Pros and Cons of the Top Roofing Material Choices

Top roofing materials pros and cons

Roofing or re-roofing your new home can be a big and expensive project. It’s one of the most significant investments you will ever make on your home and something you will see every day. As with most products, you get what you pay for in aesthetics, longevity, and maintenance.

Here’s a guide for choosing materials for your roof. You may only be investing in your home or business short-term, or you may want to select a higher quality product to get a better return on your investment over the long term.

How many years will my roof last? (By material)

I can’t stress enough that all of these estimates assume correct (professional) installation to manufacturer and industry standards and routine maintenance. We always suggest 1-2 times a year inspection and maintenance, fall and spring, done by a professional roofing company.

Standard 3 tab or Architectural Shingles — 15-30 years

Also called composite shingles, standard shingles are an excellent choice for a clean look, and they are affordable. The higher quality versions are made from the same materials. However, they come in heavier weights and more pleasing laminated designs.

Standard 3 tab or architectural shingles tend to be more durable and may be available with recycled content. Let your contractor know if this is important to you. These types of shingles are versatile, coming in a large selection of types, brands, and colors. Additionally, they adapt to many applications and are relatively easy to install.

Some can be nailed over an existing roof (although we don’t recommend this). They are low maintenance and can handle foot traffic with minimal effect on performance. In addition, most brands are made with class A fire protection. These are what 90% of replacements use.

They are tried and true, and more recently, almost all of these shingles use a fiberglass reinforcement mat, making them the most widely used shingle material on the market.

Wood Shakes — 30-50 years when maintained

If you’ve ever seen wood shakes on a house’s roof, you know it creates a very unique, natural, and dimensional look with a lot of character. There are many variations in color, width, thickness, and cut of wood. As a result, no two shake roofs will be the same.

Wood offers energy benefits: it helps insulate the attic, allows and house to breathe by circulating air through the small openings under the felt rows on which wood shingles are laid.

However, wood shake roofs demand proper maintenance, or they won’t last as long as other products. They are subject to mold, rot, and insects.

Additionally, although their life cycle may be high, old shakes can’t be recycled. They are mostly unrated by fire safety codes and use spray-on fire retardants, which offer less protection than other styles of roofing and are only effective for a few years. Some manufacturers do make pressure-treated shakes impregnated by fire retardant and do meet national fire safety standards.

Finally, the installation of wood shakes is more complicated than composite roofing. An experienced contractor must install it, or your roof could suffer. The best shakes come from the heartwood of large old cedar trees. You need to take care when selecting shakes as the quality can vary significantly from mill to mill.

Metal Roofs — 50+ years.

In the late 1700s, zinc, copper, and lead were the most popular materials used for roofing. Metal roofing is now coming back into style. The most popular metal roof today is standing-seam steel roofing. This describes the upturned edge of one metal panel that connects to the next section and creates distinctive vertical lines and a trendy historical look.

Metal roofing can be made to resemble wood shakes, clay tiles, shingles, and Victorian metal tiles. Individual shingles or tiles or modular panels that mimic a row of shingles or tiles are formed from aluminum or coated steel to create the look of any of these other roofing materials. They are durable, fire retardant, and almost maintenance-free.

In addition, metal roofs are energy efficient: metal reflects heat and blocks its transfer into the attic. Metal roofs are also considered a sustainable product because they are made from between 60-65% recyclable material.

However, the initial cost of a premium metal roof is 3-4 times higher than standard composite materials. You would need to project the life of the roof to see its worth over the long term to find out if it’s worth the initial investment.

Clay Tile Roofing — 50+ years

Clay roofing tile is a good choice if you have a southwestern, Italian, or Spanish Mission-style home, or if you want a clean, modern look for your home. Tile lasts a long time: it won’t rot, burn, or be harmed by insects. It requires little maintenance and comes in a variety of colors, types, styles, and brands. The biggest drawback of tile is its weight. It can be so heavy as to require extra structural reinforcement.

Also, unless the color is baked into the tile, it will fade over time. Tiles are fragile and can’t be walked on, which makes it more challenging to maintain gutters and to paint. Initial installation can be complicated and require an expert. Lastly, clay tiles, again, cost significantly more than other materials.

Concrete Tile Roofing – 50+ years

Concrete tile is a newer material. Moreover, concrete is being used to simulate wood shakes, shingles, lighter-weight tiles, and panels with fiber-reinforcement. Some are also coated with plastics, enamels, or thin metals, and some contain recycled material. The products themselves are not recyclable.

Concrete tile roofing is still durable and resource-efficient. The products vary, but generally, they are durable, require low maintenance, protect against fire, and are resistant to rot and insects.

However, concrete is more expensive than other materials. Earlier types of concrete had problems with lifting, breaking, and changing color. Most of these problems have been overcome.

Natural Stone — 50+ when maintained

Slate is shingle-like slivers of rock. It offers a very natural look and can be laid out in a variety of patterns. The benefits are identical to tile: a very long lifespan, good fire protection, low maintenance, and invulnerable to rot and insects.

Natural stone comes in a good selection of sizes and colors, although not as many as that of clay tiles as they are limited to those found in nature. Slate is also very heavy and can require extra support, which can be expensive. It is also breakable, making maintenance of roof and house very difficult.

What To Do If Your Roof Fails?

Your roofing system should last anywhere from 20 to 50 years, but sometimes roofing systems fail prior to the manufacturer’s warranty.

If it does, you are protected if it’s a material defect that caused the roof failure. A manufacturer warranty doesn’t cover an improperly installed roof— which is why you need to hire a reputable contractor.

Do you live in Southeast Michigan? Please contact us today. We’re here whenever you need us.

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