Before replacing a roof, it pays to do plenty of research. Like most people, you probably want a roof that will last for decades. It’s also nice to have one that requires little to no maintenance. Several materials are popularly used on roofs in the United States. Some of them are a lot more durable than others. Exceptionally durable materials tend to be more expensive, but cost is not always a reflection of quality because some materials work better under certain circumstances than others. What works for a home in a hot, dry climate may not work for a home in a cold, wet one.
Factors that Affect the Longevity of a Roof
The material out of which a roof is made has the biggest impact on its longevity. However, other factors come into play as well. Exposure to the sun plays a strong role, and the slope of the roof has a major effect as well. The type of maintenance that a roof receives affects its longevity too. Even when a roof is made out of virtually maintenance-free materials, occasional work is necessary to ensure that it lasts as long as possible.
Popular Roofing Materials and Their Average Lifespans
You shouldn’t base your decision solely on the lifespan of a given roofing material, but this information can help you make the most informed selection possible.
- Asphalt Shingles – Without a doubt, asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing materials in the United States. On average, this roofing material lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 years. The reason for the wide range involves climate. In colder climates, asphalt shingles may last 25 years or longer; in warmer, more humid climate, they may only last 12 to 14 years. These shingles have petroleum bases that dry out over time, so they definitely don’t last forever.
- Composite – Composite shingles, or composition shingles, are popular for a variety of reasons. Some of them are primarily made out of asphalt, but there are fiberglass-based options as well. Many composite shingles also include recycled materials, so they can be eco-friendly options. While they require very little maintenance and are quite adaptable, they don’t have great lifespans. On average, you can expect a roof made out of composite shingles to last about 20 years. If you live in an area that regularly experiences high winds, composite shingles are not a good option.
- Metal – Metal roofs have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. In addition to having extremely long lifespans, these roofs dramatically enhance the energy efficiency of homes. Standing-seam metal roofs, which are the most popular, can last 75 to 100 years. Metal roofs are resistant to fire, insects and rot. Very little maintenance is needed, but it should still be performed. Metal roofs should be inspected periodically, and they should be scraped and repainted with rust-resistant paint when needed. As long as this basic maintenance is performed, a roof like this should serve you well for a long time to come.
- Tile – Most people are drawn to tile roofs for their beauty. Tile is most commonly used on homes that have Spanish or Italian architecture. In addition to looking great, tile roofs can last a really long time. Some have lifespans of up to 100 years. Unfortunately, tiles are often installed on mortar bed systems, which makes them susceptible to slippage. In that case, this type of roof may only last about 10 years. Therefore, exceptional installation is critical. Because tiles are often made out of terra cotta and other dense materials, they tend to be heavy. Extra support is often needed. Tiles are also fragile, which presents a problem when performing maintenance on a roof.
- Slate – For a natural, stunning look, it’s tough to beat slate. Very fine slivers of stone are used to create these roofs, which have lifespans of 45 to 75 years when they are properly maintained. Like tile, slate can be very fragile, and it can require extra support due to its weight. The thickness and density of slate tiles affect their longevity. Slate roofs generally require very little maintenance. However, the main thing that affects their longevity is failure of fasteners and nails. These components should be inspected regularly and replaced promptly at the first sign of weakness.
- Wood – Estimating the lifespan of a wood roof isn’t easy because so many factors affect its durability. The slope of the roof, the amount of sun exposure it receives and the quality of the maintenance that’s performed all have an impact. Furthermore, the width, thickness and cut of the wood affect its longevity as well. When properly treated, installed and maintained, the average wood roof should last 15 to 30 years. Out of all of the available options, cedar is the best choice.
- Fiberglass – Homeowners love the versatility and style of fiberglass roofs. This option is sold in panels and sheets, which makes it easy to achieve the perfect look and protection. The fiberglass that’s used is glazed to make it exceptionally waterproof. Fiberglass is also naturally shatterproof, so it’s a strong, durable choice. The best fiberglass roofs are designed to be resistant to rot, mildew and rust. At the high end of the scale, a fiberglass roof should last around 30 years. As with other roofing materials, maintenance and design have major impacts on the lifespan of this type of roof.
- Concrete – People are often surprised to learn that concrete can be used as a roofing material. A concrete roof doesn’t involve heavy slabs of material. Today’s best options use fiber-reinforced cement to achieve optimal style and durability. When mixed with cellulose, concrete can be crafted to look like wood shakes. Concrete roofs can also be used to replicate tiles and other popular roofing materials. Depending on the design of the roof and its underlying materials, concrete shingles or panels can last up to 50 years. This type of roofing material is virtually maintenance-free, and it’s resistant to rot, insects and fire.
- Rubber – Although it’s infrequently used, rubber is a viable roofing material in many situations. Most people turn to it for its eco-friendliness, but it has other benefits too. A rubber roof offers exceptional energy efficiency. Shingled rubber roofs are available, but whole-roof designs, which are custom-created at the factory, are much better options. These rubber roofs are seamless, so they are exceptionally leak-proof and can last up to 40 years. Rubber roofs are also flexible and lightweight, and they are available in a variety of colors and designs.
Before considering any roofing materials in earnest, give some thought to the climate where you house is located. Is it usually wet or dry? Is it usually sunny or cloudy? Would you describe it as a warm climate or a cold one? These factors will all help you zero in on the ideal roofing material. From there, weigh the pros and cons of the top options, and remember that cost doesn’t necessarily reflect quality. Regardless of the material that’s used, first-rate installation is vital. To ensure that your roof lasts as long as possible, make sure that it is inspected and serviced regularly.