The Complete Guide to Roofing Materials

All your Roofing Materials Options in One Place

Here at J&J Construction we offer services for all your home construction and repair needs. If you are just starting out, we can work with you to build a brand new house. If you need a foundation poured, and then you will have another builder do the rest of the construction, we offer concrete services. If you are updating the siding on your house, we can work with you and your budget to get you siding that makes your home look amazing. And if you need a new roof, maybe your roof was damaged in one of the frequent hail storms we get here in Billings, and then we can take care of your roofing needs. But how do you choose roofing materials when there are so many different types to choose from?

J&J Construction has put together the complete guide to roofing materials. This looks at all of the different kinds of materials, the pros and cons of each one, and is designed to help you know exactly what you are getting. Since this post is so long, we have added a table of contents so you can jump right to the section you need.







The Different Types of Roofing Materials Available

When it comes to roofing your house, you have a wide variety of roofing materials to choose from. Which one you choose will depend largely on the style of your house, what your budget is, and what the end goal for the new roof will be (do you need something so you can sell the home quickly, or do you want something that will last for many years to come?). While there are a ton of choices out there that simply aren’t that feasible here in Billings (see our post about the oddballs of roofing materials), there are quite a few that are perfectly good options. The roofing materials that we see most often here in Billings are:

  • Asphalt Shingles
  • Wood Shingles
  • Tile Shingles
  • Slate Shingles
  • Metal Roofing Materials
  • Membrane Roofing Materials

Each one will protect your house after it is installed correctly. Some will look better than others, some will cost more than others, and some will have greater environmental impacts than others. Let’s explore your options when it comes to roofing materials for your home.

Roofing Underlayment

Before we can get into the type of roof that everyone will see, we have to start with an important part of the roofing process. The underlayment (sometimes called roofing felt) is what will keep any water that happens to get past the shingles from seeping into your house.

A roof is installed in a few different layers. On top of the trusses, you have your roofing deck. On older houses this is made from tongue-and-groove boards, newer houses utilize plywood. On top of the deck you have to install an underlayment. Along the edges, where the water drains off, you need to put ice and water shield (this sticky underlayment will block ice and water from seeping back up from the edge). The bulk of the roof will be covered in roofing felt or a rip-stop plastic style underlayment. On top of that underlayment the shingles or metal is applied. Here, check out this quick sketch so you can get the full idea.

Roofing Materials

We never claimed to be artists

Now you can’t just slap down an underlayment and think it will just take care of itself. There is some technique that you have to follow (including installing the drip edges first). But that’s where we come in. In the scheme of things, the underlayment, as long as it is applied properly, doesn’t affect the final outcome of the roof.

Asphalt Shingles

Out of the many inventions to come from America, asphalt shingles are one of them. They first came into use in the early 1900’s and since that time they have undergone a variety of changes. But overall, the concept has remained the same. Asphalt shingles are manufactured in three basic steps: there is an underlayment that is either organic or fiberglass. On top of this asphalt is applied. The shingle is finished off with ceramic-coated granules to help protect from UV rays, and to make the shingle even more durable than it already is. The result is a relatively lightweight, easy to use, roofing material that can be manufactured quickly and cheaply.

Organic vs. Fiberglass Shingles

If you have spoken with a roofer recently, one question you might have been asked is whether or not you have organic shingles on your house. To the non-roofer this seems like a silly question; of course they’re not organic, they’re asphalt! Actually the roofer is referring to the base layer of the shingle.

The base of a shingle was once made out of wood based organic material. Generally it was recycled paper that has been ground to a pulp and then formed into a felt mat. After the matting was dried, it was cut into shape and the rest of the shingle was composed on top of it. Organic materials were around until 2005 when the manufacturing companies largely switched over to a fiberglass based system. You would be hard pressed to find a new shingle that still uses organic materials.

Fiberglass is essentially glass that has been blown and stretched into tiny fibers. These fibers are wound together to make matting that is durable, fireproof, and not subject to rot and decay. When shingles have a fiberglass base, they become roofing materials that will last much longer than those with an organic base to them.

