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Understanding Roof Coverings: A Guide for Homeowners

Roof coverings are a crucial aspect of any home's construction, providing protection from the elements while also contributing to its aesthetic appeal. This guide aims to equip homeowners with essential knowledge about different types of roof coverings, their characteristics, and key factors to consider when choosing the right option for their homes.

When it comes to sloped roof coverings, several types are available, each with its own pros and cons. Asphalt shingles, for example, are the most commonly used due to their affordability and ease of installation. However, they tend to be less durable and may suffer from issues such as fading, cracking, and algae growth over time, typically lasting between 10 to 20 years.

Metal shingles or sheets offer durability, lightweight construction, and fire resistance, making them a popular choice for many homeowners. Despite their advantages, they can be prone to denting and corrosion and may produce more noise during rainstorms. Their lifespan averages around 50 years.


Wood shingles, appreciated for their natural look and insulating properties, require more maintenance to prevent problems like rot, insect infestation, and mold. While they offer an appealing aesthetic, they are among the more expensive options and typically last about 30 years.


Slate shingles are renowned for their elegance and longevity; they come with a hefty price tag and require careful, skilled installation and a stronger structure due to their weight and brittle nature. Their typical lifespan is up to 100 years.


Clay shingles, known for their vibrant colours and energy efficiency, are another high-quality option. They offer excellent durability and fire resistance but are relatively expensive and fragile, necessitating specialized installation methods. Their lifespan is typically around 50 years.


When it comes to flat roof coverings, several types are available, each with its own pros and cons. Built-up roofing (BUR) is one of the oldest types of flat roof covering and consists of multiple layers of asphalt-impregnated felt or fibreglass reinforced with bitumen. These layers are alternated with hot-applied bitumen or asphalt and topped with a layer of gravel or mineral granules for protection. They offer excellent durability and can be maintained to extend their lifespan but are heavy, requiring skilled installation and posing potential fire hazards during installation due to the use of hot asphalt.  They may be more prone to leaking if the layers aren't correctly sealed. The lifespan is 20 to 30 years.

Modified bitumen roofing is a newer type of flat roof covering and consists of asphalt roofing material reinforced with fibreglass or polyester mats. It's installed in multiple layers and sealed with heat or cold adhesives. Modified bitumen roofing offers excellent durability and flexibility; however, it requires professional installation and periodic maintenance to ensure long-term performance and prevent issues such as blistering or cracking. The lifespan is 20 to 30 years.


Green roofing is relatively new and the most environmentally conscious type of flat roofing and involves the installation of vegetation, soil, and drainage layers on a flat roof surface. It provides natural insulation, reduces stormwater runoff, and improves air quality. Green roofs can last up to 50 years or more with proper maintenance and are beneficial for both the environment and the homeowner.


Solar panels and shingles are an innovative option for those interested in sustainable energy solutions. While they can help reduce energy costs and minimize environmental impact, they are expensive and complex to install, and their effectiveness is weather-dependent, with a lifespan of about 25 years.

Several factors should be considered when selecting the right roof covering for your home. Consider your region's climate, as certain roof types perform better in specific weather conditions. Assess your budget, as costs can vary significantly among different materials. Additionally, choose a roof covering that complements your home's architectural style and consider the level of maintenance you're willing to undertake. If environmental concerns are essential, opt for sustainable options that align with your values.


The lifespan of roof coverings varies depending on various factors, including material, climate, and installation quality. While metal shingles and sheets, clay tiles, and built-up roofing can last for several decades or more, asphalt shingles have a shorter lifespan of about 10 to 20 years.


Regular inspections, prompt repairs, debris removal, and applying protective coatings are essential to extend the lifespan of your roof coverings. Be vigilant for common problems such as blistering, curling, cracking, granule loss, raised shingles, and thermal splitting, and address them promptly to prevent further damage.

If considering solar panels for your shingle roof, ensure that your roof can support the additional weight and wind load. Consider factors such as roof orientation, pitch, system type and size, as well as installation and maintenance costs, to make an informed decision that best suits your needs, space, and budget.


By understanding these factors and carefully weighing your options, you can confidently select the most suitable type of shingles for your home, ensuring both durability and aesthetic appeal for years to come.


Accurate Building Inspections Inc. inspects your roof and shingles during your home inspection (*subject to weather conditions during the inspection). If you have any questions, please contact us. We are happy to help.

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