How to Choose a Roof for Your Home


Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corporation

From natural materials like slate and wood to manmade products such as asphalt, sheet metal, and plastic polymers, there are more types and styles of roofing to choose from today than ever before.

While each has its advantages and shortcomings, they all can add a distinctive design element to your home. So which one is right for you?

What to Look for in a Roof

There are many factors to consider when selecting a roof including:

  • How long will it last?
  • Does it hold up during natural disasters such as wildfires or hurricanes?
  • Is it too heavy for the existing roof framing?
  • Does the roof have enough slope?
  • Will the look complement the style of the house?
  • Are the materials eco-friendly and recyclable?
  • Is the type of roofing allowed by local building codes?
  • And finally, how much does it cost?

Pros and Cons

Some types of roofing may be better suited for your house than others. Factors such as the slope of the roof and strength of the framing could limit your choices.

In areas prone to wildfires or hurricanes, look for a product with a high fire rating or good wind resistance. In addition, steps can be taken during the installation of many types of roofing to improve their resistance to fire or wind.

Below is a rundown on the different types of roofing available.

Asphalt Composition Shingles


Photo Courtesy of CertainTeed Corporation

Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing for homes, comprising over 80% of residential roofing market.

  • Materials: Made of either an organic paper fiber mat (better for cold weather and wind resistance) or fiberglass (more fire and moisture resistant) impregnated with asphalt and coated with mineral granules.
  • Appearance: Available in traditional 3-tab shingles or thicker laminated “architectural” shingles.
  • Eco-Friendly: Petroleum-based product that’s not eco-friendly. Can be recycled, though often taken to landfills.
  • Durability: Not very durable. Algae-resistant shingles are available in humid climates to prevent staining.
  • Weight: Moderate in weight.
  • Slope: Can be used on low to steeper-sloped roofs.
  • Fire & Wind: Good fire resistance, fair wind resistance.
  • Cost: Inexpensive to moderate.

44 COMMENTS

  1. clay roof tiles are highly reflective and offer energy star rated products, too. They provide natural insulation and last many many years.

  2. I am living in Washington State and there are a lot of rain and most houses’ roof have mold that are very difficult to get rid of. Among all the different roof materials, which one has the best ability to resist the mold or easily get rid of the mold without using drug (environment polution) or when using high pressure water but withut damage the roof. Appreciate the answers!

    • Hi Luoming,
      There are several possibilities. If what you’re calling mold is green moss, then check out our article on How to Remove Moss from a Roof. If it’s a black stain on an asphalt shingle roof, it’s probably a blue-green algae known as Gloeocapsa Magma which is covered in our article on How to Remove and Prevent Black Algae Stains. If the culprit is plain old mold, a metal roof is probably your best bet, though it mayl be noisier than asphalt or wood shakes. Mold can grow on anything, including glass, so given your climate, whatever type of roof you have will need to be cleaned from time to time.

  3. Can some one answer my question? what roof materials are better to risist mold or easily to get rid of mold, and meanwhile have less noise under heavy rain?
    Thanks in advance!

  4. I got a new EagleLite lightweight concrete tile roof made by Eagle Roofing Products in August 1995. It looked great for several years until triangle corners (1.5″) started to break off many of the tiles. Now, September 2013, my roof is leaking because of major fractures in the tiles. Upon inspection I find five (5) tiles are broken horizontally just below the tile above and the lower pieces slide down several inches to expose the tar paper below. The sun burned through the tar paper and the plywood is now exposed to the rain. The tile also break easily in the vertical direction but the tar paper is still covered enough to prevent the sun damage and the resulting rain leakage.
    I am very disappointed with the low strength and ease of breakage of the Eagle concrete tile. Eagle says the tile is “lite” but it is very heavy to the point of causing structural problems in the house. This roofing system is NOT recommended. Frankly, my neighbors cheap asphalt roof is in much better condition and it doesn’t leak. My other neighbor’s aluminum tile roof is in excellent condition and doesn’t leak, but it is noisy during rain storms. I wish I had chosen either plastic polymer or aluminum.

  5. I am very confused! Asphalt which is what 80% of homes have, is cheap, but not durable and is NOT eco-friendly, as a lot of it can end up in landfills.
    Concrete tile is moderate in cost, is eco-friendly and is durable but can break?!
    Clay tile is long-lasting but brittle and can break? It’s eco-friendly but expensive.
    Plastic Polymer is moderate in cost, claimed to be long-lasting, is moderate in cost, can be re-cycled and has good fire and wind-resistance. Compared to asphalt though, it’s more expensive, but compared to concrete it’s cheaper!

  6. I have roofed my house with Zinc corrugated iron sheets with blue color. However they appear to be soft and noisy during wind blows and rainfalls. Also whenever someone climbs on top of the roof they do shrink and loose its shape. I think the manufacturer should enhance its hardness.

  7. Has anyone heard of problems with polymer synthetic slate roofs especially Da Vinci in hot climate. Any issues with shrinking, warping, changing shape? Thanks.

  8. My understanding is that cement IS NOT ECO FRIENDLY. Natural materials but the processing uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuel, etc.