Other than what the base layer is made of, organic and fiberglass shingles are largely the same. They look the same, and they have the same adhesive layer on the back that allows them to “glue” to the shingle below it forming a water tight surface for your roof.

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Variance of Styles in Asphalt Shingles

One of the biggest appeals to using an asphalt shingle on a roof, aside from the low price, is the fact that there are so many different style variances that you can choose from. While there are likely to be dozens of obscure styles, shingles are largely broken into two main categories: architectural or three-tab.

Architectural Shingles – Despite the name, an architectural asphalt shingle doesn’t actually have anything to do with the architecture of the building (at least not as most people think of architecture). Instead, it is given that name because the shingles are thicker and have a distinct textured appearance. Some have a seemingly random pattern, others are more defined, but the idea is that the roof takes on some character instead of simply flat (and considered by many to be boring) shingles. These shingles are strong, but they don’t do well on low-sloping roofs where wind, ice, and rain can cause damage.

Three-Tab Shingles – A three-tab shingle, on the other hand, is one that contains three distinct tabs. When a three tab shingle is applied, it looks as though there are three shingles even though it is all one unit. The result is a roof that has a more geometric pattern on it, that is rather smooth, and has the same consistent pattern throughout the entire roof.

Shingles arch vs three

There is more variation among shingles that are considered to be architectural since the pattern can vary greatly. Three-tab shingles rely on color variations.

Color – When you are buying shingles for your house, you have a wide variety of options. You can go with something that is nearly white, to something that is almost all black, to a shingle that has blue, green, or red in it. Some shingles incorporate copper to help ward off moss and algae growth in wet climates and others incorporate components that help to reflect back more of the sun’s rays and keep the house cooler. Check out the Malarkey website to see the different colors available.

You can basically get any color of shingle that you want; it all depends on what matches your home, what your HOA says is allowed, and how much you want to spend on materials.

Environmental Factors of Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are a popular choice for roofing materials because they are the cheapest option around. However, some people have issues with them because of their environmental impacts.
Environmental Considerations during Manufacturing – By nature these materials are made with asphalt. In fact about 28% of the shingle is made out of asphalt (compared that to 6% of pavement is made from asphalt). But that’s not the only component that goes into them.

Asphalt shingles must source a lot of different materials. From fiberglass, to asphalt, to stone, to adhesives. The result is that there are a lot of materials that go into making an asphalt shingle, and there is a lot of energy used to make every shingle. But what most people don’t like about asphalt shingles is what happens when they are no longer needed.

LandfillEnvironmental Considerations during Disposal – It is possible to cover over old shingles with a layer of new shingles. However, most people will be better served to have the old roof torn off before a new one is put down. When an asphalt shingle is removed from the house, there is no recycling available (at least not in Billings, MT). Every shingle gets thrown away and ends up in the landfill. They end up sitting in the landfill slowly decomposing over the next 300 years.

Durability and Costs of Asphalt Shingles

As shingle technology improves every year, the lifespan of this roofing material improves greatly. But what we have to realize is that if there is a storm or other outside force (which there always is) the life of a shingle is greatly diminished. So when you read about the lifespan (often referred to as the “guarantee” period) you have to realize that it is in a controlled environment with minimally fluctuating temperatures.

If you were to look at a list of different shingles, you would see that some of them are labeled 15 year, 20 year, 30 year, or 50 year. These are the expected lifespan of the different products. Essentially the difference is that the longer a shingle is supposed to last, the thicker and more durable it is (a thicker shingle can withstand higher winds and heavier hail).

When you have a roof installed on your house, you can expect that roof to last about 20 years. Even if you have a 50 year shingle, it will most likely last about 20 years. Here in Billings we may get a hail storm and the shingle will only last 1 year, but aside from major weather events; 20 years is a reasonable estimate.

The thickness of the shingle isn’t the only difference between a 15 year and a 50 year. The longer they are designed to last, the more expensive they become. The difference is actually pretty high.

For Malarkey shingles, if you were to buy enough 30 year shingles to cover 1 square (a square is roofing lingo for 100 square feet, or a 10 foot by 10 foot section) it would cost $82. To cover that same square with 50 year shingles the price bumps up to $130. While you do get a small discount on your insurance for having the heavier duty shingles, it is generally not enough to make the upgrade worthwhile.

