Your roof carries a lot of responsibility. Its job is to protect your home and everything inside. Bad roofing materials can quickly damage the walls, siding, insulation, and wreak havoc on your foundation. The roofing materials you choose are a major source of insulation keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Whether your home is a brand-new craftsman or a 100-year-old farmhouse, if you want to protect your home, you must start with choosing the right materials for your roof.

Types of Roofs 

There are two overarching types of roofing: residential and commercial. 

  1. Residential Roofing: Drive through your neighborhood you’ll likely see a variety of different roof types. A roof doesn’t usually draw a lot of attention. Shingles or tile appear to be a simple covering. However, the components and structure of residential roofing is much more complex.
  2. Commercial Roofing: Commercial roofing tends to have a low slope or may be entirely flat. Because a commercial building is typically much larger than a residential roof, the materials and installation methods used are often different.

Types of Roofing Materials 

Within both residential and commercial roofing, there are several roofing materials to choose from. Each roofing material has unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.

1. Asphalt Shingles: Welcome to the most common residential roofing material. Shingles are popular for good reason. They are affordable, easy to install, and can be repaired without replacing the entire roof.

Asphalt Shingle Styles

  • 3-tab shingles: This is one large piece of material that looks like three separate shingles. It is a very popular shingle style and the most budget-friendly choice.
  • Architectural shingles: Architectural shingles use multiple layers of material to actually create a dimensional look laid piece by piece.
  • Luxury shingles: If you’re looking to add more visual interest to your roof, these shingles often imitate the look of wood shake or clay tiles.

 Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Asphalt comes in a variety of colors, is widely available, easy to install, and is one of the least expensive materials. 
  • Cons: Overall, asphalt has a shorter life span than other roofing materials and they can be damaged from hail and strong winds. 

Cost: The low-end cost of a shingle roof is about $4/square foot. This is with builders-grade shingles, no penetrations or valleys, and a one-story home. The higher end costs land about $7 per square foot. This would be for a two-story house, a complex roof, and luxury shingles.

Longevity: If maintained properly, asphalt shingles can last between 20-30 years. However, this is the exception and not necessarily the rule. Particularly high heat and storm damage often requires replacement closer to 10-15 years. 

Best For: Asphalt shingles are ideal for cool weather areas because they draw in heat. They are fine for humid and cold regions of the county as long as they are treated with algaecides.

2. Wood Shingles and Shakes: Wood shingles or shakes add a naturally beautiful touch to any roof and lasts longer than asphalt shingles. However, they are high maintenance, and can be a fire hazard.

 Different Types of Grains in Wood Shakes And Shingles

  • Edge Grain: This is the highest quality wood shingle cut perpendicular to the tree rings giving it more durability and strength.
  • Flat Grain: Cut parallel to the ring, these are cheaper but also more likely to split over time.
  • Slash Grain: When the piece is cut at an angle to the tree’s rings and is the cheapest and least desirable.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Wood gives a beautiful authentic look that can’t be replicated. Additionally, wood can provide twice the insulation as asphalt shingles.
  • Cons: Wood requires more maintenance and can be prone to molding, splitting, or rotting. In some areas, fire codes actually prohibit the use of wood shingles.

Cost: The cost can range between $6 and $10 per square foot, mostly depending on the cut and the type of wood. 

Longevity: Cedar shingles can last over 30 years, but they must be installed correctly and maintained correctly whenever they are exposed to rain or snow. 

Best For: Wood shingles are best used in colder areas that don’t experience a lot of fire danger or humidity in the summer. 

3. Slate Shingles: Natural slate roofing shingles are made from real rock and stone. They are extremely durable and can last for over 100 years.

Types of slate roofs

  • Standard uniform slate roof: This is the most common, where all tiles are cut the same length and width.
  • Patterned slate roof: There are various designs you can use to create a pattern slate roof that is a focal point of the home.
  • Hang-down staggered slate roof: This is a very rough, authentic look with various colors, textures, and widths of slates with rough bottoms creating a rugged appearance.
  • Textural slate roof: Similar to the hang-down, but more rustic and uneven with overlapping sections and different sizes and thicknesses throughout.
  • Graduated length slate roof: This is a detailed pattern where the eaves of the roof hold larger slates and the thinner slates are placed on top.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Slate is naturally impervious to moisture, insects, fire, and weather. It is also eco-friendly.
  • Cons: Slate is expensive and heavy. Therefore, it requires extra fortified framing and professional installation.

