What’s the Best Roofing Type for Your Area?

by Lauren PezzulloJune 30, 2017

If you’re anything like most homeowners, you don’t think a lot about your roof until it’s time for a new one. Suddenly you realize how much you need that protective coating of tar and shingles. It’s what shelters your home and belongings, protects your family, and fends off the effects of every type of weather.

With that much at stake, it makes sense that you’d want to pick the right kind of roofing material. After all, if your roof is going to be exposed daily to the hazards of the local climate, you need something that can stand up to the elements. Here’s how you can select the right surface for your area’s weather and get plenty of protection when you have it installed.

Metal Roofing: One of the Most Durable Materials Around

Sturdy metal roofing makes a wise choice for a number of harsh conditions. Metal roofs resist heavy winds and easily bear the brunt of ice and snow in cold climates. In many cases, snow slides off the surface, meaning your roof doesn’t have to carry the heavy burden of snowfall for days or even weeks, depending on how bad the winters are in your area. Standing seam metal roofs, in particular, are less leak-prone than corrugated tin, which makes them ideal for snowy conditions.

But metal roofs are also very popular in hot weather climates, thanks to their ability to withstand the sun’s heat. Punishing solar heat can crack or break less durable materials, such as asphalt shingles. Light-colored metal roofs reflect heat and offer an extended lifespan, which makes them well worth the additional materials cost, especially in warm climates.

Clay, Slate, Concrete: Tiles Are a Popular Choice to Avoid Solar Heat

When you think terracotta roofs, you probably think about somewhere hot: the sizzling haciendas of Mexico or sprawling Mediterranean homes complete with open-air courtyards. And there’s a very good reason for that association. The traditional barrel shape of terracotta tiles allows for air circulation below, which cools the tiles throughout the day. Light-colored clay tiles don’t absorb as much solar heat as dark-colored materials, so they maintain lower surface temperatures than dark asphalt shingles.

Slate has a similar effect. Light-colored slate reflects heat, naturally cooling home interiors below. Slate is impressively durable and resists degradation from high heat and humidity. However, both slate and clay tiles are fairly expensive. Homeowners looking for a more budget-friendly warm-climate alternative will find it in concrete tiles. Cement tiles are baked, which makes them intensely resistant to heat and incredibly strong and fireproof to boot. Tiles in a light, reflective “cool color” have added heat resistance.

Spray Foam Roofing: An Excellent Choice for Rapidly Changing Weather

Homes located in desert climates like those found in Southern California and Arizona often experience a condition known as thermal shock. It’s when rain falling on sun-baked roofs cools surface temperatures rapidly, resulting in cracks and damaged roofing.

For this reason, modern materials like spray polyurethane foam, or SPF, have made an appearance, especially on homes with contemporary architectural features such as flat roofs. SPF is flexible enough to withstand damage from rapidly shrinking surfaces, making it an ideal choice for areas with a variety of weather extremes. Bring on the rain!

Asphalt Treated with Algaecides: Humid Climates Meet Their Match

Asphalt may not be the best choice for every climate, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its place. Asphalt is durable and cost-effective, and it’s an ideal material for mild, humid climates. However, this type of weather can spur algae growth if you’re not careful, eventually degrading roofs and causing leaks and interior water damage.

Any wet-climate home with an asphalt roof should go with algae-resistant shingles, a specialized type of asphalt roofing that includes around ten percent copper granules. In some locations with humid climates, such as counties in Florida, these kind of algae-resistant shingles are even specified in the building code. You can also prevent algae and moss growth by cleaning your roof with a 1:1 solution of laundry soap and water, and by trimming back trees around your roof and cleaning your gutters at least twice a year.

Fireproof Surfaces: A New Concern for Dry Climates

Thanks to global warming, we’ve seen a rise in global fire activity, particularly in drier parts of the American West. Scientists estimate that if things continue, we’ll see average summer highs that are 3.6 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher by mid-century, with a 15 percent drop in rainfall, creating ideal conditions for forest fires.

Homeowners in drought-prone areas can protect themselves by installing fire-resistant or fireproof roofing. For instance, many metal roofs are extremely fire-resistant and will not cave in like tiled roofs will when engulfed in flames. Slate, too, is virtually indestructible and can withstand incredibly high temperatures. If fire safety is of concern in your area, these materials offer a little peace of mind.

If you decide you like one material over another, you’ll want to connect with a roofer who specializes in installing that product. Many roofers demonstrate a preference for one type over another, and you don’t want to choose an asphalt guy to put in your standing seam metal roof.

However, just like any other part of your home, when you’re replacing your roof, you have options. Keeping your home protected is just one—albeit an important—part of the equation. You’ll also want to weigh other factors, such as your home’s architectural appearance and your own budget before you make your final decision. When it comes to your roof, the choice is all yours!

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About The Author
Lauren Pezzullo
Lauren Pezzullo is a writer, editor, and musicophile who's passionate about vegetarianism and sustainable eating. As an editor for Modernize, she writes about energy-efficient living in the home. She's currently writing her debut novel.

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