7 Best Roofing Materials for Durability & Longevity (2023 Review)

7 Best Roofing Materials for Durability & Longevity (2023 Review)

In this EcoWatch guide on best roofing material, you’l learn:

  • What the best roofing materials are
  • How each roofing material compares to one another
  • The sustainability, longevity and cost of the materials
  • How to choose the best roofing material for your home

This guide has helped many homeowners learn about different roofing materials and figure out which option is the best for their home. Fill out your zip code below to get a personalized quote on roofing options near you.

Choosing The Best Roofing Material

Maintaining and remodeling a home can be a long and tedious process. Trying to improve your home sustainably can complicate the process even more. That’s why EcoWatch strives to find home improvement solutions for the eco-conscious homeowner.

If you’re wondering what the best roofing material is for a new roof, roof repair or any other roofing services, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss roofing materials in depth, comparing their environmental impacts, costs, longevity and more.

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Power Home

Best Overall

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Positive industry reputation
  • Lifetime or lengthy warranty
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Uses eco-friendly materials
  • Well-trained, certified installers
  • Variety of roofing styles available

Cons

  • Limited variety of roofing materials
  • Short or nonexistent warranty
  • No financing information available
  • Expensive
  • Little information available on company website
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Erie Metal Roofs

Best for New Roofs

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Lifetime or lengthy warranty
  • Widespread availability
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Uses eco-friendly materials
  • Financing options available
  • Well-trained, certified installers
  • Uses durable materials meant to last
  • Variety of roofing styles available

Cons

  • Limited variety of roofing materials
  • Expensive
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Aspen Contracting

Most Eco-Friendly

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Positive industry reputation
  • Lifetime or lengthy warranty
  • Widespread availability
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Financing options available

Cons

  • Little information available on company website

What Are the Best Roofing Materials?

From asphalt to wood shake, metal to solar tiles, there are so many different roofing materials to choose from — and it’s an important choice.

There are many considerations when it comes to choosing the best roofing material, and what’s best for your home may not be what’s best for your neighbors. 

Aesthetics aside, you’ll want to consider factors like material weight, durability, longevity, cost, warranty and sustainability.

We’ll discuss each roofing material in more depth in this article, but the table below will give you a general idea of how each material compares when it comes to longevity and cost.

Roof Material Estimated Lifespan Cost
Asphalt Shingle 10 to 35 years $
Wood Shingles 25 to 30 years $$
Wood Shake 35 to 40 years $$
Metal Roofing 40 to 75 years $$
Clay / Concrete Tiles 50 to 100 years $$$
Slate Roofing 100+ years $$$$
Solar Shingles / Solar Glass 25 to 30 years $$$$

 

Asphalt Shingles

best roofing materials asphalt shingles
Credit: JamesBrey / Getty Images

Asphalt is the most popular roofing material, mostly because of its vast availability and affordability. The majority of asphalt shingle roofs are made up of the following materials:

  • Asphalt (a semi-solid form of petroleum)
  • Fiberglass
  • Stone granules (slate, schist, quartz or ceramic)
  • Sealant
  • Release film

However, not all asphalt roofing options are equal. Some are cheaply made, while others — often called composite shingles — contain more of the stone granules component, making them more durable. 

Always check for the material’s hail rating, which offers a good indication of its durability.

Pros

  • Tons of colors available
  • Least expensive
  • Widely available
  • Recyclable
  • DIY roofing option

Cons

  • Shorter lifespan
  • Quality and durability can vary
  • Least sustainable option
  • Retains heat, decreasing the energy efficiency of your home

House Styles

Asphalt shingles come in many different varieties and colors — including architectural styles that appear patterned, offering some aesthetic variety — so they’re a great option for any style of roof, especially typical suburban homes.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

Asphalt shingles typically cost around $5 per square foot to install. Taking the average U.S. roof size of 1,700 square feet, it would cost around $8,500 to professionally install an asphalt shingle roof.

Asphalt shingles have an average lifespan of 10 to 35 years, varying greatly based on manufacturer quality.

We don’t recommend buying the cheapest asphalt shingle option, because more often than not, it will lack quality and durability. If your asphalt architectural shingles need to be replaced in a decade or so, you’ll be spending a lot more on re-roofing costs and generating a lot more waste in the long run.

