different types of roofing materials

Choosing the right materials for your new roof can be challenging when you factor in variables like cost, labor, longevity, durability, and more. Thankfully, we got you covered. Let’s take a look at the most common types of roofing materials, their costs, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

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Asphalt shingles

Asphalt shingles on a residential home

Image source: Hanson Roofing

Traditional asphalt shingles are the most commonly used roofing material, mostly due to their ability to perform in all types of climates. While asphalt shingles are generally cheap to install, they do require more maintenance than other roofing materials and usually need to be replaced every 15-20 years. Each shingle brand differs in size, thickness, and performance between manufacturers, but typically there are three types of asphalt shingles to consider.

3-tab shingles

Set of 3-tab shingles

Image source: Atlas Roofing

3-tab shingles come in a uniform-like appearance and are laid out in long rows on your roof. While these fiberglass shingles are cheap and easy to install, their warranties are typically not as strong as other types of asphalt shingles. But if you're on a tight budget and still looking for high-quality 3-tab shingles available in a variety of colors, we recommend CertainTeed's XT25 or GAF's Royal Sovereign shingles.

Average cost: $25-$50 per bundle (33.3 square feet)

Architectural shingles

Set of architectural shingles

Image source: Roof Wolf

For something a bit more sophisticated looking, but still with a reasonable price are architectural shingles. These shingles are typically designed to feature a more hand-crafted appearance that imitates either natural slate tiles or wood shakes and can typically be found on a hip roof. While architectural shingles are significantly more expensive than 3-tab ones, they do feature more benefits. Unlike 3-tab shingles, some architectural shingles like GAF's Timberline HDZ feature a limited wind warranty with no speed limits. If you live in a coastal climate with more severe storms, it may be worth the cost of upgrading to architectural shingles.

Average cost: $30-$60 per bundle

Luxury shingles

Set of luxury shingles

Image source: Long Roofing

Luxury asphalt shingles will help give your home a more natural appearance, resembling more expensive materials like a slate roof. As you can expect, these shingles are significantly more expensive than other asphalt shingles but they can offer more benefits in the long run. In fact, luxury shingles are usually impact-resistant and can increase your home's resale value and curb appeal. If cost isn't an issue for you, installing luxury shingles like GAF's Grand Sequoia or Glenwood brands will assure you resistance to high winds, fire, and algae as well as a longer lifespan.

Average cost: $60-$100 per bundle

Pros of asphalt shingles

Cost-effective - Asphalt shingles are typically the cheapest and most common roofing material available. While they may not last as long as slate tiles, they also cost a third of the price and still perform admirably in all climates.

Easy to install - Because asphalt shingles are so common, more roofers are installing them and they're more experienced working with them.

Good for all climates - Although some types of shingles will perform better than others in severe weather, asphalt shingles are lauded for their ability to withstand most climates.

Cons of asphalt shingles

Blow off - Because some asphalt shingles are lightweight, like 3-tab ones, some shingles are known to blow off in high winds. Some are also prone to cracking in colder temperatures.

Short lifespan - The biggest disadvantage to asphalt shingles is their short lifespan. While some luxury and architectural shingles can last 30-50 years, most common roof shingles need to be repaired or replaced every 15-20 years.

Metal roofing

Metal roofing on a residential home

Image source: Ferguson Roofing

While metal roofing systems are often associated with more commercial buildings than residential, the demand for them is increasing in residential homes. Metal roofing is significantly more expensive than asphalt shingles, but its average lifespan and durability are far superior. With asphalt shingles lasting an average of 15-20 years before being replaced, metal roofs can last 80 years or more with low maintenance fees. Let's take a look at several common metal roofing options to see what's best for you.

Aluminum

Aluminum roofing on a residential home

Image source: A-Tex Roofing

Aluminum has many different uses including roofing, siding, and walls. It is one of the more cost-effective options for metal roofing and is also one of the easiest to install. Unlike asphalt shingles, aluminum is resistant to high winds and is also completely recyclable and reusable. Because aluminum does not rust, it could be a good option if you live in a coastal area with severe weather like hail storms or hurricanes.

