An average homeowner spends between $5,000-13,500 to install a new roof. Since the variety of options is growing every year, many people want to know what is the best roofing material?
This guide will help you navigate the 8 most popular materials for sloped and flat roofs, their costs, as well as their pros & cons.
What Is The Best Roof To Put On A House?
The following roofing materials can be installed on a roof with a minimum pitch of 3:12. We list them in the order of budget-friendly to high-end.
1. Asphalt Roof Shingles
Asphalt shingles is the Number 1 roof installed on homes across the US. Average installation cost is $4,500-7,500.
Roof shingles are so wildly popular because they are the most economical option, with the greatest variety of colors and styles. Top manufacturers to consider are GAF, CertainTeed, Owens Corning and IKO.
The biggest downside is that they are prone to leaks, are not resistant to snow and ice dams, are susceptible to wind blow off, and tend to fade over time. On average, these roofs can last 10-16 years, and a lot less if they are not properly installed.
There are 3 general classes of shingles:
3-Tab shingles: the least expensive choice, but also the least durable. They have a flat appearance, and dozens of colors to choose from. Their average cost is $2.20-2.90 per square foot (labor and materials).
Architectural (Laminated) shingles: these are better quality, thicker shingles that are more weather resistant. They offer more curb appeal, due to a distinctive, textured appearance. The most popular lines for this product are CertainTeed Landmark and GAF Timberline.
Their cost has a wide range, depending on the style and brand, from $3.25-4.95+ per square foot.
Premium shingles: these shingles are thicker than architectural ones, and offer the greatest possible inclement weather resistance in the class of asphalt roofing products.
They also have an upscale appearance, with profiles that replicate the looks of slate, wood shingles and clay tile.
These shingles are significantly more expensive. Average price installed is $4.55-5.20+ per square foot.
You can use our Roof Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of installing a new roof.
2. Metal Roofing
In recent years, metal roofs have been steadily gaining popularity among homeowners, who are realizing its tremendous value.
While it is a premium roof, a metal roof costs 25-40% less than other materials in its class, such as slate and clay tile. Average cost to install a metal roof on a 1,500 sq.ft. ranch home is $10,000-13,500.
Top manufacturers include: McElroy, Fabral, Englert, Classic Metal, Duro-Last, Matterhorn, EDCO.
The majority of metal roofs are made of steel. Aluminum is the second most used metal, that works best in coastal areas, as its not susceptible to corrosion.
They can also be made of copper and zinc. However, this is rare due to exceedingly high material cost, about $16-20 per square foot installed.
You can use our Metal Roof Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of installing a metal roof on your house.
There are 5 general categories of metal roofing products:
1. Metal shingles boast the widest variety of color and style options. Metal roof shingles are typically made of steel or aluminum. They cost about $7-9 per square foot installed.
2. Standing seam is a premium option, but its the fastest growing segment in residential metal roofing. Standing seam panels are typically installed on upscale contemporary, cabin and farm-style homes. This roof costs $7-13 per square foot installed. Aluminum panels are 20-30% more expensive than steel.
3. Corrugated R-panels are the most economical metal roofing option, but one with comparatively lower durability and fewer style options. Average cost is about $5-5.60 per square foot.
4. Metal Tile is typically used on Mediterranean style homes, where installing real clay tiles is too expensive or impossible due to structural issues. They are priced at about $7-9 per square foot installed.
5. Stone Coated Steel is manufactured from heavy gauge 22 ga steel and coated with stone granules for additional protection. This type of roof offers a more upscale look than painted metal shingles. They cost about $8-9.5 per square foot installed.
Advantages of metal roofing
The biggest benefits of having a metal roof over your house are superior longevity and durability. When properly installed, this roof will last at least 50 years, with practically zero maintenance. As a result, it is considered to be a “lifetime” roofing material.
It is designed to be a snow and ice shedding system, so it is ideal for regions that get heavy snow storms and ice dams. Metal offers superior resistance to leaks, fire, hail, and wind blow off.
This roof will not warp, rot or fade in color over time. Another significant benefit is energy efficiency. Many metal roofs are Energy Star rated as a “cool” material, and can save as much as 15-25% off your electric bills.
Many people still hold on to the incorrect perception that metal roofs come in a limited range of styles and colors, and therefore would not look good on their homes.