Asphalt Guide

Asphalt Shingle Manufacturers

There are a bunch of different manufacturers of asphalt shingles. But there are some that are a little better than others and those are the ones that we like to use on houses. Those manufacturers include:

Now keep in mind that there are plenty of other manufacturers out there. But these are the ones that not only have a quality product, but they are also available here in Billings. Depending on the area of the country, others may be available or not available.

Wood Shake Roofing

Long before asphalt shingles were used as roofing materials, houses around the world were topped with wood shakes. Barring exterior forces, a wooden shake is durable, long lasting, weather proof, and looks great on top of a house. Keep in mind that this is all about wood shakes, which are slightly different than wood shingles. Wood shingles are shingles that have been cut out of wood, a shake is a little more rustic in appearance.

A Brief History of Wood Shakes

Wood ShakesThe history of roofing materials dates back much further than most people realize. And roofing technology, while it has improved tremendously, hasn’t actually changed very much (at least when you look at the basics). Wood shakes have been used throughout Europe for many centuries. The reasons were many.

When a house was roofed with thatch, it had a lot of problems. An adequately thatched home would keep water from getting inside, but the thatch had to be made so thick that it became home to mice, bugs, and other creepy crawly things. So a method of roofing was developed that would solve those problems.

The wooden shake did just that. Shakes are strong and can hold up to heavy winds as well as small hail. When they are installed properly one shake will butt against another forming a tight seal. As it rains, the wood swells slightly making that seal even tighter.

This style of roofing a house really took off after North America was colonized. The materials to thatch, tile, or slate a roof weren’t around, so a wooden roof was needed. Early in the 1600’s the colonies started topping their homes with wood shakes.

What Type of Wood is Used?

Cedar TreeThe biggest problem with wood is that it tends to rot. This rot is exacerbated if bugs burrow in and make their home. In order to combat the problem of bugs and rotting boards, you need a roofing material that is made out of rot resistant wood. Barring exotic hardwoods, which would be far too expensive to use, there are only two choices for wood shakes: Redwood and Cedar.

Redwood and cedar are unique for a few different reasons. But both of these woods have one thing in common: insects don’t like to eat them. These woods have oils and chemicals in them, similar to formaldehyde, which prevents bugs from eating them. Without the constant gnawing from termites, ants, and other critters that like to make a meal of wood, these species of wood last a long time even when exposed to the elements.

To make a solid wood shake, only the heartwood is used. The softer sapwood deteriorates too quickly. For this reason, the price of wood shakes goes up. Here in the US there is a pretty standard size for wood shakes: 24 inches long and about 8 inches wide. The shake is thinner at the top (the part that is nailed to the roof) than at the bottom (the part exposed to the element) making it stronger. Shakes are hand split, or at least look hand split, to give each one a unique and rustic characteristic. They will fade from a reddish or golden color to gray as they are exposed to sunlight.

Environmental Factors of Using Wooden Shakes

One the one hand it may seem that wood has more of a negative impact on the environment than other roofing materials. But we must remember that wood is a renewable resource, there are far fewer chemicals needed to make them, and there is less energy devoted to each shingle.

When all is accounted for, wood actually becomes the material with the lowest impact on the environment. Even after a wood roof has been torn off, it can be made into bark chips, or simply thrown away and left to rot like any other organic compound. No air pollution, water pollution, and no clogging up the landfills for hundreds of years.

Durability and Costs of Wood Shingles

The interesting thing about wood is how incredible tough it is. An asphalt roof should theoretically last 50 years, but in reality it lasts about 20. A wood shake roof should theoretically last about 30 years, but it will probably only last 20. When it comes to the lifespan, an asphalt roof and a wood roof are pretty much equal.

The biggest problem with a wood roof, however, is not how long it will last or how tough it is. The biggest problem is that wood is flammable. If you have a chimney, there is always the chance that a spark will make its way out the top, land on the roof, and cause a fire on top of your house. For this reason insurance companies charge higher premiums for people with wood shake roofs, and sometimes they will refuse to insure the home at all. Some areas of the country even ban homes from having roofing materials made of wood.

