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Comparing Roofing Materials

Do you find yourself hoping your roof makes it through the next winter? Maybe this is the year--for sure--you're finally going to replace those 24-year old asphalt shingles.

But there are so many choices. If you live in the southwest you've noticed that most of the new roofs are metal. In the northeast you see mostly asphalt shingles. In any given area you can also see wood shingles, wood shakes, various types of tile, clay...and slate roofing sure looks nice.

A lot can go into deciding what type of new roofing material you want: appearance, cost, life of the material, applicability (clay tile weighs a lot more than asphalt shingles and might be too heavy for your structure), and availability (it's not easy finding a metal roof installer in the mid-Atlantic).

Most of these considerations depend on the owner's aesthetics or the specific type and location of the house. But two of the most important are installation cost and expected lifetime of the roofing. Below is a list of estimated installed costs and expected lifetimes of the most popular types of roofing for a 2,000 square foot, 1-story house with a moderately sloped roof. Remember that these are estimates, and the actual costs can vary widely by region. Also, different grades can have different lifetimes. For instance asphalt shingles are now available with warranty durations of 20, 25, 30, and 40-years. The more durable grades cost more, of course.

The Durability Doctor on the NEST Toolbox has more specific cost and durability information for your house in your region. It also gives similar information for siding, windows and doors.

PATH's Rehab Guide Volume 3: Roofs is an excellent source of information on state-of-the-art techniques and materials for installing and replacing roofing, especially if you are replacing the entire roofing system.

Replacing the Whole Roofing System

If you are replacing the entire roofing system it makes a lot of sense to replace it with a more energy-efficient system. This usually involves more ceiling or attic insulation and, particularly in hot and warm climates, radiant barriers on the underside of the sheathing. Use the Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor to get specific recommended energy efficiency measures and the costs and savings associated with implementing these measures for your home in your region. You might be surprised at how much you can save on your energy bills, and your home will be more comfortable, too.

Other Resources

Click here for other new and innovative PATH roofing technologies.

The Department of Energy has a Technology Fact Sheet on insulating ceilings and attics (pdf). It gives guidelines for installing insulation and recommended insulation levels for each climate region.

Content updated on 5/28/2004

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