NEWSLETTER #256 April 2007 House-Building Home Page

New House Building: Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips

Roofing Construction Materials



  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of Roofing Materials
  3. Comparison of Various Roofing Materials
  4. Summary and Other Considerations
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This month's newsletter is focused on types of roofing material you may want to consider for your new home.

The selection of roofing material will depend on a number of variables, including cost aesthetics, longevity, ease of installation as well as environmental considerations. We will explore these variables as well as a few others in this month's newsletter.

As usual with all of our newsletters we will provide useful links for our readers to find out more detailed information about each of these subjects throughout our newsletter.

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Overview of Roofing Materials

Your roof is actually a complex system that forms an integral part of your home. The obvious function is that it keeps the rain and snow out, protects your home from the elements and can either assist in cooling or heating your home, however there are several other functions that your roof performs. For example, the choice of color as well as material will determine the amount of heat that is reflected from your roof. Proper ventilation will ensure that the attic is kept cool and in climates subject to ice and snow, water resistant membranes around skylights, and at the eave are also important.

Whether you choose a standard asphalt shingle roof , steel or tile, all of these factors should be considered when you are selecting a new roof. We have included several links that will help to explain some of these considerations in this month's newsletter.

Selecting a roofing material should also take into account that the material as well as the color and texture should be pleasing to the eye, it should last a long time without costing a fortune for the initial installation and both the roof structure as well as the roof material should be able to accommodate the environmental conditions that they are exposed to. Heavy snow loads, ice etc usually require steeper pitches, while a green roof must have a secure membrane to avoid water leakage in any climate.

There are many choices for your new roof and your local builders can assist in your selection. There are the standard asphalt shingles which come in a variety of colors and designs, slate shingles, composite slate, steel, tile, metal including copper, wood shingles and green roof's with water tight membranes.

Asphalt shingles are the most common, come in a large variety of colors and also in various quality levels. Consumers can purchase 15 year, 20 year and 25 year shingles which is the length of time these shingles are expected to last under standard conditions.

Wood shingles also come in a variety of sizes and colors and provide a more rustic look to your home. Walking on any roof is not encouraged, however wood shingles can be susceptible to damage from traffic on the roof, especially if snow loads need to be removed.

Tile and slate roofs are very heavy and your homes overall structure must be designed to support this extra weight. They also come in a variety of colors and designs and are typically found in warmer climates not subject to harsh climates such as ice and snow.

Copper, as well steel roofs can exist in almost any climate. Copper roofs are legendary for their long lives and their beautiful oxidized green roof. Consumers should note that a copper roof will take approximately ten to twelve years to reach the fully oxidized green roof color.

Green roof solutions involve a watertight membrane to prevent any possibility of water penetration. On top of this membrane, thatch, gardens even small trees can be placed to create gardens and other esthetically pleasing solutions. Many people will only cover their roof with gravel.

The links we have provided will provide more information on all of these different types of roofing materials with further detail and information to help you make decisions about your new home.

You may wish to refer to this past newsletter for a comparison between asphalt and fiberglass shingles.

Some Useful Links:

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Comparison of Various Roofing Solutions

In this section of our newsletter we will provide a qualitative comparison of the various roofing systems and materials. Details can also be found in the various links provided.


Many consumers take noise generated from their roof for granted, however if you are considering a metal roof of steel or copper, this can be an important consideration. Rain noise can be substantial unless you take steps to manage the acoustic transfer of noise into the living areas of your home. Insulation between the interior of the home and the roof will help to dampen the rain noise. Several suppliers discuss this on their web sites. Tiled roofs also generate acoustic noise, however to a lesser degree.


The aesthetic value of a roof can contribute significantly to the value of your home, either blending in with the neighborhood or making a statement for all to observe and accentuating the cladding of your home as well as the surrounding vegetation. Not only are there a variety of types of roof coverings, they come in multiple colors as well. Choose your roof type and color with care. If you are considering something different from the rest of the neighbor hood, ask your builder for examples of homes with your style and selection and then visit them to see what a finished home will actually look like. Some consumers prefer a green copper roof, while others will select tile for its southwestern appeal.


It is difficult to generalize, since the cost of various roof types depend on local conditions as well as availability of craftsman. Several web sites suggest that as a rule, asphalt shingles will be relatively cheap compared to metal roofing and then tile or slate roofs. Part of the cost of tile roofs is the additional strength of the structure that must be added to support the additional weight. If you are considering tile or slate, ask your builder or architect to include the net cost of all factors before you decide. In addition, inquire whether there are qualified craftsmen in your area who can install the roof type you have chosen.

