By Dan Simms
Updated Jan 16, 2023
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Your roof is an integral part of your home; it helps to insulate your living space, keep your family safe from the elements, and improves the curb appeal of your home, adding value. When it’s time to repair or replace your roof, you may be wondering, “what’s the cheapest roofing material?” Although your budget may be a huge factor in your decision, you also must consider longevity, effectiveness, and installation.
We’ll discuss the most affordable roofing materials available below and explain how they stack up against each other based on these other factors.
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Plain and simple, the absolute cheapest roofing material based on cost alone is asphalt shingles. However, some other options are more expensive at the initial cost but will last longer, such as wood shingles, metal shingles, slate shingles, and solar glass shingles. Asphalt shingles are the most affordable upfront, but they can sometimes cost more than other options in the long run.
Below, we’ll give you a rundown of all the most common roof materials, including the cost of each, and a list of pros and cons.
There are three different kinds of asphalt roof shingles: 3-tab shingles, dimensional asphalt shingles (sometimes called architectural shingles), and luxury asphalt shingles. These types of shingles are differentiated based on how they look, how long they last, and how expensive they are. 3-tab asphalt shingles are the most cost-effective, but they also last the shortest amount of time. Dimensional asphalt is gaining in popularity because they are only around 15% more costly than the 3-tab option, but they last much longer. Luxury asphalt shingles are the most expensive, but they have the best curb appeal. They’re also more durable than 3-tab shingles.
Asphalt shingles are the most popular choice for roofing because of their low initial cost. They’re also durable, can be recycled, and have decent longevity. 3-tab shingles have a lifespan of up to 25 years, dimensional and luxury shingles typically last over 30 years, and properly maintained luxury shingles can even last up to 50 years in the right conditions.
Asphalt shingles do require more maintenance than other shingle materials and are more subject to wear and tear. This type of shingle needs to be replaced more often than other types and is susceptible to mold, curling, cracking, and ice damage. Although these shingles are technically recyclable, it is difficult to find a place to recycle them.
$1 to $2 per square foot
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Made directly from a natural resource, wood shingles — like cedar shake shingles or redwood shingles — have a long lifespan and are inherently insulating and naturally resistant to moss, insects, and water damage. They can last up to thirty years and require minimal regular maintenance.
The longevity and natural properties of wood roof shingles make this investment appealing. These shingles are easy to replace, but they need replacement less often than asphalt shingles. Wood shingles resist the elements and do well in most weather conditions.
Wood shingles can crack during extreme weather conditions, such as hail. Although they can be treated with fire retardants, they are not fireproof.
$2 to $4.50 per square foot
Metal roof shingles — commonly called standing seam metal roofing — can be made out of a variety of metals; aluminum, copper, and steel roofing are the most common. The shape of the corrugated metal can be customized for a more unique look, and different color options are also available. Prices range depending on the type of metal.
Metal roof shingles can last for up to fifty years and are an energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly, and stylish roofing choice. This roofing is low-maintenance as long as it is properly installed. Metal roofing reflects heat, which helps keep your home cooler.
High upfront costs are a major deterrent to installing metal roof shingles for a new roof. Plus, it can also be noisy inside your home when it rains or hails. This type of shingle must be installed by professional roofing contractors and cannot be done by homeowners familiar with DIY projects.
$1.80 to $2.50 per square foot
Slate is one of the oldest roofing materials, known for its longevity and durability. Although they may constitute an expensive roof installation, slate tile roofs last so long that they often make up for the initial cost. Slate is quite heavy, so it’s important that you confirm that your structure can support it before moving forward with this building material.
A slate roof can last 75 to 100 years and is a sustainable resource. Slate shingles are fire resistant and do very well in extreme weather conditions. Their density also leads to great energy efficiency in your home.
The longevity of a slate roof may mean that the roof system outlasts the life of the house. Slate shingles can be fragile and crack under a person’s weight, so one must carefully navigate any roof work. The high upfront costs are also a consideration.
$10 to $20 per square foot for soft slate, or $20 to $30 per square foot for hard slate
Sold exclusively through Tesla, solar glass shingles operate like solar panels and are able to generate electricity for your home. These shingles have very high energy efficiency and come with a lifetime warranty.
