Asphalt Shingles. . .are the most economical (and most popular) roofing material today. Asphalt comes in dozens of colors and several textures, with a variety of warranties from 15 to 30 years. An upgrade would be the architectural shingle, which is at least twice as thick, casts shadow lines and is created to duplicate the look of slate, tile or cedar shakes. Many pros suggest going with this higher-end investment. "Nothing ruins the look of a log home more than an inexpensive shingle roof," suggests Mike Loy, vice president of design at Southland Log Homes in Irmo, South Carolina. "Instead, choose something with three dimensions that will add texture to the design." Asphalt shingles are either organic or inorganic. Inorganic fiberglass earns a "Class A" rating (meaning its able to withstand severe fire exposure). Organic shingles, made from wood pulp, generally earn a “Class C” rating, but they often perform better in extreme climates than their inorganic brethren. Designed for easy maintenance and repair, common three-tab asphalt shingles run from $30 per square up to $150 per square for architectural grade.
Wood Shakes and Shingles. . .One of the few options made from renewable resources, wood roofing (which makes up 2 percent of the market) weathers over time to a soft gray patina. Generally, a shingle is sawn on both sides and is thinner at the butt than a shake, which is typically split on one or both sides. Cedar is the most common species used, though Eastern white and Southern yellow pine are also popular. Producers offer different products to suit various climates (hot, cold, humid, dry). Some wood shakes come pretreated with preservatives from the factory; others may have to be periodically treated with an oil preservative at your home site. Warranties can range from 18 to 50 years. Wood shakes and shingles generally run $120 to $200 per square.
Metal. . .roofing systems are the second most popular option for today’s new homes. Available in more colors and textures than you might imagine (think barn red and granular sandstone), metal roofing comes as shakes, shingles, tiles or vertical panels. It's popular because it doesn't burn, rot, warp or split — and many suppliers offer 50-year warranties. Metal roofs shed rain and snow like a champ — and require little if any maintenance. Options include steel (both stainless and galvanized), zinc, copper, aluminum, and a new assortment of alloys. One example is Zalmag, a combination of zinc, aluminum and magnesium offered by Millennium Tiles in Barrington, Illinois. According to Millennium Tiles president Walter Hauk, Zalmag tiles have the ability to "heal" themselves if cut or exposed to rust. "The secret is in the shingle's coating, which migrates across the surface to seal cuts and stop corrosive action," he says. Metal roofing ranges from $150 to $850 per square, depending on the type of metal.
Ceramic, Clay and Concrete. . .tiles resemble half cylinders (or barrels) about a foot-and-a-half long. They can also resemble shingles or slate roofing. In the olden days, clay tiles were painstakingly made by hand and dried in the sun. Today they are machine molded, kiln fired and glazed to reduce porosity. An inexpensive option is concrete or fiber-cement tile, which costs about half as much as genuine terra cotta. These can be made to look like Old World clay tiles, as well as wood shakes. Both striking and durable, cement-based products are increasingly used in fire-prone areas — and some manufacturers offer warranties of up to 80 years. But note, they may not be warrantable in all climates and can be extremely heavy and labor-intensive to install. As a result, these heavy tiles will likely increase your framing specifications and costs. The average price per square is about $100 for concrete, $250 for fiber-cement and $350 for terra cotta.
Slate and Faux Slate. . .More than a century ago, slate was used on everything from public buildings to mansions in the Northeast. Now it’s a specialty material known for its metamorphic green, gray and red tones, as well as its rock-solid durability. More common today is faux slate, an engineered composite made from recycled rubber and plastic. These shingles are a third of the weight of real slate (saving on increased framing costs) and offer warranties up to 50 years or more. Cost is about $350 to $450 a square.