April 13

Beyond Asphalt Shingles: Your Quick Guide to Roof Types


There’s a market for everything and roofs are no different. We all know they come in a myriad of
shapes and sizes, but there is plenty of selection for what you want them to look like and be
made of as well.

You are probably very familiar with asphalt shingles; far and away the most
common finishing material for roofing all around the country, but there are plenty more than just
the traditional shingles we have come to know as ubiquitous.
We will give you a quick rundown on some asphalt alternatives, what their benefits are, and why
you may or may not want to choose them as a finishing material for your roof.

Steel Roofs

Steel roofs have been growing in popularity at breakneck speeds. Steel combines the benefits
of being lightweight, easy to install, affordable, and finally (and perhaps most importantly),

The same reasons that steel is preferred in construction is what makes it such a great roofing
material. You know as well as we do that Utah can have wicked weather and a roof that can not
only survive it, but thrive in it, is worth its weight in gold.
Steel roofs are simple in their design. They are large sheets of steel laid on your roof and then
are mechanically bonded together using special tools. There is little to no adhesives and they
are as waterproof as any other system when installed properly. They’re a top-notch roof that’s
perfect for any house.

They can be expensive depending on the gauge of steel that you get, but sometimes they are
much easier to install, which saves on labor costs. One larger drawback that some people have
noted is that they are very loud when it rains. The hard steel is unforgiving in the sound
department when getting pelted with drops of rain, while some consider it non-issue, for some it
may be a deal breaker. Try to check one out before making a final decision.
Steel has the added benefit of not requiring venting, making it ideal for those who like to tightly
insulate their house or work for passive home standards and also does well with exterior
insulation. Steel also sheds snow very efficiently, allowing large sections of snowpack to simply
slide right off on a sunny day (watch out below, though).

Tile Roofs

Tile roofs have found a welcoming home in the desert southwest. Sparsely in use anywhere
except hot climates, tiles are a naturally great choice for most of Utah. Their rounded elegance
usually lands them on luxury or HOA controlled builds, but can be found pretty much anywhere
if you’re looking for them.

Tiles are domed shingles made from the same thing that all tiles are made from: clay. Fired at
high temperatures, they’re incredibly durable and heat resistant. Tiles, because of their dense
mass have two larger drawbacks, they retain a decent amount of heat even after the sun goes
down and are incredibly heavy for a roofing material. But even though they retain heat, their
domed shape allows them to vent efficiently, unlike asphalt.
Their weight can be problematic as well if you’re not framing with them in mind, while not as
heavy as slate (which we’ll get to) they’re still more than regular shingles. The added benefit of
all this weight and density? They keep sound out. Unlike steel, which amplifies rain sounds, tiles
make it so you can hardly hear there’s precipitation.
Unfortunately, tile is brittle and can break easier if something falls on it, however, these
occasions are rare and shouldn’t be given too much consideration if you’re thinking about a tile

You will also need to check that the pitch of your roof is suitable for tiles, lower sloped roofs
don’t benefit as much and may not work for tile. You can ask a pro whether or not they’ve roofed
tile and if you’re roofline would be a good fit.
We will say it’s hard to beat the look of a nice tiled roof. There’s a reason they have been used
for centuries, they look great, and stand up well to time!

Slate Roofs

Of all the roofing types, if you are looking for the heavyweight champion, slate takes home the
gold. Slate is literally stone manufactured to be a roofing material. It has all the same benefits of
tile along with the drawbacks, but there’s one thing for sure, they’ll last a long time.
Slate roofs are great for those who are concerned about the environmental impact of their roof.
No nasty adhesives or other chemical components during manufacturing because it’s just stone!
It’s cut and ready to install on your roof. This process obviously will take a decent amount of
time meaning that both labor and materials will be much more than any of the other roofing systems we’ve mentioned. However, if it is the aesthetic you’re looking for, nothing else will do
the trick and look as good.

We said tiles were heavy, but slate takes the cake. You will need to make sure that your roof
trusses can take the weight of a slate roof before you apply it. If need be, check with an
engineer because the last thing you want is under framing. Your roof can sag or crack if you
didn’t take the time to frame it properly.

Green Roofs

While not every roof style can benefit from a green roof, many modern, flat-top houses can.
Simply put, there is absolutely no better option for mitigating heat than a green roof. You will
need to make sure the structure of your roof can take the weight of the moisture-laden soil, but
they are fantastic options for truly going green and keeping your roof cool. These living canopies
are second to none at preventing heat from making its way into a house which is a big win on
saving energy and ultimately reducing your carbon footprint.

You will likely need to work with a specialist to get your green roof sorted out. It requires an
intimate knowledge of the right type of plants and soil to maximize its installation. You’ll also pay
a decent amount, but if you’re considering it to begin with, we’re confident money isn’t going to
be too big of a hang up!
While usually found on commercial buildings, homeowners are also adopting them. Some
countries have gone as far as to mandate them for new commercial builds so the market is
certainly growing for them.

Cedar Shakes

Cedar shakes were the default for roofing in the United States in days past. Cedar is abundant,
renewable, resilient, and attractive. Cedar roofs can last as long as, if not longer, than traditional
asphalt shingles but they have the added benefit of breathing and allowing your roof to shed
heat quickly. The natural wood fibers and lightweight nature are great for protecting your roof
and making it a bit cooler in the summer. While proponents say they can last as long as any
other roof if cared for properly, you’ll have to do the maintenance to get it to that point. They’re
also the target of woodpeckers which can leave penetrations allowing for water and bugs.
Still, if it’s a historic look you’re aiming for, Cedar shakes are hard to beat. There are plenty of
cedar trees in this part of the country, so prices could be more comparable (but still expensive).
You have likely seen them out in the northeast where they are ubiquitous with early colonial development, but again, for environmental reasons, they’re making a solid comeback into the
residential market.

Utah is one state where you want to get your roof right and make sure that it’s doing the proper
job of protecting your house. Punishing sun and wind along with some nasty winters will really
take a toll on your canopy.
All the standard types of roofs: asphalt, tile, metal, slate, have their benefits and drawbacks. All
roof finishing products are designed to take the toughest of conditions and have all been
approved by the state building code for use. It’s largely up to you to investigate their pros and
cons and to decide what you want to go with and what fits within your budget.
As with roofing styles discussed previously, aesthetics need to be taken into consideration, as
it’s one of the most visible parts of your home. But know that almost all finishing materials come
in a wide variety of colors and styles, so whatever you end up deciding on, you should be able
to find something that fits your taste.


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