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Residential Roofing Guide

roofs of condominiums   In our residential roofing guide, we show how much a new roof costs, show you the roofing material options available to you, their life expectancy, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and more.

In this residential roofing guide, you’ll find answers to the following questions.

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What are the different types of residential roofing materials?

Before modern technologies, natural materials such as grass and wood, were all we had to protect our homes. Although these natural roofs had an old-world charm, they were not without their disadvantages. Being natural, they were prone to burning, decay, mold, pests and infestations. They were also high maintenance. Today, there are many roof material types available. Roof materials available today are resistant to fire and mold, are not attractive to birds and insects, are low maintenance, and can last for decades.

The 6 most common types of residential roof materials

In our residential roofing guide, we only mention the 6 most common roof materials for homes:

  1. asphalt shingles
  2. metal
  3. tile
  4. modified bitumen
  5. slate
  6. wood shake

We know some houses have ‘built-up’ and solar tiles on their roofs. However, we don’t discuss those here because they are a lot less common. In our Commercial Roofing Guide, we discuss flat roof options that can also be used for residential purposes.

Asphalt Shingles

Shingles are the most popular roof material available today. Each shingle is relatively small at roughly 12″ tall and 36″ wide and less than 1/4″ thick. They are the most popular because they are the most affordable and the easiest to install and repair.

house with an asphalt shingle roof

new shingle roof on house


Metal roofing is most common in rural and mountain areas. At your local home improvement stores, metal roof panels come in either 24″ or 36″ widths. Common stock lengths are 8′, 10′ and 12′. However, when we install metal roofs, we cut the metal to order based upon the needs of the roof and homeowner. Those that choose metal panel roofs do so because they are somewhat easy to install, easily shed heavy snow and are low maintenance. a house in the mountains with a blue metal roof


Clay tile roofs have been around for hundreds of years. Fired clay tiles date to around 3,000 BCE. Roof tiles, whether made of clay or concrete, come in a variety of shapes. Each tile is hung from the framework of a roof. Because the tiles are made of clay or concrete, they are naturally resistant to fire. Due to their weight, they are resistant to high-winds.

residential roof with concrete tiles

Photo courtesy of Boral Roofing

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen is like tar that’s stuck to fiberglass fibers. It comes in rolls, which makes it easy to install. It is used only on flat or low slope roofs. It doesn’t last as long as other residential roofing systems, however it is among the least expensive, at around $4.25/sf., total, on average. Read more about modified bitumen roofing.


Slate is a natural, fine-grained rock composed of clay and volcanic ash. The standard roof slate tile vary in size from 6″ x 10″ to 14″ x 24″. Just like clay or concrete tile, each slate tile is hung from the roof framework with a nail. Because slate is a natural stone product, they are resistant to fire and environmentally friendly. Nevertheless, we do not offer slate roofing.

Wood Shake

Traditionally, wood shake was made from split logs then formed to the desired shape. Wood shake is thin, usually 3/8″ to 3/4″ thick and 3″ to 8″ wide. Both wood shake and wood shingles are wedge-shaped. The difference between wood ‘shake’ and wood ‘shingles’ is; wood shingles are tapered. Because wood shake is a natural product, it is highly flammable, prone to mold and moss growth, doesn’t last long and is high maintenance. We do not offer wood shake.

warn out wood shake on a residential roof

wood shake roof

So, which roof material type is best?

The best roof material depends upon a few factors. Even the so-called ‘best’ can have problems when installed incorrectly. Also, the best roofing material, might not be the appropriate one for your roof’s pitch. How do you determine the right roofing material for your roof’s pitch? However, generally asphalt shingles are considered the ‘best’ for the following reasons:

  • affordable
  • long-lasting
  • easy to install
  • easy to repair
  • versatile

Don’t care about cost?

If you don’t care about cost, clay or concrete tiles last the longest. A tile roof can last hundreds of years, if properly installed. * However, your roof needs a minimum 15º pitch.

Get a lot of snow?

