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Roofing Buying Guide

A brick house with a covered front porch, white siding and columns, and a brick walkway.

Published October 15, 2020

Valerie A.

By Valerie A.

Your home is your biggest investment. Age, a large number of missing or cracked shingles, bald spots with missing granules or curled shingle edges are all signs that it may be time to invest in a new roof.

Replace or Repair

Assessing any roof damage can mean the difference between repairing or getting a new roof.

A hole in drywall, cracked tile grout or a broken light fixture are repairs that you can probably put off fixing right away. A leaky roof is different and can lead to damaged rafters, ceiling joists and walls, as well as soaking insulation leading to mold. Even though a leaky roof could spell trouble, it’s not always a sign that you need a new roof. Cracked flashing, a clogged gutter or a missing shingle or two are problems that can easily be repaired.

When small problems turn into big ones, they can cause harm to your home and be costly. No matter what roofing issues you’re experiencing, don’t ignore them. Addressing them early on prevents further damage and headaches. If your roof is beyond repair, it’s time for a new one.

Factors That Affect Roofs

The elements can wreak havoc on a roof. Over time, damaging rays from the sun, hail, high winds, moisture from rain, ice or snow play a role in compromising the aesthetics of the roof and the durability.

Trees shade the house to help keep it cool, but those same trees can be a hinderance to roofs. Large or heavy limbs can break off and puncture the roof, while smaller limbs can damage and rip up shingles. Fallen leaves also pose a danger as they can settle on the roof, trapping moisture and creating rot.

Good to Know

Routine roof maintenance helps mitigate minor problems before they get worse. For tips on how to maintain your roof, read How to Maintain Your Roof.

Types of Roofing Material

Replacing a roof is a major investment so make sure you select the best roof for your home. Roofing is available in a variety of materials.

Asphalt Composite Shingles

A tan house surrounded by foliage with a dark gray and light gray architectural shingle roof.

Asphalt composite shingles are affordable, durable and available in a wide array of colors, making them a popular choice for roofing. They’re a composite product made with either a fiberglass mat base with minerals embedded in asphalt or a cellulose mat base (also known as organic asphalt shingles) from recycled minerals and asphalt. Organic shingles contain more asphalt than fiberglass shingles, making them heavier and more durable.

Architectural Shingles vs. 3-Tab Shingles

Architectural shingles are thicker and heavier than standard 3-tab shingles. The weight provides better strength against wind lift and can withstand wind speeds up to 130 miles per hour. Architectural shingles consist of two strips laminated together, and they contain a fine-quality asphalt. They’re engineered to better deflect light, keeping the roof cooler, which keeps the home cooler.

3-tab shingles come in one shape and size, and don’t have as long of a life span as their architectural counterparts. While they’re more economical than architectural shingles, they’re thinner, weigh less and need to be replaced more often.

Clay and Concrete Tile

Clay and concrete tile are a natural, rustic and attractive choice for homeowners, and they have a long life span, lasting from 50 to 100 years. They’re typically fluted or flat, and also are available as interlocking tile. Because of their weight, they require a stronger roof structure over other types of roofing material. Clay and concrete shingles are great for hot climates because they’re durable, fire-resistant, slow to absorb heat, they can be crafted into a half-barrel S shape, which allows for extra airflow, and they’re impervious to rot and algae.

Metal Roof

A tan house with light brown corrugated sheet roofing.

Metal roof panels are durable, practically maintenance-free, reflect heat and nonflammable. However, they may expand and contract depending on the weather and can be noisy during a rainstorm or hailstorm. The most common metal roofing materials are aluminum, copper, stainless steel and zinc.

