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Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home

A roof is a major investment, but replacement is a necessary evil every 20 to 30 years or so. The last thing you want is a leaky roof – or worse, a collapsed roof. Before you start searching for a contractor, take a little time to educate yourself on all of the roofing options that are available. An informed consumer is a wise consumer, or so they say.

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Roofing Styles

  • Gable – A very popular type of roof that is easy to build and works for just about any floor plan. Gables slope down on two sides – the front and back of the home – and they shed water very well. The front and back slopes are identical in size and pitch.
  • Hip – These are very similar to gables, but the roof slopes down on all four sides of the house, not just two. Hipped roofs are slightly more difficult to build than gables, but they work for most floor plans, too.
  • Saltbox – Popular in New England, these roofs are similar to gables because they have two opposing sloped surfaces. However, the profile is asymmetrical, with the back of the roof extending much lower to the ground than the front.
  • Flat – These are most cost effective, but they’re short on design. Contrary to what the name suggests, they do have an ever-so-slight pitch. Flat roofs are most often found in climates with little or no snow.
  • Gambrel – These are commonly used for barns, but they’re occasionally used for homes, too. They have two opposing slopes, much like a gable. But each of the slopes has several of its own slopes, curving the roof inward as it gets closer to the walls of the structure.
  • Mansard – These are are blend between hip roofs and gambrels. There are generally four sides, all gambrel-style.
  • Roofing Materials

    The most important decision in selecting a roof is which material to use. There are many options from which to choose, with considerable variation in price and durability. This is one area in which you should be educated on all of the options. Keep in mind, too, that climate should factor into your decision. Some roofing materials perform better in warm or cold climates.

    The most popular roofing materials include:

    • Asphalt shingles (also called composition shingles or 3-tab shingles) – These are by far the most popular roofing choice in the country, with an 80 percent market share. They offer a clean look at a reasonable price. They are warrantied for 20 to 30 years. They are available in a wide variety colors and styles, and they’re easy to install. The downside? They’re not the most beautiful of shingles.
    • Architectural shingles – These are also asphalt shingles, but they mimic the look of higher-end products like cedar shingles or shakes. They’re more expensive than 3-tab asphalt shingles, but not as pricey as the materials they mimic. Warranties span 30 years to a lifetime.
    • Wood shakes – These have a natural look with plenty of character. No two shake roofs are identical, thanks to variations in the wood’s color, thickness and cut. Wood shakes are energy efficient, too. But, like any wood product, they are very high maintenance. Wood shakes require significant care and upkeep to prevent rotting, warping, mold and insect infestation.
    • Slate – This natural stone product is beautiful and durable. It adds tremendous curb appeal and boosts resales value, but it is heavy and VERY expensive. The cost is a deal breaker for most homeowners. A synthetic slate is available that is lighter and less expensive.
    • Clay roofing tile – This is common in southwestern or Spanish-style homes. It comes in a variety of styles, including barrel, interlocking and shingle-style. Clay tile is low maintenance and has an extremely long lifespan (as in it will outlive the rest of the home), but it is pricey. The material is also heavy, so extra roof supports might be required.
    • Concrete tile – Concrete tile is a newer material that is almost as durable as clay and slightly less expensive. It is available in the same styles. Concrete has the same weight issues as clay, too.
    • Metal – Metal roofing, usually made of steel, is also extremely strong and durable. The roof will outlive you. Steel is also lightweight and low maintenance. But the price is high.

    Roofing Costs

    So many variables go into determining the price of a new roof – the size of the home, the design of the roof and your geographic location, to name just a few. But the material you select has the greatest impact.

    Here is some basic pricing information for the most popular materials, not including installation:

    • Asphalt shingles: start at about $50 per square (100 square feet)
    • Architectural shingles: start at about $60 to $80 per square
    • Wood shake: $100 to $200 per square
    • Concrete tiles: $150 to $250 per square for standard weight and $350 to $500 for lightweight versions
    • Steel and aluminum: $100 to $300 per square
    • Clay tile: $200 to $600 per square
    • Slate: $300 to $600 per square for authentic and $200 to $300 for synthetic

    Professional installation can easily double the cost of your roof. Most companies will charge you to tear off the existing roof, to install the new roof, and for any accessories they make or woodwork that is required. Factoring in installation and removal of the old roof, asphalt shingles usually run $100 to $200. A slate roof, by contrast, might cost $600 to $1,200 per square.