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Roof Types Buying Guide

On this page:
  • Popular materials and styles for roof installations
  • Lifespan and durability of roof types
  • Connect with quality local roofing pros

Different Roof Types

Roof types can be categorized by the materials used to build the roof, the shape and style of the materials in which they are laid out, and the frame or structural design of the roof. 

Roof Materials:

  • Metal
  • Asphalt
  • Wood
  • Clay
  • Rubber
  • Foam
  • Slate
  • Tar and Gravel
  • Solar
  • Green Roof

Roof Styles:

  • Standing Seam
  • Corrugated
  • Shingles
  • Tiles

Roof Structures:

  • Gable
  • Hip
  • Mansard
  • Gambrel
  • Flat

The type of roof you plan to install on your home makes a big difference in how it protects your home, what it looks like, and how long it will last. It is important to have a basic understanding of the different roof types, and what you can expect from each of them, prior to installation. If you want to compare roof replacement costs, check out our roofing cost calculator page.

Roof Types By Material Used

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs  are known for being lightweight and durable. Several different materials fall under the broad category of “metal roofs.” Some of these are described below:

  • Steel Roofing: Steel roofing is mostly galvanized steel that is rolled out into large panels. It is typically  coated with paint, ceramic or epoxy in order to protect it against corrosion.
  • Tin Roofing: An alternative to steel roofing, tin roofing uses tin-coated rolled steel. This makes it a very durable roofing product that is nearly immune to corrosion from rain and snow, unlike the softer steel material. 
  • Copper Roofing: Copper is a popular but expensive metal roofing option installed by homeowners for its classy and brilliant look. It is corrosion resistant and typically lasts for 70-80 years or longer in ideal conditions.

Other metal roofing options include materials like zinc, aluminum, and stone coated steel. 

steel metal roofing contractors

Metal roofs are available in long panels and in more stylish shingles. They are also environmentally friendly and can normally be recycled easily, unlike some other options such as asphalt or rubber roofs. Metal roofing is not cheap, but is known for lasting longer than other more affordable options, that is about 50 to 80 years depending on which metal roof type you choose.

Asphalt Roofing

Asphalt roofing is installed as shingles and is one of the most common roof types installed by homeowners in the United States. Asphalt roof shingles are preferred because they are affordable, lightweight and durable. They come in three variations – organic-mat based, fiberglass and architectural style to add aesthetic appeal to the roof. These shingles are available in several color variations to match your budget and style.

Asphalt shingles can last up to 30 years. There are options available with ceramic granules and copper coatings for asphalt shingles to protect from weather conditions and increase their lifespan.

Asphalt Roofing Type | Modernize

Wood Roofing

Wood roofing is often  installed by homeowners looking for a rustic, traditional style for their homes. They come in two styles – machine cut wood shingles or hand split wood shakes, mostly from 200 to 300 year old cedar trees. 

While wooden roofs can be an energy efficient option for some, they have declined in popularity due to fire risks. They also need periodic maintenance to protect from warping, insects, fungus, and be sprayed on with fire retardants and preservatives to last long. Wood roofs usually last 20 to 25 years when maintained properly.

Cedar Wood Shingles - Roof Type | Modernize

Some homeowners also install composite plastic roofing that can imitate wood shingle’s aesthetic appeal in more affordable costs. These are made from recycled plastic and can last 50 years or more.

Clay Roofing

If you have ever been to a Spanish villa style home you probably noticed the clay tile roofing. Clay roof tiles have  a signature look that is bulkier than most other roofing options. They are also very durable,simple to maintain, and relatively affordable. However, they are 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 very durable roof system can accept this type of roofing, so be sure to talk to a professional roofing contractor about whether or not your home can support clay tiles. Clay tile roofs can last up to 100 years.

Clay Roofing Tiles | Modernize

An alternative to clay is concrete roofing which is lighter in weight and a budget friendly option compared to clay tiles. These are also installed as tiles and can last up to 50 years.

Rubber Roofing

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 will actually be providing a new life for old tires and other rubber products that would simply be thrown away otherwise. 

Rubber roofing that comes in rolls are about as durable as shingles are, but cost a bit more. Luckily it requires less maintenance over its lifespan, which is  why many homeowners  decide to go with a rubber roof. Rubber roofs can last from 15 to 25 years with proper upkeep.

Rubber Shingles Roof | Modernize

Foam Roofing

Foam roofing is easy to apply and is the only type of roofing without seams. The product can be installed  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 a home  effectively. 

Unfortunately, foam roofing is typically only available in a white color, and the foam  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. Foam roofs can last more than 50 years.

spray foam roofing

Slate Roofing

Slate tile roofing is one of the heaviest and most expensive types of roofing on the market, but it is an excellent option. It is 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 is freeze resistant, waterproof and withstands most weather conditions with ease. The material can last for 60 to 150 years or more before it has to be replaced, making it the last roofing solution you will need. 

Slate Roof Type - Modernize

Tar and Gravel Roofing

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 is not used nearly as often as it was in the 50’s and 60’s, it is still featured  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. Tar and gravel roofs can last 20 years.

Tar And Gravel Roof Type | Modernize

Solar Roofing

Solar roofs are the most modern roof type installed, as the name suggests, to absorb solar heat and generate electricity to power your home. Solar roofing is installed as shingles alongside other types of roofing, as you do not need the solar shingles on the entire roof. The most optimal solution is to install them on the south side of a roof, but you can decide based on the area of your home most exposed to sunlight. Solar shingles can last from 20 to 25 years.

