What’s the Right Roof for My House? A Guide

If your home’s current roof is nearing the end of its life, you may be wondering what material is best to replace it with. Just because you have an asphalt roof on your home now doesn’t mean you need to install another one.

A roof replacement is a perfect time to freshen up your house, update the exterior appearance, and invest in a material that will increase your home’s value and reduce maintenance and energy costs.

In this article, we will compare the benefits and downsides of popular roofing options here in southcentral PA:

 

 


 

Asphalt Shingle Roof

The most popular type of roof for homes, asphalt shingle roofs are versatile, affordable, and will match any type of home.

Benefits of an Asphalt Shingle Roof

1. Affordable

Out of all the available roofing options, asphalt roofs are the most affordable. That’s because the material cost is much lower, and they are faster & easier to install than other materials. The low price point of asphalt shingles often makes them the choice for many price-conscious homeowners.

2. Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of shingle roofs has gradually increased over the last few decades. As the technology and processes for manufacturing roofing shingles have improved, companies are now providing manufacturers lifetime warranties on shingles. Realistically, you can expect 40-50 years from your asphalt roof.

3. Durability

Asphalt roofs have very good wind ratings, so they can withstand high winds and storms. They are also fire-resistant, rated to last 2 hours under intense heat.

4. Repairability

Repairing an asphalt roof is much easier – and more affordable – than other roof types. If your roof has damaged or missing shingles, a skilled roofer can simply replace the affected shingles.

 

Downsides of an Asphalt Shingle Roof

1. Hail Damage

Asphalt shingles are the most susceptible to damage from hailstorms. When hail strikes a shingle, it knocks off the stones, exposing the fiberglass matting to the elements. This causes the shingle to deteriorate more quickly, leading to a reduced lifespan. If your home experiences a hail storm, it is important to schedule a roof inspection for storm damage to see how your roof was impacted.

2. Poor Workmanship

Because asphalt shingles are easier to install, a lot of upstart roofing crews or solo handymen will install them at a cut-rate. But having your roof installed by an inexperienced roofer can result in mistakes, which can lead to leaks, long-term damage, and a drastically reduced life expectancy for your roof.

3. Not as Eco-Friendly

Roof shingles are coated with asphalt, which is a petroleum product. It is not as environmentally friendly as a material like slate or shake roofs. And roof shingles cannot be recycled, so when your roof is ripped off it will be taken to a landfill.
 

Options for Asphalt Shingle Roof


Three Tab – The cheapest type of asphalt roof, the three-tab shingles are an older style that are rarely used for residential roof projects anymore. You may still see them on older homes, sheds, and other structures.

Architectural Shingles – An upgraded version of asphalt shingles, architectural shingles provide a greater dimensional appearance to your home’s roof. We install architectural shingles by GAF, which are available in dozens of color options.
GAF Truslate roof
Premium Shingles – Premium quality asphalt shingles – like GAF’s Slateline series – feature unrivaled performance, styling, and durability. Some styles can mimic the appearance of wood shake or slate roofs – a popular choice for older homes in Lancaster County and southeastern PA.

 


Metal Roof

For homeowners looking to invest in a roof that looks great and will last a long time, a metal roof is a popular choice.

Benefits of a Metal Roof

1. Appearance

Many homeowners choose standing seam metal roofing for their house because they like the clean, sophisticated, modern look it provides. In addition, a metal roof can be painted any color, so a homeowner can get a truly unique, custom style to their house.

2. Life Expectancy

Most metal roofs have a 35-45-year warranty on colors – meaning the paint will not chip, fade, or flake. After that, you can simply recoat the roof to extend the life of the roof another 40+ years.

3. Return on Investment

Recoating a metal roof is extremely affordable – cheaper than installing an asphalt roof – and can easily double the life of a metal roof. Over the long run, a metal roof can be more affordable than having to install an asphalt roof 2x in the same time span.

4. Thermal Resistance

Depending on the color and coating, metal roofing can reflect the sun’s rays, which can reduce your home’s energy costs.

Downsides of a Metal Roof

1. Upfront Costs

Because of the higher materials and labor costs, installing a metal roof is more expensive than an asphalt roof. This is usually outweighed by the lower lifetime cost of ownership, but the initial sticker shock of a metal roof can cause some to choose the more affordable asphalt roof.

2. Susceptible to Hail Damage

While metal roofs can withstand denser hail than an asphalt roof, it can still be damaged. Large enough hail can chip away at the roof’s paint, and any exposed metal will eventually rust.

3. Repairability

If a metal roof suffers damage from hail, downed limbs, or poor installation, repairs can be more time consuming and expensive than other roof types. Instead of swapping out a shingle, a metal roof repair may require replacing an entire panel.

4. Poor Workmanship

Installing and repairing metal roofs is a demanding job that requires skill, experience, and craftsmanship. That’s why many residential roofers choose not to install metal roofs. If you do hire an inexperienced roofer for your metal roof, you may get stuck with a poorly installed product that will start to wear or rust within a few years.

Options for Metal Roof

residential metal roofing project
Standing Seam Metal Roof – The most popular type of metal roofing for homes, standing seam looks clean and modern. Plus, it is great for installing solar panels.

