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Choosing the right roofing for your home can be a bit stressful. With so many types of roofing available, you'll want to choose the materials best suited to your environment, housing style and budget.
Your roof will have to meet high building safety standards, so it’s important to consider the quality of service, products, materials and installation. Knowing more about your options before making the final selection will ensure you are happy with the results.
Shingle roofing is one of the most common styles for homes. When you drive through a neighborhood, chances are, most of the roofs you see will be shingle roofs. There are a variety of reasons for shingle roofing’s popularity, including its range of style and color options and its relatively low cost (compared to some other materials).
Shingles are installed by being overlapped in an offset manner, from the bottom to the top of the roof. This ensures that the roof is water repellent, allowing rain to drain effectively.
The type of shingles available that you will ultimately choose will depend upon several factors. The pitch of your roof, the construction method and the availability of local products are all typical considerations.
For example, plastic shingles are available, but are not commonly chosen, especially near places where wildfires are common. The plastic can be combustible and is better suited for less volatile environments. The same is true of wood shingles and organic-based asphalt roofing materials.
Another factor that can limit your options for shingle material is the construction method. Some shingles require sheathing on the roof deck, whereas others can be installed on a lath. Many shingles are installed over underlayment material to prevent leaks, such as from intense rain or snow dams. You’ll want to ask your roofing contractor what the stipulations are for your specific roof before getting started.
The most commonly available types of shingle roofing include:
Wood: Wood shingles are traditional and come in two forms—shingles and shakes. The primary difference between the two is how they are made. While both come from larger pieces of wood, shingles are sawn, while shakes are split. Shakes have a more irregular or non-uniform shape, which gives them a more rugged appearance. Shakes are often used in damp, seaside environments and for oceanfront housing. Overall, fewer homeowners install wood shingles due to their flammability and maintenance costs.
Flagstone or Slate: Flagstone and slate shingles are more expensive than some other materials, but they are well worth the investment in regards to durability. Stone or slate shingles can last up to 400 years with the proper care. With this kind of longevity, it’s easy to justify the larger upfront cost. The two biggest factors that contribute to slate’s long lifespan are maintenance and type of slate used. Slate shingles are reusable because they can also be moved from one building roof to another without losing durability.
Metal: Most often used in places where wildfires are a potential threat, metal shingles are very resistant to fires. Otherwise, in more temperate areas, they’re not a standard choice.
Plastic: Plastic is the primary material in imitation slate shingles. These provide the beautiful appearance of slate shingles without the cost. Of course, plastic does not endure for the hundreds of years slate does, but the overall visual effect is still there. Plastics do not work well in fire-prone areas, so this may be something you need to consider.
Composite Materials: Composite shingles, such as fiberglass asphalt shingles, are the most common used roofing material in American residential construction. This type is easy to install, recyclable and affordable. A wide range of colors is available for some flexibility in the final appearance of your home. Composite shingles last about 20 to 50 years.
Flat roofs are most common in arid, dry climates such as desert states. They are commonly seen in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and places where rainfall and other precipitation is infrequent.
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Although they look flat, there is actually a roof pitch of about 10 degrees. Many people love this style of roof because it allows for the roof to be used as additional outdoor space, such as for a garden or entertaining space.
Flat roofs are constructed of concrete, masonry or tar. The sun's heat is the biggest environmental threat to flat roofs. A surface coating helps keep heat out while also remaining quite inexpensive and easy to construct. A thin waterproofing material is usually installed as a cover to the roof surface. Called a membrane, these surfaces ensure water drains effectively into gutters.
If the membrane fails due to poor maintenance or other issues, collected water can cause major damage to the home's structure beneath. Water is a surreptitious problem. Much of the destruction is done before it is seen inside the building. Leaks can be difficult to track with a flat roof.
If you have a larger budget, flat roofs can be constructed using lead, tin or copper. This helps with durability and leak prevention, but can be problematic. They are sometimes targets for thieves as the roof is similar to copper piping.
Split from logs, cedar shakes are similar in appearance to shingles. The highest quality shakes are used for roofs, while lower quality shakes are applied as siding. This is a common style of roofing and siding for oceanfront homes on the East Coast of the U.S. They are often seen in places like the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard, the coast of Maine and the Outer Banks.
Shakes provide great protection from weather and are quite durable. They do require some maintenance, but most people who install shakes are aware of the necessary maintenance. They provide the extra care for the rustic, seaside aesthetic and coastal authenticity. Because they are split from logs, no two shakes are exactly the same.
Available in a variety of styles, materials and colors, composite roofing provides flexibility in appearance. Created as an alternative to now-banned asbestos roofing, composite roofs can be crafted to look like wood or slate. This type of roofing is more expensive than some other types, costing up to four times more than asphalt shingles.
To select the right roofing for your home, first narrow the choices to what is available in your area. Talk with different contractors about what they have to offer, as well as what they would recommend as the best choice.
Consider the protective factors of each:
- Expected lifetime
- Suitability for your roof pitch
- Required maintenance
- Your targeted aesthetic
Some people have a clear idea of what they want their roof to look like, and for them, the choice can be a quick one. But, if you’re unsure, have a discussion with your contractor and get more insight. View their gallery of work and listen to their advice. With a little bit of research, you’ll have a roof you’ll love for years to come.