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FAQ: Which Type of Roof Material Lasts The Longest?


Trying the cheapest possible option can be tempting when choosing a new roofing material.

At the same time, there is often a relationship between the cost of materials and their lifespan. So if you're thinking about the total cost of your roof over the structure's life rather than the upfront cost, it's helpful to learn about the longest-lasting roofing materials.

So, which type of roofing material has the longest expected lifespan? Which materials are the most durable?

Let's look at everything you need to know about some of the most common roofing materials.

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1. Standing-Seam Metal

Though metal roofs have been standard on commercial buildings for some time now, they are also becoming increasingly popular on residential structures. Steel and aluminum are two of the most typical materials for metal roofs, but zinc and copper options are also available.

Metal roofs are stylish, durable, modern, energy-efficient, and known for its longevity. The interlocking panels are made from galvanized steel, aluminum, or copper and have raised seams that are folded together for added strength and durability.

Standing Seam Material

This type of metal roof is designed to last for decades, often with minimal maintenance requirements. Standing-seam metal roofs are also highly resistant to extreme weather conditions such as high winds, hail, snow, and heavy rain. Additionally, these roofs are energy-efficient due to their reflective properties, which help keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Proper installation means standing-seam metal roofs can last up to 50 years or more.

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

Standing-seam metal roofs have an expected lifespan ranging from thirty to fifty years. In some situations, a metal roof might last as long as 75 years. Regular inspections and maintenance can ensure a long lifespan for a metal roof.

Though they offer many benefits, metal roofs aren't the cheapest roofing option. Installation costs can range from around $10 per square foot for aluminum or steel and around $13 per square foot for zinc roofs to around $18 per square foot for copper roofs.

The average cost would be about $20,000 to install a steel panel roof on a 2,000-square-foot roof.

Over one hundred years, assuming that your roof has to be replaced between two and three times, the cost of the roof in total would look closer to $40,000-$60,000.

2. Wood Shingle

Wood shingles are a classic roofing option used for hundreds of years. They’re made from thin, tapered wood slices, usually cedar, pine, or redwood, and are often used in residential settings due to their attractive appearance. Wood shingles can last up to 30 years with proper maintenance, making them an excellent option for a classic look that will stand the test of time. With good care, wood shingles can be a great choice for homeowners who want a classic look and long-lasting performance.

Wood Shingles-1

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

The average lifespan of wood shingle roofs is about 25 to 30 years. Longer lifespans are possible for roofs that remain debris-free and exist in mild climates. You can help extend your wood roof's lifespan by ensuring the roof is free of moss and replacing cracked or split shingles immediately.

Usually costing between $6.50 and $11 per square foot, the average cost for installing wood shingles is about $9 per square foot. For a 2,000-square-foot roof, this would cost $18,000.

Over 100 years, you can expect to replace a wood shingle roof three to four times; this means the cost over a century would be between $52,000 and $72,000.

Note: In areas with wildfires, there may be legal restrictions on using wood as a roofing material.

3. Composite Asphalt Roof

The most popular type of roofing material in the U.S., composite asphalt roofing is widely used thanks to its decent durability, relatively low cost, and ease of installation.

Asphalt shingles are made of organic or fiberglass materials, with an asphalt-coated backing that helps keep out moisture. In addition to being a cost-effective choice, composite asphalt roofs are also known for their strength and durability. They are also relatively easy to maintain, requiring little more than occasional cleaning to keep them in good condition.

Composite Asphalt

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

How long a roof of this type lasts depends on several factors, mainly the quality of the materials you use. For the highest quality asphalt shingles, the lifespan could be as long as fifty years. You can expect a composite asphalt shingle roof to last between fifteen and forty years.

The average cost of installing an asphalt shingle roof is about $5 per square foot. However, the labor cost between regions and materials prices vary considerably.

If you install a new 2,000-square-foot roof with asphalt shingles, the cost will be roughly $10,000.

4. Built-Up Roof

Typically used on flat roofs or only have the smallest pitch, built-up roofs are made using alternating layers of roofing felt and waterproof materials. Affordable and fire-resistant, it is common to find built-up roofs on top of flat-roofed commercial buildings.

Built Up Roof-1

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

Built-up roofs can last anywhere from twenty to thirty years. You can keep your built-up roof in better shape for longer when you regularly inspect and repair any issues that crop up immediately. Additionally, ensuring debris is kept off the roof will help reduce surface degradation.

Installing a built-up roof generally costs about $4 per square foot. Installing a built-up roof on a 2,000-square-foot roof would cost about $8,000.

Over the course of one hundred years, we can assume that a built-up roof will need to be replaced between three and five times; this means that the lifetime cost of a built-up roof over the course of 100 years would be $24,000 to $40,000.

5. Slate

Slate is a material that has been used since the earliest periods of human history. In the Neolithic age, hunters used slate to make tips for their spears and arrows. Using this metamorphic rock, they even created symbolic pendants known as 'slate rings.'

It is known that the Romans used slate to roof military buildings, but private use of slate for roofs was too expensive for most people. The oldest private residence with a slate roof is recorded as a North Wales home built around 1300 A.D.

The slate industry radically changed around the 1800s when the Spanish developed a quarrying process that allowed slate to be available for everyday residences. While there were some slate roofs in the New World in the 1600s, it wasn't until 1785 that the first quarry opened in the U.S. Mass quarrying didn't begin until the second half of the 19th century, however, and the use of slate peaked in the U.S. in the early 1900s with the rise of asphalt shingles.

