There are many types of roofing materials to choose from, including asphalt composite shingles, metal shingles, wood shakes, and clay tile. And rather than simply going with the option you previously had, you might want to consider a longer-lasting or more modern roofing material. Choosing the right type of roofing requires that you weigh appearance, longevity, roofing material prices, and structural issues.
Here are 12 types of roofing materials to consider when it comes time to replace your roof.
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How Much Does Replacing a Roof Cost?
The cost of a roof replacement can vary widely. The three main factors it depends on are the type of roofing material you choose, the price of labor, and the size and shape of your roof. The average cost of a roof replacement nationwide is $8,314. The typical cost range is between roughly $5,500 and $11,000.
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- Average cost of rolled roofing: $1.50 to $2.00 per square foot
Rolled roofing material is the mainstay of low-slope residential roofs as well as outbuildings like shops, sheds, and other utilitarian structures. Rolled roofing consists of long rolls of mineral-impregnated and asphalt-impregnated material topped with mineral granules. Each roll is about 100 square feet of roofing and about 3 feet wide.
Rolled roofing is one of the cheapest roofing materials, but it doesn't offer much aesthetic value. The large, thin strips offer a fast and convenient way to cover a sloped-roof building like a workshop where appearances aren't important. It can be applied either with the torch-down method or with roofing nails.
On average, rolled roofing lasts about 5 to 8 years before it needs to be replaced.
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Built-Up Roofing (BUR)
- Average cost of built-up roofing: $2.50 to $5 per square foot
Built-up roofing (BUR) is one of the oldest types of roofing materials for flat roofs or low-pitch roofs. BUR systems are constructed with several layers of roofing felt impregnated with asphalt that is applied hot.
The felt is applied in overlapping layers to form a barrier two to four layers thick. Then, a layer of finely crushed stone is embedded in hot tar over the top to create a very durable and impenetrable roof.
A properly installed BUR roof can last 20 to 30 years.
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- Average cost of membrane roofing: $4 to $8 per square foot
Another type of roofing material for flat roofs or very low-pitch roofs is a membrane roof. There are several types of membrane that can be used, including:
- Neoprene (polychloroprene)
- EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer)
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
- Chlorinated polyethylene and chlorosulfonated polyethylene sheets
- Polymer-modified bitumens
One of the best membranes is EPDM. EPDM is a synthetic roofing material often referred to as "rubber roofing." It is similar to rolled asphalt roofing in that it is applied in large sheets that limit the number of seams where water can infiltrate.
The lifespan is typically 20 to 35 years or more when the roof is properly maintained.
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Asphalt Composite Shingles
- Average cost of asphalt composite shingles: $1.50 to $4.50 or more per square foot
Asphalt composite shingles are the most popular roofing material in North America. Made from a fiberglass base topped with asphalt and mineral granules or cellulose covered with asphalt, these three-tab shingles are an all-around good choice for most home roofing needs. The fiberglass asphalt shingles are a fairly lightweight but also durable roofing material. The organic asphalt shingles are heavier but still durable. Composite shingles excel at flexing and adapting to a roof's movements due to expansion and contraction.
They typically come with a 20- to 30-year warranty, and replacing individual shingles that are damaged is a fairly easy job. Plus, virtually every roofing company is familiar with installing these singles.
Depending on the quality of the shingles and the conditions, the lifespan of the roof can range from 12 to 30 years.
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Standing Seam Metal Roofing
- Average cost of standing seam metal roofing: $10 to $16 per square foot
The most common type of metal roof is the standing seam roof—so named because the aluminum or steel roofing panels meet in raised seams that interlock to keep moisture out. Metal roofs of all kinds are increasingly popular in regions with heavy snowfall or where there is danger of wildfires, as this durable roofing material is fireproof.
Metal is also a long-lasting type of roof, and it's recyclable when it finally does wear out. But installation requires special skills, and not every roofing company is prepared to install a standing seam metal roof.
Metal roofs commonly last 30 to 50 years, but some have been known to last 75 years.
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- Average cost of metal shingles: $8 to $16 or so per square foot
For homeowners who do not like the look of standing seam metal roofs but want the advantages of metal, there are steel or aluminum shingles or shakes available.
