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The Most Common Types of Roofing Materials in the Pacific Northwest and Why

Since a roof serves to keep out the elements and protect the house below, the choice of roofing materials varies heavily from region to region across North America. In the Pacific Northwest, homeowners need to deal with heavy rainfall and very high humidity levels, so every roof needs to be water-resistant. Choosing the right materials is extremely important because water damage can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. Conversely, a roof that drains well and resists water damage can stay in place for a long time before needing replacement.

Probably the most common roofing material used in the Pacific Northwest today is asphalt. Custom-designed asphalt shingles can closely imitate the appearance of wood, ceramic, slate or metal shingles at a significantly lower cost, and the material is naturally durable and resistant to water and heat. Still, because asphalt is a porous material, these shingles are somewhat susceptible to mold or algae growth and require a degree of maintenance. Furthermore, many home buyers prefer the natural appearance of wooden shingles, so opting for asphalt can reduce the sale value of the home. Generally speaking, an asphalt roof will last about 20 to 30 years.

Thanks to their widespread availability in the region and relatively low cost, cedar and redwood are two of the most popular roofing materials among Northwestern homeowners. Both of these woods are generally considered to be fairly attractive and, if properly maintained, can last up to 50 years before needing replacement. Furthermore, redwood or cedar shingles tend to add to the value of the house. However, a roof made from cedar or redwood is inherently vulnerable to rot, algae or moss. Water-resistant treatment can reduce these risks, but homeowners who opt for one of these materials should still expect to pay for frequent maintenance. Thus, the benefits of a classic, natural-looking roof must be weighed against the cost and effort required to keep the roof maintained.

Metal shingles, most commonly steel, offer excellent water resistance and typically require less maintenance than other roofing materials, making them ideal for hands-off Northwestern homeowners. Most metal roofing products come in a “standing seam” style that consists of a series of interlocking panels. Like asphalt shingles, metal shingles can be custom-designed to mimic other materials such as cedar, redwood or slate. They tend to be more expensive than asphalt, but can last up to 50 years if properly installed and maintained.

Many recently constructed homes in the Pacific Northwest use roofing tiles made from clay or concrete. Vitrified clay tiles, which are almost glass-like thanks to a special hardening process, are available in a variety of colors and styles. Because they are almost impervious to water damage, clay tiles can last 100 years or more before needing replacement, but they are heavy and quite expensive. Concrete tiles are cheaper than clay, but retain the same weight disadvantage and do not last quite as long. Despite their disadvantages, tile products have become increasingly popular in the rainy Northwest over the last quarter-century.

Clay Roofing Tiles

Regardless of material, every home in the Pacific Northwest needs a roof designed to deal with the heavy rain. As a rule, flat sections of roofing are not desirable because they allow water to pool and cause mold, mildew or other damage. Most homes use V-shaped gable roofing or four-sided hipped roofing to allow water to run off easily.

Whether they opt for asphalt, wood, metal, tile or another roofing material, homeowners in the Pacific Northwest need to be conscious of the weather in their region and the hazard posed by the heavy rainfall. Every roof needs to be designed with water resistance in mind and frequently inspected and cleaned to prevent water damage. Each material comes with advantages and disadvantages in terms of weight, cost, durability and maintenance. By taking all of these factors into account, Northwestern homeowners can select the right roofing materials to meet their homes’ individual needs.