Choosing the Right Roofing Materials

Selecting the right roofing materials for your home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a homeowner. The roof protects your most valuable asset and investment – your home. Choosing roofing materials that are durable, energy-efficient, and cost-effective can save you money and headaches for years to come. This essential guide covers all the key factors to consider when deciding on roofing materials for your climate and home style.


When it’s time to replace your roof, the choices can seem overwhelming. From asphalt shingles to slate tiles and everything in between, how do you know which material is right for your home and budget? Making the right decision is critical to get the best return on investment and peace of mind that your roof will endure wear and tear while protecting your home.

This guide covers all the essential information you need to select the ideal roofing materials. We’ll look at the unique benefits, costs, and considerations for the most popular options, as well as the specific factors that impact durability, energy efficiency, and overall value. Whether you prefer a classic style like wood shakes or the modern look of metal, you’ll have the knowledge to make an informed decision.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Roofing Materials

Your roof is a major system in your home that impacts comfort, energy use, and curb appeal. The average roof lasts 15-20 years, so it’s not a purchase you’ll make frequently. Getting the roofing material right from the start pays off for decades down the road. That’s why it’s so important to understand the differences in how materials perform in your area’s climate.

Certain roofing types stand up to heavy snow, high winds, temperature extremes, and ice dams better than others. Factors like the amount of annual rainfall and the angle of your roof pitch also influence durability. Beyond weather resistance, some materials have higher energy efficiency and solar reflection which reduces cooling costs. Aesthetics, style options, and fire resistance should be weighed too.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Roofing Materials

There are several key factors to take into account:

  • Climate: The temperature variations, sun exposure, precipitation levels, and typical weather events in your area will determine how durable different materials will be.
  • Roof style: Whether your roof is high or low pitched, simple or complex will impact material choices.
  • Energy efficiency: In hotter climates, reflective “cool” materials cut air conditioning costs.
  • Durability and longevity: More durable materials like concrete tiles may make sense despite higher initial costs.
  • Cost: Prices can range dramatically based on material, from $100 to $1000+ per square.
  • Appearance: Materials like wood shakes provide a more rustic look compared to sleek metal roofing.
  • Fire safety: Materials like composite shingles are more fire resistant.
  • Maintenance: Some materials like metal require less long-term maintenance.
  • Weight: Heavy materials like slate require additional roof framing support.
  • Eco-friendliness: Recycled rubber and plastic options have environmental benefits.

Keeping these factors and your homestyle preferences in mind will help you select reliable, attractive roofing.

Types of Roofing Materials

There are a wide variety of roofing materials on the market to suit every style and budget. Here are the most common options and their key characteristics:

Asphalt Shingles

The most popular roofing material in the U.S., asphalt shingles account for about 80% of residential roofs. They’re composed of a fiberglass mat, asphalt coating, and mineral granules on the surface. Pros include:

  • Affordable – Starting at around $100 per square installed.
  • Easy installation – Lightweight and installed in sections.
  • Variety – Many colors and styles. Can mimic wood or slate.
  • Fire resistant – Meet building code requirements.

The drawbacks include a shorter lifespan of 15-20 years and low walkability. Overall an economical choice to consider.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs are durable, energy efficient, and low maintenance. They’re crafted from steel, aluminum, or copper panels or shingles coated with special finishes. The benefits of metal include:

  • Longevity – Very durable for 40-70+ years.
  • Lightweight – Won’t stress roof framing.
  • Low maintenance – Resists mold and insects.
  • Energy efficient – Reflective surface cuts cooling costs.
  • Style – Mimics shake, tile, or other finishes.

Downsides are higher upfront cost and rain noise potential. Works best on sloped roofs. Overall an energy efficient and stylish option.

Concrete and Terra Cotta Roofing Tiles

Concrete and terra cotta tiles have an Old World Mediterranean look. Tiles interlock and are adhered to the roof. Advantages are:

  • Visual appeal – Unique architectural style.
  • Fire resistance – Meet the highest ratings.
  • Durability – Last 50-100 years with minimal upkeep.
  • Energy efficient – Aid natural cooling.

The weight requires roof reinforcement. Costs are on the higher side but offer an elegant impression.

Slate Tiles

Slate roofing tiles derive from natural slate stone. Pros of slate include:

  • Extremely durable – Can last over a century.
  • Visually striking – Rustic, multicolored appearance.
  • Energy efficient – Reflects heat.
  • Sustainable – Quarried stone is abundant.

