Types of Roofing: The Ultimate Guide

Posted on: January 28, 2020

It seems so simple at first. Something that covers the top of your house to help shed the water, insulate, and ultimately add to the overall beauty and aesthetic of your home.

Your roof definitely serves a simple purpose, but it’s actually not so straightforward when it comes down to the different types of roofing materials that can be used. And, even though it’s purpose seems uncomplicated, having the right, high-quality roof over your head is critical. 

Quality roofing should save you money on heating and cooling bills, last up to the maximum life expectancy of the roofing materials, and look great while being hassle-free to maintain.   

In this guide, we’re going to break down the different types of roofing that you can invest in and breakdown which work best for specific climates and geographic locations. (It’s important to note before we dive in that not all types of roofing work in every region or environment.)

Let’s dive in and start with the tried and true asphalt shingles!

*average costs don’t always include installation

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles have been a go-to roofing material for years and are extremely popular in areas where the weather is volatile. These shingles are fire-resistant, come in many different colors, and vary in quality. One of the best features of these shingles is that they are easily repairable and can tend to hold up well.

Cost: Depending upon the quality and the style of the shingle, the average price is between $4.50 to $10 per square foot.

Lifespan: Depending upon the climate and the quality of the shingle, you can expect asphalt shingles to last anywhere from 15 – 20 years. It’s also essential to make sure that these types of roofs are inspected from time to time in order for them to reach the full lifespan possible.

Slate

Using slate as a roofing product is a practice that has been around for centuries. Slate first arrived in America in the 16th century, and the first slate quarry opened in 1785. While it isn’t as popular today, it was a state-of-the-art product for some time.

These roofs tend to last slightly longer and have a very distinct look to them. Slate is not a roofing material that you would ever want to try and do yourself. The individual tiles are very heavy and take a well-trained slate roofing expert to install them. The challenge, along with the cost of the material, is why these roofs tend to be much more expensive.

Cost: The cost of a slate roof varies between $11 to $18 per square foot. Again this is just for the material. So it’s definitely a pricey project.

Lifespan: Because we’re paying a little more, we tend to get a longer lifespan. This specific roof is going to be about 60 – 150 years, all depending upon the type of slate and the quality.

Wood Shakes/Shingles

The most self-explanatory product on the market, wood shakes, and wood shingles have been around forever and are a great roofing solution. They are specifically made out of western red cedar, cypress, pine, and redwood. Which material you end up going with depends on your region and budget. These shingles have a very distinct look and do require some regular maintenance.

Compared to a slate shingle that can have little to no maintenance for 50+ years, a wood shake or shingle is going to need to be cleaned, maintained, and treated regularly. For more information on keeping wood shingles well-maintained, check out this blog.

Cost: Wood can tend to be one of the more expensive things to put on your roof and is definitely seen as a luxury in many areas because of the maintenance associated with them. You’re going to be looking at a cost between $7.50 and $11. 

Lifespan: With proper maintenance, these roofs can last up to 30 years but do have a tendency to come up short of that in harsh temperatures or wet climates.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs have been growing more popular in recent years because of their life expectancy and cost-effectiveness. Metal roofing can often be seen on farms, storage facilities, or larger structures. Today, however, it has become more common to use them in residential areas. This type of roof is extremely durable, 100 percent recyclable, and can often be repainted instead of replaced.

One thing to note is that there are many different types of metal roofs. Check out this guide for a more in-depth look at the different types of metal roofing systems.

Cost: The cost varies greatly depending on warranty and quality. You can expect to pay between $7.50 and $17.50 per square foot on average.

Lifespan: While these roofs are said to be able to last a lifetime with proper care (which is very minimal), they tend to have a 50-year warranty.