You might prefer a metal roof if you live in a region that gets a lot of snow due to metal’s ability to quickly shed a lot of heavy snow.

Money a concern?

If money is the primary factor, stick with an asphalt shingle roof as it’s your least expensive option to install or repair.

asphalt shingles new house roof

new asphalt shingles on house

What are asphalt roof shingles?

Asphalt roof shingles are a type of roof covering that uses asphalt for waterproofing. A shingle is thin and rectangular, measuring 12″ tall and 36″ wide and less than 1/4″ thick. The shingles overlap and seal to each other to cover a roof. Each shingle attaches to the roof deck with nails. Read more about asphalt shingles.

The life expectancy of shingles

The life expectancy of asphalt shingles vary. For instance, it depends upon the manufacturer and the installer, among other factors. However, your average asphalt shingle should last between 15 and 20 years. Higher-end shingles, such as Owens Corning’s TruDefinition Duration asphalt shingles, should last closer to 50 years. asphalt shingle life expectancy chart showing the average shingle lasting only 20 years, but Owens Corning TruDefinition Duration shingle lasting 50 years

Advantages of roof shingles.

There are several advantages of shingles:

Affordable Asphalt shingles are the most affordable to install and repair. Compared to a metal roof, you’ll pay less than half for asphalt shingles. Compared to tile, you’ll pay around 33% less for mid-grade asphalt shingles. Easy to install

The time to remove old asphalt shingles and install new ones on the average home is within 1 day. This assumes all new materials are on-site and no other roof work is required, such as roof deck repair.

Impact resistant

Not all asphalt shingles are impact resistant. However, Owens Corning offers an impact-resistant option; TruDefinition Duration Storm.


Shingles are resistant to fire and algae. Furthermore, they are wind-resistant. For example, Owens Corning makes 60 and 130 mph wind-resistant shingles.

Variety of colors

Asphalt shingles come in a wide variety of colors. For instance, Owens Corning’s Oakridge shingles come in 13 different colors.


Because asphalt shingles are thinner and flexible than tile or metal, you can cut them more easily and bend them to fit over peaks or into valleys.

Disadvantages of asphalt shingles.

On their own, there aren’t any disadvantages to asphalt shingles. However, by comparison to a properly installed concrete tile roof, asphalt shingles don’t last as long. (Remember, a properly installed tile roof could last hundreds of years.) Also, assuming you have a concrete tile roof that lasts hundreds of years, asphalt shingles could cost more over that same time span.


Compared to tile and slate, asphalt shingles don’t last as long. At the most, asphalt shingles can last up to 50 years. On the other hand, a properly installed tile or slate roof could last potentially hundreds of years.


Although asphalt shingles are initially cheaper to install, over the course of tile’s or slate’s potential long life span, asphalt shingles could cost more in the long run.

a concrete tile roof on a house

Concrete tile roof. Photo courtesy Boral Roofing

What is a tile roof?

Manufacturing companies make tiles from natural, often local, materials such as clay or concrete. Nails secure the tiles to the roof framework. A tile roof is completed by starting at the bottom part of the roof then overlapping the next row of tiles over those. Tiles come in a small variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Life expectancy of a tile roof.

A tile roof can last hundreds of years if properly installed and it hasn’t been damaged. For example, it is rumored that in St. Augustine, Florida, there is still a working clay tile roof that dates to the 17th century. However, most of the time, a tile roof lasts between 50 and 75 years.

Advantages of a tile roof.

  • Durable
  • Long lasting
  • Fireproof
  • Wind resistant
  • Low long-term cost
  • Recyclable

Disadvantages of a tile roof

Expensive Expensive to install and repair, compared to asphalt shingles and metal Brittle Tiles can break under the weight of the person installing or repairing them. Heavy A tile roof often needs structural reinforcement.

Metal roof on house.

Metal roofing

A metal roof is composed of sheets of metal (sheet metal) which are typically 24″ or 36″ wide and vary in length from 8′, 10′ or 12′. Each piece of sheet metal overlaps the previous sheet by 2″. Between the sheets is adhesive. Sheet metal screws with rubber washers are used where the sheets overlap to secure the sheets to the roof deck.

