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All About Roof Types

The type of roof you plan to have installed on your home makes a big difference in how it performs, what it looks like, and how long it will last. That’s why you should have a basic understanding of the different roof types and what you can expect from each of them.

Each of the estimated lifespans listed under the roofing types are provided by InterNachi (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors).


Tin Roofing (60+ Years)

Tin roofing is actually tin-coated rolled steel, and it takes the best attributes from each of these metals to create a very durable roofing product. Steel is known for its durability and resistance weight, denting, and other common problems suffered by softer metals, but it corrodes easily. Tin on the other hand is nearly immune to corrosion from rain and snow. Together you get a roofing option that can last for more than a century when maintained. Tin roofing isn’t cheap, but it is an excellent investment on a home you plan to keep for a while. It’s also lightweight and can be installed over other roofing options like shingles.

Metal Roofing (20-60+ Years)

Metal roof types are actually a more broad category of roofing that includes things like copper, steel and tin, but most of the metal roofing that you’ll find in stores today is galvanized steel that’s rolled out into large panels. Metal roofing is known for being lightweight and highly durable, but steel roofing is normally coated with paint, ceramic or epoxy in order to protect it against corrosion.

Metal roof types are available in long panels and in more stylish tiles. It’s environmentally friendly and can normally be recycled easily unlike some other options such as asphalt or rubber roof types. Metal roofing isn’t cheap, but it’s known for lasting longer than other more affordable options are. It’s typically installed with weather-resistant screws that seal against a rubber gasket to keep moisture out.

Standing Seam Metal Roofing (15-60+ Years)

Standing seam metal roofing is the most common and most popular form of metal roof types. Standing seam roofing is made of large panels of thin metal that has a series of structural folds to add to the strength of the material. Panels overlap one another from start to finish to create one seemingly continual folded metal surface. Standing seam metal roofing is known for lasting 50 years or more in the top quality installations and it can be painted or coated.

Slate Roofing (60-150 Years)

Slate tile roofing is some of the heaviest and most expensive on the market compared to other roof types, but it’s an excellent option. It’s made from carefully broken stones nailed into place in a way that all the nail holes are covered. Slate is known for being incredibly durable. It’s freeze resistant, waterproof and withstands most weather conditions with ease. The material can last for several hundreds of years before it has to be replaced, making it the last roofing solution you’ll need.

Rubber Roofing (15-25 Years)

Rubber roofing comes in rolls or as shingles that can be installed over the roof of a home quite easily. They are generally black or dark in color and are composed from mostly recycled materials. While your roof will look similar to an asphalt shingle roof when you go with rubber shingles, you’ll actually be providing a new life for old tires and other rubber products that would simply be thrown away otherwise. Rubber roofing is about as durable as shingles are, but cost a bit more. Luckily it requires less maintenance over its lifespan, and that’s why many people decide to go with a rubber roof.

Copper Roofing (60+ Years)

Copper roofing has a signature look that’s classy and brilliant. There’s no mistaking the gleam of a copper roof and since copper is corrosion resistant many copper roofs are composed of uncoated copper. The roofing is typically made from panels but there are tiled copper roofs as well. The roofing is one of the most expensive options available and it’s difficult to install properly, but many people believe the trouble is more than worth it. Copper roofing typically lasts for 70 or 80 years and will last even longer in ideal conditions.

Steel Roofing (15-30 Years)

Steel metal roofing is usually sold in large panels and is the most common type of standing seam roofing sold today. The steel roofing is coated with paint, ceramic or enamel to protect it against the elements, since steel corrodes easily. Steel is an affordable type of metal roofing and it’s durable enough to last through several sets of asphalt shingles when quality roofing is used.

Clay Tile Roofing (100+ Years)

If you’ve ever been to a Spanish villa style home you probably noticed the clay tile roofing. It’s got a signature look that’s bulkier than most other roofing options. Clay roofing tiles are very durable and simple to maintain. Clay roofi tiles are also relatively affordable, but they aren’t cheap to have installed. It’s one of the most expensive types of roofing to install. Clay tile roofing is a charming option when installed on the right type of home, but the weight has to be accounted for. Only a durable roof system can accept this type of roofing, so keep that in mind.

Foam Roofing (50+ Years)

Foam roofing is easy to apply and is the only type of roofing without seams. The product can be put on in just a day or two and it creates a hard and durable surface that can be walked on. The product is lightweight and helps to insulate the building effectively. Unfortunately foam roofing is typically only available in a white color, and it has to be reapplied once every five years in order to continue keeping water out. This is more maintenance than what is needed with most other roofing options.

Corrugated Metal Roofing (15-30 Years)

Corrugated Metal Roofs are typically sold in a metal material but is also offered in a polycarbonate and asphalt material. The roofing comes in long panels that are folded back in forth to create ridges for added strength. They are highly rigid and offer effective protection for the home. The roofing will last from 15 to 30 years depending on what it is made out of. It’s simple to install and usually pretty lightweight, making it possible to apply over an existing roof.

Tar and Gravel Roofing (20 Years)

A tar and gravel roof is typically used on a flat or low pitch roof to keep water away from the home. While this roofing isn’t used nearly as often as it was in the 50’s and 60’s, it is still put on some homes around the world. To make the roof layers of tar paper and liquid asphalt are spread out onto the roof. The final top coat of the roofing is made from a layer of asphalt with gravel pressed into it while it’s hot. The roofing is known to be durable, but it does require more maintenance than other forms of roofing. Prepare to replace gravel regularly and to clean off any accumulated debris.

Maintenance of Your Roof

Most roof types are relatively low maintenance until they begin to fail. You simply put these hardy materials in place and wait for them to start going bad so that you can replace a portion of or the entire roof. If you’re trying to avoid maintenance as much as possible stick with a metal roof, or a roof like slate that isn’t likely to have many problems throughout its lifetime. Materials like rubber roofing, asphalt shingles and even clay tiles require more work. You’ll have to make spot repairs now and then, and in the case of asphalt shingles you’ll also have to replace the entire roof sooner than you would with most other options.

Shopping Within Your Budget

Before you start to choose between roof types that you want to put on your home, first figure out exactly what your out of pocket budget is. If you are taking out a loan it will be more difficult determining what you have to spend on your new roof. Get estimates for different roofing types you’re interested in to see what quality and cost works best for you.

Hire a Quality Roofer

You can spend a great deal of time picking out the very best type of roofing and not get much life out of it if your roofer puts it on improperly. Not only will that cut the life of your roofing short, but it will also put the rest of your home at risk. So take the time to find a quality roofer who knows about all roof types. Look for local contractors to see who can do the job, and check their reviews to see who is known for doing a quality installation. Finally, get quotes from your top choices. With that information you should be able to pick out the option that is going to work best for you and move on to actually having the work done.

By learning about all the different roofing types and about how to find an experienced installer, you can get the best roofing for your needs and budget.

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