Slate Roof

Slate is an ideal natural material for roofs because it tends to split into flat slabs. While slate is the most durable type of roofing available, it is also the most expensive and must be installed by trained craftsmen.

Another consideration you'll want to consider before deciding to put a slate roof on your home is how heavy the material is; this means that your home needs to be framed or built to carry the slate's weight.

If you want to retrofit your home to withstand the weight, you must incorporate a structural engineer. This aspect of the process makes installing a slate roof much more expensive.

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

If your main goal is installing a roof that will last as long as possible, slate is the way to go. Slate roofs can last for one hundred years or more; this is evidenced by the fact that slate roofs were still installed hundreds of years ago.

If you intend to keep a slate roof for this long, it's essential to replace any broken slate tiles right away and ensure that all flashings are in good working order and properly installed.

While the longevity of slate is hard to beat, it comes at a cost. Prices can range anywhere from $10 per square foot to $75 per square foot to install a slate roof, depending on a variety of factors; this means that installing a slate roof on a 2,000 square-foot-roof can cost between $20,000 and $150,000. However, the average installation cost is a reasonable estimate of $30 per square foot. For a 2,000-square-foot roof, a slate roof would cost $60,000.

While this might seem like a pricey roof, it's worth understanding that, with proper maintenance, you won't have to replace the roof within your lifetime. Slate roofs are the longest-lasting type of roofing material, as they can last one hundred years or more.

6. Clay or Cement

Popular in the Southwestern part of the U.S., clay tile roofs are incredibly durable and strong. They are traditionally made using terracotta clay, but these days they are also made out of concrete and ceramic.

A clay or cement tile roof is made up of individual tiles that are installed over the roof surface in overlapping layers. Much like slate roofs, the framing of the building and roof needs to be strong enough to hold the weight of the tiles.

Because of the quality and durability of these materials and the fact that a skilled professional must install them, this roofing material is more expensive than other available options– at least up-front.

Clay or Cement

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

The main issue to be concerned with when it comes to the longevity of a clay tile roof is the emergence of cracks in the tiles. When you properly maintain a clay tile roof, it can last for one hundred years or more. This means that you want to avoid walking on your tile roof as much as possible and replace broken or cracked tiles as soon as you notice them.

The cost of installing this type of roof will vary greatly depending on the materials and other factors.

Concrete tiles are the least expensive, typically costing around $10 per square foot for materials and labor. The range for terra cotta tiles spans from $15 to $20 per square foot, while ceramic tiles range from $20 to $30 per square foot.

For a 2,000-square-foot root, the cost of concrete tiles would be $20,000, the cost of a terracotta tile roof would range from $30,000 to $40,000, and the cost of a ceramic tile roof would range from $40,000 to $60,000.

While this isn't the cheapest type of roof to install, it is one of the most long-lasting. A clay, concrete, or ceramic roof can last for more than one hundred years.

7. Membrane

Also known as rubber roofing, membrane roofing comes in large pieces and is an excellent choice for limiting water infiltration; this is one of the best options on the market for flat or low-pitched commercial roofs. Some of the available choices when it comes to membrane roofs include EPDM, TPO, PVC, and neoprene.

Membrane Roof

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

The installation cost for membrane roofing is generally between $5 and $10 per square foot; this means that a 2,000-square-foot roof would cost $10,000 to $20,000. This type of roof can last for twenty to thirty-five years before requiring replacement.

Another benefit of this type of roof is that they can be renewed when they are near the end of their life but still in good condition using a roof coating system.

8. Asphalt Roll Roof

One of the easiest and cheapest roofing materials out there, asphalt rolled roofing comes in rolls rather than shingles. Of course, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for; while this type of roofing is less expensive than asphalt shingles and many other types of roofing materials, it is also thinner and less durable.

For this reason, people generally don't use asphalt roll roofing on residences or other occupied structures. Instead, it is often used for functional and utilitarian spaces such as work sheds, barns, potting sheds, outdoor roofed exercise structures, garages, and other outbuildings. This type of roofing is commonly used on low-sloped roofs.

Asphalt Roll Roof

Lifespan, Installation Cost, and Value

While asphalt rolled roofing is made using the same materials as asphalt shingles, you can only expect it to last for a limited period because of how thin it is.

The maximum expected lifespan of an asphalt rolled roof is about five to ten years at most. You can help extend the life of this type of roof by quickly addressing any punctures or damage and keeping the roof clear of debris.

The average cost of installing an asphalt rolled roof is about $2.25 per square foot. Roofing a 2,000-square-foot roof would cost about $4,500. (Of course, this type of roofing is not commonly used for residences and is instead a better choice for outbuildings with low-sloped roofs.)

Though the installation cost might seem inexpensive, you need to factor in how often this type of roofing would need to be replaced. At best, this material would need to be replaced ten times over the course of 100 years, and at worst, it would need to be replaced twenty times; this means the cost over a 100-year period would be $45,000 to $90,000.

Is It Time to Replace Your Roof?

If you want your roof replaced by a professional team in the Atlanta area, it's time to call Colony Roofers.

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Experienced, knowledgeable, and hard-working, our team proudly offers affordable, high-quality roofs to commercial and residential buildings in the greater Atlanta area. If you'd like us to come out for an estimate or answer any questions you might have, contact us today.

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