Choosing the Right Roof for Your Home (and Your Wallet)

With so many types of roofing materials available today, and with so many roofing manufacturers to choose from, it can seem a little overwhelming (daunting, even) to begin the process of choosing what roofing material makes the most sense in terms of longevity, aesthetics and finances.


Some important things to take into consideration are the style of roof you’re working with (is it a gable roof, gambrel roof, flat, salt box, dormer, hip?  The list goes on….), what material you would like to use, color (will it complement your home’s siding, or will it detract from its overall appearance), and sometimes the biggest deciding factor, cost.  Roofing material cost is based on “the square” – one square is a 10’ x 10’ square section of roof, or 100 square feet in area.

In hopes of shedding a little helpful light, below is a brief overview of roofing materials for easy reference.  I have not included ALL roofing materials here, as that would require several posts and extensive research (I mean, how much do I honestly know about thatch roofing?  Not a lot, I can assure you), and so I have included the materials we most commonly see used on homes in the U.S.

I never like to play favorites, so let’s take a look at each material alphabetically.


No, I’m only kidding.  Here we go for real….

Asphalt Shingles:


First used at the turn of the 20th century, asphalt shingles are available in an ever-growing variety of shapes, textures, price points, colors (literally hundreds), and “life span” options (average is 20-30 years).

Because of the finished granules present, asphalt shingles are known for their solar reflectivity value, which helps reduce air conditioning costs in warmer months.  They are also relatively easy to install and require little to no maintenance.  Add to that a minimum cost of around $50 per square, and you can begin to understand why 75% of the homes in the U.S. have asphalt shingle roofs.

Concrete or Clay Tiles:


Often requiring more robust framing to support their weight, tiles are heavy but are also non-combustible and extremely durable.  Offered in a plethora of colors, some lighter in color tiles can reflect upwards of 50% of the solar energy emitted from the sun, making them a good “cool” roofing option.

Versatile in shape, style and texture, you’ll find that tiles are offered in many profiles such as mission tile, S-Tile (Spanish tile), flat tile, French tile, shingle, and shake.  Although falling at the high end of the affordability scale, at a minimum of $700 per square (although I ‘m sure there are some savvy shoppers out there who could find them for less), many tile roofs will remain perfectly in-tact for 60 to 75 years, even a century, and so from a cost-effectiveness standpoint, tile roofs are actually a pretty good value.


Bloxsom Bar (2)

Membrane roofs are mostly used on low-slope or flat roofs and while most commonly used on commercial buildings, membrane has been making a name for itself in the residential sector as well.  There are 3 main fabrications of membrane roofing – modified bitumen (asphalt), synthetic rubber and thermoplastic (PVC or the like).  Membrane roofs either have no seams (meaning no leakage points), or very strong seams and so when thermal expansion occurs, it is resisted by the membrane.  You can even have membrane installed that resembles standing seam roofing, with the element of a “rib” being added for visual interest (believe it or not, the above photo is membrane, not standing seam).

Applications of membrane roofing started appearing after a long tenure of other flat roofing materials like gravel or asphalt proved difficult to properly seal at all seams, as well as the fact that repairing a leak in a gravel or asphalt roof can be difficult because it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact location of a leak.

You can expect to pay $250 – $350 per square, and most membrane roofs come with a 10-20 year warranty, generally lasting up to 25 years if installed correctly and maintained as recommended by the manufacturer. 



Metal roofing, available in the form of tile, corrugate, shingle or standing seam, has been widely used for more than 50 years in the U.S., and when fabricated from copper, zinc or steel, won’t require much in the way of maintenance during its lifetime.  In fact, a metal roof that is installed correctly should last at least 50 years.  Average cost for a basic steel standing seam roof is $300 per square, but can regularly cost 3 to 4 times that, depending on style and type of metal (for example, copper can run between $900 – $1400 per square).  Environmentally speaking, metal roofing has a cool reflective surface and will reflect heat rather than absorb it.  It can also be recycled, so you know it won’t end up in a landfill.


Slate Slate 2

Slate just happens to be the stepping stone, for lack of a better term, on which Alpine SnowGuards and EcoFasten Solar began.  With a rather distinctive appearance, slate has been known to last for upwards of a century.  Maybe this is why slate falls at the expensive end of roofing materials (about $800+ per square, not including installation or removal of existing roof).  Heavy by nature, and normally dark in color, slate roofing is not often used in high-heat locations, which is one of the reasons you so often see old (and new) slate roofs in geographic locations of the country like the North East.

Because slate is a natural material, variations in color add a certain charm to any roof, and the shapes that can be cut from slate are endless.  Since quarrying and splitting slate has minimal impact on the environment, slate is a good choice when looking for sustainable roofing.

When you want the appearance of natural slate without the cost, Synthetic Slate is a viable option, (typically costing about ½ the total install cost of natural slate) and is available in an almost infinite choice of colors.  Synthetic slate is a durable, attractive and cost-effective alternative to natural slate.

 Wood Shingles / Wood Shake:

Cedar Wood Shingles Up-Close

Offered in choices like cedar and pine (among others), wood shingles are machine-cut while shake shingles are hand-cut, giving them a more natural, “rough around the edges” appearance.  Whether you decide on shingles or shake, wood is absolutely beautiful as it ages, weathering out to a grayish-silver that melds perfectly with the backdrop of nature.

When installed properly, a wood shingle or shake roof should last, at a minimum, 30 years and typically costs twice as much per square as asphalt shingles, or $100 per square.  If you choose to go with wood, note that there are some locations that forbid wood roofing due to strictly enforced fire codes.

Choosing your next roof shouldn’t be a hassle, and it doesn’t need to break the bank.  The most important thing to do is to talk with your roofing contractor to determine what’s important to you, what you like aesthetically and what you can afford.  With so many options out there, selecting roofing material is easier than ever.


Once your new roof is installed, you may find you want to add snow guards or solar panels – and if you do, be sure to contact Alpine SnowGuards for your snow guard needs, and EcoFasten Solar for your solar roof mount needs.

Take care and stay connected.

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