Environmental Impact of Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are not the most eco-friendly roofing choice, as they’re made from a petroleum-based material. Asphalt also retains heat more than any other roofing material, which can make your home less energy efficient and drive up your electricity costs.

On a positive note, asphalt shingles are recyclable and many of the best roofing companies will recycle old shingles for you.

Wood Shingles

Wood Shingle best roofing materials
Credit: John C Magee / Getty Images

Wood shingles are thin pieces of wood sawn off from logs. They’re 100% natural and typically made of fire-resistant woods, such as cedar, redwood or southern pine.

Pros

  • Offer an attractive, rustic look
  • Renewable, biodegradable and recyclable
  • Manufacturing wood is less carbon-intensive than other roofing materials1
  • Tend to last longer than asphalt shingles, especially in mild climates
  • More energy efficient than other materials

Con

  • While fire-resistant, they can be a hazard and are prohibited in locations prone to wildfires
  • More susceptible to mold, mildew, split or rot and therefore not recommended in wet climates
  • Requires more maintenance than asphalt shingles
  • May attract bugs
  • Requires professional installation

House Styles

Due to its rustic appearance, wood roofing is a great option for beach bungalows, cottages or Tudor-style homes.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

Wood shingles are more expensive than asphalt shingles, but still a relatively affordable roofing option. On average, wood shingles cost between $6 and $11 per square foot to install, putting installation estimates between $10,200 to $18,700 for the typical 1,700-square foot roof.

Wood shingles typically last between 25 to 30 years, but in the right climate with proper cleaning and maintenance, they can last upwards of 50 years.

Environmental Impact

Wood is biodegradable, renewable and recyclable, which makes it one of the more sustainable roofing materials. Just make sure you’re buying responsibly sourced wood and not supporting illegal deforestation.

Wood Shakes

tile shingles best roofing materials
Credit: ClassicStock / Contributor / Getty Images

Wood shakes are thicker and more textured than wood shingles, making them a bit more durable and long-lasting. Instead of being sawn off a block of wood, wood shakes are usually split using a blade or mallet.

Pros

  • More durable and sun-resistant than wood shingles
  • Offer an attractive, rustic look
  • Renewable, biodegradable and recyclable
  • Manufacturing wood is less carbon-intensive than other roofing materials2
  • Last longer than asphalt or wood shingles
  • Offer good insulation, improving your home’s energy efficiency

Cons

  • More expensive than wood shingles
  • Requires professional installation, leading to higher costs
  • While fire-resistant, wood shakes can be a fire hazard and are prohibited in locations prone to wildfires
  • More susceptible to mold, mildew, split or rot and therefore not recommended in wet climates
  • Require more maintenance than asphalt shingles
  • May attract bugs

House Styles

Wood shake roofs looks great when they match their surroundings, making them ideal choices for homes in wooded areas, as well as beach bungalows, cottage or Tudor-style homes.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

Wood shakes are thicker and more difficult to install compared to wood shingles, so it’s no surprise they’re more expensive, coming in between $9 and $15 per square foot to install. That puts the average 1,700-square-foot roof installation at an estimated cost between $15,000 and $25,500.

On average, wood shake roofs last around 35 to 40 years, but certain types, like cedar shake, can last longer if they’re well-maintained and located in a milder climate.

Environmental Impact

Once again, wood roofing is a great option because it’s biodegradable, renewable and recyclable. It’s a great choice for the eco-conscious homeowner, so long as the wood is responsibly sourced.

Metal Roofing

best materials for roofing metal
Credit: pamspix / Getty Images

Metal has become an increasingly popular roofing material due to its ability to withstand the elements, whether it be high winds, wildfires or hail. Metal roofing materials are typically comprised of steel, aluminum, zinc or copper and come in different styles like standing seam panels, shingles or tile.

Pros

  • Durable in any type of climate
  • Long-lasting
  • High solar reflectance (does not absorb heat like asphalt roofs)
  • Recyclable 
  • Can be conveniently installed over your old roof, eliminating waste and improving insulation

Cons

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Requires professional installation

House Styles

Metal shingles look great on contemporary or industrial-style homes, as well as bungalows, cabins and cottages. Standing seam metal roofs are a great option for homes with flat roofs.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

The cost and lifespan for metal roofs vary depending on the material. Steel and aluminum tend to be the cheapest, while copper is much more expensive. The cost range for a 1,700-square-foot metal roof is between $5,000 and $40,000.

