Top 6 Best Roofing Materials for Durability and Cost

Reviewing roofing products will be among your most pressing priorities ahead of a roof replacement. Some of your chief considerations should be weather resistance, roof pitch, durability, and cost. In this article, we’ve listed our top six roofing materials and how to choose the best possible roof for your home. Read on to learn more about the following:

  • The pros and cons of our top-five roofing materials
  • The relative costs of each of our top roofing options
  • How to choose the best material for your roof
Adobe Stock

Top 6 Best Roofing Materials, Ranked by Durability and Cost

  • Asphalt Shingle Roofing: Best Overall
  • Slate Roofing: Most Durable
  • Metal Roofing: Most Versatile
  • Wood Shingles: Most Environmentally Friendly Option
  • Clay Tile Roofs: Best Curb Appeal
  • TPO Roofing: Best for Flat Roofs

A Side-by-Side Look at the Best Roofing Materials

Roofing Material Superlative Material Cost (Per Square Foot) Installation Cost (Per Square Foot) Lifespan (with Proper Maintenance)
Asphalt Shingles Best Overall $2 to $4 $2 to $3.50 15 – 30 years
Slate Most Durable $10 to $22 $6 to $10 50 to 75 years
Metal Most Versatile $1.50 to $25 $4.50 to $9 30 to 50 years
Wood Shakes and Shingles Most Environmentally Friendly $3 to $5.50 $5 to $10 20 to 40 years
Clay Best Curb Appeal $3 to $8 $4 to $16 50 to 100 years
TPO Best for Flat Roofs $2 to $3.50 $3.50 to $5.25 20 to 30 years

Asphalt Shingle Roofing: Best Overall

Asphalt shingles are the number one choice for homeowners today. Aside from being the most cost-effective roofing option, asphalt shingles are ideal for most climates, offer a reasonable lifespan with proper maintenance, and are relatively easy to install.

Composite asphalt shingles are made from a fiberglass sheet with asphalt coatings on each side. The side exposed to the elements is often dusted with granules of slate, quartz, or ceramic. These shingles are available at almost any hardware store from many of the roofing industry’s most trusted names, including Certainteed, GAF, and Owens Corning. We always recommend hiring professional roofers, but taking on a shingle roof installation on your own is possible for many homeowners.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective
  • Makes DIY roof installation fairly easy
  • Widely available in a range of qualities and colors
  • Viable for most climates

Cons:

  • More frequent replacement and maintenance than metal roofs
  • Vulnerable to high winds
  • Sun can cause fading over time

Cost:

  • Materials: $2 to $4 per square foot
  • Labor: $2 to $3.50 per square foot
  • Total: $4 to $7.50 per square foot

Lifespan:

15 – 30 years

Slate Roofing: Most Durable

Natural slate roofs are some of the most costly yet long-lasting and durable roofing options for any homeowner. Slate is a fairly dense material and requires solid roof decking and underlayments for a successful installation.

Among other types of roofing material, slate tiles stand out as one of the most labor-intensive options available. In almost all cases, hiring a roofing contractor will be a necessary step toward successful installation. That said, slate roofs offer great curb appeal; many composite shingle manufacturers make products to mimic the great look of slate tiles. They also provide class A fire resistance and hold up very well to wind and rain over time.

Pros:

  • Low maintenance
  • Long lifespan, even under extreme conditions
  • Excellent resistance to the sun and the elements

Cons:

  • Requires professional installation
  • Typically does not come with a manufacturer warranty due to it being a natural product

Cost:

  • Materials: $10 to $22 per square foot
  • Labor: $6 to $10 per square foot
  • Total: $16 to $32 per square foot

Lifespan

At least 50 to 75 years

Metal Roofing: Most Versatile

Metal has enjoyed a resurgence in the residential roofing market in recent years. From standing seam to corrugated paneling, consumers are offered a number of architectural styles which can suit nearly any existing home.

This category’s most common roofing types are stainless steel, aluminum, and zinc. However, copper, galvalume, and tin are also options for metal roofing. We recommend contacting a roofing pro to have this type of roofing installed, but attempting a DIY metal roof installation is definitely an option.

roof of the house from the metal profile Adobe Stock

Pros:

  • Long lifespan
  • Highly resistant to the elements
  • Available in a variety of colors, styles, and types
  • Fairly lightweight

Cons:

  • Requires thick substrate and underlayment to be fully soundproof
  • Should be professionally installed

Cost:

Whether you’re opting for metal shingles, sheets, or standing seam panels, you’ll pay more for metal roofing than architectural shingles. Here are some sample costs for different metal roofing materials. For a more comprehensive cost breakdown, read our metal roof cost guide.

  • Aluminum sheets: $3.75 – $4.25
  • Aluminum shingles: $4.50 – $4.75
  • Copper: $20 – $25
  • Galvalume: $1.50 – $2
  • Galvanized steel: $3.25 – $3.75
  • Standing seam aluminum: $5 – $7
  • Standing seam steel: $4 – $4.50
  • Tin: $3.50 – $12
  • Zinc: $6 – $8

*Costs per square foot of material

Labor: $4.50 to $9.00 per square foot.

Lifespan:

30 to 50 years

Wood Roofing: Most Environmentally Friendly Option

If you’re looking to up the aesthetic appeal of your home, then wood roofing may be your best option. You’ll have your choice of either wood shakes — hand-cut for a more rustic look and feel — or machined wood shingles. When treated, it can provide the same resistance to wildfires and extreme conditions that many seemingly tougher materials can.

Redwood cedar shakes are among the most popular options for shingle or shake roofs, but other materials, such as teak, wallaba, pine, and composites, are often used as well.

