The Ultimate Roof Buying Guide
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Replacing your roof is a major investment; Selecting the best roofing for your home is one of the most important decisions in the roof buying process. There are a variety of material, style, and color options to choose from. We've created The Ultimate Roof Buying Guide to help you through this process.
Step One - Repair or Replace
First, you'll need to decide whether to repair or replace your roof. Most homeowners don't know what state their roof is actually in. Start by contacting a trusted contractor to assess your roof. If your roof is in need of repair, you should request at least three quotes for the repairs. If your roof needs replaced, you should proceed with this Roof Buying Guide. If you're planning to use your insurance for this project, they will likely require a minimum of three estimates to get started.
Step Two - Choosing a Contractor
This is by far the most important step in the entire process; No matter what product you choose, if it's not installed properly, it will fail. Here are some basic qualifications you should look for when choosing which company to work with.
Experience - How many years have they been in business?
Licensed - Are they licensed in your State?
Insured - Do they have the proper insurance?
References - Make sure you ask for references and read their reviews
Warranty - They should offer a minimum one-year warranty combined with a manufacturer's warranty
Questions to ask:
What roofing do you install? (Some companies might not install the roofing material you choose)
Do you work with homeowner's insurance? (If you're using your home insurance, this is an important question)
Do you offer free estimates?
Is your work covered by a manufacturer's warranty?
How does your billing work?
Remember, this is by far the most important decision in this process, make sure to take your time and do your research!
Step Three - Roofing Material Options
When choosing the material for your new roof, there are several options to consider. Read below to determine which option is best for your needs & budget.
Asphalt shingles are economical, durable, and long-lasting. They're manufactured to provide protection for your roof and survive fire damage, wind, and hail. They come in a wide variety of color and style options, but the main attraction for most homeowners is their high performance at a lower cost.
Asphalt Shingle Style Options:
Three-tab shingles get their name from the way they are cut and installed. They lay flat on the roof and include 3 notches (or tabs) on each shingle strip that gives the appearance of separate pieces. They are the most basic and cost-effective asphalt shingle option.
Affordable - One of the most affordable options on the market
Lifespan - A lifespan of 10-25+ years
Low Maintenance - Does not require much maintenance and when repairs are required, it's a fairly easy process
Sustainable - They're 100% recyclable
Aesthetics - Not as aesthetically pleasing as Architectural or Premium shingles
Lifespan - While it has a decent lifespan, it's about half that of similar options
Durability - They're thinner than Architectural shingles making them more vulnerable to wind & other harsh weather conditions; They can only withstand windspeeds of 60-70 mph
Warranties - Their warranties are typically half that of Architectural shingles
ROI - The Return On Investment is about half that of Architectural shingles
Moisture - They may trap moisture in your roof or attic, leading to mold and roof decay
Architectural shingles, also known as laminate or
dimensional shingles offer a wide variety of sizes
and shapes to choose from. They are thicker and
weigh double (sometimes triple) the weight of
3-tab shingles. Their superior composition allows
for greater endurance and strength, making them
more resistant to wind and other extreme weather
Life Expectancy - They have a lifespan of 40-60 years
Warranties - They typically include warranties of 40-50 years, depending on the manufacturer
Wind Resistance - Rated for wind speeds of 80-120 mph
Durability - They're twice as thick as 3-tabs shingles, making them more durable and less vulnerable to curling
ROI - Their Return on Investment is about 83%
Aesthetics - They can be made to resemble premium roofing materials like cedar and slate; They're also better able to hide small imperfections on the roof's surface
Options - They offer a wide variety of colors, sizes, and shapes to choose from
Price - The initial investment will cost more than 3-tab shingles (however, their durability and life expectancy make them a better investment over time)
Weight - Heavier than traditional asphalt shingles, making them unsuitable for certain structures
Premium or luxury shingles are made to mimic the look of expensive materials at a fraction of the cost. Their curb appeal isn't the only thing that sets them apart; they're also bigger & thicker than their asphalt counterparts, making them more durable. However, these benefits come at a much steeper price tag; they're around double the price of Architectural shingles.
Durability - They provide maximum durability (weighing about twice as much as 3-tab shingles)
Aesthetics - Their multi-dimensional appearance adds to their curb-appeal
Price - They're more affordable than other premium roofing materials
Price - While they are more affordable than other premium roofing materials like slate and cedar, they are typically double the cost of Architectural shingles
Weight - Because they're heavier than many other roofing options, some structures may not be able to handle their weight
Metal roofing is extremely durable and long-lasting. It's the superior option if you have long-term interest in your property. While the initial investment is more than asphalt shingles, the lifespan is longer and the benefits greater. It's also 100% moss and mildew resistant which is great for homes on or near the water!
