Roof Coverings – the types

Today, we have many choices in roof coverings materials. Even if a roof is in good condition, it’s helpful to know the pros and cons of that particular material. And its expected lifespan so you’re prepared when it’s time for a replacement.

Asphalt Shingles:

  • Pros: asphalt shingles are popular with homeowners and roofers since they are inexpensive, easy to install, waterproof, durable, and suitable for virtually every climate. Asphalt shingles also come in many different shades and styles.
  • Life expectancy: 12-20 years.
  • Cons: Short lifespan. If you live in an area with extreme temperature fluctuations, intense sunlight and damaging hailstorms, expect asphalt shingles to have a shorter lifespan than advertised. Dark shingles tend to fade. In damp environments, asphalt shingles tend to attract algae, which can be easily removed with bleach; or you can use algae-resistant shingles.


  • Pros: a sophisticated look for luxury homes; natural appearance; fire resistance; ease of maintenance; and invulnerability to rot.
  • Life expectancy: 100 years
  • Cons: cost, weight, and must be installed by expert slate roof installers. They are also somewhat brittle and easily broken if walked on.

Concrete Tile:

  • Pros: Concrete tile can mimic clay tile, cedar shake, or slate, giving any home a sophisticated flair. It comes in a huge variety of colors and styles. It is extremely durable – can withstand mild earthquakes, hail, fire, and if installed properly – winds up to 75 mile per hr. When sealed with acrylic, concrete roofs also reflect heat making them one of the most energy-efficient roofing choices.
  • Life expectancy: 50+ years
  • Cons: very heavy. Must be installed on structures which were engineered to support the weight. The felt underneath (water proofing substrate) usually only lasts 15 to 30 years.

Ceramic Tiles:

  • Pros: durable, fade-resistant, and fireproof. They have lots of character and enhance the look of high-end homes.
  • Life expectancy: 50-70 years
  • Cons: Ceramic tiles are not suitable for climates with extreme temperature fluctuations as these conditions make the tiles vulnerable to erosion. They are also fragile, and relatively easy to damage in high winds or if walked upon. The felt underneath (water proofing substrate) usually only lasts 15 to 30 years.

Metal Roof Coverings:

  • Pros: metal roofing is low-maintenance and lightweight. Can be repainted when it starts to fade as long as it’s structurally sound.
  • Life expectancy: 40-70 years
  • Cons: require a specialist to install. Some homeowners complain that metal roofs are extremely noisy in rainstorms.


  • Pros: easier to install, safer to walk on.
  • Life expectancy: usually a maximum of 15 years
  • Cons: require a lot of maintenance, particularly waterproofing. Flat roofs must be cleaned regularly to prevent clogged drains. They are susceptible to degradation from UV rays, are not great at handling extreme temperature fluctuations, and they are not generally recommended in areas that received heavy snowfall.

Wood Shakes/Cedar Shingles:

  • Pros: wood shake roofs are beautiful, natural, and are considered eco-friendly since they are made from naturally renewable resources and because water that runs off wood roofs does not contaminate groundwater (as is the case with older asphalt shingles that have started to degrade).
  • Life expectancy: 30 years on average (less in areas of intense sunlight and/or extremely low or high humidity)
  • Cons: many building codes no longer allow wood roofs in areas prone to wildfires. Insurance companies may also refuse to insure them. Can be prone to rot if not properly treated.


  • Pros: a relative newcomer to roofing, closed-cell spray foam is a great green roofing alternative. Foam roofs are sprayed on so there are no seams, making the roof virtually waterproof. The materials are chemically inert, making the roof extremely durable. Foam roofs boast superior energy efficiency.
  • Life expectancy: as long as the outer coating is maintained, the roof will last the life of the building.
  • Cons: must be installed by a specialized installer as it is manufactured on site, on the roof surface.

Rolled Roof Coverings:

  • Pros: mineral surfaced roll roofing (MSR) is extremely inexpensive, lightweight, easy to handle, and can be quickly installed by the homeowner. It is best suited for low-pitched roofs (NOT flat), and is usually installed on patios, garages, barns, sheds, and other outbuildings. You can re-roof over MSR (remove debris first).
  • Life expectancy: due to its thinness, expect 8-12 years
  • Cons: Not that attractive.