Roofing Materials and Their Lifespan

“Roofing Materials and Their Lifespan” offers a concise yet comprehensive overview of various roofing materials, crucial for anyone deciding to select the right roof for their home or project.

This section highlights the aesthetic impact of each material and delves into its durability, cost, and performance in different climates. From widely used asphalt shingles to innovative solar tiles, it provides an insightful analysis of each option’s pros and cons, installation requirements, and maintenance needs.

Additionally, it covers essential aspects of roofing structure, such as sheathing and underlayment materials, ensuring readers are equipped with the knowledge to make informed choices that balance immediate needs with long-term considerations.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Material Choices for Roofing

When selecting roofing materials, several factors come into play, including climate, roof design, aesthetic preference, and budget. 

The external roofing material is the outermost layer of the roof, exposed to the environment. It is the first line of defense against the elements.

Here are some of the most common roofing materials:

asphalt shingle roof
Asphalt Shingle - FASTILY, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Asphalt Shingles:

Pros: Cost-effective, easy to install, widely available, and comes in various colors and styles. They are relatively easy to install and repair.

Cons: Shorter lifespan than some other materials. It can be prone to algae and moss growth in damp climates.

Metal Roofing (Steel, Aluminum, Copper):

Pros: Durable, long-lasting, and offers excellent resistance to wind and fire. Metal roofs can be energy-efficient due to their reflective properties.

Cons: It can be more expensive upfront and may require specialized installation.

metal roof
Metal Roof - Image by ontiveros from Pixabay
wood shingle
Wood Shingle - Image by H. Hach from Pixabay

Wood Shingles and Shakes:

Pros: Natural look that can add character and charm to a home. They offer some insulation value and are often made from renewable resources.

Cons: Require regular maintenance to prevent rot, mold, and insect damage, are not fire-resistant unless treated, and may not be suitable in very wet climates.

Clay and Concrete Tiles:

Pros: Extremely durable and non-combustible. They perform well in hot climates and can last for decades.

Cons: Heavy, requiring reinforced roof framing to support the weight. Also, they can be more expensive and brittle.

Clay Tile - Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay
Slate roof
Slate Roof - Image by Ilo from Pixabay

Slate Roofing:

Pros: Offers a distinctive appearance and can last over a century. It is fire-resistant and recyclable.

Cons: Slate is one of the most expensive roofing materials and is heavy, requiring a solid structural support system.

Synthetic Roofing Products (Rubber, Plastic, Polymer):

Pros: Can mimic the look of natural materials, such as wood, slate, or other materials. They are often lighter, more durable, and require less maintenance.

Cons: Quality can vary between manufacturers, and longevity data may not be as extensive as more traditional materials.

Synthetic Roof - Source Decra Metal Roofing
solar roof tiles
Solar Roof Tiles - Evergreen Electrical

Solar Tiles:

Pros: Integrated solar panels that can generate electricity for the home while blending in with traditional tiles, aesthetically pleasing.

Cons: More expensive than traditional solar options and may not be as efficient as standard solar panels. They may require additional infrastructure.

Each material has its own installation requirements, longevity, and maintenance needs. Homeowners and builders need to consider not just the initial cost but also the long-term implications of their roofing material choices, including the potential impact on the home’s energy efficiency, resale value, and the need for future repairs or replacement.

Sheathing Materials

Sheathing, also known as decking, provides a flat plane for other roofing materials and a nailing surface for the shingles or roofing materials.


Pros: Strong and stiff, with a good nail-holding capacity.

Cons: Can delaminate over time if exposed to chronic moisture.

Plywood Sheathing - Conner Industries
Oriented Strand Board - Conner Industries

Oriented Strand Board (OSB):

Pros: Cost-effective and has a consistent quality. It’s now more common than plywood for sheathing.

Cons: Less durable than plywood when exposed to severe moisture over time.

Underlayment Materials

Underlayment is a layer of material placed over the roof deck before the installation of the roof covering. It acts as a secondary barrier against water penetration.

Felt Paper (Tar Paper):

Pros: Traditional underlayment material, relatively inexpensive.

Cons: It can wrinkle when wet and is less durable than synthetic products.

Felt Underlayment - Bill Ragan Roofing
Synthetic Underlayment
Synthetic Underlayment - Bill Ragan Roofing

Synthetic Underlayment:

Pros: Lighter and more robust than felt, more resistant to mold and water, and often comes with more extended warranties.

Cons: Generally more expensive than felt paper.

Rubberized Asphalt:

Pros: Self-healing properties around nail penetrations, excellent waterproofing.

Cons: One of the most costly underlayment options.

rubberized asphalt
Rubberized Asphalt - Construction Mentor

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