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A Guide to Residential Roofing

residential roofs

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes time for a roof replacement. One roofing material lasts longer while another costs less initially. It's sometimes difficult to determine which one to use and which is best.

Our residential roofing guide gives you an overview of the various roof material types for your house, their life expectancy, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the average replacement and repair costs.

Below you'll find answers to the following questions:

What are the different types of roof material?
Which roof material type is best?
What are asphalt shingles?
What's the life expectancy of asphalt shingles, tiles and metal?
What are the pros and cons of a shingle roof, a tile roof and a metal roof?
What's a tile roof and a metal roof?
What's the average roof repair or replacement cost?
What's it cost to inspect a roof

What are the different types of residential roof 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.

Here are the 5 most common types of residential roof materials available today, in order of popularity:

Asphalt Shingles

house with an asphalt shingle roof
Photo courtesy of Trent Studios, LLC

Asphalt 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. Read more about asphalt shingles.


a house in the mountains with a blue metal roof

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'. When we install metal roofs, the metal is cut 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.


residential roof with concrete tiles
Photo courtesy of Boral Roofing

Clay tile roofs have been around for hundreds of years. Fired clay tiles have been dated to around 3,000 BCE. Roof tiles, whether made of clay or concrete, are formed into 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, we are resistant to high-winds. Learn more about tile roofs.


natural slate tiles on a roof

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. We do not offer slate roofing.

Wood Shake

warn out wood shake on a residential roof
Photo courtesy Trent Studios, LLC

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 shingle 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.

So, which roof material type is best?

The best roof material depends upon a few factors. Even the so-called 'best' can have problems if it's installed incorrectly.

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 are the longest-lasting. A tile roof can last hundreds of years, if properly installed. * Your roof needs a minimum 15º pitch.

Boral Roofing's Slate tile roof on house

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.

a house in the mountains with a blue metal roof

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.

house with an asphalt shingle roof
asphalt shingles new residential roof
House with asphalt shingles. Photo courtesy Trent Studios, LLC

What are asphalt roof shingles?

Asphalt roof shingles are a type of roof covering that uses asphalt for waterproofing. Each 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.

What is the life expectancy of asphalt shingles?

The life expectancy of asphalt shingles vary. 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 asphalt 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

What are the advantages of asphalt shingles?

There are several advantages of asphalt shingles:

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 needs to be done, such as roof deck repair.

Impact resistant
Not all asphalt shingles are impact resistant. Owens Corning, however, offers an impact-resistant option: TruDefinition Duration Storm.

Asphalt shingles are resistant to fire and algae.
Asphalt shingles are wind-resistant. Owens Corning, for example, makes 60 and 130 mph wind-resistant shingles.

Variety of colors
Asphalt shingles come in a wide variety of colors. Owens Corning's Oakridge shingles, for example, 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.

What are the 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. Versus 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?

A tile roof is a roof made from natural, often local materials, such as clay or concrete. Each tile is fixed to the roof framework with nails. 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.

What is the life expectancy of a tile roof?

A tile roof can last hundreds of years if properly installed. It is rumored that in St. Augustine, Florida, there is still a working clay tile roof that dates to the 17th century.

What are the advantages of a tile roof?





Low long-term cost


What are the disadvantages of a tile roof?

1. Expensive to install and repair, compared to asphalt shingles and metal.

2. Brittle. A tile can break under the weight of the person installing or repairing a tile roof.

3. Heavy. A tile roof often needs structural reinforcement.

Metal roof on house.
Metal roof on house.

What is a metal roof?

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.

What is the 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. If poor or thin materials are used, or the roof is damaged, the life expectancy is serious shorter.

What are the advantages of a metal roof?

Longevity; usually last between 40 and 70 years.

Durability; 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.

What are the disadvantages of a metal roof?

1. Expense; compared to asphalt shingles, a metal roof can cost twice as much.

2. Noise; a metal roof can be very noisy during a hail storm.

3. Color; color can fade and can be difficult to match if repaired years later.


4. Expansion and contraction; because metal naturally expands and contracts in the heat and cold, this can cause loose joints.

What is the average roof replacement cost?

The 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 $22,000 ($8.89/sqft) to replace.

To replace tile on that 2500 square foot roof, expect around $27,000 ($11/sqft).

Asphalt shingles average replace cost
Metal roof average replace cost
Tile roof average replace cost

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!


  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.

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