Metal Roofing Material Options:
Aluminum is the most lightweight roofing material on the market, but it's still very durable. Its strength-to-weight ratio is higher than all of the other metals used in roofing.
Aluminum is corrosion-resistant making it compatible with coastal locations. It's also low-maintenance and has a long lifespan.
Corrosion-resistant - It does not rust
(sea salt spray will have no effect on it)
Lightweight - It puts less stress on your home's structure (weighing as little as 5lbs per sq ft.)
Malleable - It can be easily configured into different profiles - giving you different designs to choose from
Softer - More prone to denting (compared to steel)
Less Availability & Color Options - lower demand = fewer manufacturers & suppliers = fewer colors to choose from & limited availability
Higher Cost - Because it's prone to denting, a thicker gauge is recommended for durability which further increases somewhat high prices (approx 35% more than steel roofing)
Steel roofing is the most common type of metal roofing. While it's typically used in commercial construction, it's gaining popularity with residential clients. Steel roofing is affordable, durable, low maintenance, and has a long lifespan. It's also fire resistant with the best fire rating available. It comes in a variety of options that will affect the cost, appearance, and installation.
Fire Resistant - Class A fire rating
Rot Resistant - Prevents mildew & rot
Longevity - Has a lifespan of 40-60 years
Cost-Effective - The least expensive of all metal roofing options
Durable - Resistant to chipping, cracking, and warping. It can also withstand Gail-force winds up to 140 mph
Prone to Corrosion - Not the best option if you live near water or an area with excessive moisture
Heavy - Heavier than other options - putting more weight on your home which can cause stress to the structure (still lighter than most non-metal roofing materials)
Lifespan - Designed to last 40 to 60 years
With an average lifespan of 60-100+ years, copper will likely outlast almost any other type of roofing. Many famous historical buildings with copper roofing have stood the test of time. Copper is safe to use near bodies of water because it will not rust (unlike some of the other metal options). Copper changes color over time; When it's installed, it looks like a new penny, and over time it turns to a blue-green or brown patina (depending on the climate). Copper Comes in Four Different Styles:
Long Lifespan - 60 - 100+ years
Corrosion Resistant -It will not tarnish or rust
Durability - Fire, wind, and water resistant
Eco-Friendly - Typically recycled or recyclable
Prone to "Oil-Canning" (a visible, wavy distortion)
Expensive - By far the most expensive metal roofing option on the market
Limited Availability - Typically a special-order product (which can cause project delays)
Zinc is long-lasting, sustainable, and low-maintenance. A zinc roof can last 80-100 years. It's also fire-resistant, insect-proof, and mold and mildew resistant.
Long Lifespan - Can last 80-100 years
Attractive - Forms a beautiful blue/gray patina over time
Corrosion Resistant - Patina is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also keeps the zinc from rusting making it a great option for coastal locations
Low Maintenance - Because the patina constantly renews itself, there's no need for aesthetic repairs
Eco-Friendly- 100% recyclable
Expensive - One of the most expensive roofing options (although its lifespan justifies the cost, it's not always within a homeowner's budget)
Chalking - A chalky residue can develop after patina in areas where water runs
Limited Availability - There are only a handful of suppliers in the US
Metal Roofing Style Options:
Metal Roofing Panels - Exposed vs. Concealed
Exposed fastener panels typically cost about half the price of standing-seam (concealed fastener) metal roofing panels. However, standing-seam roofing panels are more durable with a sleeker design.
Metal Roof Shingles
Metal shingles/shakes offer the traditional aesthetic that many homeowners prefer while still providing the many benefits of a metal roof. There are several colors & styles to choose from. The most popular (style) options include:
Shingles Shakes Slate-Look Clay-Look
Corrugated Metal Roofing
While typically used for barns, sheds, and commercial applications, corrugated metal can also be used in residential construction. If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive and durable roof, this may be an option for you to consider.
Additional Considerations When Considering Purchasing a Metal Roof:
Gauge: Metal roofing panels range in gauge from as light as 29-gauge to as heavy as 20-gauge. (Keep in mind- when dealing with gauge, the higher the number, the lighter and thinner it actually is). A 29-gauge panel is sure to cost less than a 20-gauge, but it is not always recommended. You have to take factors such as climate, building structure, and budget into consideration when determining which gauge is the best choice for you.