Cost: Slate is more expensive than other materials, starting at $9 per square foot, ranging up to over $15 per square foot depending on the quality of materials and labor costs. 

Longevity: Slate will last a lifetime, even multiple lifetimes. Hard slate will last anywhere from 75 to 200 years, soft slate will last between 50 to 125 years. 

Best For: Sturdy homes. The home has to be built to withstand the weight of slate. Because of its durability, slate can be used anywhere. 

4. Metal Roofing: Metal roofing has recently spiked in popularity throughout residential neighborhoods due to its durability, longevity, and unique style.

Types of Metal Roofing: There are several different types of metal roofing using a variety of metal materials. 

  • Steel Roofing: Most standing seam metal roofing falls in this category and is an alloy of iron and other elements.
  • Aluminum Roofing: Lightweight and strong, but less style options and prone to denting.
  • Copper Metal Roofing: Beautiful and unique, but more expensive than other metals.
  • Corrugated Metal Panel Roofing: Usually only used on smaller structures like a shed or small outbuilding.
  • Zinc Roofing: Similar to copper, used more commonly in Europe because of the cost.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Metal roofing is extremely durable. It lasts longer than asphalt or wood while offering high solar reflectance.
  • Cons: Metal roofing is relatively expensive, but is coming down in price and is still cheaper than slate.

Cost: Metal ranges in cost between $5 and $14 per square foot for a standing seam metal roof. Aluminum or corrugated would be much less while copper would be much more. 

Longevity: Most metal roofs will come with a 30-year warranty, but most will actually outlive their warranties and last 50 years or more. 

Best For: A metal roof is great in any climate. They tolerate both hot and cold temperatures and are strong enough to stand up to storms. 

5. Clay Tile: Clay tiles are reinforced for strength and durability and have a natural thermal resistance which makes them a strong contender for an eco-friendly building material.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Clay tile is durable, environmentally friendly, and very energy-efficient. It is also naturally resistant to fire and insects.
  • Cons: Installation of clay tile roofs is difficult and expensive. They are also more susceptible to breakage than other materials.

Cost: Clay tile roofs are one of the most expensive, at between $10 to $18 dollars per square foot. 

Longevity: Most manufacturers will offer a 30-year warranty on their tile roofing. However, most roofs outlive that and can remain durable for up to 60 years or longer. 

Best For: Clay tile roofs are particularly suited to homes in hot and humid climates in Spain and the Mediterranean, or just southwestern style homes. 

6. Concrete Tile: Concrete tile roofing is manufactured with a unique blend of ingredients that maintains the strength of concrete but keeps the material lightweight and easy to work with.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Concrete tiles are completely weather-proof in any climate. They require very minimal maintenance and are pest-resistant.
  • Cons: Although lighter than typical concrete, this roofing material is still heavy and expensive to install.

Cost: The cost of a concrete roof varies greatly, but you can expect the total cost to be at least $20,000 and may exceed $40,000.

Longevity: Concrete tile rivals clay tile in longevity, lasting at least 50 years. With the right underlayment and quality installation, concrete roofing material may last over 100 years. 

Best For: Concrete roofing can be used anywhere, but it is particularly well-suited to warm climates because it doesn’t absorb heat very quickly.  

7. Rubber Roof: For commercial buildings with low-sloped or flat roofs, roofers often use rolled roofing materials called a rubber roof.

Rubber Roofing Applications

  • Flat and Low-Sloped Roofs: Shingles don’t work well on a flat-roof because the water doesn’t shed off as easily, this is the most common application of rubber roofing.
  • On Top of Your Shingled Roof: To extend the life of your roof, you can install rubber roofing on top of your existing shingles.
  • Fixing a Metal Roof: Topping a metal roof with rubber roofing can extend the life of your roof without tearing off and starting over.