Pros:

  • One of the best looking options for any roof
  • Treated wood roofs have a class A fire rating
  • Twice the insulation value of asphalt shingles

Cons:

  • Requires chemical treatment for fireproofing
  • Often needs frequent maintenance

Cost:

  • Raw materials: $3 – $5.50 per square foot
  • Installation: $5 – $10 per square foot
  • Total cost: $8 – $15.50 per square foot

Lifespan:

20 to 40 years

Clay Roofing: Best Curb Appeal

Opting for terracotta or concrete tiles for your next roof is an excellent idea if you live in a hotter, more arid climate or by the coast. Clay roof tiles display excellent resistance to salty air and extreme heat, which is why they are so common in Mediterranean climates like Southern California.

However, such roofs are fairly pricey to install and always require the help of a licensed pro. Trying a DIY install for clay or concrete molded roof tiles is never recommended due to the price of the materials and how difficult they are to work with.

View of three orange terra cotta clay roof tops against a clear blue sky in bonita springs florida with deep shadows from morning light. Adobe Stock

Pros:

  • Excellent solar reflectiveness (up to 33% of the sun’s rays, depending on the exact type of clay used)
  • Water and pest-resistant
  • Low maintenance
  • Provides solid insulation and temperature maintenance throughout your home’s interior

Cons:

  • Incredibly heavy, at up to 2,000 pounds per 100 square feet of roofing
  • Requires professional installation
  • Should only be used on steeper roofs (4:12 slope or more)

Cost:

  • Materials: $3 to $8 per square foot
  • Labor: $4 to $16 per square foot
  • Total: $7 to $24 per square foot

Lifespan:

50 to 100 years or more with proper maintenance

TPO Roofing: Best for Flat Roofs

Membranes like TPO and EPDM are most often used in commercial applications but are occasionally a viable option for residential roof spaces. Single ply roofing polymers offer fairly easy installation processes while being cost-effective and aiding with interior energy efficiency for any roof on which they’re installed.

As a membrane roof, TPO is markedly better than EPDM due to its longer lifespan and reflective properties. Installation is relatively easy for professional roofers and does not require much time relative to other roof types.

Pros:

  • Fungi resistant
  • Can withstand harsh conditions, including heavy hail
  • Only requires insulation underneath, with no underlayment layer
  • Can be installed during the winter or cold weather

Cons:

  • Large repairs require professional-grade tools
  • Improvements are still being made to TPO roofing

Cost

  • Materials: $2.00 – $3.50 per square foot
  • Labor: $3.50 – $5.25 per square foot
  • Total: $5.50 – $8.75 per square foot

Lifespan:

20 to 30 years

How to Choose the Best Material to Use for Roofing

Having a consultation done by a professional roofer may be the way the best way to determine your ideal roofing material. However, you can make this choice for yourself based on a few different factors. They include the following:

Weather Resistance

Each roofing material we’ve outlined will be equipped to handle different weather patterns and climates over time. Different materials — asphalt shingles, metal panels, terracotta tiles, membrane roofing, and more — will each have their own unique weather resistances. Discussing your options with a roofer is a great way to find out what the best material is for your area, whether you end up going the DIY route or not.

  • Hot weather: Looking into the cool roof EPA recommendations can be of some assistance here. Generally, metal, clay tile, and rubberized roofs are ideal for hot climates.
  • Cold weather: Your installation quality, insulation thickness, and roof decking will have an effect on your roof’s effectiveness in cold weather. That said, asphalt shingles, slate, and metal panels are great for colder weather.

Cost

The figures we’ve included above break down the pricing of each roofing material, alongside their costs for professional installation. While certain roofing materials require that a pro roofer handle the job, you may be able to save a fair amount of money by doing the job yourself. Just be sure to remain safe while working at heights.

Pitch

Roof pitch will play a part in determining which materials you can use. Terracotta or concrete tiles should only be used on steep roofs of greater than 4:12 pitch, while TPO and membrane roofing is ideal for flatter low-pitch roofs. Asphalt tiles are viable for most roof pitches but are a bit lower on durability.

Durability

Maintenance frequency and roof lifespan should be on your mind when you select a roof type. In many cases, higher startup costs for a more durable material will lead to far less maintenance in the long run.

Key Takeaways

Our rating of asphalt shingles as the best overall roofing material is based on a cross-section of overall utility and installation price. Aside from that, it is a fairly easy type of roofing to conduct maintenance on for most homeowners without professional assistance — although we’ll always recommend hiring a roofer.

Each material we’ve reviewed has its own positives and drawbacks, which will make them more or less suited for your home and needs. Be sure to consider your options carefully and to review the deciding factors we’ve outlined before making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is metal roofing more expensive than other roofing types?

A metal roof will likely cost you around twice the amount of asphalt shingles when professionally installed. DIY installation for either will present roughly the same difference in price. Your metal roof costs will also depend on your exact choice of material. Zinc, stainless steel, tin, aluminum, and copper all have different price points, which we’ve outlined above.

How do I budget for a new roof?

First, you’ll have to determine the exact area of your roof. We recommend consulting step 2 of our metal roof installation guide for an effective method for this. Once you’ve done so, use the labor and material cost figures above to determine your estimated cost. Always budget between 10% and 20% over this figure to account for mistakes during installation and odd corners in your roof, which could eat up time and materials.

What roofing materials are covered by home insurance?

Any homeowner’s policy will cover structural damage to your home. This could include the cost of replacement for nearly any material if the damage was caused by severe external conditions, like the weather. However, having a more durable, newer roof can lower your premiums when purchasing an insurance plan.

What is the most commonly used roofing material?

Asphalt roof shingles are currently the most popular roofing material and are currently used on more than 80% of all residential roofs. Their versatility, ease of installation, and affordability are all among the leading reasons for their popularity. The drawback is that you’ll have to replace asphalt more often than you would for other roofing systems.

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