Finish - There are two types of paint finishes, PVDF and polyester.
PVDF - Polyvinylidene Flouride, also known as PVDF, Kynar®, or Hylar™, is a pure thermoplastic fluoropolymer that uses the highest quality pigmentations and consists of one of the strongest known bonds, called the "carbon-fluorine bond". There is currently no finish that out-performs PVDF.
Polyester - There are several options of polyester coatings including super, siliconized, and modified. This option is considerably cheaper than PVDF and has come a long way in terms of performance, however, accelerated testing shows a marked decline (in performance) after 10+ years of use.
Color - Color is also an important part of any roofing decision. This is no different when it comes to most metal roofing options. The color you choose not only affects the beauty of your home, but also the reflectivity; Lighter colors reflect light, while darker colors absorb light. Lighter colors, such as tans and grays, do not fade as much as darker and more vibrant colors, such as blacks and reds.
Gloss vs. Matte - Most homeowners choose a metal roof with a gloss or matte finish. Matte finishes are the most popular option. Not only is a matte metal roof finish typically considered more aesthetically pleasing, but it also out-performs a gloss finish. Gloss finishes tend to diminish naturally over time as dirt and grime collect on the roof's surface.
Energy Efficiency - Environmental benefits are becoming more important to homeowners, leading many manufacturers to feature special pigments that have been tweaked to offer superior heat reflection. For additional energy efficiency, we recommend a roof that has an air gap between the metal and the roof deck. This "thermal break" helps to stop conductive heat transfer into the home.
Rubber roofing is eco-friendly and virtually maintenance-free. It is typically recommended for homes with low-pitch or flat roofs where traditional shingles may fail due to a lack of gravitational pull. They have a lifespan of anywhere from 30 to 50 years and are extremely durable. When applied via a seamless roll, they're virtually leak and crack-proof.
There are three installation methods for rubber roofing, which are:
Mechanically Fastened - Metal fasteners and plates are used to secure the membrane to the insulation board and roof decking. This is the quickest and easiest method of installation making it the most popular option of the three.
Fully Adhered - The membrane is glued directly to the insulation layer with a specialized bonding adhesive. This method is time-consuming but typically lasts longer and has the greatest resistance to wind uplift, providing a slight increase in energy efficiency.
Ballasted - The membrane is loose-laid over the roofing substrate and held in place with smooth stones or concrete pavers. This installation method is the most aesthetically pleasing and provides the highest degree of energy efficiency.
Rubber Roofing Options:
EPDM TPO PVC
EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (Terpolymer). EPDM is the most popular rubber roofing option in residential applications due to its durability and resistance to extreme weather conditions.
EPDM comes in two colors, White and Black, however, it should not be determined based on style but on function instead. White is recommended for warmer climates due to its ability to deflect UV rays, while Black is recommended for cooler climates due to its ability to retain heat.
Cost-Effective - Considerably less expensive than other options
Lifespan - When properly installed and maintained, it can last 40+ years
Eco-Friendly - The manufacturing process has minimal impact on the environment and the membrane itself is 100% recyclable
Lightweight - It weighs less than 2lbs per square (putting less weight on the roof structure)
Durable - It holds up to hail, heavy rain, wind, and extreme cold better than similar (membrane) options
Low Maintenance - Easy to maintain and when damaged, repair is fairly simple
Shrinkage - Shrinkage occurs when the membrane separates around parapet walls, seams, & penetrations
Aesthetics - Not as aesthetically pleasing as other roofing options and can gradually worsen over time due to the accumulation of dirt, dust, and other foreign contaminants
Seams - The seams themselves are quite strong, but the adhesives that bond them together tend to dry out and weaken over time which can cause tiny openings to form allowing water penetration
Color Options - Limited color options (comes only in Black or White)
PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride is a single-ply membrane that consists of two PVC plies that "sandwich" a polyester reinforcement sheet. PVC roofing systems have the winter insulation ability of EPDM and the reflective abilities of TPO, combined into one uniquely premium product.
While the installation options are the same as their counterparts, PVC roofing systems are also sealed with a hot-air welder that creates a watertight bond that's even stronger than the membrane itself (regardless of what installation method is used).
Color - PVC comes in a variety of colors ranging from Tan and Gray to the most commonly used, White.
Fire Resistant - With a Class A fire rating, it is slow to burn, difficult to ignite, and will extinguish fire when the source (of the fire) is removed.
