Asphalt shingles are popular because they blend looks, longevity, and a reasonable price, and they’re typically the easiest to install, saving you money on labor costs as well. Specialty roofing materials like slate, tile, or metal tend to cost much more, but they can also last much longer—and they look nicer; however, we also offer information about these two alternatives.

Asphalt Roofing Shingles

Approx. Price: $65 to $350 per square

Durability: 15 – 30 years (according to Consumer Report)  

Asphalt shingles are made of fiberglass sandwiched between asphalt and ceramic granules. The fiberglass provides strength, while the asphalt, often mixed with minerals, is waterproof. The ceramic granules give shingles their color and also help deflect UV light, which has damaging effects. Relatively lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to install, asphalt shingles are the best choice for most houses. They come in sheets that are layered on a roof to give the illusion of more expensive single shingles, such as cedar and slate, that are installed one shingle at a time. 

Asphalt shingles fall into three basic categories. Standard, entry-level 3-tab shingles are the cheapest and thinnest.

Faux Slate Roofing Shingles

Approx. Price: $310 to $500 per square

Durability: 20 – 50 years.

This composite material looks like the real thing, even close up, but costs a lot less. And it weighs about the same as asphalt, so there’s no need to beef up the roof structure, as you would have to do with slate. Made of a variety of compositions, including plastic/polymer, clay, rubber, or asphalt, fake slate is more slippery than real slate—if you live in a snowy climate, consider installing snow guards to prevent sheets of ice from sliding down and hurting someone. Some faux slate may fade or crack under impact. Because it’s a manufactured product, with a nailing strip, most roofing contractors can install it. (Only a skilled mason can install real slate.) The warranties on faux slate roofing are generally comparable to those for asphalt shingles.

Metal Roofing

Approx. Price: $850 to $1,140 per square (for steel)

Durability: 50 – 100 years.

Metal roofing comes in steel, aluminum, copper, and alloy strips, and in various shapes and textures. Copper is especially expensive. Over time, copper acquires a greenish patina that some people find attractive. Metal roofing can be slick, just like slate, so consider installing snow guards in cold climates to prevent sheets of ice from sliding off and hurting someone. A metal roof can be noisy during a rainstorm as drops of water ping against it. In the past, we’ve tested steel roofing and found that it can dent fairly easily, but options with a textured surface tend to mask small dents and dings quite well. Metal roofing effectively reflects the sun’s rays, so it keeps your home cooler in summer—a benefit in hot climates. Make sure you hire a contractor who is familiar with the material because installing metal is very different from putting on asphalt shingles. 

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