A Roof Over Your Head: Choosing Materials

Check out this information regarding the various types of materials that can be used to cover a roof, as well as which ones might be best for you.
Roof Shingle Colors

Roof Shingle Colors

"For choosing a roof, there's a really wide variety of choices, from specialty roofing products, which include tile, slate, metal roofs," says Brian Chambers, the roofing products manager for Owens Corning. "But most roofs today are fiberglass shingles. That makes up the majority of roofing products that are available."

Fiberglass shingles are made from a thin layer of fiberglass, which is surrounded and coated first in weather-grade asphalt and then in specially designed granules on the surface that give fire protection and color.

Like shingles, tiles come in a wide variety of materials, all of which can be incorporated into a roofing system. There are many tile options — lightweight or standard weights and different designs, colors and finishes. And if clay, wood, asphalt and fiberglass don't work for you, give concrete a try.

Note: Concrete tile is a very popular product, in fact, and it comes in many shapes. And the colors and styles of concrete tiles are widening every day.

Because concrete tiles are heavier than clay tiles or wood shingles, you'll need to make sure that the frame of your roof can support them. Otherwise the added weight can damage the roof framing over time.

Another popular roofing material that will help keep out the elements is metal, which has been around for a long time, especially in commercial markets (the new information, by the way, is in the residential market). There are different shapes and styles, and they look like any other type of roofing that you might see on the house down the street.

Note: A metal roof is installed in much the same way a tile or shingle roof, in that it uses an underlayment. It's a highly durable roofing and extremely windproof.

Which Roofing Material Is Best for My Roof?

The best roofing material for your roof could depend upon three factors:

  • What style do you want for your roof? You really need to determine what look you're going for and the style you want. Also consider how long you think you'll be in the home, which will dictate the type of product you should use. If you think about a lot of new construction (where perhaps 30 percent to 50 percent of the exterior that you see is roofline), it's important to consider whether this look complements your entire exterior. And you should always think in terms of dollars per year -- for example, if you use the thinnest and cheapest composition shingle roof in a "hail" area, you can't expect to get too many years of life out of it.

    Note: A composition shingle is anything made from asphalt and a base material such as fiberglass, polyester or any other matte material that may be impregnated with asphalt — covered in a granular surface.

  • The second factor should be cost. Composition shingles are the best value for the money, but tile roofs are extremely durable and offer an indefinite lifetime. They can be fragile and subject to breakage, however. Just make sure the material you choose fits within the budget you've allowed.
  • The final factor to consider when choosing roofing materials is location. If you live in a heavy snowfall or rainfall area, the harsh conditions may dictate what kind of materials, as well as how steep a pitch, your roof should have. For example, snowfall areas should avoid clay tile because they can easily become damaged. You also want to avoid flat roofs, which can allow snow to accumulate and which, left unchecked, can seriously damage your home.

    In the Midwest and on the East Coast, you'll tend to see steeper roofs than you will on the West Coast. That's a matter of function as well as form since homeowners like to get the snow off their roofs as quickly as possible.

Roofing in the South takes on a different flair than roofing on the West Coast, generally speaking, because of the rainfall amounts. Southerners are dealing with a much greater threat of heavy rain than their Western counterparts, and their roofs not only are designed to handle the rain but should also be designed to evacuate that rain from the surrounding property.

Some of the roofing materials that work well in areas of heavy rainfall are concrete tiles and composition shingles. This is because they do a great job of evacuating the snow and rain from the roof.

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