Home » Roof Buying Guide I: Choosing the Right Roof

Roof Buying Guide I: Choosing the Right Roof

If you’re considering buying a new roof, be prepared to choose from a myriad of possibilities, from familiar materials to materials you’ve never known. In this article, we’ll help you become more familiar with your options and the features you should consider when comparing one. We will then provide you with more detailed information on each roofing material.

Some roofing materials, such as slate, wood rods and copper, have changed little over the centuries. But quite a few other roofing materials have joined their ranks, from perennial favorite asphalt fiberglass to newer offerings made from fiber cement, concrete and plastic composites. Most of these have been developed over the past few decades with an eye toward greater durability, easier installation, lower cost, sustainability and other features homeowners want.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The trick is sorting through the many options and identifying the right one for your roof.

Slate roof against blue sky

What to consider?

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of replacing existing material with newer versions of the same things. While this often makes sense because you know your existing materials have worked fine until recently, you may be missing out on an opportunity to upgrade the look and function of your home’s roof. Consider the following:

Weather Barrier

Roofing materials must be able to handle any weather.

Because your home’s roof is the main barrier between you and nature, it’s crucial to choose a material that will reliably protect your home. It must shed rain and snow, withstand the wind, and endure years of sunshine. Depending on your climate and the shape and orientation of your roof, certain materials will do a better job than others.

The slope is determined by how much the roof rises over a 12-inch length.

Roof Slope

The slope of the roof surface is a consideration and may eliminate some roof possibilities, especially if the slope is low. The pitch of a roof is the number of inches it rises per 12-inch horizontal “run”. For example, a roof with a “4-in-12 slope” will rise 4 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal extension.

“Pitch” is another way of expressing slope, using fractions. Based on the height (height) of the roof and the span (width), the pitch is the height of the span. For example, if your house is 38 feet wide and your gable roof has a 1-foot overhang on each side, it has a span of 40 feet. From the eaves to the top, it’s 10 feet high – that’s the ascent. Figure 10/40 and reduce it to 1/4. It has 1/4 spacing.

Most shingles, tile, and slate-like materials are approved for roofs with slopes of 4 in. 12 or steeper. Low-slope or flat-slope roofs must be of seamless materials such as packed tar and gravel or sprayed polyurethane foam. If not, they will leak when water accumulates on the surface.


Because roofs are often very visible from the street, the appearance of the roofing material can often greatly affect the appearance of a home. The color, texture and type of material should match your home’s exterior finish and style.

Spanish tiles only belong in Spanish or Mediterranean style homes.

Stay true to your home’s architectural style. Don’t put Spanish tile on a Colonial, shingle on a Spanish, or metal roof on a ’60s ranch. In other words, choose a material that matches your home’s design style.

That doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the source material. Most new products mimic the look of the original roof. Fiber cement tiles look like wood or slate. Metal and concrete look like tile or wood. NOTE: Some materials are better at mimicking than others, so be sure to see how the product will look on an actual roof (not a photo of the roof).

Hue can be an issue. Light colored roofs reflect more heat than dark colored roofs. If you live in a hot climate, consider light shades. Conversely, if you live in an area where increased heat is more favorable, consider darker shades.


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