A Homeowner’s Guide to Roofing Materials

Residential Roof

While roof repair specialists are knowledgeable and professional, it can be difficult to make a decision without doing some research on your own first.

In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about different types of roofing materials and how they can affect your roof’s efficacy in different climates, as well as what might be most economically beneficial in the long run.

Types of Roofing Materials

There are so many types of roofing materials to choose from that it can be overwhelming to the new homeowner, especially if you were previously unaware that there was anything outside of asphalt shingling. (1) If you are willing to invest in your roof so that it protects your home investment for the long run, however, then you will want to look into alternative shingle types.

Roofs are constantly exposed to brutal elements. Baking sun, ripping winds, freezing temperatures and pounding rain all take their toll on this important protective layer.

– Forbes

For many people, replacing the roof is an unplanned expense, and no one wants to shell out any more than they have to on an unexpected home repair project. Thus, rolled roofing or asphalt shingles are typically selected, which have a great lifespan and are easy for the contractors to install. In 15-20 years, the homeowner replaces the roof again, and no one thinks twice about it.

Because this cycle is so common, you might even be surprised to learn that there are over a dozen types of roofing materials that you can choose from. As long as you choose a contractor experienced in the installation, then you can change the roof material when you replace your roof next.

Rolled Roofing

Rolled Roofing

Rolled roofing is a material laid down in flat mats, typically used by businesses and homes with a flat roof or only slightly pitched roof. This rolled roofing is made in a similar fashion to asphalt, where it uses a mixture of asphalt-soaked felt or fiberglass and a stone facing.

While this type of roofing isn’t practical in many coastal areas or climates that receive snow because of the roof’s steep pitch, it can be used for roofs in warmer areas of the country, providing an excellent flooring for rooftop lounges or flat maintenance access for lights and windows. This type of roofing is more common in a commercial setting than residential; however, it can be used in both.

Built-Up Roofing

With built-up roofing, the roof deck, or base layer of the roof, is covered in a layer of insulation to help keep the interior of the building cool. Then, multiple layers of felt or plywood and asphalt are applied to the roof until it is sufficiently thick to protect the roof from external damage.

Because the asphalt is layered, this type of roofing can only be used on roofs that have a low pitch and is most often installed in warmer climates for insulating and protecting commercial buildings on a budget. The main downside of this type of roofing is that the asphalt reflects a lot of heat, increasing the surrounding heat island if used in large enough amounts.

Membrane Roofing

Membrane roofing is a specialty roof material that is most often used for RVs and some commercial buildings, where the focus is on waterproofing the building to protect the interior. Installed in a similar manner to rolled roofing, this roofing material is most common in low pitched or flat roofs where water damage is a concern.

This is a great solution for areas that might want an additional layer of protection underneath the rooftop pool, pond system, or areas that might receive a lot of rainfall and flooding regularly and want to ensure the roof is able to withstand the elements. The result is a nice, uniformly rolled color across the roof’s surface.

Asphalt Composite Shingles

Asphalt Composite Shingles Roof

As one of the most common roofing materials, asphalt shingles are economical, commonplace, and easy to install, making them one of the most recommended roof materials. Furthermore, they are so common that not many people pay attention to the shingles when viewing a home.

While they are not designed for any style of curb appeal, they look nice and neutral, though you can sometimes choose between light and dark shingles.

Asphalt shingles are durable, but they require regular maintenance to keep moss and algae from growing along the roofline or areas where shingles overlap. Regular cleaning and waterproof treatment is also recommended to keep asphalt shingles in the best condition possible.

Standing Seam Metal Roofing

Standing seam metal roofing is a type of metal roofing, commonly known as corrugated metal. This type of roofing is considered one of the most durable, weatherproof roofing types available on the market, as the only thing that it is susceptible to is direct puncture from a falling tree branch or rust, unless the material is made of galvanized steel.

This type of metal roofing is not commonly used because it is considered an eyesore, but for industrial buildings, sheds, mobile homes, and many other types of buildings where curb appeal isn’t the focus, it can be an excellent choice.

Metal Shingles or Shakes

Metal Shingles Roof

Another type of metal roofing, shake roofing is a type of interlocking roofing system made from aluminum. Coated with a colorful, waterproof substance to improve its curb appeal, this aluminum material features a grainy texture and easy installation for sloped roofs.