While this was true as little as 15-20 years ago, technological advancements have enabled manufacturers to produce metal products that don’t look like metal at all!
Instead, they resemble other desirable materials, such as: wood shake, natural slate and clay tile.
3. Cedar Shingles and Shakes
Natural wood has an irresistible curb appeal that many homeowners love. Cedar shingles and shakes are typically installed on upscale Cape, Victorian, Colonial, Cabin-style and historic homes.
Typically, they cost $10,500-14,000 installed on a simple 1,500 sq.ft. ranch or cape style house.
These roofs last 20-40 years, when properly cared for, and are a truly green building material. Moreover, cedar shake shingle is considered to be a premium roof, in large due to its unique look.
Wood shingles have a more smooth, uniform appearance, and are manufactured by machines. They range in price from $6 -7.5 per square foot.
Shakes are thicker and have a more rugged aesthetic, as each piece looks a little different than the rest. This is due to the fact that for centuries shakes have been hand-split to achieve this appearance.
Today, many shake products are still hand-made using power tools to speed up the process. Because cedar shakes are harder to make and install, they cost as much as 25-30% more than shingles; $6.5-9 per square foot.
In general, pricing for these products also varies based on various properties, such as wood grain, thickness and length of the shingle/shake, and wood grade. Premium quality cedar shingles are significantly more expensive, but they also last longer, and are more rot and termite resistant, than ones made from lower grade wood.
Moreover, keep in mind that there are also very few qualified installers that can do a good job with this material. Installation requires technical skills and knowledge that is very niche, and as a result costs significantly more.
The biggest disadvantage of a wood roof is that it is very sensitive to a variety of natural elements. These include: moisture, excessive shading, termites, fire, snow.
Prolonged exposure to inclement weather leads to a slow decline in performance. Consequently, a cedar roof can be prone to leaks, rot, and mold. It also requires regular maintenance and need to be re-sealed every few years, which significantly adds to the total cost.
We recommend buying products that carry the Certi-Label, a registered trademark of the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau, which inspects manufacturers and member mills to ensure quality.
4. Clay Tile Roof
Another high-end roofing option, most appropriate for Mediterranean or Spanish style homes is clay tile. Installation cost is around $22,500-30,000 for 1,500 sq.ft. simple roof.
Clay is one of the oldest and most durable building materials available. A properly installed clay tile roof will last well over 100 years.
Manufacturers to consider are: MCA Tile, Ludowici, and Boral.
Clay roofs perform very well in hot climates or coastal areas, where there is exposure to salt air. These roofs are very durable, and can withstand hail, high winds, and fires. They are not susceptible to moisture, rot and mold, and can remain leak free, with proper installation.
Curb appeal is another distinct advantage. Tiles are available in a number of beautiful shapes, such as: curved, flat / interlocking or fluted. Typical color choices are shades of terracotta and patina green.
One of the biggest disadvantages of a slate roof is heavy weight. It can weigh as much as 10 lb per 1 sq.ft. This presents many installation challenges and makes it impossible to install on homes that structurally cannot support such a heavy load.
In some cases, it is possible to add structural reinforcements. However, this improvement can cost thousands of dollars in addition to the roof itself, putting it out of reach for most homeowners.
Another disadvantage is that clay tile cannot be installed on roofs with pitch less than 4:12. In fact, roofers recommend that the pitch needs to be 5 or more.
5. Slate Roofing
The king of all roofing products is natural slate. It is the most expensive, most durable and longest lasting roof. Homeowners reports spending around $25,000-40,000 on a 1,600 sq.ft. slate roof.
Once installed, it will cover your home for hundreds of years, and will require minimal maintenance. No other material can rival the majestic beauty of natural slate stone.
Slate can withstand any weather conditions and will protect your home in any climate. It is important to note that quality of slate tile can vary greatly, affecting its durability, longevity and price.
Also, rare colors, such as Vermont Red, will cost more. You should only work with a reputable slate manufacturer to be sure that your stone is sourced from a trusted quarry. Chinese varieties of slate are the cheapest and are considered to be the least durable.
The biggest disadvantage of this material is weight. Most homes cannot carry the heavy load of this roof and need extra reinforcement. Another drawback is challenging and expensive installation.