Copper Roofing

Copper is, in many ways, the perfect roofing material. This is especially true if you enjoy the beautiful and timeless sparkle that this material provides. Copper roofing is almost completely maintenance and repair-free, and this superior roofing material can last centuries upon centuries. It is entirely fire-resistant—as you might have guessed and is very lightweight. This material dramatically increases the value of your home, because of it’s price and longevity of life. Copper roofing is made mostly from recycled material and the roofing itself is completely recyclable at the end of its life making it a  green and sustainable material.

Cost: Such an excellent roofing material comes at a high price. However, there are different grades that can be chosen from which can make it more affordable. On average, people are spending between $16 and $32 per square foot.

Lifespan: As previously stated, these roofs can last for an extremely long time with no maintenance. On average, the less expensive options will last around 50 years while higher-end can last 100+ years!

Tin Roofing

Unlike copper roofing, tin roofing is a steel sheet that is coated in tin. Tin roofing is very strong and, when properly maintained, can compete with the lifespan of other similar products. These products range significantly in cost depending mostly on the type of building and slope of the roof that you have. One of the downsides to a tin roof is the protective coating that needs to be applied every 5-7 years.

Cost: Depending on the building that the roof is being applied to, the cost will run between $9 to $17 per square foot installed.

Lifespan: Most tin roofs will last around 40 years with proper maintenance but can last longer.

Tile Roofing

Spanish style homes tend to boast concrete or clay tiles

You might be familiar with the bright orange color of roofs in the south or on the west coast as your plane approaches the airport in these areas. Tile roofs have traditionally been very heavy but are becoming lighter. They also have a very long life expectancy. The drawback to their attractive design and long life expectancy is the cost of installation—along with the fact that, like slate roofing, tile is very brittle.

Cost: What you pay will significantly range depending on the quality of the product you decide on, but on average, tile tends to run between $14.50 and $24.50. 

Lifespan: High-end clay tiles are going to last anywhere from 75-100 years before needing to be replaced. Lower to mid-range concrete is going to last around 50 years.

Composite Roofing

Composite roofing looks very similar to wood shakes or wood shingles. This type of roofing is made from a mixture of several common roofing materials. In a way, composite is like the hybrid of roofing materials.

Composite roofing tends to last a long time with most materials carrying a warranty from anywhere between 30 to 50 years. Another great thing about composite is that it has a large variety of color options.

Composite roofing can also be an eco-friendly option because of its life expectancy and because it is often made from recycled materials. So, while not being as natural as a wood shake or metal roof, it is still a good option if you’re concerned about the environmental effects of replacing your roof.

Cost: Composite roofs tend to be priced pretty competitively at anywhere from $7.75 to $15.50.

Lifespan: The lifespan of this shingle is dependent on what you’re willing to pay for it. A cheaper option is obviously not going to last quite as long as something that runs more. On average, you can expect to see 15-50+ years depending on the type and quality of composite that you purchase.

Tar and Gravel Roofing

Low slope or flat roofs will often have tar or gravel roofs installed as a cheaper and more simple option for shedding water. Most gravel roofs are on commercial buildings or larger buildings as it’s relatively uncommon to have a single residence home with a flat roof. Often referred to as built-up roofs or BURs, the gravel on these roofs is laid into or on top of the last layer of asphalt to help protect the roof against bad weather.

Cost: These roofs are specialized for a specific type of structure, but they are incredibly cost-effective. A new tar and gravel roof is going to run $4.50 to $6.50 per square foot while replacing a previous roof will run slightly more at $6 to $8 per square foot. These prices do reflect installation.

Lifespan: These roofs tend to last between 20-25 years, depending on the weather conditions that they are subject to. 

Rubber Roofing

What rubber roofing lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in lifespan and cost-effectiveness. Rubber roofing tends to have a longer lifespan and can be a great option if you aren’t bothered by how plain it is. Maintenance tends to be fairly minimal with the need for repainting every 10-12 years. Often times rubber roofs are made from recycled materials and they take less energy to manufacture than other roofing materials. They are also 100% recyclable at the end of their life.

