Re-roofing your home can be one of the most costly renovation projects you undertake. Your roofing material is highly visible, takes a beating from the elements and is partially responsible for your home's heat loss and gain, so choosing a durable, sustainable material should be high on your priority list. I examine some of the most popular roofing types, determine which are the most environmentally friendly and offer tips to help you choose the right roofing material for your home.
Popular Roofing Materials
Is your home really ready for a new roof? If you've called in a professional who has ruled out repairs, you should take some time to research new material options. A sustainable roof protects your home from moisture and leaks, prevents energy loss, lasts for many years and is recyclable. Let's consider some of the most common roofing materials on the market and their "green" factors:
Metal: Although metal roofs are energy-intensive to produce, they are attractive, long-lasting, and often contain high recycled content or are easily recyclable at the end of their lifetime. Choices include steel and light-weight aluminum.
Slate: Beautiful and incredibly durable (your roof will probably outlast your house), slate is also very expensive and heavy. Check transportation distance, as most slate in the US comes from the Northeast, or look for salvaged slate from architectural salvage yards in your area.
Clay tile: Also known as terra cotta, clay tiles are also extremely durable and water resistant, as well as heavy and expensive. If you're going for a Spanish or Mediterranean aesthetic and have the budget, you can't get more authentic than a real terra cotta roof.
Wood shakes: This attractive roofing material is often made of cedar. Look for shakes without additives, preservatives or moss inhibitors. This is an especially sustainable choice if you live in an area that produces shakes locally, and/or have access to those made from FSC certified wood.
Asphalt shingles: While some manufacturers incorporate a percentage of recycled content, asphalt shingles generally don't last as long as other types of roofing and can cause heat gain, especially if your shingles are a dark colors. It is one of the more affordable materials and therefore the most common residential roofing type, but also one of the least attractive. In other words, asphalt shingles are the vinyl siding of roofing materials.
Concrete tiles: Portland Cement is taxing on the environment to produce, but these tiles are extremely durable. However, they are also heavy which may be an issue, depending on your home's structure.
Fiber cement: This material may look like slate but it is much lighter, as it is made from a mixture of Portland cement and cellulose fiber. It is both weather- and fire-resistant.
Recycled roofing materials: Plastic and rubber are recycled and formed to emulate wood shakes or slate, and the result is a very durable, sustainable roofing material.
Next, tips for choosing sustainable roofing materials...