Each roofing shingle type gives a unique appearance to your roof and adds to the curb appeal of your home overall. But looks aren’t the only thing to consider when deciding to replace a roof on an existing structure or figuring out what type of roof you should have if custom building a house.
You need to know what type of shingle is most appropriate for use on your roof type as well as the pros and cons of each shingle type before you make a decision.
Here are some other questions you need to consider:
- What are the costs and life span for this product?
- What does the warranty cover?
- How many colors and styles do the shingles come in?
- Are there any special installation issues?
- What type of upkeep and maintenance do these shingles require?
- How heavy is the material? Does it require special or reinforced framing?
- Do these shingles meet local fire codes?
- How do these shingles hold up in the weather conditions common in your area?
The type of shingles available to the homeowner is numerous, so let’s go into more detail about the several types below.
Not only are asphalt shingles the most common roofing material in the United States, they are one of the most popular and easy to install. Asphalt shingles can be made
with fiberglass or cellulose and come in a variety of colors and shapes.
The most common residential roofing material used in the United States, asphalt shingles are popular because they are economical and easy to install.
Materials: Asphalt shingles are made of either fiberglass–which is more fire and moisture resistant–or an organic paper fiber mat, which is better for wind resistance and colder temperatures. Both of these shingle types are combined with asphalt and coated with mineral granules. They are best for fairly low to steeper sloped roofs.
Durability & Lifespan: Most asphalt shingles last from 15 to 25 years. The materials these shingles are made of make them vulnerable to mold and algae. Asphalt shingles have good fire resistance and fair wind resistance.
Appearance: The majority of asphalt shingles are available in traditional 3-tab shingles or thicker laminated architectural” shingles, usually in black, gray or brown. The most common shape for asphalt shingles is rectangular, although other shapes are available at a higher cost.
Cost: Asphalt shingles are one of the more popular shingle types due to the low cost of materials and installation.
Eco-friendly? Made using petroleum based products, asphalt shingles are not considered to be environmentally friendly. Asphalt shingles can be recycled, although many communities do not have the facilities available. Most builders dispose of asphalt shingles by taking them to landfills.
Advantages: Asphalt shingles are the least expensive types of shingles to install and have good fire and wind resistance. Since asphalt roofing is the most popular type in the United States, it is easy to find an experienced roofer to install and maintain your roof. Asphalt shingles can be repaired or replaced by an experienced DIY homeowner.
Disadvantages: The materials asphalt shingles are made of make them susceptible to mold and algae as
Metal roofing is another option when replacing your roof or when building a home.
Materials: Metal roofing comes in either solid metal panels or metal shingles. It can be made from a variety of materials—copper, tin, aluminum, galvanized stainless steel or zinc. Metal roofs are ideal for homes with flat or steep rooflines. Metal roofs tend to be light-weight and usually will not require any special framing or re-enforcement to install.
Durability & Lifespan: Properly installed, metal roofs are resistant to fire, mildew, insects and rot. They are good for keeping out water, shedding snow and resisting high winds. One of the advantages of metal roofing is its longevity. Metal roofs can last between 40 to 70 years depending the type of metal material they are made from.
Appearance: These metals give you a variety of options to choose from based on what style, durability and price point you’re seeking.
Cost: Although the lifespan of metal roofing will save you money in the long run, it’s initial costs can be higher than other roofing materials like asphalt shingles.
Eco-friendly? Metal roofing is one of the best options for those wanting to make their homes “green.” When it comes to energy efficiency, a metal roof is beneficial because it reflects the sun’s rays and reduces cooling costs. Metal roofing is also environmentally friendly because not only does it contain up to 40 percent recycled material, but also is 100 percent recyclable itself.
Advantages: Because metal roofs are non-combustible, they are given a Class A (most resistant) fire rating. They have a long lifespan and are one of the most eco-friendly roofing materials. There are a lot options available for color and materials.
Disadvantages: Upfront costs can be expensive. Metal roofing materials install in large panels can be difficult to replace if damaged when compared to individual shingles. Can be noisy during heavy rain or hail when compared to asphalt, wood, tile or slate shingles.
Commonly seen in the southwestern United State and in colonial Spanish architecture, tile shingles are some of the most expensive roofing materials to purchase and install. Tile shingles are not recommended for low pitched roofs or flat roofs.