Another deterrent from putting a wood shake roof on a house is the cost. Asphalt shingles can be mass produced in a factory, where wood shakes and shingles need to be cut individually. The result is that you have a roof that is much more expensive than an asphalt one.

If you were to put wood shingles on your house, it would run about $160-$400 per square (remember a square is a 10 foot by 10 foot section), depending on the style. If you put wood shakes on your house, you would be looking at $400 to $550 per square. Those prices are without labor, and just for the shakes. Add in the cost of the underlayment, flashing, drip edges, and labor, and you are looking at about double that price.

Wood Shakes Guide

Suffice to say that a wood shake roof costs 5 times as much as a roofed topped with asphalt shingles.

Tile Roofing Shingles

For many years roofing materials were made out of stone. This was a much stronger option that could withstand the elements. It was rot resistant, bug resistant, heavy so it wouldn’t blow away, and could withstand impacts. But stone is hard to come by in the right shape, so eventually humans started to make their own. They formed tiles that could be placed on the roof in order to shed the water and protect the home. This roofing material can’t be used everywhere, but it does have some practical purposes.

Geographic Use of Tile Shingles

Mission Roof TileTile shingles can be used in most U.S. locations. In fact roofing tiles are used in quite a few homes around the Billings area. But if you take a look at building styles around the country, and around the world, you will notice a few areas that rely on them more than others.

Roofing tiles are generally used in areas that are hot. The reason is simple: if you want to keep the interior of the house cool, have a lot of stone around the exterior. Stone is a great energy house. As the sun beats down on the tile roof all day long, those tiles get extremely hot. But that heat doesn’t pass through to the interior of the house readily. After the sun sets, the tiles stay hot to the touch for quite a while slowly letting their heat off into the night air.

If you look at homes in the American Southwest, you will find a lot of tile roofs. Around Billings it is more a stylistic element than a necessary component to keep the house comfortable.

Different Styles of Roofing Tiles

Tile roofs are generally thought of as just the mission style of tile. These look like a piece of paper that was brought in at the edges, and has a bit of a cup to it (on the far right in the picture below). While these are the most popular, they aren’t the only style of roofing tile around.

Roofing Tiles

Roofing tiles, like any other architectural aspect, changed depending on location. So if you were to go the American Southwest, you would see a lot of mission tiles. If you head to Southern France, you see French tiles. Italy has Roman tiles, Spain has Spanish, and so on. Keep in mind too that all of these tiles can come in a variety of colors; a little dye when mixing the clay and you can have any color you want.

Environmental Factors of a Tile Roof

Generally speaking, roofing tiles are made out of clay. Unlike asphalt shingles, which require crude oil to be processed as well as an extensive manufacturing process, and unlike wood shakes that require trees to be chopped down, clay tiles have a minimal impact on the environment.

Made from nearly all natural components, tiles are easy to source. If one is damaged it is easy to replace it, and the damaged tile can be crushed and formed into another tile. The tiles are energy efficient for the hot part of the summer, and aren’t any less efficient in the winter than their counterparts. Low maintenance, and long life make clay tiles an excellent choice for roofing materials. Of course, it has to fit the theme of your house, and since they are incredibly heavy, most homes wouldn’t be able to be retrofitted with clay tiles.

Durability and Cost of a Tile Roof

Clay tiles are some of the most durable roofing materials that you can buy. They are thick, heavy, and can withstand the elements. Without hurricane force winds, they won’t blow off the roof, and unless the hail gets especially large, you won’t have to worry about them breaking during a storm.

This durability leads to one of the best aspects of a tile roof. Most will last at least 50 years, and there are some reported to last up to 100 years. The longer lifespan is in the southwest where there is less rain and more hot days, but here in Billings you could expect your tile roof to stick around for 50 years.

Tile Guide

You will want your tile roof to last a long time. Clay tiles are expensive. If you get standard tile, you can expect costs to be roughly $1,000 per square. If you get something specialized, the price only goes up from there. At 10 times the cost of an asphalt roof, your clay tile roof is going to seriously drain the bank account. But since the roof will last 5 times as long, it’s not quite as hard to stomach.

