An introduction to roofing materials residential

For the purpose of this and other pages in this section, the term roofing materials residential is defined as the the actual materials that keep the water out. The visible part of a roof, not the supporting roof structure or roof framing.

Table of contents for this page.
Some basic concepts. | Different types of roofing material | The Cost of roofing. |

Some basic concepts.

There must be literally dozens of different categories of roof materials, each with many sub categories to choose from.
Each of the various materials available have their own particular pros and cons.
I will try to guide you through the selection process.

steel roofing curved with the sheets
Roofing materials residential - Hardly a cost effective way of providing shelter. This corrugated steel roofing shows one designer's way of being different.

The selection of the correct roofing materials residential for for any particular job is critical, make a mistake and it could be very expensive.

  1. There is a large range of weight in the full range of roofing materials. For instance three or four laminated roofing shingles may have the same coverage as a cement tile, but the cement is a few times heavier than the shingle. Because of this, right at the beginning of the design stage the choice of the material and the design of the roof structure should go hand in hand.
  2. Bear this in mind, if for instance you are contemplating the replacement a lightweight steel roof with something a lot heavier, say cement roof tiles.
  3. In many cases the geographic area dictates to a large extent the choice of the roofing material.
    • A roof in a climate that experiences snow, has to have a certain angle of slope to shed the snow. If the snow cannot slide off the roof structure may not be able to support the weight of the snow. So the choice of materials that are cost effective on steeper pitched roofs is critical.
    • Many areas in the world are now legislating in favour of the use of non flammable roofing. Not just in high risk fire areas.
    • In areas that are prone to high winds certain roof materials that more or less sit in position with just a few nails and their own weight to fix them in position would not be a wise choice. Again in many countries the regulators stop us from using certain materials without them being specifically designed for the conditions.
    • Proximity to the sea or industrial plants that may accelerate corrosion in metal roof sheeting should be considered when choosing the correct materials.
  4. The choice of the roofing material is governed to a great extent by the slope of the roof.
    • Any of the roofing systems that depend on small overlapping pieces, like slates, tiles and shingles must be fixed on a roof that is fairly steep.
    • Conversely there are a whole lot of residential roofing materials that are designed and suited for lower pitched to almost flat roofs.
  5. As in most things the selection of roofing is complex, with one end of the equation being long lasting and costly and the other being cheaper and adequate.

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ancient clay tile roof
Roofing materials residential- Durable and long lasting, a clay tile roof in ancient Hoi An, Vietnam

Different types of roofing material

Over the next few weeks I will be writing separate pages on some of these residential roofing materials. As I finish them the links to them will appear both here and in the menu bar on the right

Of necessity I have had to be a bit vague here because things like cost vary from place to place. The life of a roof has more to do with correct installation, maintenance and environmental aspects than the manufacturer's claims. A good fire rating for a material can be rendered useless if the rest of the house is a fire trap. Some things are basic though, clay tiles last longer than asphalt shingles. Steel has the best strength to weight ratio of any roofing material.

Roofing Material Cost Strength Weight Ease fixing Fire resist Lifespan
Metal roofing
Corrugated tin roofing AKA Corrugated galvanised iron. very costly heritage work only can be highest hurricane rated low DIY to medium Highest with all steel supports up to 60 years.
Steel Roofing roll formed low to medium Highest strength on steel low DIY to medium Highest on all steel supports up to 50 years.
Standing seam steel medium medium, fixings wide apart low skilled fixers only Highest on all steel supports up to 50 years
Stainless steel Expensive, good for harsh conditions high on steel supports low cost of material excludes DIY high on steel supports depends on environment
Copper roofing Very expensive low to medium medium skilled install only high fire rating longest lasting metal, up to 150 years
Zinc alloys high low low medium depends on profile medium up to 30 years
Lead Roofing high low high skilled install only good material but usually on timber up to 100 years
Aluminium medium low low DIY to medium medium low melt point 30 years
Clay Roofing tiles medium to expensive impact strength only heavy makers require approved fixers material highest but fixed mostly to timber The highest lifespan of all roofing materials 300 years common
Cement tile roofing medium impact strength only, but can be fixed to high wind cats. high makers require approved fixers material high but fixed mostly to timber 30 years
Composite Materials
Roofing underlay cheapest poorest lowest DIY to medium low to medium in theory same a the roofing, but many times it breaks down earlier.
Roofing felt as a roofing material, not underlay. low poor low to medium DIY to medium low 10 to 25 years
Faux slate or imitation slate. medium none medium to heavy makers usually require approved fixers Material good, supports poor 30 years
Composite shingles, various names dirt cheap to medium no strength to poor low to medium DIY low to medium 20 to 30. Some claims to 50, we'll see.
Corrugated plastic roofing Low to medium low to high low DIY to medium poor fire ratings 5 to 15 years
Membrane roofing. N/A none low approved applicators varies with product varies with product
Fabric roofing shade sails medium to high varies wildly light usually makers only low fire ratings varies with product
Spray foam polyurethane roofing medium to high N/A low approved applicators varies with product varies with product
Natural products
Slate roofing materials expensive new, heritage only. repair work recycled materials impact only medium to heavy medium material good but framing usually timber up to 100 years
Wood shakes or shingles trivial if home made poor low DIY Very poor fire ratings 5 years upwards.
Thatch Expensive heritage only none low skilled thatchers a dying breed Very poor fire ratings varies, say 40 years
Lake Asphalt for flat roofs very expensive none medium machine intensive install poor varies to 30 years

Most of my pages obviously reflect my own personal experience and to a certain extent my preferences, but I do try to keep some balance and I am the first to admit that there are many other ways to achieve quality results. If you happen to live in the US you will find this Roofing Materials page to be a great help in making a choice on your new roofing.

There are a few asbestos related products still out there, corrugated asbestos cement sheeting and also asbestos Shingles. Both are no longer in production. If you already have them read my series of asbestos pages.

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palm frond roof
Roofing materials residential- Prone to vermin and strong winds, this thatch roof made out of palms fronds is hardly a lifetime roofing solution, but it is extremely cheap to build and replace with local materials.

The Cost of roofing.

There is no way that I can even contemplate keeping abreast of of prices of the various roofing products here in Australia, let alone give advice on the cost of roofing in any of the 140 or so countries that I get visitors from.

What I will do on the specific roofing material pages will be to give comparative costs in relation to other materials in the same category.

Always you must bear in mind that the cost of roofing materials is only part of the story. Installation of roofing can be in most case a lot more than the cost of the material itself.

Think about it this way, let's say that roofing product A is 20% dearer than product B. You know it is a better, but hey 20% is a big difference. In the total cost of the job when the labour etc is added using the better material may only increase your costs by 10%. Even less if it is quicker to install.

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In general the links on this page are to fairly detailed pages, but don't forget the Illustrated Roofing Glossary Roof Coverings Section as each item has it's separate page with photographs and information.

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Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
You must check your own local conditions.
Copyright © Bill Bradley 2007-2012. All rights reserved.
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