Choosing the right materials for my roof

There are many options to cover the roof of your home or other structure. Depending on where you live, and the shape and style of your roof, a variety of factors are involved in determining the best material for your roof.

There are four main types of roofing materials: shingles, slate, metal, and tile. Each one is examined in some detail below, looking at performance, availability, and other factors that should be considered when buying a new roof.


Description: A sheet of tar paper with pebbles layered on top to repel rain, shingles are assembled in factories across the United States.

Strengths: Durable and inexpensive, it is commonly used and easy to install. Many do-it-yourselfers are comfortable precisely installing shingle roofing. Because they are manufactured they come in a wide variety of colors and styles.

Weaknesses: Less durable than some other roof types, these nonetheless often come with 15 to 20 year warranties when professionally installed.

Average cost: Asphalt shingles cost around $200 per square, a 10’x10’ section.

Most frequently found: Throughout the United States, even in places where other roofing materials are found in abundance.


Description: Natural slate roofs are made of rectangles of the hard, brittle rock that used to be used in chalkboards and is still often used under certain of pool tables. Slate cannot be made or assembled, it is extracted from natural quarries. This means that your location can greatly impact the cost of your slate roof.

Strengths: a well installed slate roof can last a lifetime and is often guaranteed the last 30 years or more. Slate is an attractive roof covering, and is often considered to add to the overall resale value of a home.

Weaknesses: because slate is difficult to extract ship and install, only a few roofers in any given area work with the material. This means it is more expensive and time-consuming to install. Also, because slate is naturally occurring, you generally have one color choice: slate.

Average cost: According to Angie’s List, a slate roof can cost around $1,500 for what is called a “square”, which is a 10’x10’ section of roof.

Most frequently found: Close to slate quarries in the northeastern United States.


Description: Metal roofs are sheets of metal, adhered to the roofing underlayment with pitch or tar.

Strengths: Very cheap, even to cover large areas of flat roof.

Weaknesses: can’t be used on sloping roofs because the surface is slick. Prone to occasional puncture from debris in storms. Prone to pooling which can cause leaks through adjacent surfaces.

Average cost: Between $500 and $1200 per 10’ x 10’ square.

Most frequently found: On businesses or other buildings with large, flat roofs.


Description: While slate can be considered a type of tile, the term generally refers to shaped clay or concrete tiles used on roofs.

Strengths: Clay and concrete are both strong materials, and in most climates they can provide a lifetime of protection, even longer than slate. The most common cause of tile roof failure is a force of nature like a tree falling and damaging the surface.

Weaknesses: Their durability means you will require professional installation and you will pay handsomely for clay and concrete tiles. Also, they are generally much heavier than shingle roofs and may require roof reinforcement.

Average cost: $400 – $1600 per 10’ x 10’ square.

Most frequently found: In areas prone to extremes of heat, sun, and rain, where a premium is placed on seldom needing repairs, and there is easy access to clay.

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