Durable and attractive, this type of metal roofing is considered an acceptable choice for neighborhoods, though it will still be noisier in rain than some other materials.

While this material is not widely available, roofing companies that can obtain it will often allow you to select from a range of colors, helping you create a truly unique space for your home’s exterior.

Wood Shingles or Shakes

Wooden shakes are a special type of roofing material that is traditionally hand split, allowing the roof to showcase a rough-hewn natural texture that many people are looking for, especially in coastal towns where that type of roofing is considered traditional or trendy.

These shakes aren’t like normal shingles, which are much flatter and typically mass-produced, leaving them looking bland and uninspiring.

While wood will require regular maintenance and treatment to keep it in ideal condition, it is one of the most insulating roof materials that can last for a long time giving proper care.

Slate Shingles

Slate is one of the most durable materials you can choose for a roof’s shingles. Not only are these tiles beautiful, with a natural stone look to them, but they are very durable and last for a long time after installation. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a roof repair company that can install these shingles correctly.

If you’re willing to invest the extra money upfront for installation, slate is one of the best roofing materials you can go for outside of solar or green roofing.

Luxury Shingles

Luxury Shingles Roof

These shingles are unique in their curb appeal. They are designed to look like slate tiles, providing a uniform and orderly look to them, but they are made of asphalt, making it easy and straightforward to install and repair later.

While these tiles are a little more expensive to install, it can really make your home stand out from the everyday rough asphalt shingles without the expensive price tag that comes with repairing or installing slate tiles.

Luxury shingles are a great way to showcase your home without making too bold of a statement, which can be important for homeowners in a neighborhood association or in an area that doesn’t do well with change.

Clay Tiles

Clay tiles are one of the oldest and most traditional roof tile choices in the world. Humans have been layering hardened clay tiles over rooftops to protect the interior from sun, wind, and rain for centuries. These tiles are often glazed or treated with a waterproofing agency to keep it resistant to moisture and mold growth alike.

These tiles are still in common use in many European countries where the traditional handmade clay tiles have survived for generations with little maintenance necessary and easy repairs are made on the spot.

Clay tiles are most commonly available from mass-produced terracotta, but they are traditionally made from locally available materials, varying with the region. Synthetic clay may also be an option depending on the area and availability through the roofing company.

Concrete Tiles

Concrete is one of the most economical materials in the modern world. These concrete roof tiles are made to resemble clay, slate, or other natural rock materials.

One big benefit of concrete is that it can be pre-cast into certain shapes or dyed to mimic other types of roof materials.

Unfortunately, repairs can be tricky with this type of tile because the concrete sheet may break, requiring several pre-cast lines of concrete to be re-installed, and concrete can quickly become heavy, making shipping costs difficult to swallow on a budget. Still, this concrete does not absorb any heat, instead reflecting it from the surface, keeping your home much cooler than average.

Solar Tiles

Solar panel tiles are the next big thing in home improvement technology, and a lot of homeowners are excited about the prospect. As more people adopt the technology, it funds research to improve it and bring it to a more cost-effective level of availability.

These shingles, also known as ‘photovoltaic’ shingles are built to resemble brick-like shingles that install directly onto the roofline, soaking up solar energy and storing it in the battery for home use. Because these are not panels installed over the top of the roof, there is no place for debris to clog or fall underneath. The downside is that this technology is still relatively new, so it is cost prohibitive for many new homeowners on a budget.

Synthetic Slate Tile

Synthetic Slate Tile Roof

Synthetic slate is a modern improvement of traditional or classic slate tile that combines plastic and rubber together to form a stronger, more durable compound than slate. While it is not as environmentally friendly as a natural slate tile, it lasts longer and is designed to provide the same type of unique curb appeal that natural slate can provide to any home.

Some manufacturers do create recycled slate tiling which uses recycled plastic as the base, rather than new plastic. This helps cut down on a lot of plastic waste, but there is not yet a solution for recycling the tiles that helps keep it out of the landfill.

Revolutionary Green Roofing

Green roofing is a new, revolutionary roofing style that puts a focus on regenerating the native ecosystem with greenery.