Life expectancy of a metal roof.

Depending upon the materials used, the life expectancy of a metal roof is between 40 and 70 years, if installed correctly and it is not damaged. However, if poor or thin materials are used, or the roof is damaged, the life expectancy is serious shorter.

Advantages of a metal roof

Longevity Usually long between 40 and 70 years Durable Some metal roofs are impact-resistant and high-wind resistant Fire-resistant Because it’s metal, it won’t burn Environmentally-friendly Metal is sometimes created from recycled material, and can again be recycled. For example, in Fort Collins, Colorado Iron & Metal recycles all types of metal roofing.

The disadvantages of a metal roof.

Expense Compared to asphalt shingles, a metal roof can cost twice as much. Noise A metal roof can be very noisy during a hail storm. Color The paint on a metal roof can fade and be difficult to match is repaired years later. Expansion and contraction Because metal naturally expands and contracts in the heat and cold, this can cause loose joints. Loose joints can lead to water leaks.

Modified bitumen roofing

Modified bitumen is asphalt that’s been strengthen with rubber or plastic, and fiberglass fibers. It comes on a roll.

Life expectancy of a modified bitumen roof.

On average, 10-15 years.

Who’s it for?

Those with a flat or low slope roof. (Any roof that’s less than 3:12 (14.04º) qualifies as low slope.)

Advantages of a modified bitumen roof:

Flexible: expands and contracts with changing temperatures Inexpensive: costs just a little more than asphalt shingles Strong: resistant to tears and hail Easy to install and repair: rolls on, repaired with patches Wind resistant: it’s flat, so wind can’t pull it up Water resistant: oil and water don’t mix Energy efficient: with a white top layer, heat is reflected away Low maintenance Colorful: available in a variety of colors

Disadvantages of a modified bitumen roof:

Lifespan: Relatively short lifespan at between 10-15 years. Want to learn more about modified bitumen?

How much does a new roof cost?

chart comparing costs of common residential roofing materialsThe cost to replace a roof depends upon a few factors, such as material used and square foot of the roof.

Asphalt Shingles:

To replace asphalt shingles on a 2500 square foot roof with mid-grade asphalt shingles, expect to pay around $8500 ($3.40/sqft).


The same 2500 square foot roof with metal, expect around $23,750 ($9.50/sqft) to replace.


On that 2500 square foot roof, expect around $27,000 ($11/sqft) for tile.

Modified Bitumen:

Modified bitumen, plan on around $11,000 ($4.25/sqft) on that 2500 square foot roof.

What is the average roof repair cost?

The cost to repair a roof depends upon the material, type, and damage caused. Because asphalt shingles are the most common, let’s use that as the roof material and compare three types of damage:

  1. a 1″ diameter hole caused by a patio umbrella: $300
  2. chimney flashing damage: $750
  3. large tree branch damage: $1,500-$3,000

How much does it cost to inspect a roof?

The cost for us to inspect a roof is $0!

Life Expectancy of Popular Residential Roofing Materials

chart showing life expectancy of modified bitument, asphalt shingles, metal, and tile Modified Bitumen: 10-15 years Asphalt Shingles: 20-50 years Metal: 40-70 years Tile: 50-75 years


Thank you for visiting our Residential Roofing Guide. We hope you found it useful. Our primary intent is to share the common residential roofing materials, which you should choose, the life expectancy of each, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and average cost to install and repair. The information here is based upon our own experience and research. We know the opinions of roofing contractors will vary. If you feel some information is incorrect or missing, please leave a comment below and let us know.


  1. Angie Miller on October 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    OMG! There’s so much great information on this page! This is quite a guide! The pros and cons, and costs, are really helpful! Thank you so much for all of this.

    • Bob Behrends Roofing and Gutters on October 26, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      You’re welcome, Angie. Thank you for visiting our website and taking the time to read our content. Please let us know if we can answer any other questions of yours. Take care.