Average cost: $7-$8 per square foot

Copper

Copper roofing on a residential home

Image source: Citadel

Copper is one of the most expensive roof styles available. But with its lifespan lasting potentially hundreds of years, its high price point is a worthy investment. Copper is entirely recyclable and reflects solar radiant heat, saving you money on energy costs, and helping lower carbon emissions. Copper is a softer metal, which makes it prone to denting in severe weather, making it a better option for dryer, more stable climates.

Average cost: $8-$15 per square foot

Standing seam metal

Standing seam metal roofing on a residential home

Image source: Powell’s Roofing

Unlike other metal roofing materials, standing seam metal panels feature concealed fasteners, which lengthens its lifespan and prevents any kind of leakage. Typically made up of either aluminum, galvanized steel, or zinc, standing seam metal panels are coated with Kynar 500, which prevents it from rusting. While standing seam metal roofs are durable in most weather conditions, they can be noisy in heavy rains if your home isn't properly insulated.

Average cost: $8-$15 per square foot

Steel

Steel roofing on a cottage

Image source: Armadil Group

Steel is another common metal roofing material for both commercial and residential buildings. Though it’s prone to rust when exposed to moisture, steel is often coated with another metal or alloy like zinc, which becomes what’s known as galvanized steel. While steel may not last as long as some other metals, it is also the cheapest option.

Average cost: $5-$6 per square foot

Pros of metal roofing

Long-lasting - Most metal roofing materials can last a significantly long time, lasting more than 50 years.

Environmentally friendly - Metal roofs are mostly made up of recycled materials and are completely recyclable and reusable, unlike asphalt shingles, which usually go to waste.

Durable - Despite the high price point of metal roofing materials, they typically require little to no maintenance. Metal roofs are also often resistant to fire and high winds.

Cons of metal roofing

Expensive - The biggest drawback to metal roofing is the high cost. After installation, metal roofs can cost up to $50,000 or more.

Rust - Though some materials like aluminum do not rust, steel can rust and degrade over time when it's exposed to moisture.

Clay and concrete tile

Clay and concrete roofing tiles are some of the most durable and longest-lasting roofing materials available. While clay and concrete tiles are similar in terms of durability and appearance, they differ in several ways.

Clay tiles

Clay roofing tiles

Image source: Interlock Roofing

Popular among homeowners in the Southwest and Europe, clay tiles can last a lifetime. Made up entirely of Earth minerals, clay roofing tiles are completely recyclable and reflect solar heat. Thanks to its durable material and interlocking design, clay roofing tiles allow water to drain easily, preventing any leakage. Despite clay tile's durability, they are prone to crack in colder temperatures, which makes them a better option for homeowners in warmer climates. Clay tiles are incredibly expensive, but they require little to no maintenance and can last potentially hundreds of years.

Average cost: $1,000 per square

Concrete tiles

Concrete roofing tiles

Image source: Bayfront

Concrete roofing tiles are a cheaper alternative to clay, offering similar protections against severe weather like hurricane winds. Made from water, sand, and cement, concrete also helps reduce landfill waste, and is easily recyclable. Because concrete tiles are extremely heavy, we recommend consulting with a structural engineer before installing them for your home. Concrete also tends to absorb more moisture than clay, which can lead to more maintenance costs and a shorter lifespan.

Average cost: $850 per square

Pros of clay and concrete tiles

Durable - Both clay and concrete roofing tiles are extremely durable, able to withstand hurricane winds, fire and can help increase your home's value.

Environmentally friendly - Made from natural elements and materials, clay and concrete tiles are entirely recyclable, reducing the amount of landfill waste.

Long-lasting - Clay and concrete tiles are some of the longest-lasting roofing materials, with concrete exceeding 50 years, and clay lasting hundreds.

Cons of clay and concrete tiles

Expensive - While clay and concrete tiles may last longer than most roofing materials, they are also among the most expensive. Total installation costs for clay or concrete tile roof can cost you up to $50,000.

Weight - It may not be much of an issue with clay, but concrete is incredibly heavy and it's recommended to check the structural integrity of your home before installation.

Wood shakes and shingles

Set of wooden shingles

Image source: Peak to Peak Roofing

Sometimes nothing beats the warm, alluring appearance of wood. First, it's important to distinguish the difference between wood shakes and shingles. Often found on cape cod style houses, wood shingles are flat on both sides and overlap each other, creating a tight seal. Wood shakes have rougher staggered edges, which can create gaps where moisture can leak through. We recommend installing layers of felt underneath to prevent any kind of leakage. In addition to their striking appearance, wood shakes and shingles are environmentally friendly and can last anywhere from 30-50 years. The only downside to a wooden roof is its high price point and high maintenance, which needs to stay as dry as possible.