The roof is layered with gravel and sod, providing a stable layer that naturally filters water to the proper downspouts, and provides plenty of natural, maintenance-free greenery where homeowners can feature native pollinator-friendly greenery.

Green roofs are an excellent way for homeowners and businesses alike to support the local ecosystem fractured by human development, however, it is important that these areas are not sprayed with any kind of pesticides and native plants are selected when populating the green roof substrate. Another benefit of this type of roof material is that it can help cool the building even more than other types of roofs.

What Type of Material is Best for Roof?

For many people, budget concerns keep them sticking to cost-effective solutions like metal or wood roofing, however, as we’ve learned, there are a variety of unique roofing materials on the market. (2)

These materials aren’t without merit, they’re just a little more expensive than traditional asphalt or wooden shingles.

Some of the best roofing materials traditionally used are slate and clay tiles, as these can withstand superior amounts of UV rays and have excellent waterproofing with little to no warping over time.

The main forces influencing the shape are the climate and the materials available for the roof structure and outer covering.

– Huffpost

Other, newer technologies are available as of recently, however, which have opened up the possibilities of green roofing or solar panel roofing that many people are now opting for instead of even these time-tested slate and clay options. Green roofing is a superior ecological option, while solar panel roofing is a better alternative to panels that are installed over the top, so that there is no gap for debris to collect under.

What is the Most Durable Roofing Material?

When it comes to deciding what the most durable roofing material is, many people have their bets drawn between one of two: slate or galvanized steel.

While metal roofing is not many people’s favorite because of the tinny noise it can produce with rain, it is one of the strongest and most durable roof options available. Slate, on the other hand, is a rock-like material that doesn’t produce such tinny noises and is a much nicer looking option than metal in general.

Slate requires less maintenance than asphalt and other types of shingles, but it does require more than metal, which can generally be left alone unless punctured.

Depending on your preferences when it comes to curb appeal as well as budget for the project, slate or metal roofing tiles are both excellent choices when shopping for durability against nature. Strong storms, hail, wind, and rain alike stand no match against these two tiles.

What is the Most Economical Type of Roof?

Metal and asphalt shingles tie when competing for the most economical shingle type. A roof made of asphalt shingles is so common that the cost to produce it has been lowered over the years to meet market demand. The downside to this type of roofing is that it must be regularly maintained to ensure that it is still holding up to harsh UV rays and rainfall.

Metal shingles, on the other hand, often come in mass-produced sheets so that several square feet at a time can be laid with relative ease, and there is far less maintenance that must go into a metal roof on an annual basis. Unless a metal roof is punctured, the most that it would need is an annual power washing to clean the surface.

Unfortunately, metal is not the favored roof type because of its lacking appearance, which is where asphalt wins the race.

What are the Most Common Roofing Tiles?

By far the most common roofing tiles are asphalt because of its budget-friendly price and relative ease of repair. For most regions in the United States, it is the standard choice among homeowners and businesses alike, with metal roofing being a close follow-up choice.

This isn’t to say that asphalt isn’t without its faults, however. Asphalt wears down over time, and it can chip away and clog drainage spouts, or begin to sag in areas of high stress, causing water to pool and potentially lead to water damage on the interior of the home.

Because of the affordability of asphalt shingles, however, a lot of people opt for this with the intention of receiving routine repairs and maintenance to the roof. Many homeowners don’t even realize that there are alternatives to asphalt shingles available, which is why its important to do you own research before contacting a specialist for services.

We’ll Help You Find a Roofer


Now that you’ve done the hard work of learning about different types of roofing materials, you can hire a professional to take care of the replacement work for you. But where do you start?

Finding a roofer shouldn’t be as hard as learning about the options available to you. All it takes is a little help, and you’ll have access to roofers in your area.

At Same Day Pros, we can help you find a professional roofer in your area at no cost to you. Simply search for the services you need and select your location; we’ll pull up a list of professionals in the area for you to choose from. It’s that easy!


  1. Forbes, Signs You Need a New Roof, https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/exterior/signs-you-need-new-roof/
  2. HuffPost, Roofing Materials to Protect You From the Elements, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/roofing-materials-to-prot_b_8959516

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