Made from stamped metal and finished with either a high-quality baked-on coating or mineral granules, metal shingles can be fabricated to look very much like traditional asphalt shingles, wooden shakes, or even slate or clay tiles. They are an excellent choice where appearance is a critical concern but you still want a durable and long-lasting roofing material.
Metal shingles and shakes can last 30 to 50 years.
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- Average cost of wood shingles/shakes: $4.50 to $9 per square foot (shingles); $6.50 to $14 per square foot (shakes)
Wood roofs are very attractive, but they are also quite expensive and have limitations. They are not as long-lived as some other roofing materials, and they are a poor choice in areas that get lots of moisture or where wildfires are a danger. Still, they are among the most attractive roofing materials, which makes them a popular choice for luxury homes.
Although both are made from natural wood, usually cedar (typically found on Cape Cod-style homes) or redwood, there is a difference between wood shakes and shingles. Shingles are typically thin, wedge-shaped slabs of wood that are produced by precise sawing. Shakes are produced by splitting wood, and they are thicker wedges with a rougher texture.
Longevity depends on circumstances and maintenance. In relatively dry climates, a wood shingle or shake roof can last 60 years; in damp conditions, you might only get 20 to 30 years from the roof.
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- Average cost of clay tile: $10 to $18 per square foot (though more uncommon ceramic tiles can run as much as $30 per square foot)
Clay tile is made from earthen clays molded into rolled or interlocking shapes and fired for hardness. It is often left unglazed, with the characteristic reddish-orange color. Or it can be glazed and fired to form ceramic roofing tiles.
Clay tile is a good roofing material for hot climates or where salt air is present. This is why these roofs are often seen in Southern coastal regions or desert regions.
Clay is one type of roof that lasts the longest, thanks to it being one of the most durable roofing materials. You can get more than a century from a clay tile roof.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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- Average cost of concrete tile: $10 to $20 or more per square foot
Concrete tile is an alternative to clay tile, with similar installation techniques and advantages. But you'll likely pay slightly less for a concrete tile roof.
Concrete tiles are molded from standard sand-mix concrete colored to whatever hues are desired. A variety of profiles are available, some that resemble rolled clay tiles and others that are low-profile resembling wood shakes. Concrete tile is sometimes finished with a decorative coating.
It is a very heavy and durable roofing material, making it a good choice in high-wind regions. Life expectancy is 50 years or longer.
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- Average cost of slate shingles: $10 to $30 per square foot, depending on hard or soft slate
A slate roof is an attractive roofing material commonly seen on luxury homes. Slate is also a type of roof that lasts the longest. There are slate roofs hundreds of years old that are still functioning.
True slate roofing is just as it sounds: authentic, thin sheets of real stone. Because slate has a tendency to cleave off in thin sheets, it is easy to quarry, making it ideal for roofing. But installing slate is a highly specialized skill, and qualified installers can be hard to find.
If you opt for a slate roof, it will likely be the last roof replacement you'll ever need to do. A slate tile roof often lasts 75 to 150 years or more.
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Synthetic (Rubber) Slate Tile
- Average cost of synthetic (rubber) slate tile: $9 to $12 or so per square foot
Synthetic slate shingles are a surprisingly convincing stand-in for natural slate. But this is a more lightweight roofing material, constructed from engineered polymers combined with recycled plastic and rubber.
From the ground, it can be virtually impossible to distinguish this engineered roofing from natural slate. But the lighter synthetic material is a viable option for houses that cannot support the heavy weight of natural slate.
Although not as durable as true stone, synthetic slate usually comes with a very good warranty—up to 50 years.
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- Average cost of a living roof: Varies widely
Moss is usually regarded as a bad sign when found on your roof. But when properly planned for, moss and other living plant materials provide an effective roofing material that gives back to the earth.
A truly unorthodox type of roofing material, a green or living roof nevertheless holds much promise. It can remove pollutants from the air, provide thermal insulation to your house, absorb rainwater, and even allow you to grow plants.
To create a green roof, you first install a layer of waterproof membrane and provide adequate drainage. A green roof can be "intensive," meaning capable of supporting large plants and people, or "extensive," meaning it is thin and intended only for lightweight growth such as moss. Either way, living roofs will require regular maintenance to keep them lasting for a long time.
Estimating the Environmental Effects of Green Roofs: A Case Study in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Using Green Roofs to Reduce Heat Islands. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.