Corrugated Metal Panels – More economical than standing seam, corrugated metal panels have a long life expectancy and are a popular choice for barns, garages, and other large roofs.
Residential roofing
Copper – Usually reserved for historic renovation projects, copper roofing is used as flashing or accents over windows or dormers. Over the years, copper develops a beautiful patina that adds character to an older home.

 


 

Slate Roof

More than just a traditional roofing style here in the Mid-Atlantic region, slate is one of the most durable roofing materials available.

brick home slate roof

Benefits of a Slate Roof

1. Appearance

Because of the rich history of stone farmhouses and homes that are nearly 300 years old, we see a sizeable number of slate roofs in our region. Even if you don’t have a historic home, you may want the unmatched styling and appearance of a slate roof.

2. Longevity

Slate is known for its longevity, with an average life expectancy of 100 years. Here in southcentral PA, we’ve seen Lancaster County homes that are 200+ years old with the original slate roof.

3. Durability

Slate is the most durable, maintenance-free material available for roofs. Slate is impervious to hail, fire, and storm damage. If a slate roof does get damage – usually when a fastener fails – it is easier to replace than a metal roof.

 

Downsides of a Slate Roof

1. Complex Installation

Installing slate roofs is a specialty that only a few roofing contractors in our area have the experience and skill that’s required. If you go with an inexperienced roofer for your slate roof, they may use the wrong fasteners (which will fail in 15-20 years), not punch holes properly (causing slate to break or fail), rely too much on caulk (which will only last 20-30 years), or not get the details right on the flashing. All of this will lead to expensive repairs or a roof that won’t last as long as you expect.

2. Upfront Cost

The upfront cost of installing a slate roof usually puts it out of consideration for most homeowners. That’s why new slate roofs are usually installed on universities or government buildings, where the upfront installation costs can be spread out over 100 years or more.

 

Options for Slate Roof

brick home slate roof
Traditional Slate Roof – Slate roofing is only as good as the stone it is cut from. Some slate made in the 50s has been poor quality and failed after a few decades. A slate roofer should know where to source the best slate for your project.

Processed Slate Roofing companies like GAF are bringing precision and standardization to the slate roofing industry. Their TruSlate product cuts slate to precise dimensions, making it easier to install, while still retaining all the benefits and characteristics of natural slate.
synthetic slate shingles
Manufactured Slate – A growing number of manufactured slate options are hitting the market. Usually made from plastic or cement materials, these can still last upwards of 100 years, but with reduced material and labor costs. Some of the early entries within this market were not reliable, so make sure your roofer has one they have worked with and tested out.
Grandsequoia Slateblend designer shingles
Slate Asphalt Shingles – Many asphalt shingle manufacturers have a slate-like shingle. If you want the appearance of slate but only have the budget for an asphalt roof, these shingles are right for you.

 


 

Wood Shake Roof

Wood shake roofing is another option for homeowners looking for a classic, historic, or elegant style.

workers installing roofing

Benefits of a Shake Roof

1. Appearance

The main reason a homeowner chooses a cedar shake roof is due to the appearance. The wood elegantly ages from a bright warm color to a cool, weathered look that’s hard to replicate.
 

2. Durability

Storm damage from hail or branches may ding or dent a wood shake, but not cause the level of damage that it does to metal or asphalt roofs. In addition, cedar has a naturally occurring oil that makes it resistant to bugs, so you don’t have to worry about insect damage.
 

3. Repairability

Making repairs on a shake roof is easy; simply remove the damaged pieces and replace them with new ones. You can also extend the life of your wood roof by adding a sealer.
 

Downsides of a Shake Roof

1. Complex Installation

Installing a wood shake roof is time-intensive and requires an advanced level of skill, craftsmanship, and experience. A poorly installed wood roof can warp, crack, or cup in just a few years, requiring extensive repairs or a new roof.
 

2. Flammable

Unlike all the other materials listed above, a wood shake roof is flammable and cannot withstand high heat.
 

3. Longevity

Most cedar shake roofs can last 30-40 years before they need to be replaced. While you can extend the life of your wood roof with a sealer, you are still looking at a similar life expectancy as an asphalt shingle roof, but at a much higher cost.

 

 

Options for Shake Roof

cedar shake roof installation in blue bell, pa
Cedar Shake Roof – The best material for a wood shake roof is cedar. It is durable, easy to handle, and ages beautifully.
gaf-tan-asphalt-shingle-home-roof
Shake Asphalt Shingles – GAF provides an asphalt shingle that realistically replicates a shake roof at a much more affordable price point.

 


 

Other Roofing Options

Tile Roof – While very common in Europe and the southern United States, tile roofs have not really caught on here in the Mid-Atlantic. The few houses in southeastern PA that feature a tile roof do so because of the aesthetics of the house. These heavy tiles are great at withstanding high winds and storm damage but are labor-intensive to install.

 

Flat Roof – Your home may have a flat or low slope roof – which is especially common for a sunroom or other home addition. In this case, you will need a different roofing material that’s designed for low slope applications – commercial roofing material like asphalt, rubber, or TPO. We will go over these in a future article.

Need Help Choosing the Right Material?

While we went over the high-level benefits and downsides of each roofing option, there may be specific benefits or concerns for your home. The best way to find out what’s the best roof for your home is to talk to a roofing consultant who can answer your questions and give specific recommendations. Contact us to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation.