10 Most Popular Roofing Materials

There are many things to consider when selecting a new roof. The roof is what protects your family from the elements and contributes to the overall look at feel of your home.

The sheer number of options for roofing materials to choose from can be staggering. That’s why we’ve put together this guide of the 10 Most Popular Roofing Materials to help you select the best roof for your needs. Roofs should be typical to the area and able to withstand relevant weather conditions.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following roofing styles and materials: asphalt shingles, wood shingles, metal shingles, metal standing seam panels, corrugated metal, clay tiles, concrete tiles, stone-coated steel tiles, slate tiles, and synthetic slate. The focus for each will cover costs, durability, lifespan, energy efficiency, and aesthetics.


Shingles are commonly used for steep slope applications in commercial roofing as well as residential roofing. Roof shingles are a roof covering consisting of individual overlapping elements. This type of roofing provides property owners with a broad range of design options for a highly durable commercial roof. Typically, these elements are flat, rectangle shapes. The most common types of roof shingles are asphalt shingles and wood shingles.

Asphalt Shingles

An asphalt shingle is a type of wall or roof shingle that uses asphalt for waterproofing. Asphalt shingles dominate the U.S. market and can be seen on all house styles ranging from historic to contemporary.

Asphalt Shingles installed by Cowtown Roofing

Asphalt Shingles installed by Cowtown Roofing.

The key advantages of asphalt shingles are the low up-front costs and ease of installation. This roofing material is also available in a variety of colors to complement your home. These types of shingles tend to absorb heat, so it is not recommended to select dark-colored shingles if you want an energy efficient home. Asphalt shingles are easy to repair and fire resistant.

Disadvantages include a relatively short life-span of 15-30 years. On average, these shingles are replaced once every 20 years. Maintenance-wise, asphalt shingles require periodic removal of algae and moss growth.

Wood Shingles (And Shakes)

Wood shingles and shakes are often spoken of interchangeably. The shingle is sawn on both sides and is thinner at the butt than a shake. A wooden roof is a common choice for those looking to add a touch of tradition to their home.

Wood shingles and shakes roofing material

Wood shingles and shakes roofing material.

With proper maintenance, wood shingles and shakes can last for up to 30 years. They also offer high energy efficiency ratings. Cost-wise, this roofing material is slightly higher than asphalt shingles but less than most other types.

This type of roofing material is high-maintenance in that it must be treated regularly to prevent water damage, mold growth, and insect colonization. This type of roof has a poor fire rating and storm rating. A wooden roof is not often recommended for areas with extreme weather conditions.


Metal roofing can be comprised from a variety of metals and alloys, including galvanized steel, galvalume steel (zinc and aluminum coated steel), stone-coated steel, aluminum, copper, zinc, and stainless steel. Copper and zinc are the most expensive options. Metal keep attics cooler, cutting energy costs. It is fireproof and available in many fade-resistant colors. FEMA recommends metal roofs in areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. This material has a very long life expectancy of 40-70 years. It’s low maintenance as it is built to not rust, crack, or rot.

Metal Standing Seam Panels

Standing seam panels are the most popular type of residential metal roofing. The panels typically run vertically up the roof in an elegant fashion. Most importantly, the standing seams are a part of a fully interlocking roof system that forms a weather-tight unit. Standing seam roofs come in continuous lengths and have a built-in mechanism that allows for the metal’s natural expansion and contraction during thermal changes.

Standing seam panels have a high up-front cost compared to other roofing styles and materials. Some homeowners may find this style too commercial or agricultural for a residence. For people who want metal roofing in a more commonplace style, there are metal shingles and corrugated metal.

Metal standing seam panels roofing

Metal standing seam panels roofing

Metal Shingles

A roof composed of metal shingles can provide the same superior performance as standing seam roofing. It has all of the advantages of being comprised of metal and it is designed to be more natural-looking than the standing seam style.

Metal shingles are commonly seen on bungalows, ranch, and contemporary houses. The overall look blends in with the environment and it may not be obvious to the casual observer that the shingles on your home are made of metal instead of asphalt.

Metal shingles require professional installation. Maintenance-wise, metal shingle roofs with exposed fasteners will require fastener re-tightening every 10-15 years. This type of roofing material costs less than standing seam metal roofs, but more than asphalt and wood shingles.

Metal shingles roof

Metal shingles roof.

Corrugated Metal

Corrugated metal roofing is the least expensive option when it comes to metal roofing systems. These roofs are made of G-60 steel, which is a less-expensive, thinner-gauge steel. The corrugated steel roofs are usually finished with acrylic paint which must be touched up over time.


Traditionally, tiles are available in either concrete or clay. These materials are heavy and require special framing prior to installation. A tile roof offers many great benefits including curb appeal and low maintenance. They are aesthetically pleasing and available in a wide variety of shapes, materials, and colors.

Clay Tile

Clay tiles are one of the oldest and most durable building materials. These roofs can last 75 years or more.

They offer a multitude of benefits, including high safety ratings. They are a great choice to protect the structure from the elements, such as hail and sustained high winds. Clay tiles are heavy and typically require additional support beams prior to installation. Since clay is a naturally occurring material, these tiles will maintain their original color for years.

Clay tile installed by Cowtown Roofing

Clay tile installed by Cowtown Roofing.

A notable drawback for clay tiles is their performance is directly linked to their environment. For example, a clay tile that looks great in Florida may fall apart within a year in Arizona, and they are never recommended for homes in areas with freezing and thawing cycles. They are also not as readily available as other roofing materials, which contributes to longer lead times and higher prices. On average, clay tiles cost about 30% more than concrete tiles!

Clay tiles are the material of choice when it comes to beautiful, long-lasting roofs; however, concrete tiles are a cost-effective alternative that can be just as aesthetically stunning.

Concrete Tiles

It is not uncommon for consumers to confuse concrete tiles with clay, and vice versa. Concrete tiles are a mixture of cement, water and sand. They come in three main appearances:

  1. Flat profile – no curves
  2. Low profile – small curves
  3. High profile – large curves

These roofing tiles have a high water absorption rate which leads to the development of mildew and stains. The absorbed water also increases the weight of the concrete tile, which increases pressure on the roof structure. The heavier weight, high rate of water absorption and the formation of mildew make concrete tiles a high-maintenance roofing material. The color-thru technology used in concrete tiles is also known to fade over time.

Concrete tiles roof

Concrete tiles roof.

Stone-Coated Steel Tiles

An attractive, less-costly and light-weight alternative for traditional tiles are stone-coated steel tiles. They offer comparable performance without the added weight of clay or concrete. This material is at least double the cost of asphalt shingles.


Slate roofs are built to last a century, making it the most environmentally friendly roofing material when comparing it to its counterparts that need replacement every 20 to 30 years.

Slate Tiles

Slate tiles are known for their attractiveness and longevity.

Slate tiles by Cowtown Roofing

Slate tile roofs have a classy appearance.

Slate tiles have a classy appearance and are available in varying sizes, thicknesses, and colors. Unlike any other roofing materials, slate tiles are completely fireproof. That’s a huge advantage when it comes to preventing fires started by airborne sparks. Slate tile roofs are built to last a century, making them the most environmentally friendly roofing material when comparing it to its counterparts that need replacement every 20 to 30 years.
Slate tiles have tough installation requirements and the vast majority of roofing contractors know very little about slate roofs. If you are considering this roofing material, be sure to inquire into your contractor’s experience with the material. They are supremely difficult to replace and easily crack once installed. Slate comes in lots, making it difficult to find replacement tiles that are a perfect match.

Synthetic Slate

To get the look of a slate shingle roof without the expense and installation headaches, consider synthetic slate shingles. These are a modern improvement on a construction classic. Synthetic slate is made of combinations of plastic and rubber.

Synthetic slate is considered a “green” building material because all types can be recycled at the end of the roof’s usable life. They are durable and contain impact modifiers to help withstand storm damage. Many synthetic slates also have the highest fire-resistance rating. Cost-wise, synthetic slate shingles fall in the middle range of roofing materials. However, they can last for up to 100 years.

Synthetic slate roofing installation

Synthetic slate roofing installation work.

Spray Polyurethane Roofing


Spray Polyurethane Foam, also known as, SPF, is considered one of the greener
roofing options in commercial roofing. This system is used on existing roofs. A liquid
material is sprayed onto the roof’s base layer and swells into a hardening foam to create
a solid top layer. SPF is noted as an energy efficient roofing system that provides air
and moisture barriers. Spray Polyurethane Foam also eliminates the need for seams,
resulting in reducing the number of areas susceptible to leaking.

Spray Polyurethane Foam by Cowtown Roofing

Spray Polyurethane Foam by Cowtown Roofing

Single Ply Membrane Roofing

The Single Ply Membrane roofing system is a proven application method with
advantages for industrial and commercial facilities. This application is known for its
resistance to ultraviolet radiation. Single Ply is lightweight and cost-effective. It provides
building owners and contractors with a variety of protection grade options. Single Ply is
also noted for its endurance in extreme weather transitions

At Cowtown Roofing, we provide quality roofing services at competitive prices. Contact us today to discuss roofing materials and get a no-obligation quote for your new roof.