A roof is a roof; it’s the most basic element of shelter to keep the wind, rain, snow and beating sun off your head — right? Actually, no.
Jul 26, 2019
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While roofs are integral to shelter, they are far from basic. Modern homes have roof systems that are incredibly complex, to ensure that the outside elements don’t damage your home, that the roof has a long lifespan and that your walls can hold your roof without crumbling.
There is no way you could survive with a roof made from palm fronds and sticks — in fact, modern roofing materials are made from an array of strong, lightweight materials that offer different benefits in different environments.
By far the most common shingle type for its light weight, low cost and durability, asphalt shingles are named because they use asphalt for waterproofing. However, in truth the bulk of the shingles can be made from a variety of materials, from felt paper to fiberglass.
Asphalt shingles are fast and easy to install, so many homeowners with some handiness skill can patch asphalt roofs on their own, but I have always hired roofers near me to do larger asphalt roofing jobs.
Architectural shingles are less a type of shingle and more a certain style. These are typically made of asphalt, ensuring they are durable, but model higher-end shingles, like cedar, slate and clay. Thus, they split the difference in appearance, cost and ease of use. Also, their thickness increases their lifespan to as much as 50 years.
Offering a charming, antiquated look, cedar shingles are among the most energy-efficient shingles because wood is a poor conductor of heat. However, as you might expect, cedar doesn’t do especially well in wet conditions and can increase fire risks.
Modern cedar shingles tend to be treated with waterproofing and fire retardant to make them safer and more effective.
Cedar shake provides near-identical benefits to cedar shingles — indeed, they are made of the same material and are installed in the same way. The only true difference between the two shingle types is appearance: Cedar shake is hand-cut, providing a more rustic look than machine-cut cedar shingles.
Metal roofing is a broad category, but there are metal shingles you can install to mimic the look of a shingled roof.
Metal roofs are the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly of all roof styles as they are exceedingly durable. After installing a metal roof, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to replace your roof as long as you are performing adequate maintenance. Plus, metal roofs increase home value dramatically, making metal a worthwhile investment.
Also called synthetic or composite shingles, plastic shingles are exceedingly affordable and can closely imitate more expensive roofing, like cedar or slate.
Even more attractive to some homeowners, plastic shingles are among the only type that make it easy to DIY an entire roof; they use a simple interlocking system, and their light weight means you don’t need to add any structural support.
Rubber shingle is another variety that is low-cost and relatively durable, but most notable about rubber shingles is the low maintenance needs. Rubber is resistant to rotting, cracking, mold, tending, moisture and discoloration.
Should a rubber shingle start to leak, you only need to apply a strong sealant. However, rubber does deteriorate quickly in some conditions, like high heat, so it is not applicable to all homes.
Slate is an exceedingly high-end roofing material — but for the cost, you can essentially eliminate your roof as a source of concern. Natural stone is beautiful, but more importantly it is completely fireproof and waterproof.
Slate roofs last for more than 150 years. However, the high cost prohibits many homeowners from installing slate, and natural stone is incredibly heavy, meaning many homes must be reinforced structurally to handle slate.
A relatively new shingle variety, solar shingles are rising in popularity due to their eco-friendliness. Designed to look like tile or asphalt shingles, solar shingles capture energy from the sun, which you can use in lieu of more destructive energy, like coal or oil.
Because of their novelty, solar shingles are higher on the cost spectrum, but they offer unique benefits that other shingles cannot meet.
Finally, tile shingles offer many of the same advantages of slate roofs, but because they are molded from clay, they can take nearly any form, providing more flexibility in roofing look. It’s not uncommon to see tile shingles that look like wood shake; they can provide a similar aesthetic but boast greater durability.
Unfortunately, tile also has the downsides of slate, namely cost and weight. You have more options than you might expect when it comes to roofing materials — and the shingles you choose will determine how much attention you need to pay your roof in the years to come.