Another great thing about rubber is that it is easy and very cheap to patch or repair the roof if it ever is punctured or begins to leak.

Cost: The cost of rubber roofing is competitive at roughly $6.25 – $8.25 per square foot installed.

Lifespan: Rubber roofing technology is continuing to get better, and because of that, they are now often rated to last at least 50 years on the high-end.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Roofing Material

When you begin to look into different materials for roofing, you have to look beyond the aesthetic appeal of some of the different types of roofing. Sure, the overall curbside appeal of your roof is important, but it needs to be durable as well. You also want to make sure that it makes sense for your budget. The last thing you need is a roof that doesn’t last as long as it should or that costs you more than you need to spend or can afford.

The Weather

If you’ve ever been to Florida or someplace warmer, you might notice that their roofing materials tend to look a little different than the materials that are used in colder climates. In the northern Virginia area, the weather can be very unpredictable and, at times, very taxing on your roofing materials.

Virginia, on average, can expect to see 35-45 inches of annual precipitation. That’s a lot of water coming down in the forms of rain, snow, and ice.

Temperatures in Virginia also can fluctuate from between lows in the 20’s and highs in the 90’s. This makes for a diverse climate that needs a roof to be able to handle it all.

Hazardous Conditions

No roof is going to hold up against really bad storms completely, but a high-quality roof that is installed properly is going to hold up much better than a mid to low quality roof that is installed quickly and carelessly. 

The state of Virginia has tornados, high winds, and potentially even cyclones, and hurricanes. These are unpreventable conditions that aren’t easily prepared for, but it’s critical to do whatever you can.

Lifespan

There is no reason outside of uncontrolled disasters that your roof shouldn’t last at least 15 to 20 years. Different materials have different lifespans, so be sure to discuss with your contractor what is right for you.

Warranty

When considering lifespan it’s also important to check on the warranties offered by the manufacturer of your roofing material or by the contractor. Asking these types of questions can help you guarantee you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Fire Rating

It’s always important that you know the fire rating of your roof. Whether you live in Main or Arizona it’s important to be prepared to face wildfires or house fires. While some roofs such as tile, cement, metal, etc. are all going to be completely resistant, other types of roofing materials—such as wood shakes—can, at times, not be at all fire-resistant. While most modern wood, rubber, and asphalt roofs are going to be treated and manufactured to be fire-resistant, you must know for sure what your roof is going to be able to withstand.

The Future of Roofing

Different types of roofing materials and solutions to roofing are always being improved. Humanity will forever need something to keep the water out and heat in. While the future for roofing materials is very bright, there aren’t any specific products that are better than that which is already on the market.

The future of roofing will see continued improvement in the lifespan of products and, hopefully in the cost as well. It is expected that roofs will continue to need to be stronger as people demand more connectivity and consider putting more dishes and receivers for wifi and data on homes.

Lastly, with the increase in solar energy, we can expect that in areas where it is beneficial, there will be more and more solar panels on top of houses. This may make stylish roofing materials less desirable and undoubtedly will require roofing to have more structural integrity to support the weight it will be bearing. But some designers are working on creating solar shingles to help improve the aesthetic and make solar energy more desirable.

Alternatives to Replacing Your Roof

You might not have known that there are several alternatives to replacing your roof. At WISA we offer options that allow you to repair your existing roof. We do this because we care about you, the customer, and want to make sure that you’re being taken care of. Everything from repairing to replacing is right up our alley, and we’re happy to inspect your roof to make sure that everything is taken care of.

Choosing the Right Contractor

Finding the right material for your roof is only half the battle. The second half of the battle is finding the right contractor. If you’re in the market for a new roof or if you’re not sure when the last time your roof was replaced, then we would love it if you reached out to us!

Not only do we want to help you find the best solution to your roofing needs, but we want to help you better understand what is going to be best for your home. It’s important to us that you find the right fit for your project.

Give us a call at 703.337.4344 or fill out this form on our website to start setting up your free consultation. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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