  9. Please what is the advantages of Zinc Roofing sheets over Aluminum roofing sheets?
    I have three bedroom and two bedroom attached together to be covered,and I am not able to get a budgetary estimate for this until I do the wood work and rafter. what is/are the best ways to save money for such project?

  10. Thanks. Great level of details.

    Can you please also highlight which ones

    1. Energy Efficient (also compared to each other)
    2. Possibility of leaks over the period

  11. I am renovating my house and I have a space that is roomsize which can be converted to a second lounge for children. The problem is it is underneath a one and a half square metre open roof space. around which there are gutters. I need your advice as to how do I close this open space in the roof. Can the persplex corrugated roofing work, or can a skylight be installed in a space where four roofs slope, if you know what I mean, Sir?

  12. My roof needs replacing, existing roof is concrete tile, do I have to stick with same material? Concrete tile cost is moderate, I’m in a very tight budget, paycheck to paycheck. Already received one estimate, I don’t know if I can afford it but my roof needs repair badly. I need advice

  13. What an excellent article! Thanks for adding the advantages and disadvantages of all types. We’re in the process of obtaining roof estimates from roofing contractors in Wood Dale, IL. Does anyone know of a DaVinci roofer? We are looking at cedar shake roof from DaVinci Roofscapes.

  14. I am looking to have my roof done. I live in OK, we have high winds, tornadoes and rain. I thought about a metal roof. Are the metal roofs noisy when it rains and are they durable. I am trying to keep cost down, but also need to be protected from the elements of the weather. Thanks for your assistance. God bless.

  15. I’ve been looking to replace my roof, and I was looking for, great alternatives to my old roof. After reading your article, metal is the material that sticks out to me the most. It’s Eco-friendly, durable, and looks amazing. I will love having a metal roof.

  16. Thanks for going over the different roofing options out there and their benefits. I am glad that you put pictures so I could imagine what these different roofs would look like. I love the metal roof and how it looks. It is also cool that it can be very durable, but is still lightweight. I will have to look into this some more. Thanks for the info!

  17. WE need a new roof, and I didn’t know there were so many option! I am leaning more towards a tile roof. I like the price of the concrete tiles, but the clay tiles remind me of home. Is it expensive to add reinforced roof framing if yours isn’t strong enough to hold the tiles? Thanks for the help!

  18. Your article is informative. There is one thing that should be added to tile roofs. If you live in an area that has rodents; this is the worst choice of roofs to get. Rodents can easily get to virtually any roof, but with all the openings on a tile roof they then can chew through the plywood or find a small openings and they are now in your attic!

  19. I love so many of these ideas for a roof! I am going to be building a house next summer and am thinking about what kind of roof I would like. I am particularly drawn to the wood singles and shakes. It’s nice that they have low fire resistance. I just think that looks so unique from anything I have seen. I will talk to my husband about it and see what he likes!

  20. Hello,
    We’re doing an addition project that has a new roof. We need to match the existing roof, which is a metal roof shake style. Apparently that style is discontinued, so now the closest we could find so far to the color and shake style is a synthetic roof shingle. Between DaVinci Roof shingles and Brava Roof shingles, what are the primary differences between the two brands? Thank you!

  21. Dear Today’s Homeowner and Team,
    I live in Norfolk, Va. and I just love watching your show on Today’s Homeowner on Saturday Mornings. It comes on early in the morning, however when I get to watch it, I find very helpful information to use on my home. I will be doing a research paper and I hope you will not mind me using some of this great information in my paper, from your website Today’s Homeowner. Great show. V/R Kathleen Palmer

    • Hi there, Kathleen!
      Thanks for watching the show! We grant permission for this request, provided:
      -Quotes are clearly attributed to Danny Lipford and Today’s Homeowner.
      -Links to todayshomeowner.com and the source article appear beside the sampled content if it appears online.
      Thanks for your request.

  22. A lot of storms have been hitting our area recently and I’ve been considering getting a metal roof. I like your mention of how it’s eco-friendly, though I had no idea that it absorbs a third less heat than asphalt. Steel, in particular, is the sort of material I’m looking into, which we believe to meet your durability point.

  23. I’m glad that you point out the importance of checking the financial health of the company behind the warranty. You may also wish to remind people to search the internet for complaints about a particular company refusing to honor warranties. Simply being a very large, well-known company does not guarantee that a workmanship warranty will actually be honored, even if the warranty was used as an inducement for you to buy. Indeed, the size of the company may be a reason for indifference to such promises, since your only alternative would be to sue and they have more resources than you do.

  24. Very well written, complete and informative article for homeowners. Metal roofing has been in the news recently with the recent weather damages in the northwest.
    Thanks for helping make the job easier for us.

  25. I like it when you said that not all houses have the same roofing requirements and, most of the time, it is the climate that determines which is best for you. To be on the safe side, it is good to get sturdier, more fire- and wind-resistant materials like metal, plastic polymer, and slate. Although slate could be a bit costly at $1,000-$2,000/square foot, getting a warranty would be great. I will email your article to my grandparents who are looking for the right roof materials for their country home renovation in April. This is a lot of help!

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