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The prospect of a new roof can be intimidating and exciting all at the same time. Roof work is expensive, so you want to make absolutely certain that you choose the right contractor and the right material. Once those nerve-racking details are settled, you’re left with the anticipation of a brand-new roof that will ramp up your home’s curb appeal a few notches.
Your roof is made of several important layers, but the one you (and everyone else) will see on a daily basis is the top layer—the shingles. Working together with the underlayment, the ventilation system, and the decking, your roof’s shingles keep your home dry and protected through decades of weather. They’re also an important aesthetic feature.
When you choose new shingles or roof cladding material, you’ll need to consider several elements:
- The climate in your area
- The architectural style of your house and roof
- Any HOA or neighborhood association restrictions or covenants
- Your budget
- Your personal style preferences
To help you decide on the best type of roofing material for your home, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of five popular types of shingles. Keep reading for more, or scroll right to the end for a shortlist of the top four things to consider when you have your roof replaced!
Asphalt Shingles / Composition Shingles
Asphalt shingles, also referred to as composition shingles, are one of the most popular types of roofing material in the US. This type of shingle is made of a mixture of asphalt, fiberglass, and other strengthening materials. Asphalt shingles are durable and cost effective: exactly what you want when having your roof replaced.
If you decide on asphalt shingles, you’ll need to choose between standard three-tab shingles and architectural shingles. The most noticeable difference between the two styles is aesthetic: architectural shingles are thicker and layered, which makes for a more dynamic, stylish roof.
Three-tab shingles look flat and plain in comparison, and because they’re thinner than architectural shingles, they have a shorter lifespan. On average, an asphalt shingle roof will last two to three decades.
Pros of asphalt shingles
- Asphalt shingles are a cost-effective roofing material
- Individual shingles are easily replaced if necessary
- The design of architectural shingles means that you’ll have a wide variety of styles and color schemes to choose from
Cons of asphalt shingles
- Asphalt shingles are susceptible to mildew and moss growth, especially if your home is on a wooded lot
- Asphalt shingles do fade in the sun, so getting an exact color match for missing shingles after several years can prove difficult
Composite shingles are made from synthetic materials and are available in a wide range of styles, textures, and colors. If you love the look of slate but not the price, for example, ask your roofer about composite shingles that are designed to be virtually indistinguishable from genuine slate.
Composite shingles are typically manufactured with UV protectants, so your roof won’t show its age as quickly as a non-synthetic material might. Expect to pay more for composite shingles than you would for asphalt shingles, but less than for high-end roofing materials such as slate.
Pros of composite shingles
- Because they’re made of synthetic materials, composite shingles are available in almost any color or texture
- The expected lifespan of this type of shingle is approximately 50 years
- Most composite shingles contain a high percentage of recycled material (and can, in turn, be recycled at the end of their lifespan)
- Composite shingles are resistant to mildew, algae, and stains from leaves and other debris, so maintenance is minimal
Cons of composite shingles
- Composite shingles are more expensive than asphalt and wood shingles
- Composite shingles cannot be installed in a way that increases their wind resistance above 115 miles per hour
Metal Shingles (Metal Roofs)
Metal roofs have been around for centuries, but they’ve varied in popularity over the years, especially in the US. In today’s more environmentally conscious world, however, metal roofs are making a comeback.
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. If you choose a metal roof, be sure to ask your contractor about noise reduction. Without adequate insulation, metal roofs can be noisy during rain showers.
Pros of metal roofing
- Metal roofing is made of up to 60 percent recycled material and can be completely recycled at the end of its life
- Modern metal roof products can be manufactured to mimic a wide range of textures, including wood and slate
- Metal roofs are low maintenance and last for 50 years or more
- Because metal roofs are energy efficient and durable, your home insurance company may give you a discount on your premium for having one installed
Cons of metal roofing
- Uninsulated or poorly insulated metal roofs can be very loud during storms
- The upfront cost of a metal roof is higher than that of an asphalt shingle roof
Genuine slate shingles are made from sedimentary rock mined in quarries. Slate roofs are beautiful, but they require significant skill and training to install. Nonetheless, a slate roof can last for decades—even over a century—provided the roof is installed correctly and is properly maintained over the years.