Puncture/Tear Resistant - Resistant to tears and punctures with a Class 4 hail damage rating
Lifespan - Has a life expectancy of about 20-30 years
Wind Resistant - It has a strong uplift rating and is known to withstand Category 3 Hurricanes (with wind speeds between 110 mph and 130 mph)
Eco-Friendly - As a cool roof membrane it carries both Energy Star and Cool Roof ratings. It can also be recycled into something new even after several years of use.
Cost - It typically has a higher price tag than EPDM & TPO
Installation - Unless it's being installed on a new structure, you will need to completely remove the old roof before installation
Cold Climate Performance - Does not perform as well in cold climates and can become brittle and crack or even shatter in extremely cold weather conditions
TPO or Thermoplastic Polyolefin is formed when two TPO plies "sandwich" a polyester reinforcement sheet. TPO is designed to meet a wide range of application and design specifications. Although it's typically associated with its White color, it also comes in Grey and Black.
Color range and curb appeal - energy-saving potential variability in thickness and width allows for broader range of applications
TPO roof membranes are designed to meet a wide range of application and design specifications. TPO is generally associated with a white color, but TPO membranes may come in white, grey, or black.
White TPO membranes offer the most benefit in terms of energy savings. The white surface works best to reflect UV rays and heat away from the home. However, you may choose gray or black for aesthetic or other reasons.
Flexibility - Highly flexible, making it resistant to tears, punctures, and damage from (house) settling
UV Resistant - Stands up to UV damage and chemical exposure; which also aids in lowering HVAC costs in hot weather
Eco-Friendly - White TPO is Energy Star rated (depending on the manufacturer), 100% recyclable, and chlorine-free (unlike some of its counterparts)
Strength - The hot air-welded seams are not only flexible but strong
Inferior Formulas - Not all TPO is created equal and manufacturers are constantly changing their formulas to get the best results at the lowest cost
Repairs - Repair requires special tools that can get costly and technical skill that the average person does not have
Lamination - The uppermost part of a TPO roof is laminated which can lead to the introduction of weak points, causing shrinkage, cracking, and general deterioration
Longevity - Due to the constant change in formula, the longevity of TPO roofing is relatively unknown
BUR or Built-Up Roofing is an older but effective flat roofing option. Sometimes called "tar and gravel" because of the materials used to make it, it is extremely heavy and therefore not commonly used in residential applications due to the stress it can cause to the roof's structure.
While these are not the only (material) options on the market, they are the most widely used in residential installation.
Step Four: Manufacturers
There are a wide variety of manufacturers to choose from, which also depends on the roofing material that you use. Because there are so many options to choose from, we recommend consulting with your contractor about the manufacturers they use, then weighing the pros and cons of each.
Step Five: Know Your Stuff
The more informed you are, the more confidence you will have in the decisions you make throughout the roof buying process. Below we've included common terms and important roofing elements to aid you in this journey.
Common Terms to Know:
Square - A "square" in roofing refers to 100 square feet
Bundle - A "bundle" refers to a package of shingles
Ply - A "ply" refers to a layer of roofing (i.e. 1-ply or 2-ply)
Reroofing - Refers to the process of removing existing roof coverings and replacing them with a new roofing system
ASTM - Stands for the American Society for Testing of Materials and is a voluntary organization that is concerned with the development of standards, testing procedures, and specifications. (Many building codes use ASTM standards).
Cool Roofing – Roofs that have high reflectivity achieved either through light colors or reflective pigments. Cool roofing can also refer to roof systems that have integral ventilation to help carry heat away from the structure and reduce cooling loads
Class “A” Fire Resistance - The highest fire test classification for roofing. This indicates roofing is able to withstand severe exposure to fire (from sources outside the building)
Class “B” Fire Resistance - This classification indicates roofing material is able to withstand moderate exposure to fire (from sources outside the building)
Class “C” Fire Resistance - This classification indicates roofing material is able to withstand light exposure to fire (from sources outside the building)
Class 4 Impact Resistance - This is the highest impact resistance classification. It indicates that shingles are more resistant to impacts resulting from hail storms
Ice & Water Shield – A self-adhering membrane designed to be used in heavy rain and snow areas where leaks can be a problem. Building codes require this in certain areas
Pitch – Refers to the slope of the roof plane (referred to as the height of the rise, over the length of the run; for example 3:12). A Steep slope refers to any pitch greater than 3:12 and low slope refers to any pitch less than 1.5:12.
Now that you've read The Ultimate Roof Buying Guide, you're ready to get started! Give us a call at 443-404-5284 to schedule a FREE estimate! BONUS: Mention our Roof Buying Guide and get FREE gutters and downspouts with your new roof!