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What Type of Roofing Material Is Right for Your Home?

Metal? Clay tiles? Cedar shingles? Here are all the answers.

types of roofing
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A roof is the workhorse of a house, but it doesn’t often get the respect it deserves. It’s usually an afterthought to the beauty of an illuminated kitchen or a luxurious bedroom, quietly shielding these spaces from the outside world. In fact, it’s only when a roof doesn’t provide adequate shelter—like, say, when it leaks—that this vital detail transitions into a high priority on a homeowner’s list.

“A roof is one of the most important investments a homeowner ever makes—it’s literally what protects everything and everyone inside a house,” says Elizabeth Moody, the senior merchant for roofing at The Home Depot.

Available roofing materials have expanded in the last few years, so choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Moody recommends going into the process as an informed customer, which is why we asked her to describe how to choose the type that’s right for your home. And since you might need guidance on when exactly to replace a roof and its proper installation, Moody also shares tips on these topics, too. Read on to get her insights, and you’ll start appreciating this workhorse more.

How to Choose The Right Roofing Material

As more homeowners have learned to embrace the merits of curb appeal, roofs can be one way to achieve that goal on a broad scale. Most addresses have steep roofs, Moody says, so their appearance is more noticeable to passersby. “The roof is like a home’s window dressing,” she says. “It can really make a statement on the house.”

In order to ensure that this statement is visually and structurally solid, start by taking a stroll around the neighborhood. Observe the different roofing materials being used on surrounding properties, noting your likes and dislikes, and then research the various roofing codes dictated by your area. “Some regions have building codes that restrict the types of acceptable materials and how a roof should be installed,” She continues. “For example, California requires all wood roofs be treated with a fire retardant and pass a weathering test.”

Once you have an idea of the popular roofing materials in your area, you can start to learn which ones are best for you.

The Top Types of Roofing Materials Sold Today

Cedar Wood Shingles

“Wood shingles are often considered the quintessential roofing material, and they give a house a classic charm,” Moody notes. “This material ages naturally over time, with a beautiful gray patina.” Wood has a high wind resistance that can usually withstand gusts of up to 200 miles per hour, Moody adds, and roofs made from it can last up to 30 years. But shingles often require regular maintenance, and can be expensive to install.

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Roof with cedar wood shingles.
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Asphalt Shingles

“This is by far the most popular choice for today’s properties, and they come in a multitude of styles and colors,” she says. “Many of these styles mimic the look of weathered wood shingles or even slate roofs, and you can also get them in ‘cool colors’ that reduce heat transferring to the house.” There are two types of asphalt shingles, architectural and three-tab, Moody notes. Depending on which option is installed, these shingles can last up to 50 years. But the finished look might not have the same “wow factor” as the other materials.

New Home Exterior; House With Architectural Asphalt Roof, Vinyl Siding
This is what asphalt shingles look like.
JamesBreyGetty Images

Clay Tiles

“Clay and concrete tiles have a high durability that can withstand strong winds, and they’re also energy efficient and more fire resistant than competing options,” she adds. “Their curb appeal is another big advantage, too.” Clay tiles have to be installed by a professional and routinely maintained, since they tend to crack over time. And if a homeowner is switching to clay tiles from another roof type, they will probably have to update the roof’s support system as well, since this material is so heavy.

Tiled Roof Covering On House
An example of a clay tile roof.
Hennadii TantsiuraGetty Images

Metal

Metal roofing is one of the fastest-growing materials on the market, and its cost tends to be more than asphalt shingles but less than clay or wood,” she says. “They’re either large panels or individual shingles made from aluminum, steel, or copper.” The most appealing aspect of this durable material is that it’s nearly maintenance-free and lasts up to 50 years. But because metal roofs have to be custom-built, it’s important to find a quality installer.

An example of a metal roof
Metal roofs are known for being long-lasting.
photosbysuziGetty Images

What to Know About Replacement and Installation

Part of the reason why shopping for a roof can be so overwhelming for homeowners is because it tends to only happen once over the course of a typical 30-year mortgage. Furthermore, deciding when to start this process is unique to the property, too.

While a severe storm may make the choice for getting a new roof obvious, minor leaks and cracks can be harder to spot. If you know that your roof is old and you’re not sure about its overall condition, Moody says that you should check it yearly before winter and rainy seasons. You can do this yourself by peering out windows, looking up from the ground, or even employing Google Earth for a bird’s eye view.

“What you’re looking for is any missing shingles or any cracks,” she says. “You also don’t want any algae or mold on your roof’s surface, which can lead to leaks.” Not sure what you’re seeing? That’s when you should hire a contractor to make an inspection, and don’t forget about also including a sweep of the attic, too.

If it’s time to repair or replace your roof, hire a certified installer from a reputable company—and double-check that it has insurance. Before the installation, ask about the products used for weather protection (especially snow) and ventilation. Then, be sure to go over the warranties of your roofing material, and ask any questions to be clear about what’s being covered.

But above all else, take time to research your preferred roofing material before committing to it, so that you know how this workhorse is likely to perform. Since you’ll probably only get one chance to replace it, a roof deserves as much careful consideration as possible.

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