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The 9 Best Types of Roofs

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Author Icon By Angela Bunt Updated 01/09/2024

Most homeowners will need to replace their roofs at some point. This is an expensive project, but a good quality roof has a lifespan of a few decades, making it a great investment in your home.

Our guide pulls from our research into the country’s top roofing providers and details the different types of roofing available, how much new roofs cost, and other essential information.

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The 9 Best Types of Roofs

These are the best types of roofing materials available, according to our research. We’ll go into more detail about each below:

  • Asphalt Shingles
  • Built-Up Roofing (BUR)
  • Clay Tiles
  • Concrete Roofing
  • Green Roofing
  • Metal Roofing
  • Slate Roofing
  • Solar Roofing
  • Wood Roofing

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are one of the most affordable and common roofing materials, costing $2.08–$3.56 per square foot. Evan Greene, Sales Manager of NE Exteriors for the New England Branch of Long Home Products says, “Asphalt roofing is the best choice in most normal circumstances because it is a healthy balance of cost and quality.”

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Asphalt shingles can be made from a variety of materials. Fiberglass shingles are less expensive, while composite shingles made from recycled material are costlier. Higher-priced materials offer longer durability. Asphalt roofs typically last up to 10 years. Asphalt shingle roofs also come in a range of styles, from basic three-tab shingles to high-quality architectural shingles.

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Shingles

Pros Extremely affordable Lightweight and easy to install Various options
Cons Not all options have long-term durability Sensitive to extreme temperature changes

Built-up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing, or BUR roofing, is used primarily for flat roofs. It’s made from multiple layers of asphalt, ply sheets, aggregate, and other materials. BUR roofing protects from ultraviolet damage and has great waterproofing qualities.

The average cost of a BUR roofing system is $3.42–$4.90 per square foot. Most BUR roofs last between 15 and 30 years.

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Pros and Cons of Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Pros Fire-resistant due to aggregate layer Low-maintenance Provides good waterproofing
Cons Long installation process Relatively short lifespan of 15–30 years

Clay Tiles

Clay tile roofing, also known as terracotta, is one of the oldest roofing materials. It’s eco-friendly and extremely durable. It’s also fire-resistant and has great thermal properties, making it common in hot climates or areas with wildfires.

Clay roofing can be very expensive, costing an average of $5.90–$14.68 per square foot. However, clay tile roofs are extremely long-lasting, with lifespans of 50–100 years.

Pros and Cons of Clay Tiles

Pros Durable and long-lasting with great curb appeal Eco-friendly material with insulating qualities that maximize energy efficiency Low-maintenance with fire and rot resistance
Cons Expensive Heavy material that may require additional structural support

Concrete Roofing

Concrete roofing has a long lifespan and generally lasts about 50 years. Concrete tiles also have great thermal properties: They slowly absorb and emit heat, helping you to increase your energy efficiency and save on electricity bills. However, if concrete roofing is not installed or maintained properly, it can leave the underlayment of your roof susceptible to water damage.

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Concrete tiles cost an average of $5.16–$8.60 per square foot. Although they’re expensive and require some maintenance, concrete tiles can offer a great return on investment (ROI) and add property value.

Pros and Cons of Concrete Roofing

Pros Eco-friendly material that can be recycled Long lifespan and durable in many climates Wide range of styles and colors
Cons Requires maintenance to prevent mildew and algae Weight can require additional structural support

Green Roofing

Green roofing is relatively new to the United States, but it’s growing in popularity. Green roofs are made from plants and other vegetation. They offer a variety of benefits to homeowners.

The best roof insulation like green roofs cost $10–$28 per square foot. Though this is on the high end of the cost spectrum, green roofs are made to increase energy efficiency. The savings on your electricity bill can offset the initial costs.

Sustainable and ecological green roof in the Netherlands

Pros and Cons of Green Roofing

Pros Environmental pollutants are absorbed before entering your home Improved energy efficiency and reduced utility costs Noise reducing properties can filter out unwanted environmental noise
Cons Regular maintenance required for optimum performance Susceptible to water damage

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs have a life expectancy of 30–50 years, making them a great investment. These roofs come in many styles and materials. All options promise durability, easy maintenance, and fire and weather resistance.

Metal roofs also help lower your utility costs. “Metal roofing is the most energy-efficient type of roofing. Reflection of sunlight will lower surface temperatures on a roof and subsequently reduce attic temperatures, lowering energy costs,” says John Foley, New England Branch Manager, Long Home Products. Metal roofs cost $9–$14.60 per square foot.

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Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

Pros Lightweight and doesn’t require additional support Maintenance is straightforward and simple Reflects heat and can lower cooling costs
Cons Expansion and contraction from environmental factors can stress the material Installation can be difficult and require a specialist

Slate Roofing

Natural slate roofing lasts more than 100 years and is generally known as the highest quality roofing material. However, slate tiles are also one of the most expensive options, costing $7.56–$18.70 per square foot.

