Although there are several components working in tandem that compose a roof, none is more visible, and arguably more important, than its shingles. Choosing the right material to serve as the skin of your roof involves weighing the relative importance of many attributes, such as price, durability, and style. Here’s a brief breakdown of four of the most popular types of residential roofing materials:

Asphalt: Asphalt shingles, also known as composition shingles, are your basic, workaday shingle. Reinforced by fiberglass or paper, asphalt shingles are relatively inexpensive, easy to replace, and come in a variety of styles and colors. The downside of asphalt shingles is their susceptibility to mildew and moss, which is greater than other types of shingles. Also, although asphalt shingles generally last about 20 to 30 years, Atlanta’s heat will somewhat reduce that lifespan. The amount of sunlight they receive will also cause their appearance to fade over time, which can make it difficult to find matching replacement shingles.

Metal: While they aren’t exactly shingles, metal roofs are usually created by affixing interlocking panels to the roof’s decking or substrate, much like typical roofing shingles. Whether made of steel, tin, copper, or aluminum, metal panels can provide a low-maintenance, lightweight roof that lasts for 50 years or more. Metal panels are available in an array of colors and styles and are often able to simulate the appearance of other roofing types. Plus, metal roofs are effective at reflecting heat, making them good choices for warmer climates. The shortcoming of metal roofs lies mainly in cost. Depending on the metal used, they can be expensive to purchase as well as difficult to install. Homeowners should also consider the level of noise caused by rain falling on a metal roof. With the proper sheathing this problem can be mitigated, but homeowners should consult their contractor about the issue before committing to a metal roof.

Slate: Slate shingles are essentially rock plates that are tremendously durable and will survive over a century of wear, meaning you’ll probably never have to replace your slate shingle roof. Slate roofs are also very low maintenance and completely fireproof. They come in a variety of thicknesses, which can affect the shingles’ robustness and other qualities. If you’re considering a slate roof, talk to your roofer about your thickness options and what they’ll mean for the life of your roof. With these high-end benefits comes a high-end price tag, of course, as slate roofs are expensive in terms of material and installation cost. Due to the difficulty associated with installation of slate roofs, not all roofers have the skill required to do a proper job. If you’re going to spring for slate, make sure you choose a roofing contractor who’s experienced in that medium.

Wood: Usually manufactured from spruce, cedar, or pine, wood shingles are either cut by a machine, which makes them smooth on both sides, or split into shakes by hand, often giving them a rough front side and a smooth back. Wood shingles have a rustic, natural appearance, fading to a weathered, light gray after some time. Because of this, brand-new, replacement shingles will stand out on an older, weathered roof. While wood shingles can last for a good 30 to 50 years and are fairly easy to repair, they require more maintenance than other types of shingles. In particular, accumulated debris will retain moisture, which will in turn develop into fungi that can cause rotting. And of course, being wood, they’re not very fire resistant, though treatments are available to make them more fire retardant.

Once you choose the roofing material that’s best for you, there’s still one critical decision to be made—who’s going to install it? Even if you select the most appropriate material, all of its benefits can be negated by an improper installation. This is especially important to consider if the job involves a difficult-to-work-with roof (like one with lots of angles or a steep pitch) or difficult-to-install material. Before signing anything, make sure that the contractor has worked with the material before and has experience with jobs of that size. And, most importantly, remember that a true professional will never solicit you at your home. For a part of your home as important as its roof, it’s always a good idea to get multiple opinions and bids from established, insured, and professional contractors.

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