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How to Choose A Roofing Material

How to Choose A Roofing Material

If you’ve already gotten underway in thinking about what you need to do for your roofing project, (and you’ve decided on getting a roof replacement) the next step you’ll need to take is to figure out what kind of material will be best to put on your roof.

There are a lot of factors that can affect what kind of roof you want on your home, including where you live, what kind of weather you face most often, and what style of home you have. Not only will you have to think through these kinds of factors, you also need to think about what fits best into your budget, and how long a given roof will last.

In this blog, we’re going to be going over:

Let’s get started!

Different Types of Common Roofing Materials

There are several options of materials available for homeowners who are looking for a roof replacement. Though a lot of these will likely be ruled out based on a variety of factors, so we’ll get into that in the next section. First, let’s talk about what kind of roofing materials are out there today.

architectural shingle roof_WebP-2

The first one that we’ll talk about is also the most common, and generally most cost effective roofing option out there. Asphalt shingles are made of a mixture of asphalt, that is put over a fiberglass mat, and covered with protective mineral granules. These are nailed to the roof in such a way that they overlap, and seal to each other, forming a solid layer of protection.


Asphalt shingles first came around in the early 1900s, and were used for their fire resistance and low cost compared to the other popular options at the time, wood shingles & slate tiles.

Wood shingles & shake are two different styles of wood roofing material. Though shakes are typically slightly more durable, and more expensive, as they are individually split, the main difference between them is how they look. This kind of material is still popular for older homes that have traditionally had wood on the roof, or are in a more natural setting.

Slate and ceramic tiles are similarly popular for older homes, but are used more frequently on much larger, or historic properties. These can both be very durable, but are much more difficult and expensive to install or repair, so they are typically only used by people who have the money, or properties that need to be maintained for historical significance.

Metal Roof in Goldston_WebP-1

The last material that we should mention is also one of the most popular ones in the United States, metal panels. Metal panels have been used for decades because of their longevity when installed properly, and lack of maintenance over the years. There are two main types of metal panels, standing seam and screw down panel, but here we’ll be primarily discussing standing seam, as they are the only kind of metal panel that should be installed over an inhabited home.

Factors You Should Consider

Now that we’ve talked about the materials, lets go over some of the factors that will help determine what material you’ll want on your roof!

Up to this point, we’ve only really talked about steep slope options, so I should mention that there is a whole other world for flat roofing materials, that are leak resistant and more suitable for that kind of roof. Okay, continuing on to the factors for a sloped roof.

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One of the main ones is the size and shape of your roof. If your roof is particularly large, steep, or complex, it will dictate what can be put on it. For example, slate roofs are incredibly heavy, so if your roof is large and isn’t built to handle that weight, you can say goodbye to that option. Also, super steep roofs often can’t be installed with heavier roofing materials, as the risk of them falling becomes greater, as would the damage that comes from that.


Another big one is what kind of climate you live in, and the sorts of weather that your home will be exposed to. For example: in some parts of the world, like the Southwestern U.S., materials like asphalt shingles are almost unusable because of the heat that they would attract. The sun would dry out the shingles in no time, and cause them to wear much faster, so they aren’t used very frequently.

On the other hand, if your roof is going to be exposed to frequent wind and heavy rain, you might be looking more at a metal roof, because it has a better ability to stand up to such weather. Asphalt shingles are best suited for a more temperate climate, which is part of why they are so popular across North America.

The last thing that you’ll absolutely need to consider while picking the material is a big one, your budget. You can only put on your roof what you can afford, so that will be a majorly determining factor in what goes on your roof.

Because of all of the other steps involved in a roof replacement, it’s hard to give accurate price ranges for all of these materials, but what we can do is give a price range for the materials themselves. The most expensive roofing materials are going to be the slate tile and wood shake roofs, both of which can run you between $20 and $30 per square foot. A step down from that should be a standing seam roof, at around $15 per square foot.

On the lowest end of the cost spectrum, you’ll find the three main types of asphalt shingles, three-tab, architectural, and luxury. These three will likely cost somewhere between $4 and $10 per square foot, with three-tab's on the low end, and luxury shingles on the high end.

Most Popular Roofing Materials

nice asphalt roof_WebP-2

As far as the most popular roofing materials go, asphalt shingles are going to be by far your number 1. Three-tab and architectural shingles are the most widespread roofing material in North America, and especially in the U.S. Three-tab shingles are very popular amongst large scale builders, as they are incredibly cost effective, and should last new homeowners a decade or more, making it a good entry level product.

These days, architectural shingles have begun to cut into that market though, as the price gap between them and three tab shingles has shrunk significantly, and they are overall a much better shingle, usually lasting more than twice as long.

Metal roofs are also a popular option, especially in coastal markets and more rural areas. Though they carry a significantly higher price tag, they are well known for their durability through storms and strength over time, as well built metal roofs can often last over 50 years.

Most Durable Roofing Materials

Metal Roofing Raleigh NC_WebP_WebP-1


Standing seam metal roofs also need to be on any list featuring the most durable roofing materials. As we just mentioned, they can last over 50 years with the right conditions, and are very good at resisting wind and rain, when properly installed.


The same can be said about slate tiles, as their weight makes them very hard to knock off, and very resistant to high winds and debris. The main difference with slate, is that to reach that full lifespan, you will likely need to frequently repair and perform maintenance on the roof, which is not as common with standing seam metal panels.

Cheapest Roofing Materials

The cheapest roofing materials pretty much coincide with the most popular roofing materials we listed earlier because, well, people like to save money! I certainly can’t blame 'em.Three-Tab Shingles_WebP-2

In case you clicked all the way down here and didn’t read that section, though, I’ll go over it again.

The cheapest roofing material available on the market today is going to be a three-tab asphalt shingle, typically costing around $4 to $5 per square foot for a roof replacement. These shingles are a thin material that tend to look flatter and blockier on the roof than some of its counterparts. These will often last 10-15 years in good conditions, but are more susceptible to damage than other kinds of asphalt shingles.

Next on the list is another asphalt shingle, this time an architectural, or dimensional shingle. These often cost around $5 to $6 per square foot for a full roof replacement, but again, that final cost will depend on a variety of other factors that you’ll have to hear from your roofing contractor.

Want to learn more about metal & asphalt?

Alright, after all that, hopefully you’ve got a pretty good idea about what roofing material you’re looking for on your roof. If you’re not settled yet, and need a more head-to-head comparison, check out our blog on how metal roofing compares to asphalt shingles!

On Tops Roofing has been helping Raleigh homeowners through the roofing process since 1991. With our experience, we’re ready for anything that comes our way. Whatever your roofing project requires, we’re On Top of it!

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