Slate Roofing Shingles

roof-289318_1280There are areas of the world where clay tiles aren’t feasible. Despite their strength, a manufactured tile is going to eventually succumb to the elements; especially if there is a lot of rain or snow. But there are also many people that want to have a stone roof. In these instances they need a material that is natural, and will last for many years. Slate is one of the few naturally flat stones that work for this application.

Slate as a roofing material has been around for centuries. While the process has changed a little bit, the materials are largely the same as they always have been.

History of Using Slate Shingles

The first known instance of a slate roof comes from North Wales, England. This wet part of the world needed something that could withstand the elements, and wouldn’t rot away like a thatch roof did. So in the late 13th century, slate was being used on castles and churches. Most common houses would still use thatch because the slate shingles were expensive to buy, and incredibly time consuming to install.

Most buildings that were roofed in slate were those owned by the wealthy: royalty and the church. It wasn’t until the 19th century that slate started to be quarried in Spain, and the application of slate roofing was made available to most homes as material costs went down.

About that same time, slate started to be quarried here in the U.S. The mass production, and the immigration of skilled workers, allowed it to take off as a popular roofing material. But with the invention, and mass production of asphalt shingles, slate quickly declined in popularity as a roofing material. In Billings, Montana there are very few houses that use slate as a roofing material due to the cost, and the difficulty to install.

Different Styles of Slate Shingles

Unlike asphalt and clay roofing tiles, slate is subject to how nature produced it. This means that unless you have a slate-like product (man-made to look like slate), you are confined to what is available made by nature. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.

Most modern slate roofs use pieces of slate that have been cut and shaped into shingles. This means they have geometrically shaped edges, and from a distance they can actually tend to look like asphalt. When you get closer, however, you can see the different layers in the slate and some slight color variances (depending on the type of slate).

Slate Roof

Colors vary minimally with most slate having a charcoal gray color. However, there are some pieces that will incorporate some mixtures of browns and blacks. Manufactured slate can vary even more. Instead of just browns, grays, and blacks, these will have reddish, greenish, and bluish tints to them.

Environmental Impacts of a Slate Roof

Slate is one of the most environmentally friendly roofs you can put on your house. There are a number of slate mines around the country that have adapted sustainable mining techniques. After mined, the rock is shaped, and then it is ready for application to the house.

file0001540045549There are no chemicals used to make slate, no byproducts, and no factories pumping fumes into the atmosphere. Better yet, after you install a slate roof on your house, it will last for a significant amount of time. Most likely it will last longer than you live, and possibly longer than the structure underneath it. When the slate outlasts its building, it can be recycled.

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly roofing material, consider having a slate roof installed.

Durability and Costs of Slate Roofing

Slate is the most durable roofing material on our list. It doesn’t rot, it doesn’t decay, it won’t dent or ding, it takes an incredible amount of force to break, and it won’t blow away. After you have a slate roof installed, you can expect that it will still be there 75, 100, or more years from now. Long after you are gone, the roof will still be protecting the structure below it.

The biggest downside to slate is the cost. Retrofitting a house with slate is nearly impossible due to the added weight, so the building must be constructed with the intent of having a slate roof installed on top. Much like a clay tile roof, slate roofing materials take a special skill set to install, and that drives up the installation costs.

Slate Guide

For just the materials, you can expect to pay about $1,000 per square for your roof. The positive side is that most likely you will only pay for it one time; even your heirs will likely not have to replace it.

Metal Roofing Materials

In the past decade, metal roofing technology has come a long way. Many people are having metal installed because the prices have come down, the materials are a lot better, the application methods are better, and the options have opened up. Billings has a climate that is great for a metal roof, and just about any home will look great with a forever roof installed on it.

Metal Used in Roofing Materials

Metal Roof (2)You have likely heard of a tin roof. This old form of roofing was usually used on barns, silos, and sheds. It worked to cover the roof, but it had some downsides. Primarily was the fact that it didn’t last very long.

Today, metal roofs are made up of a variety of different metals and alloys.

