All About the Different Types of Roofing Materials

Back in the old days, if you needed a roof over your head you would just get the family together, collect some straw, and pile it on top of the beams of your house. The end result would be a thatched-roof cottage, something picturesque like the little country homes in a Thomas Kinkade painting.

Of course, if you had a little more money, you might live in a stone house or castle with a slate roof. This later option was especially beneficial if you were seeking protection from lightning, dragon breath, or blazing fireballs hurled into your yard by wizards or barbarian hordes.

These days, there are a little more than two options when it comes to roofing materials, and thankfully, you don’t have to be the lord of the land in order to have something a little sturdier than a haystack over your head.

The type of roofing material you select will be based on your budget, the location of your home, and the style of your home.

Asphalt shingles

You may not have considered using the material of paved roads for covering your home, but asphalt shingles are actually the most common roofing material in America.

They’re effective in all types of environmental conditions, so whether you live in Boston or San Diego, they can provide a great roofing material to protect you from the elements.

The lifespan of asphalt shingles can extend to over 20 years, and installation costs are pretty comparatively low. If your locale does see some specialized weather (like hail) you may need impact resistant shingles.

Asphalt shingles are the best roofing material for homeowners in Chicago as they’re cost-effective, durable and will keep your home energy efficient.

Metal Tiles

If you’ve ever lived in or traveled to the Caribbean, you’ve probably seen that a lot of homes and buildings utilize metal roofing. Metal roofs are great. They last around 60 years (that’s three times longer than asphalt shingles, in case you weren’t doing the math).

Metal roofing won’t burn in case there’s a fire. It resists high winds, and does a great job of sloughing off water and snow. It can get bent out of shape from hail, or lava rock hurled from a nearby volcano.

Also keep in mind that when tropical storms pass through, your roof will turn into a steel drum band…so if you seriously hate calypso music perhaps consider an alternative.


Slate roofing is one of the best looking materials out there. If you want your home to have an expensive, classic look, then slate tile is your best bet. The traditional shape and texture of slate goes well on a variety of styles, from French Country to English Tudor, giving your home a stately appearance that would be well featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (or Cribs, for younger readers).

Slate roofing can last for a century, so you probably won’t have to replace it within your lifetime.

Unfortunately, slate roofing can get damaged by adverse weather conditions, such as hail. It can also break easily when stepped on, so you may need to hire that chimney sweep from Mary Poppins, because he can fly on his tiptoes without breaking your roof tiles.

Rubber Slate

Slate tends to have a more natural, unhewn appearance at the edges. If you need something with a little more refinement, that can also facilitate complex geometrical arrangements (like those found on Victorian homes) rubber slate could be for you.

Because it’s made out of rubber, it can be knife-cut to provide roofing material for more intricate massing. Like it’s all natural cousin, rubber slate can also be damaged by hail and footsteps, but it reportedly also can last a century.

Clay and Concrete Tiles

When Spanish settlers first arrived in the New World, they made adobe roof tiles by molding clay on their thighs. Left in the sun to dry, the clay would then become those barrel-shaped tiles we all recognize as classic Mediterranean roofing material.

These days, you can get those types of tiles made out of clay or concrete. They’re surprisingly resilient, with an ability to survive damage from heavy winds (even tornadoes or hurricanes).

Because of their weight, they may need a little extra support, and at the same time, they can be prone to breaking if tread on. If you live in a warm, dry climate, and your home has a Mediterranean or Spanish look, this is a great option for you.

Solar Tiles

You’ve probably seen some of the neighbors putting solar panels up on their roofs. It seems like a great idea for saving money on the electric bill, but it certainly gives the home a…different look.

If you want something that more seamlessly blends in with the appearance of your house, you could try solar tiles. They’re a little pricey up front, but if you do the math and figure that it makes sense to install them, you could save a lot of money over the course of the next few decades.

Stone-Coated Steel

These tiles are great for wet and windy regions. They can withstand heavy winds and serious elements, making them a sort of superman tile.

Most companies that install stone coated steel roofs will also back them with an unbeatable warranty…perhaps even for life. The panels interlock and can easily mimic more natural materials like slate or clay shingles.

Green Roofs

If that last option reminded you of the Jetsons, this one may remind you of the Flintstones…at least that season where they moved to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Green roofs are particularly great in urban environments, but they require a lot of TLC.

Structural support, insulation, waterproofing, drainage, and filtration are just a few of the specialized ingredients you’ll need to make these roofs work—but they should last around 40 years before requiring some maintenance and overhaul.

Benefits include improved air quality, better water runoff, and increased insulation. If your home is big enough, you can also turn a green roof into an awesome mini-park in the sky.

Flat Roofs

This option is probably the most boring, but for some, it’s just the most practical. Many row homes have flat roofs, so it’s a pretty common sight if you live in a big city, especially on the brick-lined streets of the East Coast (like New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore).

Despite their name, flat roofs are actually not flat. They can’t be…otherwise there would be a pretty serious problem every time it rained or snowed. The roofs have slight incline or bulge to create the possibility of runoff, so an expert roofing team or contractor should be hired to this type of job.

These types of roofs often are made from several layers of material, including tar and asphalt. Of course, if you’d like, you can turn the flat (or near-flat) roof into a patio, or build a deck on top of it, which makes an awesome space for hosting parties and watching sunsets.

The Best Roofing Material Are at Feldco Roofing

For homeowners in Chicago, the only name they need to know for roofing is Feldco. We use top of the line materials from Owens Corning in order to give you the best roof possible.

If your roof is old, damaged or just plain ugly, get a freequote online from Feldco Roofing and see why so many homeowners count on us for the best roof replacement.

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