Although several components are working in tandem that composes 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 Shingles / Composition Shingles

  • Reinforced by fiberglass or paper
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easy to replace
  • Come in a variety of styles and colors
  • Susceptibility to mildew and moss
  • Sunlight will also cause their appearance to fade over time making it difficult to find matching replacement shingles
  • Generally last about 20 to 30 years
  • Atlanta’s heat will somewhat reduce that lifespan

Metal Shingles (Metal Roofs)

While they are not technically shingles, metal roofs are usually created by affixing interlocking panels to the roof’s decking or substrate, much like conventional roofing shingles.

  • Made of steel, tin, copper, or aluminum, metal panels
  • Provide a low-maintenance, lightweight roof that lasts for 50 years or more
  • Metal panels are available in an array of colors and styles
  • Able to simulate the appearance of other roofing types
  • Effective at reflecting heat, making them safe choices for warmer climates
  • Depending on the metal used, they can be expensive to purchase as well as difficult to install
  • Higher level of noise caused by rain falling on a metal roof (problem can be mitigated by proper sheathing)
  • Homeowners should consult their contractor about the noise issue before committing to a metal roof

Slate Shingles

  • Essentially rock plates that are tremendously durable
  • Will survive over a century of wear
  • Low maintenance and completely fireproof
  • Variety of thicknesses can affect the shingles’ robustness and other qualities
  • High-end benefits come a high-end price tag
  • Slate roofs are expensive in terms of material and installation cost

Talk to your roofer about your thickness options and what they will mean for the life of your roof. Due to the difficulty associated with the installation of slate roofs, not all roofers have the skill required to do a proper job. If you are going to spring for slate, make sure you choose a roofing contractor who’s experienced in that medium.

Wood Shingles

  • Usually manufactured from spruce, cedar, or pine
  • Cut by a machine, which makes them smooth on both sides
  • Split into shakes by hand, often giving them a rough front side and a smooth back
  • Rustic, natural appearance, fading to a weathered, light gray after some time
  • Brand-new, replacement shingles will stand out on an older, weathered roof
  • Wood shingles can last for a good 30 to 50 years and are relatively easy to repair
  • They require more maintenance than other types of shingles
  • Accumulated debris will retain moisture, which will, in turn, develop into fungi that can cause rotting
  • They are not very fire resistant, though treatments are available to make them more fire retardant

All Things Considered

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, an improper installation can negate all of its benefits.

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 had worked with the material before and had experience with jobs of that size.

Most importantly, remember that a true professional will never solicit you at your home. For a part of your home as valuable as its roof, it is always a good idea to get multiple opinions and bids from established, insured, and professional contractors.

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