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Energy and Environmental Concerns - Heat & Cooling Impacts

This is actually a complex topic, which is covered very well in the cool roofing materials database developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Variables such as color, granularity (in the case of asphalt shingles), absorption levels, surface temperature, surface coatings and air flow (especially in the case of tiles) will determine the heat absorption as well as heat reflectivity. Generally lighter colors are cooler than darker colors, however the color of the underlying material is also a factor.

All of these variables can have a profound impact on the heating or cooling requirements for your home over the year. Depending on were you live, you may chose one roofing solution over another based on the energy costs associated with either heating or cooling your home. In addition to the cost to you personally, reducing your energy usage may also have a profound impact on the overall environment as a result of reduced energy use.


Asphalt shingles can be purchased in a variety of quality levels usually expressed in terms of 15 year, 20 year and 25-year shingles. These are indicators of how long you should expect your roof to last, however roof longevity will depend on the environment you live in, temperature swings and external damage from flying objects, snow load, even foot traffic if you need to clear the snow from your roof.

Metal roofs may come with 50 year warranties while a slate roof could last as long as 100 years or more. For most consumers this is much longer than they intend to live in their homes, so long term future costs of possibly re-shingling may not be an issue. Cost recovery on the sale of your home is another important issue. Many prospective buyers just want to know that the roof does not leak and will not need to be replaced in the next few years. Beyond that they are not interested in paying more for a home that has an expensive roof.

Safety Concerns

Safety of your roof can be an issue especially if you intend to go up on your roof. Many consumers will remove snow to reduce the snow load in some areas of the country while others will be up on the roof to place decorations to celebrate Christmas and other similar events. Metal roofs can be very slippery when wet or covered with snow. Tile roofs can crack from the freezing and thawing. If snow load is a concern in your area, both slope as well as structural strength are factors to take into account.

Structural Impacts

We mentioned structural strength due to snow load, however there are additional factors to consider which will impact the cost of your roof. Your rafters must be sized sufficiently to handle both snow load, as well as the weight of your roof whether it is asphalt shingles or heavy slate. Metal roofs can actually be the lightest roof material to use. In addition, some builders will mount air conditioners on the roof for a number of reasons. Noise, space, cooling breezes and ambient temperatures are several factors that may impact this decision. Either way, your roof must be able to support this weight. Your architect or builder will take this into account, however consumers should be aware of the overall cost differentials before they make a decision.

The links below will provide more detail on these issues and others to assist in your decision regarding roof selection.

Some Useful Links:

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Summary and Other Considerations

One consideration that consumers may want to consider when designing their new home is prevention of algae on their roof. Algae occur in over 80% of roofs in the US. It is predominantly found along the eastern seaboard, extending as far west as Texas, Missouri and Illinois. Algae is also found on the western side of the Rockies and Sierra Nevada's in California and all the way up the coast to northern British Columbia in Canada. There are Algae Resistant Roofing solutions, which can be considered. We have included a link on this subject to provide you with additional information regarding this subject. Algae on your roofs shingles not only takes away the beauty of your roof, it also can reduce the life of your roof's material due to the constant moisture condition. It also attracts insects, which can contribute to further damage.

Membranes around skylights and eaves should also be considered to provide an extra seal against the potential of water finding its way into your home. Homeowners in northern climates are well aware of ice dams that form in the winter below skylights and around the eave causing water to seep into your attic, which can cause tremendous damage inside your home as well as much frustration. Even wind driven rain can find its way under the shingles of your roof. A rubber membrane covering the area 4 to 5 feet or more around your skylights and again 4 to 5 feet up from the edge of the roof will help prevent these problems from occurring.

For some consumers selecting a roof may be as simple as choosing the color and utilizing asphalt shingles on a standard designed roof, which your architect or builder will be happy to look after.

For other consumers, who want to consider broader aesthetics, cooling and heating impacts, long-term life of the roof and local environmental impacts, there is a wealth of information available to assist them with their decisions. Slate and tile roofs last a long time, cost more than asphalt roofs, however you may not get your monies worth when it comes to selling your home. Acoustic impacts of metal roofs should also be taken into account and sound-absorbing material should be considered to avoid transfer into the living areas of the home.

Some Useful Links:

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