The bulk of most metal roofs are made from steel. It is strong, relatively lightweight, and easy to mine and produce. But steel has one major downside: it tends to rust when exposed to the elements. So there is more to a metal roof than just steel.

The sheet of steel has a galvanized coating. This coating is generally made out of zinc, or sometimes zinc and aluminum (referred to as galvalume). This coating serves a very important purpose. When exposed to the elements, the zinc will oxidize first. As it deteriorates away, it forms a protective barrier over the steel, and it prevents the steel from oxidizing itself (in other words: it prevents the steel from rusting).

Now if the roof just had steel and was coated with a galvanizing agent, it would last a long time. But all metal roofs would be stuck with a shiny metal look to them. On top of the galvanizing coating, the sheet of metal undergoes a zinc phosphate treatment. This treatment adds one more layer of protection to help make sure that even the zinc or galvalume won’t oxidize.

After the phosphate treatment, a primer is sprayed onto the metal sheeting, and then a topcoat to make the metal just about any color that you can imagine. The final result is a long-lasting material that can be bent and shaped to cover your house.

Colors and Styles of Metal Roofing

Nearly all metal roofs undergo that process before they can be used as roofing materials (with the exception of some locations. For instance, near an ocean you have to use aluminum instead of steel or the salt water will destroy the steel quickly). But the metal doesn’t have to be just panels.

Seamless metal roofing panels are the most common types. Simply because they are the easiest to produce (they can be bent to shape on the job site), and they are the easiest to install. This means that your labor costs are diminished greatly.   Most people will be best served with a standard metal roof that is made in long panels.

But some people want the durability of metal, with the look of shingles, tiles, or slate. Metal technology has progressed far enough that this is now an option. Metal shingles can be produced, and coated so they look like asphalt, but have the durability of steel. They can be bent and shaped to look like clay tiles. Metal can be colored to look like copper, or like an old rusted roof. Shingles, panels, and tiles can be cut and shaped into just about any shape you can imagine.

Tile Metal Roof

This tile roof is actually made of metal. Photo Credit: Krzysztof Lis.

The bottom line is that metal roofing materials can use the durability and strength of metal, but look like any other kind of roofing material out there (except maybe thatch).

Shape isn’t your only limitation. Roofing materials made out of metal can come in just about any color you can imagine. Most common colors (blue, green, gray, rust, copper, etc.) are easy to come by. But if you spend enough money, you can have a customized color made just for your roof. Anybody interested in a bright pink or neon yellow roof?

Environmental Impacts of a Metal Roof

Metal is an abundant resource. But the manufacturing process does require considerable energy, and there are a number of chemicals used in coating the metal, painting it, and making sure it is ready for application. When compared to asphalt, however, there are no major downfalls in the manufacture of a metal roof.

What most people don’t realize when they have metal installed, however, is that they are doing a huge service to the energy efficiency of their home. Metal, even after it has been painted, is shiny. Unlike clay tiles that soak up the sun, and unlike asphalt that similarly absorbs those rays, metal tends to reflect it back into the sky. In fact, a metal roof will reflect back 2 to 3 times as much light as a traditional asphalt roof. If you have a white, or light colored, metal roof installed, you can see some serious energy savings.

Your metal roof should last longer than you do. However, if you do happen to need a replacement (suppose we get an especially large hail storm that comes through Billings), metal can be recycled. Most builders will recycle a steel roof (they can pay to have it dumped, or get paid to recycle it), but make sure you specify that you want your forever roof to be recycled.

Durability and Costs of a Metal Roof

Metal roofs are called forever roofs because they will essentially last forever. Asphalt tends to wear out after around 20 years. Metal will last about 3 times as long, needing replaced after 60 years (however, the latest in metal roof technology may mean they last even longer). Metal is durable, strong, and since the sheets of metal are big enough they can be fairly resistant to the wind (unless they’re not adhered properly around the edges).

Materials for a metal roof are still pretty expensive. You can expect to pay around $700 per square depending on the style that you choose. If you want metal shingles, or something fancier, that price only goes up.

