5 basic materials to use on your roof

November 3, 2015

Few decisions impact the cost, quality and durability of your home as much as your choice of roofing material. Different roofing materials offer different advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will learn about the five most common roofing materials and consider their cost, ease of installation, durability and aesthetics.

5 basic materials to use on your roof

1. Wood

  • Wood has been used as a roofing material since the very beginning of human civilisation.
  • Although not as durable as some other materials on this list, wood still offers superior aesthetics and relatively low cost.
  • Cedar, cypress and redwood are three common woods used in roofing. These are usually treated with fire-retarding materials to reduce fire risk.
  • Before choosing wood for your roof, make sure to consult local building codes for any prohibitions against using wood.
  • Wood roofs have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years.
  • Pros: Superior aesthetics; not very expensive.
  • Cons: Fire risk; not especially durable.

2. Metal

  • Metal, either in the form of corrugated sheets or shingles, is a common roofing material.
  • The cost, weight and durability can vary wildly depending on the metal used. For instance, corrugated iron or galvanised steel sheets are extremely cheap and typically used on sheds and other outdoor buildings. Copper shingles, on the other hand, are extremely durable, corrosion resistant, attractive but also very expensive.
  • For homes, lead or copper are the roofing metals of choice. These are typically joined by solder and offer a rich patina, high durability and low-weight. As a downside, they can be very expensive, often costing five to10 times more than asphalt shingles.
  • Pros: Low weight, durability, cost (for galvanised steel).
  • Cons: Expensive (for copper or lead).

3. Asphalt shingle

  • Asphalt shingles are made from a fibreglass base coated with a thick layer of asphalt and then covered with ceramic or sand-like granules. This is the most popular roofing material throughout North America due to its low-cost and ease of installation.
  • Asphalt shingles can vary widely in quality and durability. More expensive variants are laminated and made from thicker fibreglass base. Typical lifespan for such roofs is between 15 and 25 years.
  • Pros: Cheap and easy to install.
  • Cons: Not very durable.

4. Slate

  • Slate is a fine-grained, naturally occurring rock that's widely used in roofing.
  • Extremely durable and nonabsorbent, slate has been used in roofing since the late 1800s. A few of these roofs are still standing, more than 100 years later -- a testament to the durability of slate.
  • A large block of slate is typically split into thin sheets. These thin sheets are then broken into tiles for use in roofing.
  • Installing slate tiles to the roof is a labour-intensive and expensive process. Slate is also very heavy and might require additional structural reinforcement in some buildings.
  • Slate is expensive, but has a rich, natural colour and attractive patina. The colour of slate tiles can vary depending on the location where it is mined.
  • It is especially popular in expensive homes where durability and aesthetics take precedence over costs.
  • Pros: Extremely durable and non-absorbent. Rich in colour and texture.
  • Cons: Expensive to purchase and install; heavy.

5. Ceramic tile

  • Ceramic tile is another traditionally popular roofing material that has been used for centuries. In fact, the earliest examples of ceramic tile roofing dates back to the 'imbrex' and 'tegula' tiles used in ancient Greece as early as 650 BC.
  • Ceramic tiles are available in a number of varieties, such as British, Mangalore, Dutch, Monk and Nun tiles. These vary in durability and cost, though they all offer superior aesthetics and low weights.
  • It is also possible to get cement tiles. These are more durable, but suffer from poor aesthetics.
  • Pros: Aesthetically beautiful, durable.
  • Cons: Relatively expensive and difficult to install.
  • In summary, asphalt is cheap, but not durable, whereas slate is durable, but expensive. Wood offers strong aesthetics but also poses enhanced fire risk, while ceramic offers a good mix of durability and aesthetics at a slightly higher cost. Ultimately, the roofing material you choose will depend a lot on your budget, aesthetic requirements and underlying roof structure.
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