Downsides are the high cost and weight requiring structural reinforcement. Overall slate offers unmatched longevity and timeless beauty.

Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood shingles are sawn thin pieces of wood while shakes are split by hand for a rustic appearance. Benefits include:

  • Natural beauty – Warm, organic aesthetic.
  • Compatibility – Complements log cabins or wood-sided homes.
  • Insulating – Helps maintain indoor temperatures.
  • Economical – Less expensive than slate or tile.
  • Renewable – New growth forests provide sustainable supply.
  • Cooling – Reflective surface and air pockets reduce heat gain.

Drawbacks are a shorter lifespan of about 30 years, flammability risk, and potential warping or cupping. With proper installation and maintenance, wood can be a great natural roofing option.

Synthetic Roofing

Modern engineered materials offer an innovative option for eco-friendly durability. Options like recycled rubber and plastic shakes emulate the look of wood or slate. Benefits include:

  • Sustainable – Made from recycled tires or plastics.
  • Durability – Last 35-50 years with little upkeep.
  • Affordability – Comparable to asphalt.
  • Lightweight – Easy to install.
  • Fire resistant – Meet code standards.
  • Customizable style – Simulate wood or slate patterns.

The upfront cost is higher than asphalt but the long lifespan can compensate for investment. Overall an earth-friendly emerging roofing alternative to consider.

No matter your priorities – be it budget, sustainability, architectural style, energy efficiency, or simply matching your home’s existing character – there is a roofing material suitable for your needs.

Durability of Roofing Materials

Durability is a crucial factor as you want your new roof to last for years to come. Some materials inherently withstand weathering and impacts better than others. Let’s look at aspects affecting longevity.

Most Durable Roofing Materials

Slate, terra cotta, and metal roofing are the longest lasting options, with life spans ranging from 40 years to over 100 years.

  • Slate – Can survive over a century with minimal upkeep thanks to the strength of natural stone.
  • Terra cotta – Italian or Spanish clay tiles may last 100 years. Their ceramic toughness resists hail, rain, and UV rays.
  • Copper – Won’t corrode and can last over 70 years. The upfront cost is very high.
  • Concrete – Properly installed tiles endure 50+ years. Their cement strength resists wind uplift.
  • Metal – Steel and aluminum have a 40-70+ year lifespan. Special coatings prevent rust.

These options make sense for homes you plan to live in long-term. Their exceptional longevity offsets higher initial investments.

Factors Affecting Roofing Durability

Several variables impact how any roofing material will hold up over time:

    • Climate – Temperature swings, wind, hailstorms, snow loads and precipitation take a toll over the years.
    • Roof slope – Steeper angled roofs shed water faster, extending roof life. Low slopes trap moisture.
      • Installation quality – Proper installation by an experienced roofer is vital to get full durability.
      • Maintenance – Regular upkeep like cleaning gutters extends roof life.
      • Ventilation – Adequate attic ventilation prevents moisture buildup from condensation.
      • Usage – High traffic areas like chimneys deteriorate faster from foot impacts.
      • UV exposure – Direct sun wears down surface coatings over time. Light colored materials help.
      • Extreme weather events – Severe storms with high winds can damage weaker materials.

No roof will last forever, but staying on top of maintenance and selecting durable materials suitable for your climate will maximize longevity.

Cost vs. Durability Trade-Offs

The most durable roofing materials often have the highest upfront costs. However, their exceptional longevity means fewer lifetime replacement costs.

      • Asphalt shingles cost $100-300 per square installed but only last 15-20 years.
      • Concrete tiles cost $400-1000 per square installed yet last 50+ years.
      • Metal roofing runs $500-1100 per square but endures 40-70+ years.

The longer a roof lasts, the greater the return on investment. Durable materials can save money over time compared to cheaper options that require frequent replacements. Investing in robust materials when possible reduces hassles and homeowner costs down the road.

Energy Efficiency of Roofing Materials

Beyond weather protection, your roof impacts energy use and indoor comfort. During hot weather, the roof surface can transfer heat into your attic and living spaces. Some materials reflect more sunlight and emit absorbed heat better than others.

Benefits of Energy Efficient Roofs

Choosing roofing designed for energy efficiency brings multiple advantages:

      • Lower cooling costs – Reflective “cool” roofs reduce heat gain, cutting summer AC expenses by up to 20%.
      • Increased comfort – Less heat entering your attic and home means more comfortable indoor temps.
      • Environmental benefits – Energy savings means lower power plant emissions. Cool roofs also emit less heat into the air.
      • Protecting your roof – Reduced heat on the roof surface extends the life of roofing materials.
      • Noise reduction – Certain materials like metal sheets with coatings dampen rain noise.

