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Comparing Types of Roofs

Types

When considering what type of roofing to install, weigh aesthetics against cost. You could spend an extra $30,000 for real slate or wood shakes–or you could get a similar look for much less.

Asphalt

The most popular by far, asphalt shingles are made of fiberglass sandwiched between asphalt and ceramic granules. Relatively light and easy to install, they are a good choice if you're looking for style at a budget price. They may last 30 years or more but can be vulnerable to high winds. Asphalt roofing comes in two types. Laminated shingles, also known as "architectural" or "dimensional" shingles, are layered, and their thickness and depth make them look more like slate or wood shakes. Three-tab asphalt shingles, though similarly priced, are made in a single layer. They're flatter and thinner than laminated shingles and didn't perform in past tests. What's more, falling prices for laminated shingles are helping them grab more and more of the market.

Fake slate roofing shingles

This composite material looks like the real thing, even close up. And it weighs only about as much as asphalt, so there's no need to beef up the roof structure. Some fake slate may crack under impact or may fade. And all of it is still relatively costly, though not nearly as expensive to buy and install as slate.

Metal

Metal roofing comes in steel, aluminum, copper, and alloy strips, and in various shapes and textures. Copper is especially expensive. Over time, its surface acquires a greenish patina that some people find attractive. Advantages of metal include easy installation and ultra-light weight, about half that of asphalt. And of course metal roofing doesn't burn. But it can be noisy in a rainstorm. Although the steel strips we tested dented easily, their textured surface hid minor damage quite well. Such roofing effectively reflects the sun's rays, so it keeps your home cooler in summer–a benefit in hot climates. Make sure you hire a contractor who is familiar with the material.


 

Here are the two most important roofing features to check for.

Fire rating

Look for roofing with the highest fire rating, Class A.

Warranty

A full warranty covers full replacement of defective materials, while a materials warranty offers prorated coverage. Most warranties include full reimbursement for materials and installation for a limited time–up to 10 years for our asphalt shingles and 50 years for fake slate and steel roofing we've seen. Generally, none of the warranties cover damage from winds above 85 mph. Nor do they cover faulty installation, so ask for a separate labor warranty from the installer. Save all receipts and invoices.

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?

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