There are so many different types of materials to choose from when replacing an old roof or creating a new one. Maybe you’ve carried out a roof inspection and are considering your options. The following guide aims to give you the best knowledge available so that you’re armed with the facts and can make a positive decision for your home or premises.

What Should You Consider When Picking A Roof Material?

There are a few factors that will influence your decision when picking between different types of roofing material:

  • Cost: Your budget is going to be one of your most limiting factors, there are huge variances between material types in terms of cost.
  • Climate: Some roofing materials are better suited to some climates than others.
  • Durability and Maintenance: Different materials have different lifespans, and some others will require more maintenance.

You might also want to consider environmental impact, as well as the energy efficiency that each material has.

The Different Types of Roofing Materials

What follows is a suitably comprehensive list of the most popular roofing types and styles in the US. We’ve also included typical costs and average lifespans for each.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Often used for flat roofing, Built-Up Roofing is one of the oldest types of roofing. To complete a BUR-style roof you position different layers on top of each other. You then add asphalt between the layers so that it all seals together. Felt is also added so that a barrier is formed between the overlapping layers and the roof builds up. Finally, small pieces of stone are spread across the roof on a layer of hot tar. This creates a roof that is incredibly durable and one that very rarely has any corrosion issues.

Cost: BUR roofing tends to cost between $2.50 to $5 per square foot.

Lifespan: 20 to 30 years

Rolled Roofing

One of the most popular roofing choices, especially for residential roofs that have a low slope. It is also incredibly popular in commercial settings. This roofing comes, as the name suggests, in large rolls that usually cover around 100 sq feet of roof. These rolls are made up of a mixture of various minerals and asphalt, with a mineral crust.

It’s certainly cheap, but it’s not pretty to look at. The affordability comes from material costs but also the cheapness of labor from a time point of view. If looks don’t matter and you just want a durable, secure roof, rolled roofing might be a great option.

Cost: Rolled roofing tends to cost between $1.50 to $2 per square foot.

Lifespan: 5 to 8 years.

Membrane Roofing

Membrane roofing is another great option for flat or low-pitched roofs. Membrane comes in a variety of styles and materials based on the materials within them. The most popular is EPDM which is completely synthetic and not unlike rubber. You’ll find it delivered in long rolls similar to rolled roofing.

Cost: Membrane Roofing tends to cost between $4 to $8 per square foot.

Lifespan: 20 to 35 years.

Asphalt Composite Shingles

The most popular roofing style across the US. The vast majority of domestic homes and small commercial premises will have asphalt composite shingles on their roof. The base of the tile is made from fiberglass, it is then topped with mineral granules and asphalt. They’re lightweight but incredibly durable.

The majority of these tiles come with a lengthy warranty, they’re easy to replace, and are low cost. Their durability really comes down to the climate they’re installed in, homes that face extreme weather will find themselves replacing tiles more regularly.

Cost: Asphalt composite shingles tend to cost between $1.50 to $2 per square foot.

Lifespan: 12 to 30 years.

Solar Tiles

One of the newest roofing materials, instead of adding solar panels on top of a traditional roofing material these tiles come with mini panels built in. This actually makes for a quicker installation than panels, but they’re not quite as efficient. They offer all the benefits of solar without the poor aesthetics that most panels offer.

Cost: Solar tiles tend to cost between $14 to $19 per square foot.

Lifespan: Roughly 30 years.

Standing Seam Metal

Probably the most popular type of metal roof, the standing seam roof style is typically made from aluminum or steel. The raised seams link together in a locking fashion to minimize water intake. You’ll see these roofs in areas that have extreme conditions such as heavy snowfall or wildfires. As metal is incredibly durable these roofs last an incredibly long time.

Cost: Standing seam metal roofs tend to cost between $10 to $16 per square foot.

Lifespan: 30 to 50 years, but sometimes up to 75.


Clay tiles are often found in warmer parts of the country, especially in the south. That’s because they resist salt corrosion from the cost, are great at keeping internal temperatures stable, and are hugely cost-effective when you take their durability into account. Some tiles are glazed for aesthetic quality, but many people like the appeal of the terracotta-style coloring.

Cost: Clay tiles tend to cost between $10 to $12 per square foot.

Lifespan: 100 years plus.

Wood Roofing

Similar in style to other material shingle roofs, wood shingles are great to look at but face more issues with durability than their counterparts. That’s especially true in damp climates. You’ll also find shakes, these are thicker wedges of wood used for roofing rather than small tile-like sets.

Cost: Wood roofing tends to cost between $4.50 to $9 per square foot for shingles, and $6.50 to $14 per square foot for shakes.

Lifespan: In dry climates, up to 60 years, but in damp maybe only 20-30 years.

Key Takeaways

Picking the right material for your roof is a decision that comes from a combination of various factors. Primarily budget, aesthetics, and weather requirements. Whatever you choose, be sure to install it properly to maximize its lifespan and your investment.

  • Different materials suit different climates.
  • The same can be said for the building type and roof structure.
  • If in doubt, ask professionals in your area for advice.

If you are looking to create a new roof, or even repair your roof, it will certainly be worth your time to grab a free estimate from Trenton Roofing.

Alex Valentino

Alex Valentino – Vice President

Leading the way for the company’s second generation of family and employee ownership, Alex’s mission is to create lasting relationships built on trust and respect by providing uncompromising workmanship and unparalleled customer service. With a focus on safety and consumer education, Trenton Roofing strives to set the bar for the advancement of the roofing industry and the betterment of our local communities. When he is not working, Alex can be found traveling with his fiancée, watching football or playing a relaxing round of golf with his friends.