Average cost:

  • Wood shakes - $6-$10 per square foot
  • Wood shingles - $5-$10 per square foot

Slate tiles

Slate tiles on a residential home

Image source: Gardenista

Slate is one of the most durable and longest-lasting roof designs. Made up of hard metamorphic rock deriving from clay or volcanic ash, slate tiles are incredibly environmentally and eco friendly. In addition to being fire and water-resistant, slate roofing tiles can help insulate your home, making it a solid option for homeowners in colder climates. While slate is incredibly expensive, it can also last up hundreds of years with little maintenance, and even increase your home's resale value. Installing slate can be a tricky process though, so be sure to find a roofing contractor experienced with slate, and pay attention to where the rocks are quarried.

Average cost: $900 per square

Pros of slate tiles

Durable - Slate is extremely durable, requiring little maintenance. They are also both resistant to fire and water, making them a solid option if you live in a wet, cold climate.

Long-lasting - Slate is one of the longest-lasting roofing materials and can last 100 years or more.

Eco-friendly - In addition to being entirely recyclable and reusable, slate can help insulate your home, lowering energy costs.

Cons of slate tiles

Expensive - There's no way around it, slate is expensive. Installation for a slate roof can cost up to $40,000.

Heavy - Make sure you check with a structural engineer before installing slate tiles, which are incredibly heavy and can damage your home if it's not structurally sound.

Solar tiles

Contractor installing solar tiles on a residential roof

Image source: Inhabitat

If you're looking for a roofing material that uses more renewable energy, solar tiles are a solid option. Installing a solar roof means that you replace the entire existing roof with both active and inactive solar tiles. The active solar tiles provide energy for your home while the inactive solar tiles help protect the roof and give it a uniform appearance so nothing sticks out. While solar tiles can be expensive, you can expect to save up to 60% of energy costs and receive a tax credit. If you're interested in installing Tesla's solar tiles, you'll have to go through a home assessment and receive the proper permits, so expect a wait.

Average cost:

  • Active solar tiles - $2.01 per watt
  • Inactive solar tiles - $7.65 per square foot

Pros of solar tiles

Environmentally friendly - The biggest advantage of installing solar roofing tiles is its ability to use green renewable energy, helping cut down the number of carbon emissions.

Eco-friendly - Because solar tiles are a renewable energy source, you can expect to save a significant amount of money on your utility bills.

Cons of solar tiles

Expensive - The biggest disadvantage of solar tiles is their high price point. Depending on the size of your roof and electricity usage, you can expect to pay close to $30,000 with the roof replacement.

Long wait - Companies like Tesla require a lengthy waitlist which includes a home assessment and required permits. It's also possible that they won't be able to install solar panels depending on where you live.

EPDM rubber

EPDM roofing on a commercial roof

Image source: TEMA Roofing

Commonly referred to as a rubber roof, EPDM, which stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer, is used mostly for low slope roofs. EPDM roofs are lauded for their durable waterproofing material, making them resistant to water, fire, and high winds. While EPDM performs well in severe weather conditions, it is not impact resistant and can puncture from debris. TPO, another rubber material is another solid choice, but it can crack over time. But if you have a flat roof/low-slope roof, rubber is a solid option.

Average cost: $6 per square foot

Pros of EPDM rubber

Weatherproof - Because of its watertight material, EPDM rubber prevents any kind of leakage, is resistant to fire, and performs well in high wind areas.

Eco-friendly - Since most EPDM rubber roofs are mostly black, they reflect UV rays and reduce energy costs.

Cons of EPDM rubber

Fragile - While rubber may be weatherproof, they are not impact proof. EPDM can shrink and degrade over time, weakening the material and falling debris can puncture through.

Which roofing type is right for you?

Choosing the right roofing material can be a difficult decision. Especially when you factor in all the variables like the climate you live in, your roof’s slope or roof shape, your home’s structural integrity, and what you’re willing to spend. Whether it’s the simplicity and cost-effective route of asphalt shingles, or the sophistication and longevity of slate, this guide will help you make the right choice.

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