For maximum comfort and savings, energy smart roofing is an important component of an efficient home.

Cool Roofs and Their Advantages

Cool roofs include reflective surfaces or special coatings that minimize solar absorption compared to dark roofing. Options include:

      • White asphalt shingles reflect sunlight the best among shingle options.
      • Metal roofing with reflective paint or special glazes excel at blocking solar heat.
      • Tile or synthetic materials made with reflective granules stay cooler.
      • Coatings can be applied to enhance reflectivity.

Studies by the EPA and Department of Energy found cool roofs reduce peak summer temperatures by 5-15°F versus conventional materials.

Energy-Efficient Roofing Materials

Beyond cool coatings, certain materials have inherent thermal advantages:

      • Metal roofing without coatings still reflects more heat than most options.
      • Tile’s mass and air pockets provide insulation from heat and cold.
      • Slate and concrete naturally absorb less heat than darker asphalt or wood shingles.
      • Green roofs with soil and plants provide superior insulation for buildings.
      • Radiant barriers under roof sheathing blocks solar heat from entering attics.

For the optimal energy efficient roof, look for highly reflective surface materials or coatings suited to your local climate. Proper installation also ensures materials perform as rated. An experienced roofing contractor can help select the right solutions to reduce your energy costs.

Cost of Roofing Materials

One of the top considerations for any homeowner is cost when contemplating a new roof. Prices per square for materials and professional installation vary widely. Let’s look at the cost factors and ranges for different roofing types.

Factors That Affect Roofing Cost

Several variables determine installed roof pricing:

      • Material type – From budget asphalt to premium slate, material costs range from $100 to over $1000 per square.
      • Accessibility – A simple one-story ranch is cheaper to roof than a complex multi-level house.
      • Roof pitch – Low-slope roofs require more waterproofing materials than steeply pitched.
      • Size – More squares of material are needed for larger roof surfaces, driving up costs.
      • Location – Labor and material expenses are higher in some regions.
      • Permits – Some areas require additional permits and inspections.

When getting estimates, ask about what factors are incorporated so you accurately compare bids.

Average Cost by Roofing Material

Here are typical installed cost ranges per 100 square foot square of common residential roofing types:

      • Asphalt shingles – $100-300 per square
      • Wood shakes/shingles – $200-500 per square
      • Metal roofing – $500-1100 per square
      • Concrete/clay tile – $400-1000 per square
      • Slate tiles – $900-1600 per square
      • Eco-friendly synthetic – $250-550 per square

Material costs account for about 40% of the total expense with skilled labor making up the rest. Higher durability materials have higher upfront pricing but greater long term value from a lifetime cost perspective.

Cost vs. Value Trade-Offs

The adage “you get what you pay for” often holds true for roofing. While materials like slate and metal cost more upfront, their years of near zero maintenance and fewer tear-offs provide excellent return on investment.

More affordable asphalt shingles cost about a third as much compared to metal per square. However, asphalt may need replacing after just 15-20 years while a metal roof could endure over 50 years with simple upkeep.

Aim for the best quality material within your budget. An experienced roofing contractor can help assess projected durability and maintenance costs to make the optimal long term choice. Paying a little extra for resilience now can reward homeowners for decades to come.

Choosing the Right Roofing Material

With an understanding of the roofing material options, it’s time to pull all the factors together to select the ideal type for your home and needs. Follow this decision process for the best results.

Consider Key Factors

Think about the following priorities for your roof:

      • Budget – How much can you afford to invest upfront and over time?
      • Lifespan – Do you need a roof to last decades or are you selling soon?
      • Appearance – What color and architectural style fits your home?
      • Climate – What extremes of heat, cold, wind, or storms will it need to withstand?
      • Energy efficiency – Is reduced heat gain a priority to cut cooling costs?
      • Maintenance – Do you prefer minimal upkeep or are you able to do routine care?
      • Weight – Do you have reinforced framing for heavy materials like slate or tiles?
      • Sustainability – Are eco-friendly materials a priority?

Making a list of your needs and top considerations will help focus your decision.

