The Standard Materials of the Roofing Industry

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People have long used natural materials to put a roof over their heads, from timber to human-made ones like asphalt. Some reflect the aesthetic philosophy of the homeowner or made to combat a particular climatic quirk, while still others can fit any purpose.

Roofers not just in Utah County but across the country cite four primary materials that are a staple of their trade: asphalt, metal, tile, and wood. Here’s how they compare to one another:

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most common residential roofing material in the United States, and justly so. Asphalt has the winning combination of being accessible and relatively affordable, and shingles made from it can easily be recycled to and from other products (such as paving material for roads). Roofing manufacturers recognize that asphalt-shingled homes comprise their biggest market, so they came up with a few innovations for their respective inventories. The latest ones include “cool” shingles even with dark colors, increased longevity, improved resistance to the elements, and copper microcapsules that allow them to eliminate algae growth.

Asphalt shingles are, however, still shorter-lived than their contemporaries, with a maximum lifespan of only 30 years. In contrast, other roofing materials live for almost twice as long—even longer with regular maintenance. Asphalt is also more prone to leaks unless you invest in architectural shingles with laminate backing for increased waterproofing capabilities.


metal roof

While asphalt shingles remain the people’s choice, metal roofing systems are gaining extra traction. This is thanks to metal’s durability and recyclability. Most people still think of metal roofs as nothing more than tin sheets used to cover a shed, but recent advances in metal fabrication have allowed metal roofs to be as attractive as other options on this list. Metal tiles and shingles are available in a variety of colors and profiles that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them and more expensive materials. And the best thing about them? They’re more affordable than these higher-end materials but still have a longer service life than asphalt. They’re naturally water- and fire-resistant, too.


Tile roofs are most often seen in homes with arid or coastal climates, such as California and Florida, or those with Spanish-Mediterranean architecture. Tiles are the most expensive and the heaviest, but they make up for this with a lifespan that can reach a hundred years or more. Tiles used to come from terra cotta, clay, or slate, but modern tile homes instead use concrete as a compromise with cost considerations. Traditional, non-concrete tiles are still the way to go for authenticity and recyclability, but for energy efficiency and imperviousness to the elements, either type works.


Wood roofs come in two types: shingles and shakes. Shingles are machine-cut and are made to resemble standard asphalt shingles, but shakes are hand-sawn, used for rustic homes. They are the most beautiful of these four, but the most susceptible to fire and water damage. Wood roofing manufacturers often treat their products with a fire retardant or a water-repellent coating to improve their service life, which, even without these add-ons, is still ahead of an asphalt shingle’s.

That said, a roof’s performance is directly tied to how you care for it. Give your roof proper care, and it will serve you for as long as it’s able—perhaps even beyond.

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