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The Best Types of Roofing Materials: Lifespan, Cost, and More

Written by Zeeshan Hyder

Published on May 3, 2022


The Best Types of Roofing Materials: Lifespan, Cost, and More

Decide which is the best roofing material for your home with our comprehensive guide.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

Read about our editorial process here. Want to use our cost data? Click here.

Choosing the right roofing material for your home is a crucial decision. Replacing your roof not only increases the value of your home and its lifespan, but can also reduce energy costs and improve its curb appeal. Whether you’re repairing, replacing, selling, or staying, nearly 33% of realtors suggest replacing the roof before the sale and 87% of homeowners want to be home more often after a roof replacement. So, which roofing material is right for your home? Let us help you decide.

Types of Roofing Materials Comparison

In the graphic above, we compare some of the most common roofing materials for homes. We consider the main aspects of each roofing material before deciding which material is suitable for your home. These include how easy it is to install each material, how easy it is to maintain, the durability, energy efficiency, and affordability. We then gave a score out of five for each aspect of each material, with five being the highest score and one being the lowest. 

As we can see, when you combine all the scores, the overall winner is metal roofing. While it is not the best in every category, it scores 18 out of a possible 25. There is not a huge difference overall between the materials, with clay and concrete tiles a close second with 17 and asphalt shingles third with 16. The lowest scoring is wood with 12, and slate takes the penultimate place with a score of 14. Here is a breakdown of which material is best in each category:

Installation: Asphalt Shingles

When it comes to installation, asphalt shingles are the easiest, whereas wood and slate are the most difficult. 

Maintenance: Clay/Concrete Tiles

In terms of maintenance, clay/concrete tiles require very little, similar to slate and metal, while wood and asphalt require much more regular inspections and fixes. 

Durability: Clay/Concrete Tiles

Maintenance ties into the durability of each material, with clay/concrete tiles being the most durable, followed closely by slate. Asphalt is the least durable roofing material, which could go some way to explaining its higher affordability. 

Most Affordable: Asphalt Shingles

As asphalt shingles are the most affordable roofing material, it's no coincidence that they are the most common for U.S. homes. On the other hand, the most expensive materials are slate and clay/concrete. Yet you get what you pay for; the longest-lasting, most durable materials.  

Most Energy-Efficient: Metal

With the recent increase in energy prices, the energy efficiency rating of each will significantly influence the material you opt for for your home. The most energy-efficient roofing material is metal. It reflects the sun, keeping your home cooler in the summer, meaning you need to rely less on the AC. The least energy-efficient material is asphalt shingles. 

Below we go into more detail about the pros and cons of each material and the costs. 

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Asphalt shingles

Image source: Findlay Roofing

Due to their affordability and easy installation, asphalt shingles are the most popular and most common roofing material available in the US. Installing asphalt shingles on a new roof can increase your home’s value by about $7,200. But with issues like energy efficiency, longevity, and durability, the results can vary depending on the manufacturer, installer, climate, and your budget.

On average, you can expect to pay between $3 and $15 per square foot  installed. So, the average cost to replace a 2,000 sq. ft. roof with asphalt shingles is $6,000 to $30,000. However, more high-end premium and architectural shingles like Owens Corning’s Berkshire brand and CertainTeed’s Landmark roof shingles cost more than other popular roofing shingles like GAF’s Timberline brand.

Pros of asphalt shingles

Cost-effective - While asphalt shingles can become an expensive roofing choice depending on the brand and weather conditions of your climate zone, they remain a more cost-effective roofing option than slate tiles or a metal roof. Asphalt shingles can also be made to mimic the appearance of more expensive materials like cedar shakes, wood shingles, or natural slate, which will give you a more sophisticated look at half the price.

Fire-resistant - Out on the west coast where wildfires are a major issue, it’s important to install roofing products that are resistant to fire and high winds. Thanks to its fiberglass mat and ceramic granules, asphalt roofing shingles typically carry a Class A fire rating, which determines how quickly a material burns. Class A is the highest rating a roof can receive.

Easy to install - One of the major advantages of asphalt shingles is how easy it is to install them. Because they require basic tools and can even be installed over existing shingles, most roofers can complete the job within a couple of days.