Pros and Cons of Slate Roofing

Pros Beautiful aesthetic Extremely long lifespan of 100+ years Natural, eco-friendly material
Cons Exceptionally fragile if handled improperly Requires specialty knowledge for proper installation

Solar Roofing

Solar roofing is a great option for homeowners converting to solar power who want to maintain their home’s aesthetics. This roofing mimics traditional roofing design but generates energy like traditional solar panels. It costs $16.10–$20.85 per square foot and is available from some of the best and most reputable solar companies.

A close-up image of Tesla solar tiles on the roof of a home

Pros and Cons of Solar Roofing

Pros Energy generating and eco-friendly Great aesthetic alternative to solar panels Won’t break if stepped on
Cons Installation requires a trained specialist New technology with little information regarding longevity

Wood Roofing

There are two main types of wooden roofing material: wooden shingles and wooden shakes. Wood shingles are typically thinner than wood shakes and are sawed by a machine on both sides. A shake is hand split on only one side. Shakes are better in certain weather conditions, such as high wind.

Cedar shakes are some of the most common types of wooden roofing material. Cedar shake roof cost is comparable to wood shingles and shakes that can also be made from spruce, redwood, pine, or other coniferous trees. Regardless of which option you choose, wooden roofs cost $6.53–$9.90 per square foot.

Pros and Cons of Wood Roofing

Pros Easy to install and transport Extremely resistant to high winds, rot, and mold Naturally insulating, lowering heating and cooling costs
Cons Can be prone to wood-loving insect infestations Susceptible to fire damage, which can make them hard to insure

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How Do Common Roof Types Compare?

Each type of roofing ranges in price and durability. Compare the costs and life span of each roofing type below.

MaterialCostLifespan

Asphalt Shingles

$2.08–$3.50

20–30 years

Built-up Roofing (BUR)

$3.42–$4.90

15–30 years

Clay Tiles

$5.90–$14.68

50–100 years

Concrete Roofing

$5.16–$8.60

50 years

Green Roofing

$10–$28

40 years

Metal Roofing

$9–$14.60

40–70 years

Slate Roofing

$7.56–$18.70

75–200 years

Solar Roofing

$16.10–$20.85

25–30 years*

Wood Roofing

$6.53–$9.90

15–30 years

*Solar roofing lifespan is a general estimate. Solar roofing is a technology that is only 10 years old.

Your roof’s lifespan can vary depending on how well you maintain it. Some roofing materials require more maintenance than others. If not maintained properly, your roof may need replacement sooner rather than later.


When Should You Replace Your Roof?

It’s best to repair or replace your roof promptly to prevent further damage. Here are some signs of roof damage:

  • Active leaks or water stains in your attic or ceiling
  • Asphalt shingle granules in your gutters
  • Ice dams or ridges that prevent proper runoff
  • Increased energy bills unrelated to an HVAC issue
  • Mildew or moss in any area where sections of your roof meet
  • Pools of water on your roof
  • Visible holes, tears, cracks, or other damage to your shingles
  • Visible sagging of your roofline

It’s a good idea to call a professional to inspect your roof if you notice any of these signs.


DIY vs. Professional Replacement

You may be able to do some roof repairs yourself, depending on which type you have. However, it’s best to leave total roof replacement up to the professionals. Roofing contractors have specialized equipment, such as scaffolding and pulleys. They also have the knowledge and experience to do the job properly. Some roof types must be installed by approved contractors to maintain the product warranty.

An improperly installed roof can cause major problems in the future. For example, water could get into the roof deck and internal structure and cause mold, rot, or other damage. Installing a roof on your own may even compromise your home insurance policy. Though labor costs can be expensive, having a professional roofer do the job is worth it.

See a breakdown of different roof types and parts below, as illustrated in our Learn the Basics of Roof Systems article.

Diagram of parts of a roof. Credit: Ian Worpole

Our Conclusion

Roof replacement can be expensive, but it’s imperative that it’s done correctly or you could face major problems down the road. There are plenty of roofing types available to fit your budget and needs. Choosing the right kind and hiring a professional installer will provide you with the peace of mind that your home is protected for years to come.

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FAQ About Types of Roofs

What is the most durable type of roof/roofing material?

Slate is the most durable and longest-lasting roofing material, with a life expectancy of more than 150 years. The next most durable material is clay, which has a lifespan of about 100 years.

What roof type is the easiest to maintain?

Metal roofing is one of the lowest maintenance options. It’s not prone to cracking, splitting, or corrosion, making it practically maintenance-free.

What roofing material is the most cost-effective?

Asphalt roofing is the most cost-effective option. It’s one of the least expensive roofing materials and will last you between 15 and 30 years.

What is the most popular roof type?

The most popular residential roofing material is asphalt roofing. The economical price point and easy installation make it a go-to choice for homeowners.