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Resources / Roofing

Roofing Materials

The type of roofing material used will depend on the style of home you are building, the slope of the roof, and local building restrictions. The following is a list of the roofing materials that are most commonly used in the construction of today's homes:

Asphalt Shingles

This is the most common type of roofing material used today. This type of shingle is divided into two different categories, organic or fiberglass (non-organic). Organic shingles are manufactured with a cellulose fiber base made from recycled paper and wood fibers, which is then saturated with asphalt. Then a mineral coating is applied to resist weathering. Fiberglass shingles are produced in a similar fashion but the core is made up of fiberglass. This tends to provide more flexibility and added strength over the organic. Dimensional shingles are a variation of organic or fiberglass shingles. They are similar to the standard organic or fiberglass shingle, however, the cores are much thicker. The additional layers of material can be sculpted to provide different shadow lines to give the roof a more custom look.

Asphalt shingles are manufactured in a wide variety of colors and are rated by their projected lifespan. This is typically 20-30 years for the standard organic or fiberglass, while dimensional shingles can have a life expectancy up to 40 years. The majority of manufacturer's will only warranty their materials for the specified life spans if their certified roofers install them.

Wood Shingles

The majority of wood shingles comes from Western red cedar. The reason this type of wood is used most often is its resistance to decay. The wood shingles are classified and sold as either number 1, 2, or 3. 1 is what is used and recommended for roofing because it is cut from knot free heartwood. 2 is generally used for siding and comes from less resistant sapwood. This type of shingle comes in a few different sizes, 16 inch, 18 inch, and 24 inch, and is tapered.

Wood Shakes

Like shingles this type of roofing material is taken from cedar. The difference is that shakes are either sawn again or split by hand. A resawn shake has one side that is left with a natural irregular look and one side that is cut thinner to give the tapered shape. Hand split shakes are tapered as well but typically have more natural, textured look. Shakes are separated by weight, which are classified as either heavy or medium and are sold in lengths of 18 inch or 24 inch.

Clay and Concrete Shingles

This style of roofing is usually associated with the Spanish-mission tiles. The most common shape of this style of roofing material is the traditional barrel shape, but you will also find clay and concrete tile that is flat or tapered to give a wood shake or slate appearance. The life span can be between 50-100 years, but this type of material performs best in warm dryer climates. Tile tends to absorb water, so this can be a problem in moist or cold climates where the tile could be damaged due to the freeze/thaw cycle. Concrete and clay tiles are heavy so it is often necessary to increase roof support for the added weight.


Roofs constructed using metal shingles have been around for years. Today's advances have made it available in many different colors, shapes and styles. Metal shingles will typically be interlocking and can be made up of aluminum, copper or stainless steel. This type of roofing is lightweight and doesn't crack, split, rot or burn and will typically last over 50 years. Metal can also be used on many different styles and both steep and flat roofs.


This is one of the oldest roofing materials found U.S. and is mainly used in the northeast. Slate is a hard rock that can be split into thin slabs, which can vary between 1/4 inch to 1 inch. Slate is extremely durable and can last 100 years or more. This type of roofing material is very heavy so it requires the roof be built specially to handle the added weight, and can be difficult to install properly, so it can be a problem finding a qualified roofer.

The roofing materials discussed above can vary in material and installation cost. The following table shows the cost breakdown by material. The costs given are based on 100 square feet of roof and are approximate figures. Costs may vary in your area.

Asphalt Shingles
$25 to $30
Wood Shakes
Wood Shingles
Clay or Concrete
Source: 2002

Choosing the roofing material for your new home is a major decision that many new homebuilders overlook, and assume their builder is going to install the best material to meet their needs. It is a good idea to know what options might be available depending on your style and cost requirements.