Cons of asphalt shingles

Shorter lifespan - Though some shingle brands last longer than others, asphalt shingles typically last between 15 and 30 years, but won't last as long as more expensive materials like clay tiles or metal shingles, which can last a lifetime or more.

Prone to damages - Again, durability varies depending on the type of shingles you buy. While asphalt shingles are typically resistant to algae and mildew, they are prone to cracking in colder temperatures or blowing off in climates like Florida, where hurricanes are prevalent.

Not environmentally friendly - According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the US produces between 7 and 10 million tons of waste in asphalt shingles every year. Although, some shingles can be recycled and used for asphalt pavement.

Clay and concrete tiles

Clay tiles are some of the longest-lasting roofing materials, which can range from 50 to hundreds of years. But due to its low maintenance, resistance to fire, impact, rot, and wind, clay tiles can also help increase curb appeal and your home's value.

Concrete tiles are a cheaper alternative to terracotta clay tile roofing but are also heavier and more prone to moisture, which can lead to potential repairs. We recommend checking with a structural engineer to see if your roof can handle the weight as well as installing a felt underlayment first, which will help prevent any leakage.

Clay tiles - On average, you can expect to pay about $1,750 a square  installed or between $10-$25 per square foot installed, but prices can vary depending on the installation, which is more labor-intensive than other roofing materials. In roofing speak, a square equals 100 square feet. Costs can exceed $50,000 after installation.

Concrete tiles - You can expect to pay between $400 and $2,000 a square for concrete tiles installed.

Pros of clay and concrete tiles

Durable - Both clay and concrete tiles are extremely durable and able to withstand most severe weather conditions. Not only do both typically have a Class A fire rating, but they're also able to withstand hurricane-force winds, which explains they rarely require any maintenance.

Long-lasting - Thanks to their extreme durability, both clay and concrete tiles can last significantly longer than most other materials. Clay tiles typically last up to 50 years but can last as long as hundreds of years before replacement, while concrete tiles typically last between 30 and 50 years.

Eco-friendly and energy-efficient - Because clay and concrete tiles are made from natural materials, they can easily be recycled and reduce the amount of waste. Both types of roof tile have a natural thermal resistance, which reduces the amount of heat transfer and energy costs. This is typically why you'll see these kinds of tiles in warmer climates like Florida and California.

Many styles - Clay and concrete tiles come in a variety of different shapes, colors, and patterns ranging from French interlocking tiles to Mediterranean or Spanish Mission style.

Cons of clay and concrete tiles

Difficult to install - Because clay and concrete tiles are heavy and require experienced roofing contractors, it can be difficult to find a skilled installer so none of the roof materials become damaged.

Expensive - The biggest disadvantage of clay and concrete roofing tiles is how expensive they are, which can cost more than ten times the amount of asphalt shingles.

Metal roofing

Image source: Legacy Service

Metal roofing is also very expensive but can last an incredible amount of time, up to 50 years with little to no maintenance. Prices for installing a metal roof can range from $4.50 to $40 per square foot installed, but the cost depends on the material you choose. The most common metals used for roofing are aluminum, copper, standing seam, galvanized steel, and zinc.

While the demand for aluminum has been increasing due to its lower price point and easy installation, it is one of the softer metals and is prone to denting and damage. Metals like copper and zinc are significantly more durable and long-lasting, but they are also more expensive. Galvanized steel is cheaper than most other metals but is used more often for commercial buildings and can be more difficult to install. If you're interested in installing solar panels for your home, standing seam metal roofs are the easiest type of roofing material to install due to their screws which can be used as fasteners for the panels.

Aluminum - $6.50-$21 per square foot installed

Copper - $20-$40 per square foot installed

Zinc - $14.50-21 per square foot installed

Steel - Galvanized steel costs between $4.50-17 per square foot  installed and galvalume steel costs between $4-$9 per square foot installed

Standing seam - $8.50-34 per square foot installed

Pros of metal roofing

Long-lasting - One of the biggest advantages of metal roofing is its long lifespan, which can be up to 50 years or more.

Environmentally friendly - Because most metals like aluminum and copper are fully recyclable, they are environmentally friendly and can help reduce the number of carbon footprints. Metal roofs also reflect a great deal of sunlight, which makes them a good option for homeowners in warmer climates.