Solar Shingle - Roofing Type | Modernize

Green Roof

Green roofing is covering the roof partially or completely with small plants that include a root-resistant and waterproof membrane to prevent the roof structure from damaging. Green roofing can help you save energy by preventing energy loss from the attic. It can also help reduce noise and air pollution as the plants absorb pollutants and promote quality of life for homeowners. These roofs are usually low maintenance, only requiring weeding and trimming once or twice a year.

Green Roof Type | Modernize

Roof Types By Style

Standing Seam Metal Roofs

Standing seam metal roofing is the most common and most popular type of metal roof. Standing seam roofing is made of large panels of thin metal that have 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 to last  50 years or more when installed by quality roofing professionals, and it can be painted or coated. It can last from 15 to 60 years on average.

Standing Seam Metal Roofing Style | Modernize

Corrugated Roofs

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

Corrugated Metal Roof Style | Modernize

Roofing Shingles

Shingles are pieces of roofing materials that generally come in flat rectangular shapes. These shingles are laid from the bottom edge of the roof to the top by overlapping each other, covering the entire roof. Shingles can also be found in square, circular and customized designs, colors and textures as needed. Some shingles may have one end thicker than the other to help with layering on roofs. As shingles are built in bulk by manufacturers, it makes them the most affordable style of roofing there is.

There are over 20 roofing shingle types, with asphalt shingles being the most common option in the US. How long the shingles last depends entirely on the shingle material used.

Roofing Shingles Style | Modernize

Roofing Tiles

Tiles are similar to shingles in design, but differ in materials used and how they are put together. Tiles are made of organic materials like clay, concrete, slate and terracotta often fired in a kiln, whereas shingles are made of rocks,  minerals or other materials. Roofing tiles are highly durable and can last up to 100 years with periodic maintenance. They, however, are heavier than other roofing materials and need proper installation by a professional to protect them from breaking, leaking or slipping. 

Roofing Tiles Style | Modernize

Roof Type By Structural Design

Roof structure or frame can be defined as the bone of the roof. This bone structure is built based on the requirement of shape and slope of the home, but homeowners can choose a roof structure based on their aesthetic preference. Here are the most common structural designs for roofs:

Gable Roof

Gable roofs are  the most commonly found roof type. It has two slopes with a ridge at the top, forming a triangle framed roof. Gable roofs can be customized by changing the steepness of the slopes, combining 2 or more gables together for different areas of the home and how they are laid out. The common styles include crossed, Dutch, side and front gables.

Gable Roof Frame - Roof Type | Modernize

Hip Roof

Hip roofs have equal sized slopes on all four sides of the roof with a ridge at the top. This roofing option comes in second for popularity, particularly in snowy and windy regions of the country as the slopes can easily slide off snow and water from the roof.

Hip Roof Frame - Roof Type | Modernize

Mansard Roof

Mansard roofs have slopes on all four sides which flow downward from a low pitch-ceiling top. The silhouettes of the Mansard roof can have varied shapes like flat, curved, angles, slopes or a combination of them. The architectural design of the roof can give your home an old French aesthetic look. However, it is not advised to have Mansard roofs installed in snowy regions as they  can accumulate snow and debris.

Mansard Roof Frame - Roof Type | Modernize

Gambrel Roof

Gambrel roofs are barn style roofs with steep slopes on two sides and a gentle upper slope on top. The shape allows for a storage or attic unit on top and provides a rustic look to homes. You can also add windows to the steep slopes to allow for ventilation in the attic area. 

Gambrel Roof Frame - Roof Type | Modernize

Flat Roof

As the name suggests, flat roofs appear to have a flat design that can be used as a deck or patio. However, they are not completely flat and have little slope to help with water drainage. They also need to be properly waterproofed to avoid leakage or mildew. Flat roofs are mostly found in sub-urban areas and combined with other roof types to give a modern design to homes. They can also allow for green roof or solar panel installation to make the roof energy efficient.

Flat Roof Frame - Roof Type | Modernize

Maintenance of Your Roof

Most roof types are relatively low maintenance until they begin to fail. Most homeowners simply put these hardy materials in place and wait for them to start going bad, then end up having to replace a portion of or the entire roof.

If you are trying to avoid maintenance as much as possible, stick with a metal roof, or a roof like slate that is not likely to have many problems throughout its lifetime. Materials like rubber roofing, asphalt shingles and even clay tiles require more upkeep and maintenance. You will have to make spot repairs now and then, and in the case of asphalt shingles you will also have to replace the entire roof sooner than you would with most other options. Here is an article to help your understand when it is time to repair your roof and how to do it.

Shopping Within Your Budget

Before you start to choose between roof types to put on your home, first figure out exactly what your out-of-pocket budget is and what can be covered under an insurance claim. If you are taking out a loan, it will be more difficult to determine what you have to spend on your new roof. It is recommended that you create a budgeting plan for your roofing project and get estimates for different roofing types you are interested in to see what quality and cost works best for you. 

Hiring  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 installs it  improperly. Not only will this cut the life of your roofing short, but it will also put the rest of your home at risk. 

Be sure to  take the time to find a quality roofer who knows about all roof types. Look for reliable local roofing contractors near you to see who can do the job, and check their reviews to see who is known for doing a quality installation. If you plan on installing a metal roof, make sure the roofer you speak with  has experience with all metal roof types. 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 completing the job..

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