Roofing 101: A Guide to Choosing the Right Roofing Material

One of the most important parts of any building is its roof. Not only does the roof help to tie the building together and strengthen the overall structure, but it also serves the vital task of keeping the interior fully protected from the elements. Of course, this isn’t always the case as the type and quality of the shingles or other roofing material is one of the biggest factors in determining how effective the roof is at stopping leaks, preventing heat loss/gain and generally providing adequate protection from the elements. Nonetheless, the fact that there are so many different residential roofing materials to choose from often makes trying to determine which option best fits your specific needs seem like an impossible task. Still, this handy guide should help you to better understand the different choices and hopefully aid you in choosing the right roofing material for your residential project.

Important Factors to Consider When Choosing Roofing Materials

Not all residential buildings are the same, which means that the best roofing material for one project may not necessarily be the best for another. For instance, a multi-family apartment building with a flat roof will obviously need a different type of roof than a condo, townhouse or single-family home. In this sense, it is important to consider both the type of the roof and other additional factors such as price, appearance, durability, longevity, etc. Factors such as eco-friendliness and whether or not the roofing material comes with a warranty may also play a factor in your decision.

In this sense, it usually helps to start by focusing on whichever factors you consider most important, and then using this information to help you narrow down your search to only one or two different roofing material choices. This is important since you will still have to decide between other options like color, brand and style even after you’ve determined which type of roofing material is the best fit.

Types of Roofing Materials

 

  • Composite Shingles. Often referred to as asphalt shingles, this is generally the most common type of residential roofing material and also one of the ones with by far the most options in terms of color, style, longevity, durability and overall quality. Higher-priced premium composite shingles are often rated to last as long as 50 years, and some even come with 25- or 50-year warranties. Nonetheless, many of the cheaper composite shingles can begin to break down within a year or two and may need to be completely replaced in as little as 10 to 15 years.
  • Wood Shingles and Wood Shakes. Shingles and shakes are both types of wooden roofing material that some consumers find more visually appealing. In terms of overall longevity, the thicker wood shakes far outperform the thinner shingles and may potentially last as long as 25 to 40 years with proper care and maintenance. Still, this last factor is incredibly important to note as all wooden roofing materials require far more maintenance than most other options.
  • Metal Roofing. Standing-seam metal roofing is more commonly used in commercial projects, but it can also provide some advantages for homes and other residential buildings. The biggest advantage is that it will usually stand the test of time—with the average metal roof lasting anywhere 35 to 50 years. However, this is only if the roof is regularly inspected for missing fasteners and other potential issues that could dramatically limit its lifespan.
  • Clay and Slate Tile Roofs. For aesthetic appeal, few options can compare to the beauty and style of clay tile or slate tile roofs. Not only that, but both of these options are also by far the longest lasting and should easily hold up for 100 years or more. Still, they also tend to be more expensive, and you also need to consider the extra weight of these tiles compared to other roofing materials. Since these tiles tend to be far heavier, it’s first necessary to make sure you have adequate truss support. This is especially true when using slate tiles.

Ultimately, the type of roofing material you chose is hugely important in more ways than most people can imagine. The overall look, style and aesthetic appeal of the building is directly impacted by how the roof looks. The type of material you choose also determines how much future roofing maintenance may be required, and the list goes on and on. In this sense, it is essential that you take your time to fully understand all of your options to ensure you choose a material that fits your project’s specific needs and your budget.

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