Residential Roofing Material Types

Asphalt, wood, metal, clay and slate are commonly used materials on residential roofs. Several factors should be considered when deciding which type of roofing material to use.

Homeowners have several choices in roofing materials.

Asphalt, wood, metal, clay and slate are commonly used materials on residential roofs.  Several factors should be considered when deciding which type of roofing material to use.

In addition to cost, homeowners should find out how durable the roofing material is, how long it will last, how weather and insects will affect it and how much effort it will require to maintain. 


Asphalt shingles are the most commonly used roofing materials because they are affordable, durable and come in a variety of colors.  They adapt to most climates and can last 20 years or more.

Asphalt shingles come in four types: single piece, strips, laminated and interlocking.  Problems with asphalt shingles include UV-ray damage, which can cause cracking and fading, and damage due to sudden changes in temperature, which can also cause cracking.

Additionally, asphalt shingles are prone to algae growth, moisture damage and leaks. 


Wood shingles, or shakes, are known for their rustic appearance.  They are environmentally friendly, energy efficient and good insulators.

Wood shingles come in a variety of sizes, textures and colors, and each shingle is unique.  On the downside, wood shingles need more maintenance than do other roofing materials, and they are vulnerable to rot, mildew and mold.


Slate used for tiles and shingles is durable enough to last 30 years, though this type of roofing material often lasts much longer.  Slate is fire-resistant.

Insects do not get into slate, and it will not rot.  The limitations to using slate as roofing material are that it is easily broken and very heavy.

Also, because of slate's heaviness, a house may need extra structural support to prevent the roof from collapsing. 

Clay Tiles

In addition to giving a house a European or Mediterranean look, clay tiles have many benefits.  They are fire-resistant and good insulators, and they are impervious to insects, mold and rot.

They have a long life and can have a warranty of up to 50 years.  However, damage can quickly cut short the lifespan of clay tiles.

Clay tiles can break easily, especially when someone walks on them.  Clay tiles are also quite expensive and very heavy.

Homes with clay tiles will probably need extra structural support to carry the load of heavy tiles. 


Metal roofs have been around since the 1700s, when builders used lead, copper and zinc.  Copper is still used, but most modern metal roofing is made from aluminum and steel.

Metal roofing is durable and fire-resistant, and it requires very little maintenance.  It is also energy efficient because it reflects heat and helps keep a house cool.

Metal roofing can last up to 40 years.  On the negative side, metal roofs can freeze in cold weather.

They usually require professional installation and can be very expensive. 


About the Author

Serena Brown graduated from the University of South Alabama with a bachelor's degree in communication. She has more than 15 years of experience in newspaper, radio and television reporting. Brown has also authored educational, medical and fitness material.

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