Metal Guide

The benefit, however, is that metal is energy efficient, helping you save money every year. And your roof will last for many years to come. Combine that with low maintenance and aesthetic appeal, and choosing metal as your roofing material in Billings is going to be one of the best choices you can make for your home.

Membrane (Flat Roof) Roofing Materials

Most homes don’t have flat roofs. But in order to make this the complete guide to roofing materials, it should be included. While most homes don’t have flat roofs, there are a good number of businesses that do have them.

Flat roofs have some distinct benefits. The biggest is that the roof can act as sort of a storage space. Instead of placing an air conditioner behind the building, it can go up on top. Some apartment buildings even have the roof as the outdoor space for the residents (this requires a different kind of roof that is more durable to foot traffic).

When you would use Membrane Roofing

Membrane roofing materials have specific requirements. While it would probably work to put roofing membrane on a roof that has a 10:12 pitch (that means the roof drops 10 inches for every 12 inches you move horizontally), it wouldn’t be necessary.

When your roof drops to a 1:12 pitch or less, that is when you need to put a flat roof system on. This pitch is too low for shingles or metal; water and ice could easily push back up under those types of roofing material. For a roof that needs a membrane, there are a few different types to choose from.

12-12 Roof

Types of Membrane Roofing

Tar and Gravel – Tar and gravel roofs, also known as Built-Up Roof (BUR) is a cheap option for those who need to go flat. This is an older form of roofing, it’s not very efficient, and having loads of gravel on top of your house can tend to be heavy.

Modified Bitumen – Similar to ice and water shield – Link To Underlayment – , that sticky layer that goes down first to prevent water damage, a modified bitumen roof can peel and stick onto the top and form a seal. However, this type of roofing material isn’t very durable, and even just walking on the roof could end up tearing it.

EPDM Flat Roof – EPDM, which stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, is a type of rubber. In fact, if you were to feel it, it would feel like a bicycle inner tube. This common form of flat roof has been engineered to resist sun-rot (most rubber deteriorates in the sun), and can last for a long time. After the roof has been prepped (including adding an insulation that helps pad below the rubber), the EPDM roof is glued in place. Glue is rolled onto the roof, and the EPDM is rolled over the top of that.

TPO Roofing Membrane – Thermoplastic Polyolefin, or TPO, is a type of membrane that is used mainly on commercial buildings. They are designed to cover huge areas, and often come in white or light gray colors. When there is a seam where two pieces of TPO come together, they are “welded” together. This reinforces them even more than a simple glue seal would. This material is durable, long lasting, and strong.

Without going into detail, there are a few more minor flat roof materials that can be used. But they are so rarely applied, it’s not necessary to discuss them.

Environmental Impacts of a Flat Roof

There are a number of factors to include when determining how environmentally friendly a flat roof is. Different materials make a big difference in how they impact the environment.

EPDMDuring production, there are a number of chemicals and air pollutants that occur. Since synthetic rubber is a petroleum based product, it requires oil to produce, further exacerbating the dilemma. But what is more important is what is done with the materials after they have been torn off.

When a flat roof comes to the end of its life, the materials need to be discarded. And since there has been over 20 billion square feet of this stuff installed, it could pose a serious problem to the landfills. Fortunately, it can be recycled. It takes a little longer to tear it off of the roof if recycling is to be done, but it will benefit the environment tremendously to not simply discard it.

Considering that TPO roofs are white, they have another added benefit to the environment. Instead of soaking up the sun’s rays, the way that gravel and black EPDM do, it reflect those rays back into the sky. This means the building below stays cooler, and there is less energy needed to cool it during the summer.

A flat roof also makes a great place to install solar panels.

Durability and Cost of a Flat Roof

A properly installed flat roof shouldn’t have problems. And when they are installed, most contractors will guarantee them against leaks for a period of 10 or 20 years.

How long your roof lasts depends largely on the materials used. A BUR roof can last about 15 years, an EPDM should last about 15-20, and a TPO can last over 20.

That is about what you would expect if you are paying attention to the costs of materials through our big list here. The more durable and longer lasting the material, the higher the price will be.

If you plan to put on a built up roof, you can expect to pay about $100 per square for materials.