Types of Rubber Roofing Material 

  • EPDM: Stands for Ethylene propylene diene terpolymer. It was the original rubber roof and continues to have a great reputation for durability.
  • TPO: TPO is an acronym for Thermoplastic Polyolefin, which is the primary chemical composition of most rubber roofing materials.
  • PVC: This is a great material for rubber roofing because it is lightweight, reflective and is particularly weather resistant.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Rubber roofing is cost-effective, eco-friendly, fire-resistant, and lowers the energy costs of large commercial buildings.
  • Cons: Rubber is plain, and doesn’t have any design or color options. Over time, it will age and become vulnerable to damage.

Cost: A rubber roof will start around $5 per square foot and may increase up to $8 per square foot. The overall cost will mostly depend on the type of material and size of the roof. 

Longevity: When installed correctly, rubber roofing can last between 20-25 years. 

Best For: Rubber roofing can perform well in both hot and cold climates as it is very weather-resistant. 

8. Built-up Roofing (BUR): Built-up roofing or BUR is one of the oldest systems still in use today. It uses a combination of bitumen and fabric to create layers of membrane that are both cost effective and durable.

Types of BUR

  • Ballasted Asphalt Built-Up: This is essentially asphalt blasted on the roof’s surface without anchoring on the roof surface.
  • Cold Built-Up: A cold built-up roof is bitumen applied using a squeegee to the surface of the deck and doesn’t produce toxic fumes.
  • Hot Built-Up: A hot built-up roof uses liquefied bitumen and is the most difficult installation process.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: BUR is less expensive, easier to repair and has lower maintenance than other materials. It is also naturally fire-resistant and impact-resistant.
  • Cons: In some applications, BUR can produce toxic fumes. It takes time to install, and over time the surface can fade.

Cost: The cost of rubber roofing may be anywhere from $5 to $8 per square foot. That cost can increase based on the type of materials and installation. 

Longevity: If properly installed and maintained, a commercial built-up roof can last 40 years.

Best For: While a BUR roof can be used in any climate, it typically lasts longer in a warmer climate. 

9. Rolled Roofing: This is a thinner material that is fast, convenient, and inexpensive but typically only used for small, low-slope outbuildings like shops and sheds.

Types of Rolled Roofing

  • Bitumen Rolled Roofing: Similar to asphalt roofing, provides the best longevity in rolled roofing

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: It is a low-cost, easy-to-use option that is light, compact, and installs quickly.
  • Cons: Rolled roofing is somewhat limited in design, lacks curb appeal and has poor resale value.

Cost: The price of rolled roofing is less than $1 per square foot. It is a cheap roofing option for temporary or small-scale applications. 

Longevity: Rolled roofing typically only lasts about 10 years or so, which is why it’s not used on large scale buildings. 

Best For: Rolled roofing is best for hot climates, even though it does absorb heat, it does not easily get damaged by UV rays.

10. Solar Shingles: Solar shingles are essentially solar panels built designed to look and act like traditional shingles.

Types of Solar Cells

  • Solar Shingles: Thin, rigid shingles in a frame installed in line with existing roofing materials.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: Solar shingles are beautiful and seamlessly fit in with traditional shingles. They are durable and require very little maintenance.
  • Cons: Solar roofing materials are expensive, have limited styles and take time to install.

Cost: Total installation cost for solar shingles is typically $60,000 – $75,000, but can pay for itself over time in energy costs. 

Longevity: Most solar shingles have a lifespan of 25-30 years. Over time they produce less power and will need to be replaced to continue energy savings. 

Best For: Typically, solar shingles work best only on south facing roofs due to the amount of sunshine necessary to recoup costs. 

11. Green Roofs: One of the seven wonders of the world is a green roof, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Today’s green roof, or “living roof” is partially or completely covered with vegetation.