If you opt for a slate roof, be sure to work with a roofing company that has plenty of experience with the material. Ask for references of customers with slate roofs so you can see the company’s work firsthand. Once your slate roof is installed, stay current with annual roof inspections by the installation company to catch and correct any cracked or broken shingles.
Pros of slate shingles
- Slate shingles are very durable and can last well over a century
- Compared to other types of roofing materials, slate is low maintenance
- Slate roofs are noncombustible
Cons of slate shingles
- Slate shingles are a natural, handmade product, so they carry the highest price tag of any roofing material
- Slate roofs are not as common as other types of roofs, so finding an experienced, qualified contractor for installation and repair can be challenging
- The significant weight of genuine slate shingles may mean that your roof requires structural bracing to increase its strength
Wood shingles give a home a classic appearance and weather beautifully over the years. Usually manufactured from spruce, cedar, or pine, wood shingles are durable and energy efficient. Wood shingle roofs typically last 30 to 50 years when they’re properly maintained.
If you decide on wood shingles for your new roof, ask your roofing contractor about the possibility of treating the shingles to make them resistant to fire, fungus, moss growth, and insect damage. Cedar, one of the most popular materials for wood shingles, is naturally insect resistant, but a little extra support won’t hurt.
Pros of wood shingles
- The tree varieties used for wood shingles are very durable and will withstand inclement weather
- Wood provides natural insulation, which helps make your home more efficient
- Repairs and shingle replacements are not difficult
Cons of wood shingles
- Wood shingle roofs require consistent maintenance, such as debris clearing, to prevent the shingles from accumulating moisture and rotting
- The classic, weathered gray color of wood shingles takes time to develop, so brand-new replacement shingles will stand out for a while
Things to Consider When Replacing a Roof
1. It’s noisy.
Roof work is noisy, and there’s no way to make it less noisy. If loud noises bother you (or any furry family members), or if you normally work from home or have small children to get down for naps during the day, make advance arrangements to hang out with friends or relatives until the roof is finished.
2. Debris can end up in your yard, but it shouldn’t stay there.
Old shingles, scraps of decking and underlayment, and old roofing nails will sometimes land in your yard. The installation crew should, however, clean up at the end of every day; at the end of the job, they should thoroughly walk your property with a magnetic broom to collect all roofing nails and scraps of metal.
3. Expect a few surprises.
Very rarely does a home improvement project go exactly as planned. Once the crew begins removing the existing roof, they may find problems such as rotting or damaged decking and issues caused by inadequate ventilation.
The crew is already there and ready to work, so have them fix any major problems they find. If you don’t, the money you spend on a new roof will be a waste.
4. You get what you pay for.
This applies to both the roof material you choose and the contractor you hire. To get the best roof possible for your money, opt for the highest-quality roofing material your budget permits, and don’t rush to sign a contract with the contractor who gives you the lowest bid.
Only work with an experienced, vetted roofing company that is fully licensed and insured. Will you pay a little more than you would with a fly-by-night contractor who picks up day laborers and goes door to door soliciting jobs?
Probably. But if something goes wrong, a reputable company will have the resources to make it right and the integrity to stand behind their work.
The Bottom Line
Once you commit to replacing your home’s roof, the most important next step you can take is finding a good contractor. After all, the best, highest-quality materials won’t do you much good if they’re improperly installed.
Compare several bids, and remember that a true professional will never solicit you at your home. Confirm that the company you hire has replaced roofs on homes similar to yours and that they have experience with the roof material you’ve selected.
When you hire a Best Pick roofer, you can feel confident knowing that you’re working with the best of the best. Best Pick companies are fully vetted on an annual basis for quality of work and customer satisfaction, and we verify all state-required licenses and insurance policies every year.
Work with a Best Pick to get the roof of your dreams—we guarantee it!
Our companies are backed by the Best Pick Guarantee. Call one today!