If you plan to put on an EPDM roof, you can expect to pay about $100 – $400 per square (depending on the quality of materials).

If you plan to put on a TPO roof, expect to pay $250 – $700 per square (again, depending on materials).

Flat Roof Guide

A flat roof has to have a membrane system. If you want your flat roof to last a long time, then it is worthwhile to pay extra for TPO considering all the benefits.

The Future of Roofing Materials

One of the most exciting things about installing roofing is that there are always new products coming out. New innovations shake up the market, new materials make a better and longer lasting shingle, and new methods make it easier to put a roof on a house.

Today, we are living in technological age. If you look back at the history of roofing materials, you see there were centuries where nothing changed. Slate was used for years and years, with no changes until the last few decades. Shingles have only been on the market for less than 100 years, and they have already gone through a number of iterations. Metal gets better and better with easier methods of bending, longer lasting coats, and cheaper manufacture. So what can we look forward to in the future of roofing materials?

Solar Shingles

Solar Shingles

This… is not a solar shingle

Harnessing the power of the sun is nothing new. In fact, ever since humans have been on the earth they have been using the sun to collect passive solar energy (you do it every time you open the curtains and let the light and warmth into your house). But even converting sunlight into electricity isn’t exactly new science. It was first discovered by a French physicist way back in 1839. Yes, almost 180 years ago. This science, however, has only recently become more common. There are more efficient ways of manufacturing solar panels, and the importance of using renewable energy is more prevalent.

One thing that we can look forward to in years to come is the integration with solar panels into shingles. This technology isn’t as far away as many might think. In fact, it has already been on the market for over a decade.

Solar shingles were made available to the general public in 2005. The idea is that they let people have photovoltaic cells on top of their house, without the traditional bolt on methods. Your house looks mostly the same, but some of the shingles are made from solar panels instead of traditional asphalt.

They are expensive though. A 3,000 square foot house will run about $25,000. Even with rebates, and the fact that your electricity bill will be cut roughly in half; there is still a large up-front cost.

The other downside: no indication on how well they will hold up to a hailstorm.

Self-Healing Shingles

This one is likely a lot further into the future, but not entirely impossible. In the past few years, scientists have discovered a material that is almost just like glass. Except for one major difference: it can repair itself. The original idea was to be incorporated into airplane wings, but further research will make it a viable option for cell phone screens. Small scratches and even fractures will fuse back together on their own.

A logical step is to incorporate this material into building components. Using a self healing material, a company could manufacture shingles that protect the roof, generate electricity, and have the ability to repair themselves in the event of a minor hailstorm. Obviously large hail can obliterate them, but smaller storms wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

Insulating Shingles

Most shingles now provide very minimal insulation. The roof is an obvious place to improve insulation since heat rises, and that would be the area that needs the most protection in the winter (to keep the heat inside the house) and in the summer (to keep the heat outside the house).

A company that is intent on being the forefront of the shingle business could design and manufacture a shingle that has some sort of R-value. The value doesn’t have to be much, even if it was just 1 or 2 would be a whole lot more than what is being used now.

Currently the only option to improve the insulation on your roof is to add a layer of Styrofoam under the roofing deck. This does improve the heat retention of the house, but it adds a lot of work to the re-roofing job.

J&J Construction Installs Most Types of Roofs

Here at J&J Construction, we love taking a house that is worn down, and restoring its image. If your roof has been damaged in a hail storm, or has simply worn out, we can replace it. We will work with you, your insurance company, and your budget in order to get you a roof that you love, and that will last for a long time (barring another hail storm of course).

While we would love to tackle any type of roof you want on your house, there are some that we simply cannot do. For instance, we aren’t going to put a thatch roof on your house. It’s too specialized, and it likely wouldn’t last long here in Montana.

We do, however, install a lot of asphalt shingles, and a lot of metal roofs. If you are in the market for a new roof, we would encourage you to put on metal. The reason is that it simply lasts longer. As the homeowner, you get to make the final decision as to color, texture, style, shape, and ultimately how expensive the roof ends up being.

Ready to get started? Call us at 406-697-1494 to get a quote on your new roof today!

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