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residential home with chimney and high quality roofing materials
residential home with chimney and high quality roofing materials

The Homeowner’s Guide to Roofing Materials

The average roof lasts between 20 and 50 years, depending on the materials used and how well it was installed. Therefore, most homeowners will have to deal with the process of a roof replacement at some point in their lives. 

When the time comes, there will be several decisions you’ll have to make — the most important being which roofing materials you’ll choose to complete your home. There are a lot of variables that factor into the materials you’ll be able to choose from, including:

  • Costs
  • Longevity of materials
  • Your roof pitch
  • Personal preferences

Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about the most common roofing materials so you can make the right choice when the time comes. 

Understanding Roof Pitch

The pitch of your roof (also referred to as its slope) will tell you exactly what roofing materials can and can’t be used. The slope essentially refers to how a roof is divided, and there are three classifications for this — each with its own set of advantages:

Steep Slope

residential roof with steeper slope

Steep slope roofs range from 4:12 to 21:12 in pitch. Steep slope roofs are incredibly durable and provide maximum water and snow runoff while allowing for tons of overhead attic space. Virtually any roofing material can be used on a steep slope, which is arguably their greatest benefit.

Low Slope

Low-slope roofs are roofs with a pitch between 2:12 and 4:12. While they’re much flatter than steep slopes, they still provide a good amount of run-off potential, although they’re most common in areas with low precipitation. They can also accommodate most types of roofing materials.

Flat Roofs

Any roof that has a pitch under 2:12 is considered a flat r no-slope roof. The headroom beneath a flat roof is mostly uniform, which is why they’re mostly used for garages and modern apartments. Otherwise, you usually only see them on commercial business properties. 

The typical materials used for no-slope roofs include:

  • Built-up roofing (BUR)
  • Rolled roofing
  • EPDM rubber
  • Single-ply TPO or PVC
  • Modified bitumen
  • Spray polyurethane foam
  • Stone mastic asphalt

Flat roofs don’t provide drainage, which is why the roofing material options used for them must be impermeable to keep buildings leak- and moisture-free. The materials are also completely different from the options you’ll have with sloped roofs.

6 of The Most Common Roofing Materials

There are plenty of durable roofing materials homeowners can choose from to suit their budget, roof pitch, preferred aesthetic, and local climate. These are the most common roofing materials available, plus their pros and cons:

1) Asphalt Shingles or Composite Shingles

residential home using asphalt roofing materials

Roughly 90% of all homes in the United States use asphalt shingles or composite asphalt shingles simply because they’re the most affordable. Asphalt shingles are also durable and easy to install, plus they come in a variety of colors that can match virtually all aesthetics. 

Additionally, you have a choice between architectural shingles and three-tab shingles. Architectural shingles are thicker and installed as individual tiles to create a layered texture to your roof. Three-tab shingles are thinner and are cut to give the appearance of three shingles, which allows for quicker installation and a more uniform pattern.


  • Affordable
  • Low maintenance 
  • Work well in most climates
  • Widely available
  • Variety of color options
  • Recyclable


  • Color is prone to fading with sun exposure
  • Three-tab shingles are prone to wind damage
  • Three-tab shingles only last up to 15 years (architectural shingles last up to 30 years)

2) Ceramic or Clay Tiles

Ceramic and clay tiles are also incredibly popular among homeowners as they’re long-lasting and come in a variety of styles such as Spanish, French, Scania, and so on. These types of roofs are most commonly found in places like Florida and southern California because clay and ceramic can endure high winds, are fire resistant, and tend to keep cool.


  • Comes in rich colors, like terracotta
  • Gives the home great curb appeal
  • Good for regulating indoor temperature
  • Low maintenance 
  • Lasts between 50 and 100 years — sometimes more


  • Can be vulnerable upon impact
  • May need additional structural support for their weight
  • Will likely require specialized labor for installation and repair

3) Wood Roofing

close up of cedar shake roofing materials

Wooden roofing is often seen on winter cottages, cabins, and Tudor- and Craftsman-style homes. Wooden roofing is typically shaped into two styles — wood shakes and wood shingles. Wooden shakes are split into wedges, offering a more rugged and natural look, while wooden shingles are sawmilled into uniform widths and lengths for clean lines.

The most common types of wood used for roofing are cedar, redwood, and pine, as they’re durable and are best at repelling insects. They’re also best for dryer climates and age like fine wine from sandy brown to silver brown over the years.


  • Natural
  • Boosts curb appeal
  • Ages well
  • Repels insects


  • More susceptible to water damage, mold, mildew, and rot
  • Are among the most expensive
  • May require chemical preservatives and fire retardant treatment for safety
  • Are more high maintenance

4) Metal Roofing

Metal roofs are considered the modern roofing option; however, metal roofs have been used since the 1800s. Metal is unique in that you can opt for galvanized metals, aluminum, zinc, copper, and so on — plus, it can be shaped into standing seam metal roofing (sheets) and metal shingles. 

What’s more, metal is incredibly durable, long-lasting, and very easy to maintain. It can also be painted in a wide range of colors to match any home style and scheme.


  • Extremely low-maintenance
  • Incredibly durable
  • Can be shaped and colored to mimic asphalt, slate, and even wood
  • Lightweight and excellent for temperature regulation
  • Highly recyclable


  • More expensive compared to other options
  • Will likely need sound-proofing materials upon installation to reduce noise
  • May warp or develop ripples if installed incorrectly
  • Requires specialized labor to repair and install

5) Slate

side view of slate roofing materials installed on residential home

Slate is arguably the most durable type of roofing material that homeowners can choose from. Of course, that also means it’s one of the most expensive. However, slate roofs can last up to 200 years with proper installation and maintenance — plus, slate roofs are fireproof and resistant to extreme temperatures as well as high winds. It also holds up very well against the impacts of hail and debris.


  • It has a very long lifespan
  • It’s low maintenance
  • It’s incredibly durable
  • Its colors complement virtually all aesthetics (gray, blue, green, brown, and red)


  • It’s very expensive (up to $20 per square foot of materials)
  • Will likely need extra structural support for its weight
  • It requires a specialist to install and repair

6) Green Roofing

Green roofs are becoming more and more common among homeowners that live in urban areas with flatter roofs. Essentially, green roofs are covered with vegetation, such as grass and native wildflowers that support pollinating wildlife. Green roofing can be costly to install, but it comes with several great benefits, including combating excessive heat, reducing rainwater runoff, and it’s much better for the environment. 


  • Will last up to 50 years
  • Durable, depending on the vegetation
  • Supports the environment


  • Requires gardening and water maintenance
  • Requires extra structural support for weight and water
  • Will also require specialized labor to design and install properly

Choosing the Best Roofing Materials for Your Home

Choosing the right roofing materials for your home is easy. The hard part is finding a reliable roofing contractor that you can trust to install your new roof properly — and help you out with a maintenance plan once the job is finished.

Melo Roofing is the best when it comes to installing asphalt shingle roofs. We’re also even better at customer care. Give us a call to get started on your roofing consultation today!

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