Pros and Cons 

  • Pros: There are seemingly endless benefits to a green roof including improved drainage and thermal performance. Supporting wildlife and air quality and an increased lifespan of the roof itself.
  • Cons: Setting up a green roof is a very expensive project and requires proper maintenance. If not done correctly, it can be vulnerable to leaking into the building.

Cost: The initial costs of green roofs are more expensive, but their long-term maintenance can be drastically lower than other commercial options. 

Longevity: A green roof is set up on top of another roofing material. When done correctly, it protects the roofing material and can double the lifespan of the material used underneath. 

Best For: Green roofs can be used almost anywhere because they can be customized for any region they are used. 

Complete Roofing Material Comparison Chart

Still confused as to what roofing materials are best for you? We understand. Sometimes it helps to see the pros and cons of each material side-by-side. This chart shows how each material stacks up against the competition. 

CategoryRoof Material TypeInstallation CostsRoof LifespanRoof ShapePopularity
Asphalt3-Tab$1.00 – $2.00/sqr ft20 – 25 yearsSlopedCommon
AsphaltArchitectural$1.50 – $3.50/sqr ft30 – 35 yearsSlopedCommon
AsphaltLuxury Shingle$4.25 – $6.00/sqr ft30 – 50 yearsSlopedUncommon
WoodCedar Shingles$5.50 – $10.50/sqr ft20 – 40 yearsSlopedCommon
WoodCedar Shingles$7.50 – $12.50/sqr ft30 – 50 yearsSlopedCommon
MetalStanding Seam$9.00 – $14.00/sqr ft40 – 75 yearsSlopedCommon
MetalAluminum$7.00 – $9.00/sqr ft30 – 50 yearsSlopedUncommon
MetalCopper$14.00 – $22.00/sqr ft70 – 100 yearsSlopedRare
MetalZinc$11.00 – $20.00/sqr ft70 – 100 yearsSlopedRare
TileSlate Tile$24.00 – $65.00/sqr ft90 – 200 yearsSlopedRare
TileClay Tile$10.00 – $18.00/sqr ft70 – 100 yearsSlopedCommon
TileConcrete Tile$9.00 – $12.00/sqr ft70 – 100 yearsSlopedUncommon
MembraneRubber Roofing (EPDM)$6.00 – $8.00/sqr ft25 – 30 yearsFlatCommon
MembraneTPO$3.50 – $7.50/sqr ft15 – 20 yearsFlatCommon
MembranePVC$6.50 – $8.50/sqr ft20 – 25 yearsFlatCommon
Built-UpBUR$2.50 – $5.00/sqr ft20 – 30 yearsFlatCommon
RolledRolled Roofing$1.50 – $2.50/sqr ft10 – 12 yearsFlatCommon
EcoSolar Shingles$21.00 – $25.00/sqr ft20 – 25 yearsSlopedUncommon
EcoGreen Roof$10.00 – $50.00/sqr ft5 – 40 yearsVariousRare

FAQs About Materials Used on Commercial and Residential Roof

Asphalt is the cheapest of all roofing materials on the market next to rolled roofing, which isn’t a viable option for full-size buildings. 

Concrete, clay, or slate tile all tie for first place in longevity. While metal roofing is a close second, these natural materials tend to last longer. 

If you’re concerned about weight, metal roofing material is the way to go. Metal roofs weigh in at the lowest mass among all roofing materials while excelling in durability.

There is no shortage of variety, innovation, and styles of roofing materials. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when shopping for a brand-new build or a roof replacement. It is important to decide what’s best for your home and your wallet.

There is no shortage of roofing options available to you. You can select your material, color, and style, depending on your needs, budget, and personal preferences. If you’re unsure of what material is best in your area, a local roofing contractor can help you make the best decision for your home.  

Determining The Right Roofing Material For Your Home

There are times where certain roofing materials will provide a distinct benefit you should take advantage of. For example, if you’re building a cabin in the woods, the fire resistance of metal or stone is hard to beat. On the other hand, if you are looking for the best bang for your buck, asphalt shingles might be the way to go. Many times it boils down to getting the best quality materials that fit within your budget.  For more information on the best materials in your area, contact the pros at Perfect Steel Solutions today!