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Modern American Craftsman Style House Exterior with asphalt shingle roof

Types of Roofing Materials: A Homeowner’s Guide

Updated March 25, 2024

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Author Icon Written by Angela Bunt Updated 03/25/2024

Choosing the right roofing material is crucial to maintaining your home’s structural integrity and protecting it from the elements. Different materials work better in different climates, each with pros and cons. We’ve compiled this guide to help you learn more about the most common types of roofing materials to help you make an informed decision about the right type for your home.

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Roof shingles with garret house on top of the house among a lot of trees. dark asphalt tiles on the roof background
Asphalt Shingle Roofing

The cost of asphalt shingle roof installation can range from $5,994–$9,791.

Man working on a flat roof
Roof Repair

Typically, the average cost of roof repair ranges between $379 and $1,755

House With a Metal Roof
Metal Roofing

A new metal roof costs an average of $9,150–$16,743.


Signs You Needs To Replace Your Roof

High-quality roofing materials will last for many years. However, even the most durable flat roofs require repairs or replacement eventually. You may be able to repair roof damage if you catch it early, so it’s a good idea to perform annual inspections and address any concerns right away.

Here are some signs of trouble:

Broken tiles
Loose or lifting shingles
Moss or mold growing on the roof
Visible water damage

Common repairs include replacing individual shingles, reattaching lifting shingles, and replacing flashing. A roof may need complete replacement if structural damage has occurred, the material is beyond its useful life, or there is extensive surface damage

Factors To Consider When Choosing Roofing Materials

Many factors go into choosing a new roofing material. Start by determining your home’s structural integrity and current roof subsurface. An ASHI-certified home inspector can help with this step. 

Consider each of the following when making your decision to ensure you select an appropriate material for your home and budget:

  • Appearance: A new roof is a significant investment, and the materials you choose should complement your home’s overall style. 
  • Building codes: Local building codes often dictate wind resistance and energy efficiency requirements for materials. Ask your roofing contractor which options meet local codes.
  • Budget: The cost of installing a new roof varies by material, so determine your budget before shopping and then stick with it. 
  • Climate: Your local climate can make one type of roofing more suitable than another. For example, steel roofs may suffer from the salty air in coastal regions but are sturdy for areas with high winds. 
  • Energy efficiency: Certain roofs improve your home’s energy efficiency. For example, features such as reflective coatings can help lower heating and cooling costs. Visit Energy Star’s website to learn more about improving your home’s energy efficiency.
  • Installation: We always recommend hiring a professional to work on your roof. It’s a dangerous job that requires extensive knowledge and experience to get right, and attempting to install a roof yourself may void the warranty. Factor the cost of labor into your budget and take time to research reputable roofing companies.
  • Manufacturer’s warranty: Some roof shingle manufacturers provide longer warranties than others. Ask about warranty duration when shopping for types of roofing materials and getting estimates from contractors.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing material. They consist of a fiberglass base coated with asphalt and granules.

An asphalt shingle roof is cost-effective and can last for many years. It requires minimal maintenance, but you may need to inspect shingles for lifting or tears and clean them to remove moss buildup if conditions warrant it.

Three-tab shingles are typically the least expensive asphalt shingle roofing option. They provide a uniform look and typically last for about 20 years. Architectural shingles are thicker, with a textured appearance that mimics more expensive materials. Their increased thickness helps them last longer, with some top-rated roofing shingles lasting up to 30 years.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs are durable, attractive, and low maintenance. They’re fire-resistant, making them popular for homes in areas prone to wildfires. Metal roofs can also handle heavy snow when properly installed.

The cost of metal roofing is slightly higher than asphalt shingles, but its durability provides good value for the price. Most metal roofs last for 50 years or longer, though that figure can vary slightly depending on the type of metal roof you choose. 

Metal roofs come in many styles and shapes, including shingles and corrugated and standing seam panels. They’re ideal for low-slope and flat roofs where water infiltration could pose a problem with other materials. 

Steel is the most popular and affordable type of metal roofing. Some manufacturers use an energy-efficient reflective coating to help reduce heat gain from the sun. Steel panels typically cover two feet of roof width and can be custom-cut to your desired length. 


Clay Tiles

Clay and terra-cotta tiles provide an attractive Old World appearance that fits well with Spanish- and Mediterranean-style homes. You can buy natural and sealed versions; the latter has better water resistance. 

Clay tiles are fire-resistant and have an incredibly long life span. However, they’re more expensive than many other roofing materials and require specialized knowledge for installation. Additionally, they’re heavier than many other choices, so you’ll need to have your home inspected to ensure suitability.

Concrete Tiles

Concrete tiles are attractive, durable, and fire-resistant. They’re incredibly energy efficient and cost less than slate or clay tile roofs. You can have formed concrete tiles tinted to your desired color and finished with an appropriate sealer. 

Keep in mind that concrete roofing has slightly higher maintenance requirements than other natural materials. For example, concrete is more susceptible to mold than slate or clay.

Slate Roofing

Slate roofing shingles offer a classic look that boosts your home’s curb appeal. Slate roofs are energy-efficient and durable, with some lasting for 100 years or more. Industry testing shows slate is impact- and fire-resistant. 

Slate installation requires an experienced specialty roofing contractor familiar with the special requirements of slate tiles. You may need to add structural support to your home due to the extra weight of natural stone roofing.

Tile Roofing

Tile roofing comes in several synthetic and composite variations. Composite shingles consist of fiber cement, plastic, or rubber blends. Synthetic roofs are plastic polymers designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. They closely mimic the look of most other types of roofing tiles, including metal shingles, slate, clay, and cedar shakes, at a fraction of the cost. For example, a natural slate roof can cost as much as $30 per square foot, while a synthetic version might cost between $4 and $12 per square foot.  

These tiles are typically durable, with some lasting as long as 50 years. They’re also impact resistant, reducing the likelihood of damage from severe weather and hail strikes. Additionally, their lightweight structure means you can install them over existing roofing materials.

Our Conclusion

You can choose from many types of roofing materials, including asphalt shingles, metal, and natural slate or clay tiles. Selecting the right roofing system requires carefully considering your budget, your home’s style, and your climate. We recommend professional installation for all roofs, so factor labor into your total cost.

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FAQ About Types of Roofing Materials

Are roofing contractors licensed?

Roofing contractor licensing varies across states. Check with your state contractor board to determine if they require a license for roofing and to verify if the roofers you’re considering meet applicable requirements.

How many quotes should I get before hiring a roofing professional?

We recommend getting three quotes before hiring a roofing professional. Each estimate should include a description and costs for materials, permits, labor, and cleanup. Additional details may include licensing and insurance information and estimated project dates. 

What is a cool roof?

Cool roofs reflect sunlight and lower temperatures inside a home. The Department of Energy lists extended roof life span and lower home cooling costs as benefits of a cool roof. 

An experienced roofer can adapt almost any roofing material to improve its cooling features. For example, by choosing a reflective coating or light color. Green roofs are a special type of cool roof that incorporates plants. They require careful planning by a professional to ensure proper structural support and reduce the chance of a leak.

Can I install solar panels on a metal roof?

You can install solar panels on most roofs, including metal options. EnergySage lists metal roofing as one of the top choices for solar panel installation. 

As with any roof materials, you must properly install components such as clips and rails to secure the solar panels. You may also need to use special racking designed to raise the panels to the correct angle for maximum energy production. This will vary depending on your location.

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