Materials: Although traditionally made from clay, the majority of tiles seen on the market today are concrete, which is cheaper to manufacture and can be made into almost any color or shape. Concrete tiles also tend to be lighter weight and less expensive to purchase than clay.
Durability & Lifespan: Tile is fire resistant and will not rot or be destroyed by insects, mold or algae. With proper installation, they are able to withstand severe weather conditions and are suitable for all climates.
Concrete tile roofs can last 50 years or more, with clay tile roofs known to last more than 100 years. Most manufacturer warranty the tile for a minimum of 50 years.
Appearance: The majority of tile roofs come in the rounded shape often seen on Spanish-style homes, but homeowners willing to pay more have the option of a variety of custom shapes and colors.
Costs: While tile can be an expensive material, homeowners are really paying for the labor and installation of the shingles, which are difficult and time-consuming to install. If the previous roofing on your house was a different material—metal or asphalt shingles—you will most likely have to pay for extra support to be added to your roof.
If you decide on a tile roof, make sure that the contractor you hire is experienced in installing them.
Eco-friendly? When it comes to being eco-friendly, clay and concrete roof tiles are a great choice. They are made from naturally occurring materials and manufactured without chemical preservatives. Old tiles can be easily recycled to make new tiles or other products.
Roof tiles are known for their energy efficiency and cooling properties in warm weather—hence their popularity in the southwestern United States and the Mediterranean—but their thermal capacity is also great for producing constant temperatures in colder weather, which can reduce ice accumulation.
Advantages: Clay and concrete tiles are non-combustible, long lasting and environmentally friendly. Their shape and color can be customized to suit different architectural styles or simulate other materials.
Disadvantages: The initial costs for tile roofs can be expensive and installation is time consuming and labor intensive. Walking on tile roofs can break the shingles, making it more difficult for a homeowner to do maintenance tasks like cleaning or painting rain gutters. The weight of the tiles may require the cost of installing extra supports.
Other Shingle Types
Slate and wood are also used as roofing material, but are more common on historic buildings (slate) or in extremely dry climates (wood) due to expense and maintenance issues.
This material is especially popular in the Northeastern portion of the United States, because the slate from which the shingles are made is quarried there.
Advantages: Made from a type of stone, slate shingles are extremely durable, with a life span of up to 50 years or more. Many historical buildings still have some or part of their original shingle roofs. Manufactures also offer a synthetic slate product, which looks similar in appearance, but has a slightly shorter life span.
Real slate is a natural building material and only requires minimal processing to turn it into roofing, which makes it a good choice for homeowners wanting to be “green.”
Disadvantages: Slate shingles are thin, but extremely heavy when they are together as an entire roof. These shingles are difficult to install, which means that those wanting a slate shingled roof will pay a premium for the shingles to be installed by a skilled crafts person.
Although many people appreciate the look of a slate shingle roof, there are no choices when it comes to appearance outside of the natural grey, black or brown color of the stone.
Wood shingles are known to be more aesthetically appealing because of their natural appearance. These shingles are typically made or cedar or redwood.
Advantages: If you choose a hardwood, such as cedar or redwood, the shingles should last at least 30 years and sometimes as long as 50 years, depending on a variety of factors, weather being one of the most influential.
Wood shingles also are great for curb appeal, since they have a distinct and attractive look.
Disadvantages: Wood shingles are not good in environments that receive large amounts of rain or snow, because they are susceptible to mold, mildew and rot. These types of shingles also tend to be expensive to purchase and install.
Many cities have zoning laws that don’t allow wood shingle roofs because wood shingles have low fire resistance.
Other Factors to Consider
Roofing options are numerous, but it’s important to remember that there are other factors to consider besides cost and durability.
Some types of roofing may be better suited to your house than others. Factors such as the strength of your framing and the slope of your roof can limit your choices, as can the zoning laws and types of roofing allowed in your community.
If you live in an are prone to hurricanes or wildfires, you will want to look for a product that has a high fire rating or is known for good wind resistance.
Start deciding on the type of roofing that you want by talking with local roofers and asking about the options that they offer. This will give you a baseline to work from and should help you narrow down your options!