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Types of Roofing Materials

Common (and Some Uncommon) Materials You Can Roof Your House With


Roofing doesn't rate high on the list of exciting home remodeling projects. Most homeowners just want the thing done--attractively and at a reasonable cost.

Note:  This list is in no particular order of best/worst, but we do have a list of the best roofing materials in terms of longevity.

1. Composite or Asphalt Shingles

Composite Shingles
Copyright Owens Corning

Composite shingles--also known as asphalt shingles--are the most popular type of roofing material around.  These three-tab shingles are made of fiberglass mat topped with asphalt and mineral granules.  An all-round good choice for most home roofing needs, composite shingles typically come with 20 to 30 year warranties.  Every roofing company knows how to install composite shingles, and should you lose a shingle down the road, they are easy to replace.

2. Rolled Roofing

Copyright Lowe's

Rolled roofing material is the mainstay of outbuildings and other less-than-beautiful structures, and of low-slope residential roofs.  Roll roofing, as the name implies, comes in rolls of 100 square feet, each about 3 feet wide.  It's a fast and dead-cheap way to roof a building like a shed or workshop, where beauty isn't the most important thing.  It's a necessary material when covering a roof with no or low slope: roll roofing is good at holding back moisture.

3. Metal Roofing

metal roofing
Courtesy The Aluminum Assoc., Inc.; Courtesy The Aluminum Association, Inc.

No, metal roofing isn't just for warehouses anymore.  Metal roofs have come of age--they look cooly industrial, even on high-end mansions; are fire-resistant, provide no food for wood-boring insects such as termites or carpenter ants; and can provide good resale value.  On the downside, metal roofs are more expensive than composite shingles and do require installation by highly experienced installers.  Eco-friendly is on everyone's mind.  If you are one, metal roofing is considered a sustainable building material.

4. Green Roof

living roof
Renée Stephen, 2005

A truly unorthodox type of roof, the green or living roof nevertheless holds much promise.  It can put oxygen back in the air, provide thermal insulation to your house, absorb rainwater, and even allow you to grow plants.  How?  Simply by layering your roof with waterproof membrane and providing adequate drainage.  Green roofs can be "intensive," meaning capable of supporting large plants and people, or "extensive," which means thin and light-weight growth such as moss.

5. Slate Shingles

Slate Roof
Public Domain: NPS

A slate roof is for the dedicated home remodeler who will accept nothing less (not even rubber "slate" that looks amazingly like real slate).  Slate is real stone.  Fortunately, slate has a tendency to cleave off in thin sheets, making it easy to quarry.  Slate is best installed only be highly qualified installers of slate--who can be hard to find, especially west of the Mississippi.  One DIY slate installer did his roof (2,240 sq. ft.) for about $15,000.  But remember, that was do it yourself and he only managed to install about 100 sq. ft. per day.

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