Types of Roofing Materials Around the U.S.
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Types Of Roofing Around the U.S.
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There are a lot of options out there when it comes to roofing materials, which can make it difficult to decide on what to use when building a new structure. Homes and businesses can be drastically different with their roofing needs.
Asphalt is used more than any type of material by far, but slate is good for almost any climate and clay has an artisan look. These are just a few examples of roofing options available, but you’ll also need to know where they’re used more and what each one brings to the table.
Not only do most houses in the continental United States have asphalt shingles as their chosen roofing material, but they have a lot of options available. You’ve probably seen the traditional brown or red shingles, but they also come in blues and greens.
One important thing to know about these particular shingles is that they have 2 distinct types: Architectural and 3-tab. 3-tabs are usually cheaper, but the former tend to last longer and provide better quality protection for your roof.
90 percent of homes in America wouldn’t use asphalt shingles if they weren’t proven, but they’ve been around for more than a century. They’re still just as easy to work with, but their makeup has changed to fiberglass, mineral composites, and asphalt for protection.
There are many pros and cons to asphalt shingles, with some of the pros being:
- Easy to use and install
- Consistently available because they’re easier to produce
- Great in almost any climate or region
- There’s not much to maintain
The lack of cons is another reason so many people use them:
- The choices of color don’t matter as much over time due to fading
- You’ll have to replace them more than other roofing, but the price is a good counter-point
- Architectural shingles last twice as long as the 3-tab style, which only last 15 years at most, which is why we recommend architectural over 3-tab.
Another good reason to consider asphalt shingles is that most of the major manufacturers in roofing supply them, giving them credibility. According to Consumer Reports, the top brands of shingle manufacturers include:
- Owens Corning
- Atlas Roofing
Similar to asphalt shingles in that the material can be used in almost any area due to a long lifespan and weather resistance, slate can be found in almost any hardware store. It’s more sturdy than shingles, but you do pay a little more for the quality increase.
- Resistant to impacts by branches or hail and some harsh weather
- Can last as long as 200 years, so you might not have to replace it in your lifetime
- Unlike other roofing, slate doesn’t need additional treatment to be retardant to flames
- The increase in price jumps to over $10 for a square foot of material
- Not only do you have to be strong to install slate, but your roof does as well because of its weight
One misconception about “flat” roofing is that it’s not actually flat. To avoid water buildup that would crash through your roof, they’re built with a slight incline to help runoff. One of the most common places to find them is a mall or other commercial structure.
Doesn’t need to be replaced much due to strength and resistance
If it’s put in right, your roof will be heavily reinforced
Flat roof provides ample space for a rooftop hobby, like a garden or sitting area
Modern advancements give better options for durability
Not great for climates with a lot of rainfall
Not as hard to install as before, but flat roofs aren’t as strong as they used to be
You’ll probably need a contractor to install it correctly to avoid problems in the future
For 200 years, metal roofing has been around on homes. That’s because it comes with a few options that impact your roof, like whether you’ll decide on paneled or sheet and shingled metal. If that didn’t give it away, metal roofing can be made to look like other roofing materials.
Wood is a common one, as is slate, but you can also buy the pre-sealed version of metal roofing. It comes at a higher cost than the non-sealed material, but it’s worth it for the ease of installation in comparison.
- They’re surprisingly lightweight for being metal, which means they’re easier to get on the roof
- Oddly enough, the metal roofing that’s made to resemble other materials is cheaper
- With proper maintenance, you can have the same roofing for over 60 years
- Cheaper than you might expect, metal roofing is about $10 for a square foot because of its elemental composition
- There are a lot of colors available, similar to asphalt shingles, but you can also get your metal roofing in steel, corrugated steel, copper, aluminum, and more
- Because it has to be installed by a contractor to know it’s done right, the cost for metal roofing is about twice as much
- The standing seam makes sure that your roofing will line up without any complications, but it can be a factor on the wallet
- Metal is a loud material in a rainstorm, so you might have to keep in mind your goals and invest in soundproofing
If you live in a dry region, you might look into wood tile roofing for the aesthetic. However, especially if your area’s prone to wildfires you’ll have to treat the wood for protection. Between the quality and treatment, wood tile can last as long as half a century.