  • Steel is exceptionally strong, sustainable, designed to hold paint finishes well and is available in a variety of contemporary styles. Along with aluminum, steel is one of the two most common metals used in residential roofing. It's excellent at withstanding extreme temperatures and harsh climates, including wind, hail, snow and fire.
  • Aluminum is lightweight and stands up well to extremely harsh weather conditions. It doesn’t rust or corrode and works well in coastal areas.
  • Copper panels are lightweight, durable and won’t scratch, peel or rust. While copper is long-lasting and develops a natural patina with age, it’s generally more expensive than other roofing materials.
  • Zinc is long-lasting, low-maintenance, malleable, durable and won’t rust or corrode. A unique property of zinc is that, given time, it'll self-heal if scratched. The protective layer formed on zinc patina aids in the self-repair.
     

Common Types of Metal Roofing

Corrugated roof panels are made of interlocking metal sheets shaped into repeating waves or ridges. They’re easy to install by interlocking the panels and fastening them directly to the roof sheathing. The fasteners for a corrugated roof are exposed to the elements causing them to wear over time.

Standing seam metal roof panels consist of metal panels that run from the ridge of the roof to the eave. They have seams that are raised above the surface, allowing water to run off as opposed to seeping between the panels. Unlike corrugated roof panels, standing seam metal roofs use a concealed fastening system, which makes it more aesthetically appealing.

Good to Know

While corrugated roof panels can be installed over existing roofs without a complete tear-off of existing shingles, it’s best to check your local building codes or ordinances to see if it’s allowed.

Slate Shingles

Slate shingles are some of the longest-lasting roofing materials available today. They’re also one of the costlier roofing materials. Slate is available in two forms: hard and soft. Both are ideal for durability and endurance, but hard slate has a longer life expectancy, up to 200 years, over soft slate, which can last up to 100 years. Slate shingles are an excellent choice for hot climates. They’re weather-resilient, have great insulation properties and are impervious to heat, sun and cold. Slate shingles require a reinforced roof structure that can support its weight.

Wood

Wood roofs provide a natural look to your home. Wood roofing materials are available in two types. Wood shingles have a smooth, uniform and flat appearance. They’re machine cut, sewn on both sides and are typically thinner than wood shakes. Wood shakes are irregular, thick, textured and have a rougher appearance than wood shingles, giving a roof more depth and dimension. Shakes, typically cedar, are split by hand and/or power equipment and are less uniform than shingles

Wood shingles and cedar shakes require a lot of upkeep to maintain their look. Treat them every few years with fire repellants, fungicides, water repellants, etc., and scrape away any moss or lichen that begins to grow.

Warranty

It’s important to understand the warranty on your new roof. Your roof’s performance will depend greatly on installation, climate and maintenance, and having a warranty will help protect your investment. When evaluating warranties, check the length of the policy, what’s covered (manufacturer’s warranty for material defects, labor to repair material defects, installation, workmanship, etc.) and home ownership warranty transferability. Each roofing company’s warranty and coverage is different so be sure to compare warranties.

Other Things to Consider

No matter what roofing material you decide to use, here are a few things to think about before purchasing.

  • Choose colors that complement your home’s exterior.
  • Be sure to check your local building codes and homeowners association guidelines before replacing a roof. There may be restrictions on the type of roof you can get.
  • The roofing material fire rating scale — rated A, B or C — is important. A is the highest rated and most fire-resistant. An unrated material is the worst.
  • To prevent condensation and the formation of ice dams on the edge of the roof, make sure you have proper ventilation under the roof deck and proper ceiling insulation. Adequate insulation also increases a roof's efficiency.
  • If your home is in a humid climate, consider roofing material treated with zinc or copper particles for algae resistance.
  • Repair any structural problems before installing a new roof. Any existing issues may resurface in the new roof if not properly dealt with beforehand.

Tips for Roofing Maintenance

How Do I Maintain My Roof? | DIY Basics

  • Look for cracked shingles.
  • Look for loose flashing (the material that's used over joints in roof and wall construction to prevent water seeping in and causing damage, usually aluminum or galvanized steel).
  • Look for cracked rubber fittings around pipes and vents.
  • Look for shingle residue.
  • Keep the gutters clean.

Address any issues quickly before they create bigger problems. If necessary or if you don't feel comfortable handling maintenance or repairs yourself, contact a licensed professional roofing contractor.

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