Only a professional slater can install this roof correctly. These pros charge double or triple the price for installation, compared to a regular roofer. Lastly, you can only install slate on a roof with a pitch of 6 or more.
Best Flat Roof Materials
IF you have a flat or low sloped roof with a pitch of less than 3, your best bet is to install a single ply membrane. Average installation cost for a 1,500 sq.ft. roofing membrane is about $6,500-10,000
There are three single ply options to choose from: EPDM, TPO and PVC. In addition to the material itself, one of the most important keys to a long lasting roof is hiring an experienced installer. Flat roofing is a highly specialized field, and many of these roofs start to leak way before the end of their service life because of low quality installation.
6. EPDM rubber roof
EPDM rubber is the least expensive and most popular flat roof. It costs about $5-5.5 per square foot installed. However, it is also most prone to leaks, shrinking and ponding water problems.
A rubber roof has a relatively short service life of 8-10 years, but often as little as 5 years. Another disadvantage is that its not an energy efficient option. Most rubber membranes are black, so they attract and retain solar heat, thereby greatly raising your indoor temperature and AC bills.
Top manufacturers are Carlysle, JM, GAF, and Versico.
7. TPO roofing
TPO boasts the fastest growing sales in the residential and commercial flat roofing industry. It is the most recently designed membrane that is supposed to combine all the benefits of its top competitors, EPDM and PVC.
TPO costs about $6.20-6.75 per sq.ft. installed. It features heat-welded seams that prevent leaks, minimal maintenance and great energy efficiency. This material lasts 10-15 years, which is very good for a flat roof.
One of the biggest problems with this roof is that for the longest time there were no consistent ASTM standards that manufacturers were required to follow. As a result, to cut costs and beat the competition, many manufacturers experimented with the membrane formulation.
In many cases, that caused premature roof failures and eventually lead to more strict ASTM standards, which are now in place. Because of this, we strongly recommend that you only use reputable TPO manufacturers such as: Carlysle, JM, GAF, Versico.
8. PVC Roofing
PVC is a premium single ply membrane, and therefore is the most expensive option. Average prices range from $6.5 to $7.25 per square foot installed. However, for this higher price, you get a top quality product that is virtually impervious to leaks and very easy to repair.
This is due to the unique heat welded seams that are stronger than the membrane material itself. Since most flat roofs fail and leak at the seams, this innovative technology eliminates the possibility of this happening with a PVC membrane.
Moreover, PVC can last 25-30 years, and is an energy efficient, cool roof. A seasoned roofing contractor will always recommend this product to people who can afford it and want to have a headache-free roof for many years.
Top manufacturers include: Sika Sarnafil, IB Roof Systems, and Duro-Last.
How To Select The Right Roof For Your Home
Today, there is an unprecedented number of roofing choices that can enhance the curb appeal of any home. Here is a word of advice on how to select the one that will work best for your particular needs.
1. Living in your home vs selling it
If you are selling your home and want to replace you old roof to make it more appealing to buyers, you may not need to invest a lot of money into an expensive material.
The same is true if you plan to move out of this house in the foreseeable future: 2-4 years.
However, if you just bought a house, or are planning to live in your current home for the next 10 years or more, its worth it to install a more costly, longer lasting material.
2. Geographic location
It is very important to consider your local climate, when choosing a new roof. If you live in an area that has severe weather conditions, be it snow storms, heavy frequent rains, or hurricanes, your roof must be durable enough to protect your house.
In these regions, it is best to install premium materials, such as metal. Otherwise, you will be dealing with constant repairs.
3. Shop around to get the best value
Searching for a new roof and an installer can be an overwhelming process. Its not surprising that most people want to get it over with as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, this often leads homeowners to rush in to signing a contract with the first roofer that comes to give them an estimate, and offers a low price.
Instead, it is best to get 3-4 quotes from reputable, mid-size roofing companies. This will help you find a pro who has the best references and can offer you a good deal.
4. Quality Installation Is Critical
Many homeowners make the mistake of focusing solely on the roofing material, and don’t pay too much attention to hiring a real pro for the job.
The problem with this approach is that even the most expensive, durable material can leak and cause problems, if it is not properly installed.
Moreover, unprofessional roofers are more likely to provide low quality roof system components, such as underlayment, insulation, vents, etc.
These are just as important as the exterior material itself, and your roofer should install them according to strict manufacturer standards.
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