If you’re in a rainy area, that lifespan will be dramatically reduced so just be mindful of your location. An interesting fact is that the only difference between shakes and shingles is the shape, where the former is a wedge and the latter is uniform in length and width.
- The main reason many homeowners choose wood is for the visual effect
- Wood helps to reduce the bug population, with cedar being especially effective to repel mosquitoes.
- Needs a dry climate to maximize lifespan and protection
- You might need to pay extra for fire-retardant treatment
- Wood tiles and shakes need more maintenance than some other materials
Like wood, one of the main points that bring people around to clay is the look. If you’re looking for a historical aesthetic like French riviera or Spanish cities, this might be a good fit. Unfortunately, clay tiles go for around $14 a square foot.
Because of the specific interest, you’re more likely to see clay in areas like Florida or California. Not only is clay best in dry cities, but it can withstand strong winds that hurricanes typically are associated with.
- Perfect for areas prone to high winds or intense heat
- While red is the most common, you can also get clay tiles in brown, gray, and terracotta
- Clay keeps heat and flames out while simultaneously insulating your home
- The price may not seem much higher than a few others, but clay tiles are extremely fragile and prone to breaking
- Because of that, you might find it best to have a professional try to get them up a ladder
- Clay is a heavy material, similar to slate, so it’s not for most houses
Commercial buildings, like the aforementioned malls or most franchise stores, can use some of the former materials but typically opt for a specific type of roofing. From price to protection and maintenance, the most important factors according to CertainTeed are weatherproofing, reinforcement, and surfacing.
Even though it’s the most recent one on this list, thermoplastic polyolefin has become popular in the sloped- and flat-roofing market. In fact, TPO is the most-common roofing material for new commercial roofing based on research by IKO.
- Reflects UV rays and heat from sunlight due to its design
- Highly effective for the price
- Doesn’t require much work to install
- Variety of resistances from corrosives and water to tearing
- Reduced durability, so you’ll have to replace it every 10 years or so
- Needs to be sealed with heat to work properly, so it might take more time to put down despite the ease of installation
Though TPO is the newcomer, Built-Up Roofing is the veteran material of more than 100 years in North America. It’s long-lasting and has many uses, so it’s the choice for a lot of commercial buildings.
- Layers of material and overlapping make BUR one of the strongest on this list
- Has the option of a waterproof or reflective coating
- Comes with a standard resistance to things like electricity, fire, and punctures
- Provides excellent grip in rain or cold weather
Lasts up to 30 years before needing replaced
- Despite water resistance, BUR still has mold problems and leaks
- The price matches the quality, with a square foot being in the ballpark of $200
- Can take longer to install, so the price of contractors can further add to the cost
- BUR is heavily affected by strong winds
- Some roofs can’t hold BUR due to a single square foot weighing 25 pounds
Unlike the other names on this list, EPDM is just the chemicals that go into the material production. Still, it’s made its way onto flat commercial roofing in sheets.
- Lasts twice as long as TPO on average
- Insulates the building to save on electricity with the white sheeting and a layer of insulation
- Lowest price of all commercial roofing
- While the sheets of EPDM are cheaper, the cost of installation and which version of the material you go with can jack the price up significantly
- Prone to tears or punctures, especially after half the lifespan has elapsed
The good news is that almost all of the commercial materials for roofing come with a reinforcing coat to make them last longer. The coating affects the elemental components to make your materials stronger, but there are location-based coatings to consider.
For example, southern California might need UV protection while wetter areas should look into waterproof or corrosion coatings due to the natural acidity of rain. The latter is also important for areas with a lot of factories or plants.
Which Roof is Best for Your?
Homeowners and commercial business owners have options for their roofing needs, from asphalt shingles and wood to Built-Up Roofing and Thermoplastic Polyolefin. The choice depends on location, purpose, and the style of building you have.
Keep in mind that you can always change your roofing type if it’s not working out, like if you start with slate and your roof starts to sag over time or the BUR keeps getting blown off. On top of the other considerations, think about the weather and possible coatings before you choose!
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