What are the Different Types of Roofing Systems Available in the Roofing Trade?

As one of the oldest roofing systems in the world, metal roofs began with materials such as bronze tiles from the ancient Pantheon in Rome. Later, lead roofs joined bronze as a popular choice for cathedrals and castles across Europe during medieval times. Many of today's low-slope metal roofs are made of corrugated galvanized steel, a sheet of steel coated with zinc. Copper, aluminum, stainless steel, and tin are also used in commercial metal roofing applications.

The benefits of metal roofs include longevity, durability, and heat resistance. In addition, metal roofs can withstand strong winds and are largely impact-resistant. However, the investment in a metal roofing solution is likely to be much greater upfront than in other flat roofing solutions. Did you know that civilizations have used clay tiles as roofing material since 10,000 BC? Whether you aspire to live like a rich Spanish conquistador or like a humble hobbit under a roof of living plants, there's a roof that fits your needs, aesthetics and budget.

We research the pros, cons, and costs of different roofing materials. Learn about the 12 types of roofs and what makes them a good fit for your home.

Asphalt shingles

, also known as composite shingles, are the most common type of roofing materials. These shingles, found in 80% of homes, include fiberglass or cellulose, asphalt and mineral granules.

Asphalt shingle roofs come in a variety of colors and are a cost-effective replacement solution. Asphalt shingles last approximately 20 years and work in all climates. If you live in a region prone to icy and hail conditions, consider switching to an impact-resistant variety. Algae-resistant varieties specially treated for subtropical areas are also available.

There are two dominant styles of asphalt shingles, three-tab shingles and architectural shingles, and both offer distinct style features. Three-eyelash shingles is the cheapest option. These asphalt shingles comprise an outer layer of asphalt, adhesives and granules with a fiberglass backing. They have a flat appearance and are cut to look like traditional shingles.

Architectural shingles offer a more substantial alternative to three-tab shingles. They are thicker, creating a layered textured roof that is more durable, lasting between 18 and 20 years. In addition, they are more weather resistant and can withstand extremely strong winds of up to 120 mph. Contrary to popular belief, metal roofs are no more prone to lightning strikes.

Metal roofs are a broad category that encompasses a variety of materials and styles. This type of cover can be an affordable option with a high return on investment (ROI) depending on the metal. Metals such as aluminum, zinc, tin and steel are cost-effective, low-maintenance options, while copper offers a unique look for high-end metal roofs. Metal roofs last between 40 and 80 years and require very little maintenance.

In a perfect world with optimal conditions and a dry climate, your new wooden roof will last 50 years. However, the average wooden roof lasts around 25 years. Ideal for drier regions, these roofs age more quickly in humid climates, such as the salty East Coast.


is one of the most durable roofing materials, but it comes at a high price.

These roofs, which are often found in luxury homes, last between 60 and 150 years and can withstand extreme temperature fluctuations, strong winds and hail. If your budget is limited by slate, consider stone-clad steel shingles, also known as metal slate roofs. These shingles last approximately 30 years and give the appearance of a weightless slate roof. Slate roofs are weather resistant, environmentally friendly and more economical.

The disadvantage of these steel tiles is noise. You may need to consider soundproofing before installing your new roof to reduce outside noise and vibration.

Clay shingles

date back 5,000 years, making them one of the oldest roofing materials. Like slate roofs, clay shingles will last more than 100 years.

These tiles are ideal for tropical climates and are common in Southern California and Florida. Concrete tiles offer the same qualities as clay tiles for half the price. These tiles last more than 100 years and their seamless design resists leaks and water damage. They are fire resistant and darken with age.

Molded tiles come in any color and in a variety of profiles, including those that mimic wooden slats and clay tiles.

Rubber tiles

often mimic the aesthetics of slate, and from the floor it can be nearly impossible to tell the difference. They have a lifespan of 15 to 30 years and require incredibly low maintenance.

Green roofs

reduce air pollution and can absorb up to 90% of rainfall preventing flooding and dramatically reducing polluted runoff.

Membrane roofs

offer another affordable option for flat or low-slope roofs with a lifespan of 20 to 35 years come in a variety of waterproof materials such as neoprene PVC or EPDM rubber (ethylene-propylene-diene monomer). Built-in ceilings are one of the oldest types of roofs for flat or low-slope homes constructed from roofing felt made from asphalt two to four overlapping layers accumulated with crushed stone embedded on top to increase durability constructed roofs last 20 to 30 years fire resistant.

Solar shingles

are the newest option one of the most expensive skilled labor is required to install this type solar shingle look similar to asphalt shingle provide same durability flexibility each tile produces 13 to 63 watts energy less than solar panels solar panels have lifespan approximately 20 to 30 years although production will decline around 20 years according NAR 33% real estate agents recommend replacing their roof before selling their home possible recover 100% investment should replace your roof before list your house sale if poor condition close its 20 year lifespan roof one most important components home.