Read More on Solar: Solar Energy Statistics & Facts
An investment in solar glass shingles can eventually pay for itself because of their energy-generating capabilities. Tesla offers a lifetime warranty for these shingles, and you may be eligible for a sizable tax credit, depending on when you install them and where you live. Solar glass shingles also do very well in hail and inclement weather.
Installing solar glass shingles has an extremely high upfront cost. They are also currently only available through Tesla.
$1.80 per watt; about $25 to $50 per square foot
Although it’s tempting just to consider the upfront cost of choosing a shingle material, you should also think about the long-term costs and how frequently a material may need to be replaced. You’ll also want to check the shingles’ hail ratings as an indicator of how well they do in inclement weather and how durable they are over time, especially if you live in an extreme climate. The energy efficiency of your shingles should also be considered, as this can play a significant role in how comfortable your home is and how high your energy bills are.
A clear advantage to cheaper types of roofing materials is the lower upfront cost, especially if you are repairing or replacing your roof out of necessity. Even the cheapest of the three asphalt roofing options has decent longevity, so it’s still a great option. However, roofing is one of those things in which you get what you pay for; cheaper materials lead to more frequent replacement and maintenance and will continue to cost you money over time. Cheaper materials also tend to be less energy efficient, although that’s not always the case.
Asphalt shingles are the most cost-effective roofing material that has easier installation and low upfront installation costs. Shingles can be installed as a DIY home improvement project, saving you even more money upfront. However, asphalt shingles require regular repairs and should be monitored for damage more regularly than more expensive materials.
|Material||Cost per Foot||Lifespan|
|Asphalt Roof Shingles||$1 to $2||25 to 50 years|
|Wood Roof Shingles||$2 to $4.50||30+ years|
|Metal Roof Shingles||$1.80 to $2.50||50+ years|
|Slate Roof Shingles||$10 to $30||75 to 100 years|
|Solar Glass Roof Shingles||$27.32 to $46.43||30 years|
Tips to make roof repairs more affordable include regularly inspecting your roof for minor damage or any shingles that may need repairs to prevent problems from spreading or becoming worse. Consider treating your shingles with products designed to support their longevity by maintaining their natural oils. Work with reputable contractors to ensure that maintenance and repair work is done properly. Finally, clean your roof and gutters at least two times a year and consider getting your roof inspected annually.
Unless you have experience with roof replacement, you should hire a reputable company to ensure that your roof is installed properly. It’s certainly possible to install an asphalt shingle roof yourself, but proper installation will help avoid issues and save you money in the long run.
When replacing your roof on a budget, you must not only consider the upfront cost but also the longevity, ongoing maintenance costs, and durability of roofing materials. Asphalt tiles are the cheapest and the most popular roofing material, but other materials — like wood, metal, and slate — have a longer lifespan and offer better insulation and durability. Another option for sustainability is glass solar shingles, which offer electrical-generation capabilities.
You should also consider the impact resistance and hail rating on materials as you shop and compare shingle materials and how well each will stand up to your local climate. When your roof ages or needs repair, work with a professional roofer for the best results. Once your roof is installed, monitor for any issues and promptly address any problems.
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Asphalt shingles — specifically the 3-tab variety — are the cheapest option upfront. However, these also have the shortest longevity and can end up being more expensive in the long run.
Rubber shingles tend to be more expensive than asphalt shingles, but they are cheaper than other materials, like slate shingles. These materials are intended for different roofs — specifically, rubber roofing is designed for flat roofs while asphalt roofing is intended for sloped roofs.
Yes, asphalt shingles are cheaper than ceramic tiles. Asphalt shingles tend to be $1 to $2 per square foot; ceramic tiles tend to cost around $4.00 to $5.55 per square foot.
Arranging for a home repair of this scale is going to be a fairly involved project. If you haven’t conducted renovations like this – either via a contractor or on your own – then it can be a bit overwhelming. At House Method, we pride ourselves on being able to take all of the guesswork out of the equation for you.
We’ve thoroughly evaluated each roofing type to make your selection process easier. Through exhaustive research into hundreds of different roofing providers throughout the United States and analyses of thousands of individual homeowner experiences, we’ve broken our roof rating system down into the following categories.
All roofs receive an aggregate rating between (0.0) and (1.0). This rating is comprised of six key evaluation criteria, which we’ve outlined below. The rating between (0.0) and (1.0) will correspond to a secondary rating out of five stars, which is displayed more visibly in our articles across this category.
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