Choosing the Right Roofing Material for Your Home

shingle roof on residential home
October 9, 2023

Your home’s roof is a critical feature that protects the interior from the harsh outdoor environment. Beyond that, your roof also contributes to your home’s overall appearance. When building a house or updating your roof, you’ll have numerous materials to choose between. Each type of residential roof offers unique benefits and drawbacks. The design of your roof may also support or limit a certain type of roofing material being used.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Roofing Material

The best roofing material for homes depends on the situation. Every home is different — take your time to choose the roofing material that’s right for you. You can narrow your list by considering these important factors:

  • Durability and longevity: Some roofing materials are more robust than others and will last longer.
  • Weather performance: Your roofing material should withstand common environmental conditions in your region throughout its intended life span.
  • Aesthetics: Roofing materials are available in various styles and colors, so choose one that complements your home’s architecture.
  • Energy efficiency: Your roof should aid your home’s air conditioning and heating systems by forming a tight seal between the inside and outside. Ventilation will also play a role in the cooling of attic space. Attic insulation will help prevent hot and cold air from going into the home or building from above. Some roofs utilize “above deck” insulation to achieve this, but the proper R-Value (insulation) must be achieved to comply with residential and commercial code.
  • Maintenance needs: Regular maintenance is key to any roof’s health. Some roofs are more expensive to maintain due to the cost of materials and the frequency with which they require maintenance.
  • Safety: Your roof should provide sufficient protection against debris and fire, especially if your region is prone to severe storms.
  • Noise reduction: A dense roof will block noise on its way in and out of your home. Consider noise-resistant roofing options if you live near highways or highly populated areas.
  • Cost: Financial considerations are always a factor, so select a roofing material that fits within your budget. Consider installation costs and ongoing maintenance costs when comparing materials.

Understanding Different Types of Roofing Materials

The material you choose for your roof will impact everything from appearance to environmental performance and ongoing costs. Some of the most common types of residential roofs include:

  • Asphalt shingles
  • Metal roofing
  • Wood shingles or shake
  • Tile roofing
  • Slate roofing
  • Roof membranes such as TPO, EPDM, PVC and Modified Bitumen

Pros and Cons of Each Roofing Material

Each of the most common types of residential roofs and roofing materials offers situational benefits.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are overlapping fiberglass rectangles that feature an asphalt or mineral coating. As one of the most common types of roofing material, you’ll see them on homes in every part of the United States. Like any material, asphalt shingles have benefits and drawbacks:

  • Advantages of asphalt shingles: Asphalt shingles are simple in design and structure. As a result, they are an affordable, easy-to-install and stylistically flexible choice. Their simplicity allows asphalt shingles to blend with any home style, and numerous shades are available.
  • Disadvantages of asphalt shingles: The main drawbacks are their low strength and longevity. Asphalt shingles may come loose or fall off during harsh weather — a trait that builds over time. Their color may also gradually fade.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs feature aluminum or steel panels. The panels run vertically along the roof’s surface. Other considerations include:

  • Advantages of metal roofing: Metal is a strong roofing material that resists damage from harsh weather and flying debris. The durability ensures longevity with minimal maintenance requirements. Metal roofs can also reflect sunlight, potentially reducing cooling costs.
  • Disadvantages of metal roofing: The advantages that metal roofs offer come with a higher upfront cost than materials like asphalt. Metal roofs are also louder than others during rain and may require special insulation to help limit this. Although many like the “tin roof” sound and decide against trying to limit the sound of rain on the roof.

Wood Shingles or Shakes

Wood roofing encompasses natural woods like cedar and redwood. Manufacturers turn the wood into either shingles or shakes. Shingles come from wooden sheets that are sawed at each end to form a uniform rectangular shape. Shakes are sawn on one side but split on the other. Explore these materials’ pros and cons:

  • Advantages of wood shingles and shakes: Wood shakes and shingles are popular for their natural appearance, which enhances a home’s exterior design. There are different types of wood to choose from and several roofing styles that let the wood shine. These materials may also be energy-efficient roofing options that reduce heat transfer.
  • Disadvantages of wood shingles and shakes: Wood roofing can warp or fade from years of environmental exposure. As a result, wood shingles and shakes require frequent maintenance. Wood is also more flammable than other roofing materials, so many homeowners apply fire-resistant coatings to reduce risk.

Tile Roofing

Tile roofing is similar to shingles and shakes but without the overlapping element. Tiles rest side by side across the entire roof. Most roof tiles feature either slate, concrete or clay. These materials have their own unique considerations:

  • Advantages of tile roofing: Roofing tiles are durable and weather resistant, allowing them to last 50 to 100 years with minimal maintenance needs. Homeowners can also customize their roofs with tiles available in numerous sizes, shapes and colors.
  • Disadvantages of tile roofing: Roofing tiles are heavy compared to other materials, so the roof often requires additional support to hold the tiles. While roofing tiles are durable, they are weak to hard contact and heavy force. Replacing roofing tiles is somewhat expensive, as is the initial purchase price. Color options are also fairly limited.

Slate Roofing

Slate roofing comes from a natural rock similar to shale. Though durable, slate is brittle, breaking easily into small pieces that manufacturers can use to create roofing tiles. Weigh these pros and cons:

  • Advantages of slate roofing: Slate roofing offers a long life span thanks to its water, flame and weather resistance. After installing a slate roof, it should require little maintenance while looking and performing as it should for upwards of a century.
  • Disadvantages of slate roofing: Slate is on the upper end of the price scale for roofing materials. Additionally, it is heavy and weighs on the roof’s structure. The fragility that simplifies the manufacturing process also leaves individual pieces susceptible to breaking. Installation and maintenance require professional work.

Roof Membranes

A roof membrane is a watertight cover over the existing roofing material. There are a few common types of roof membranes, two of them being ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). EPDM is a type of rubber that roofing companies apply over the entire roof in large sheets. PVC is a type of plastic that can become a single-ply membrane over the roof. Both materials have advantages and disadvantages:

  • Advantages of roof membranes: A roof membrane can offer high-level weather resistance over a 30- to 50-year period. EDPM membranes especially can resist mold and mildew to reduce maintenance needs.
  • Disadvantages of roof membranes: Roof membranes are vulnerable to certain types of damage. An EDPM roof may puncture, so reducing foot traffic on their surfaces is important. PVC membranes may expand and contract as temperatures fluctuate, causing stress on the seams. Membranes also offer fewer design options than other materials, and custom coloration is possible but can require frequent upkeep.

Contact RoofAid USA

RoofAid USA installs and services roofs in parts of Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. We offer numerous residential roofing material options and have a staff willing to help you decide between them. Please contact us online for more on our roofing services.