Asphalt shingles ($)
Asphalt shingles will last for about 15–30 years. They are, far and away, the most popular roofing material because of their cost effectiveness.
When it comes to durability, though, be careful. Never choose the cheapest asphalt shingles, even if cost is a major issue for you. Look for shingles that have a decent hail rating, a good indicator of impact resistance and overall durability.
Roofing material manufacturers are not legally required to report their hail rating, so if you don’t see one, this isn’t a good sign. Hail rating is particularly important with asphalt shingles. Because they’re so common, their quality ranges wildly.
Unfortunately, asphalt is a petroleum-based material. This means that it’s not the most sustainable roofing material option available. Fortunately, asphalt shingles are recyclable—just find a local shingle recycling center and they’ll ensure that your asphalt shingles don’t end up in a landfill.
Wooden shingles and shakes ($$)
This roofing material should last between 30 and 50 years. Wood shingles are typically made of fire-resistant woods such as cedar or redwood.
While they last longer than asphalt shingles, they are not as durable. Although they are fire resistant (and can be sprayed with fire retardant), they are not fireproof. Wood shingles and shakes are also prone to cracking, so keep your eye out for a manufacturer with a good hail rating.
When it comes to energy efficiency, wood is a natural insulator—wood shingles are naturally about two times as efficient as asphalt shingles. And because they’re 100% natural, asphalt shingles are one of the most sustainable roofing materials on the market.
Metal roofing materials will last about 30–50 years. Made of steel, copper, zinc alloy, or aluminum, metal roofs are slightly more expensive than their asphalt and wood counterparts. That said, they are significantly more durable.
Metal roofs are impact resistant and will serve you well in inclement weather (plus, the sound of rain on a metal roof is wonderful). Also, they need a lot less maintenance than most roofing materials. They are very energy efficient—while asphalt shingles tend to hover around the outside temperature (whether high or low), metal roofs act as a natural insulator. This keeps your home cooler during warm weather and warmer during cold weather.
Finally, their recyclability is unparalleled. Not only are most metal roofs created from recycled materials, many are also 100% recyclable themselves.
Plastic Polymer ($$$)
Plastic polymer roofs will last for 50+ years and are an incredibly durable roofing material. Polymer roofing shingles are created to look like slate or wood shingles, but they require significantly less maintenance.
Plastic polymer roofs have high hail ratings and they’ll hold up well in inclement weather. Unfortunately, they’re so durable because plastics are built to last, which makes them uniquely unsustainable.
If you decide to use plastic polymer, look for manufacturers that use recycled materials. That said, they are very energy efficient. Plastic roofs, like metal roofs, reflect energy rather than absorb it. This will keep your home cooler during the summer and warmer in the winter.
A roof made from slate can last as long as 75–150 years. One of the oldest roofing materials, slate is also one of the most expensive.
When it comes to durability, slate stands out from the competition. It’s both fireproof and virtually invincible in most inclement weather. Note that installation should be carefully executed—slate tiles can crack under the weight of the average person.
Slate is one of the most expensive materials because it will last for the better part of a century, and if the roof is properly constructed, more than 150 years. Because of this, slate is an incredibly sustainable roofing material.
Roofing waste (specifically asphalt shingle waste) accounts for 3% of all waste in landfills. This is because homeowners have to replace most roofing materials every 30–50 years. A roof that could last three times as long as its competition is much better for the environment.
And slate is a naturally occurring material, which means that the manufacturing process doesn’t introduce toxins. Finally, because slate is one of the densest roofing materials on the market, it’s incredibly energy efficient, helping to regulate your home’s internal temperature.