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Different Types of Roofing Materials & the Most Common

December 5th, 2019 BY First American Roofing

A question we get asked a lot at First American is what different types of roofing are available? People come to us and what or need a new roof, and are surprised to learn there are at least 14 different types of roofing materials that are common in the U.S. alone. The type of roofing we choose depends on many factors, because not any roof can work on any home. Some roofs work best in hot climates down south, like clay or concrete tile, while others like green roofs work to fight air and noise pollution in big cities. So let’s get into the different types and how they can benefit both residential or commercial properties.

1. Asphalt Composite Shingles

The number one roofing material used in the United States is asphalt composite shingles. They’re incredibly economical and are a great investment for your home. They are more affordable than other materials and last upwards of 20 years, depending on weather and maintenance. They come in a multitude of styles and colors. Depending on the color of your home’s exterior, and your landscaping, asphalt shingles will be able to give you the right color palette you need. Choose from light and dark browns, light and dark greys, black, green, reddish-brown, even blue-gray for a beautiful backdrop to a green forest line. They also come in 3 basic varieties; 3-tab shingles, dimensional shingles, and luxury shingles.

3-tab shingles are the most basic design. They are a single layer, that overlaps like a regular shingle. They are cost-effective and can give a dynamic look with their granular appearance, giving each shingle slight variations in tone. With proper installation and maintenance, 3-tab shingles are designed to last 20+ years. You will most commonly find them now on older homes built with 3-tab shingles when they were even more popular, or on newly built economy housing.

Example of architectural asphalt shinglesA level up from 3-tab shingles is going to be dimensional shingles. These are stronger, more durable, and can last up to 30 years or longer. While 3-tab shingles are a single layer, dimensional shingles have 2 or 3 layers making them extra strong. They also give great curb appeal to your home. Their dimensional look gives great texture and patterns to the roof, and come in an array of colors to match your home. Though they will cost more upfront than the more cost-effective 3-tab shingles, the pay off is massive. When you consider you can get the same aesthetic and dimensional look like real wood shanks with dimensional asphalt, it’s a steal.

Designed to imitate the look of natural slate and cedar, luxury asphalt shingles are an amazing alternative that costs less to install and maintain. The multi-dimensional look of slate and cedar shingles is achieved with the asphalt shingles creating texture, shadows, and depth that easily replicate the look of a more expensive roof, especially on older homes that want to maintain that natural aesthetic.

Some of the major manufacturers and brands of asphalt shingles out there include GAF, CertainTeed, and Owens Corning. If you’re going to go with asphalt composite shingles, we would recommend going with either of those.

2. Wooden Shakes or Shingles

Real wood shakes or shingles are a great, high-end option for roofing material. With proper maintenance, they remain durable, aging gracefully for up to 50 years. Generally made from pine, cypress, cedar, or redwood, wood shakes and shingles can be treated to be fire-resistant, prevent decay and rot, and deter insects.

There is a difference between shakes and shingles, and each has a unique look, despite being made of the same materials. Shakes are split right from the log and reshaped for manufacturing. That rough edge is often kept to maintain that texture and unique rustic look. They have a distinct shape with one thicker end that tapers down, like a wedge. They give a lot more dimension to your roof with this dynamic shape, especially when layered together. Shingles, on the other hand, are sawn on both sides to make an even thickness and are simply laid overlapping each other when installed.

Wood shakes are definitely much more expensive than other roofing materials due to the high labor costs associated with them. Not only is manufacturing laboreous, with cutting, staining, and protective sealants that get done, but the shingles are laid one by one, strategically and takes a long time and a lot of expertise. However, you get what you pay for with this investment, and the end result is as stunning as it is going to be long-lasting.

3. Slate Shingles

Slate shingles one of, if not thee longest lasting roofing material you can get. With very little maintenance, slate shingles can last 100 years or more. That’s probably why they’ve earned the name of the forever roof. Slate is water-resistant, fire-resistant, aesthetically pleasing, and incredibly environmentally friendly. Between 3 and 4 roofs are replaced and tossed in a landfill in the amount of time that 1 slate roof would last.

There are some downfalls of a slate roof, however. Hail is its worst enemy due to the shingles breaking easily with force, so don’t install them in areas prone to hail. Second, they are quite expensive for consumers. But if you are truly looking at this in terms of an investment in your life-long home, the pay-off is huge due to the roof lasting even long after you own the home.

4. Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is becoming more and more common. There are a few different types of metal roofing, including metal panels and corrugated panels. They are very well suited for commercial or agricultural structures, as their composition to expand and contract in varying temperatures can be bad for a residential roof. Metal roofs are great for conserving energy, shedding snow and water, reflecting sunlight to keep cooling costs down, and are very lightweight for easy installation and maintenance.

Metal panels are quite large, around 4 feet long and are stamped to give the appearance of a slate or shingle roof. The metal can also be stone-coated steel which is steel that has an acrylic base that stone is embedded into. It’s ultra-durable and is a great option to hide any dents or defaults. Since it’s texture has an almost dented look already, it can hide flaws easily. However, other metal panels with a flat reflective surface will dent easily, and will not be able to conceal it quite like the stone-coated steel.

5. Clay and Concrete Tile

Common in the southern states, modern clay tile roofs are typically found in those warm climates. They can withstand very high heat, and are extremely durable. They have a high cost initially than other, more common types of roofing, and repair costs can be high. One other consideration is they are quite heavy, and it’s important to make sure your home could handle the extra weight of the roof before deciding to go with clay or concrete tiles. They are well suited for clay or concrete homes you may find in southwestern states, both functionally and aesthetically.

6. Green Roofs or Flat Roofs

Green roofs and flat roofs are incredibly beneficial for commercial building management. You’ll see them in big cities, at universities, and commercial rental properties. They can be quite costly in the beginning, but last a very long time, and can literally pay back portions of what was spent on installation by conserving so much energy. They are entire systems built up for water drainage, growing vegetation, and even creating habitats for local wildlife. They are popular in bigger cities because of the benefit of reducing both air and noise pollution.

Green roofs are just what they sound like, a roof with greenery and plant life that brings multiple benefits. A flat, tar roof is going to absorb a lot of heat, and make it very hard to keep a building cool. Meanwhile, a roof that has an ecosystem that absorbs water, and in turn grows plants that shade the roof, can help with both heating and cooling costs immensely. A simple green roof contains plant life that grows naturally and doesn’t need much tending. Apartment complexes or city brownstones may built out rooftop patios or gardens for their flat roof that are a bit more functional and usable, capitalizing on that otherwise unused space.

Flat roofs can be built in a number of ways. Built-up roofing is multiple layers of materials to help absorb and remove standing water. Membrane roofing, rubber roofing, TPO flat roofing, and even asphalt roofing that comes in rolls can all be installed on a flat roof, with varying weights, porosities, and functions depending on climate and the function of the building.

7. Solar Tiles

Last, but definitely not least, solar tile roofs! Solar tiles are entire roofs that look like your plain old shingled roof, but are actually built up of solar panels/shingles. Solar panels will convert solar energy from the sun into electricity to run your home or business. It’s very common in southern states or western states where there is more sunlight in general year-round. Any place closer to the equator is going to be more optimal for utilizing solar energy and solar roofs. It’s a big investment, but over time (sometimes a very long time) you actually get a return on investment with energy savings. This is something unique to solar, and you just won’t get quite the ROI on your roof investment, aside from upping resale value.

First American Roofing knows roofs, and we hope you stick around and call us for a free quote! If you want to know even more about different types of roofing and roofing materials, click here.


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