Durable - While aluminum and copper are softer metals and can become damaged on severe impact, they are built to last. Metal roofing is fire resistant and has been tested to withstand high winds. Some metals like steel, which is one of the hardest metals, can withstand hail and snow. Thanks to standing seam's concealed fasteners, its panels overlap each other, creating a tight seal that prevents any kind of leakage.

Cons of metal roofing

Expensive - The biggest disadvantage to installing a metal roof is its high price point. While metal roofs can last a significantly larger amount of time than asphalt shingles, they also cost at least double the amount. However, with little to no maintenance and a long lifespan, metal roofs do end up paying for themselves.

Prone to dents - Although metal roofs are very durable and can withstand some of the harshest climates, some softer metals like aluminum and copper can dent on impact.

Slate roofing

Image source: National Slate Association

If you're looking for the most durable roofing material, then look no further than slate. Not only can slate roofs last up to 100 years, but it's also fireproof and water-resistant, requiring little to no maintenance, and can help increase curb appeal and your home's value. The biggest downside to installing slate is its hefty price tag, which could exceed $3,000 per square installed. Synthetic slate tiles are significantly cheaper than natural slate, but because they're made from rubber, they aren't environmentally friendly. But with a variety of different slate types and styles to choose from, slate roofs are an incredibly durable, long-lasting, and eco and environmentally friendly option.

Depending on whether or not you choose hard slate or soft slate, hard slate being more durable and more expensive, you can expect to pay between $700-$3,000 a square installed.

Pros of slate roofing

Durable - Slate is one of the most durable roofing materials available, able to withstand strong winds, fire, and excess water. Slates usually tend to last longer with steeper roofs, when water runoff is less likely to leak under the slates, which is why you're more likely to see slate roofs in colder, wetter climates.

Long-lasting - Slate is also one of the longest-lasting roofing materials, lasting upwards of 100 years or more, and typically comes with a warranty that lasts 50 years.

Eco and environmentally friendly - Because slate is made from natural elements, it is completely recyclable. Slate's embodied carbon value reaches only 16% of other roofing materials, which is the amount of energy needed to deal with any created waste, and has the lowest carbon footprint.

Cons of slate roofing

Expensive - The biggest disadvantage to installing a slate roof is how expensive it can be. Because slate is difficult to install and requires a professional contractor, installations can cost up to $60,000 or more after labor.

Heavy - Because slate can weigh four times more than asphalt shingles, some may require extra reinforcement and an inspection from a structural engineer.

Wood roofing

Image source: Fania Roofing Company

Sometimes nothing beats the old-world appearance of wood shakes and wood shingles. In addition to aesthetics alone, a wood roof provides insulation and resistance to wind and fire, with shingles and shakes which are now typically treated with a fire retardant. Wood shingles and shakes are usually made from cedar because of their abundance and weather resistance, but some can be made from redwood or cypress. While wood roofs are durable and can typically last up to 50 years, wooden shingles are thinner than shakes, which makes them less durable and with an average lifespan of 30 years.

Wood shingles usually cost between $4.50-$9 per square foot installed and shakes typically cost between $5.50-$13.50 per square foot installed or around $20,000 for a 1,700 square foot roof. Costs can also vary depending on the pitch of your roof, which gets more expensive with the steeper your roof is.

Pros of wood roofing

Long-lasting - Wood roofs can last typically anywhere from 30-50 years depending on your climate, the quality of the shakes and shingles, and the installation itself. More often than not, material defects can be traced back to poor installation.

Energy-efficient - Because wood is a natural insulator, your roof will help regulate temperatures inside the home, saving energy costs.

Cons of wood roofing

Prone to insects and wood rot - Depending on the type of wood you choose for your roof, it can attract a variety of insects, including wasps and termites, so it’s important to regularly inspect your wood roof. Wood shakes are also susceptible to growing moss or mildew, which can eventually rot the wood. We wouldn’t recommend wood roofs for homeowners in more humid and wet climates.

High maintenance - In order to preserve the integrity of your roof, wood roofs also require a significant amount of maintenance. We recommend you trim branches, clean any debris, and scrub areas where mold, mildew, or moss is likely to grow with warm water and a mixture of bleach and detergent.

Which roofing material is right for you?

With so many options and variables, choosing the right roofing material for your home can be stressful. Each material, whether it’s asphalt, metal, slate, clay, or wood, has its own benefits and disadvantages, but this guide should help you make that decision.

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