Match the Material to Your Climate and Home

Once you know your priorities, select materials suited to your region’s weather and home architecture:

      • In wet climates, slate and metal shed water well to reduce leaks.
      • In cold areas with snow, rubber or plastic membranes withstand ice dams.
      • In coastal regions, aluminum stands up to corrosive salt air better than steel.
      • On historic homes, slate or wood complement turn-of-century architecture.
      • On Southwestern styles, terra cotta tiles suit the regional aesthetic.
      • Across climates, asphalt shingles provide an affordable default option.

The right materials blend performance, style, and budget for your situation. An experienced local roofer is a great resource to ensure suitability.

Choose Colors and Styles

Beyond material type, select colors and styles that enhance your home:

      • For resale value, neutrals like black, gray, brown are safe choices.
      • To reduce heat gain, light tones are ideal for energy efficiency.
      • For architectural interest, go for a mix of complementary hues and textures.
      • To complement your color scheme, look at siding, stone, and exterior paint colors.
      • For a bold statement, select vivid colors like vibrant red or azure blue.
      • To emulate premium looks, asphalt, and steel shingles come in shake or slate patterns.

The options are nearly endless. View samples to get a sense of colors and profiles before deciding for the best visual match.

By following this roof selection process, you can feel confident you’ve chosen durable, attractive materials that boost your home’s performance and style for a smart investment.

Hiring the Right Contractor

While choosing the perfect roofing materials for your home is important, proper installation is critical to get the longevity and performance the products promise. Hiring the right roofing contractor provides quality workmanship and expertise so your roof looks great and weathers time and nature.

The Importance of Hiring the Right Contractor

Skilled roofing pros ensure excellence in several ways:

  • Proper installation – Experienced crews understand best practices for each type of roofing to avoid leaks, blow-offs and other problems down the road.
  • Expert recommendations – They know which materials perform best in your specific climate while meeting your needs.
  • Safety – Established professionals have rigorous safety training and procedures to prevent falls and other job site accidents.
  • Codes expertise – Reputable companies know the local building codes to meet any special requirements.
  • Peace of mind – Large contractors have been in business for years and will likely be around if any warranty issues arise.

Don’t trust your valuable home investment to amateurs – finding the right pro makes a huge difference.

Tips for Finding the Right Contractor

Follow these tips to secure an established, credible roofing contractor:

  • Check reviews – Search online for ratings and feedback on contractors in your area. Look for consistent positive reviews.
  • Verify licensing – Make sure they have active licenses and bonding where required.
  • Request references – Ask for recent homes they’ve roofed and call the owners.
  • Confirm certifications – Manufacturers certify installers to apply their roofing systems correctly.
  • Compare materials – Ask about the brands and types of roofing they recommend and use. Higher quality materials are a good sign.
  • Check associations – See if they belong to any roofing trade associations which indicate professionalism.

Taking time to vet roofers helps land an experienced team you can trust.

Questions to Ask a Roofing Contractor

When interviewing roofing contractors, inquiry about:

  • Years in business – Longer history suggests reliable service.
  • License and insurance – Should be fully insured with liability and workers compensation coverage.
  • Project timeline – By when will the work start and finish?
  • Warranty – What is covered and for how long? Longer is better.
  • Manufacturer certifications – Are crews certified to install their products correctly?
  • Safety record – Ask about safety practices, training and history.
  • Project portfolio – Can they share photos of past work?
  • References – Ask for some recent customer references to call.
  • Pricing – Get a detailed quote in writing outlining exactly what is included.

A contractor who readily shares this information is more likely to deliver quality roofing work you can rely on.


Putting a new roof over your heads is a big, essential investment as homeowners. While the many material options make selecting the ideal roofing type seem complex, understanding your needs in terms of climate, efficiency, cost, and style makes the decision process straightforward. Always make durability a top priority so your roof reliably protects your home for decades.

Compare the benefits and trade-offs of each material type, from classic asphalt to modern metal and eco-friendly synthetic. Whether you prefer bold styles like terra cotta or more muted slate or shingles, choose hues and textures that enhance your home’s character. Installation matters as much as the products themselves – devoting time to finding an experienced, certified roofing contractor pays dividends in roof quality and peace of mind.

Use this guide to set your priorities, narrow down materials suited to your home, and make the choices that provide lasting performance and satisfaction. Your new roof will endure years of storms while bolstering efficiency and adding aesthetic appeal. With the right roof over your head, you can feel secure investing in your most important asset for today and the future.

Roger Angulo
Roger Angulo
Roger Angulo, the owner of, curates a blog dedicated to sharing informative articles on home improvement. With a focus on practical insights, Roger's platform is a valuable resource for those seeking tips and guidance to enhance their living spaces.