Metal roofs are known for longevity, typically lasting between 40 and 75 years depending on the material. Zinc and copper roofs have been known to last 100 or more years.

Check out the table below for a better understanding of how metal roofing materials differ. 

Metal Roofing Material Material Price per Square Foot Estimated Cost for 1,700-Square-Foot Roof Installation Estimated Lifespan
Aluminum shingles $3 to $9 $9,000 to $28,000 35 to 40 years
Steel shingles $6 to $12 $17,000 to $25,000 40 to 50 years
Standing seam metal $8 to $14 $17,000 to $30,000 50 years
Zinc $6 to $11 $15,000 to $50,000 100+ years
Copper $11 to $25 $30,000 to $70,000 100+ years

Environmental Impact

Metal roofs are long-lasting and easily recyclable, making them a great roofing choice for the eco-conscious homeowner. They offer a few other key advantages when it comes to sustainability — they reflect light and insulate well, which can keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

Metal roofs are also ideal for those who like to collect runoff rainwater.

Concrete or Clay Tiles

tiles best roofing materials
Credit: R.Tsubin / Getty Images

Concrete and clay tile roofs are, just as you’d expect, made up of concrete or clay. However, while traditional tiles are made from terracotta clay, others can be made from ceramic or fired clay. Both concrete and clay roofs are durable and long-lasting, but they’re also heavier, requiring strong roofing reinforcements.

Pros

  • Durable, able to withstand harsh weather conditions
  • Long lasting
  • Energy-efficient

Cons

  • Very heavy, may require roofing reinforcements
  • Susceptible to cracking if not properly maintained
  • Requires professional installation

House Styles

Clay and concrete tiles look great on Southwestern, Spanish and Mediterranean-style homes, adding texture and elegance.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

Costs and lifespan vary greatly with concrete and clay tile roofs depending on the material. Concrete tile roofs are more affordable and typically last around 50 years, while clay roofs are pricier but can last up to 100 years when properly maintained.

Considering you likely will only have to replace concrete or clay roof tiles once in a lifetime, they certainly pay off in the long run. Below is a table showing the average installation costs and lifespans associated with each type of cement and clay tile.

Roofing Material Material Price per Square Foot Estimated Cost for 1,700 Square Foot Roof Installation Estimated Lifespan
Cement tile  $4 to $10 $17,000 to $34,000 50 years
Terracotta clay $6 to $15 $30,000 to $45,000 100 years
Fired ceramic clay $8 to $20 $34,000 to $51,000 100 years

Environmental Impact

Cement and clay roofs are environmentally friendly roofing options produced without any chemical preservatives. These materials also increase the energy efficiency of your home with natural thermal resistance and cooling properties.

The longevity of clay and cement tiles helps keep roofing materials out of landfills. And when it is time to replace your roof, these types of roofing materials are easily recyclable.

Slate Roofing

slate best roofing materials
Credit: DigiPub / Getty Images

Slate tiles are another stone roofing option that offer great curb appeal, but instead of consisting of concrete or molded clay, they’re made from flat slabs of rock mined from quarries — that is if they’re natural slate roof tiles, of course, as there are some options out there for synthetic slate roofs. 

Natural slate roofs have to be installed by a trained roofing contractor or craftsman, making them a harder and more expensive roofing product to install.

Pros

  • Durable, able to withstand inclement weather
  • Long-lasting
  • Easily repaired
  • Naturally occurring material
  • Energy efficient
  • Recyclable 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy, may require roofing reinforcements
  • Not many roofers are equipped to install slate roofs

House Styles

Slate shingles work well for Colonial, chateau and European-style homes.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

Natural slate is one of the more expensive types of shingle, but costs will vary greatly depending on the roofer and the type of slate. Slate roofs typically cost between $10 and $40 per square foot, with some homeowners reporting up to $80 per square foot.

Assuming an average installation cost of $30 per square foot, you can expect to pay around $51,000 for a 1,700-square-foot slate roof. But the good news is that a well-built slate roof can easily last 100 years, sometimes even longer, so you won’t have to worry about roof replacement costs.

Environmental Impact

Slate is a natural material, so there are no toxic chemicals involved in the manufacturing process. Plus, it’s long-lasting and can be easily repaired, eliminating any need to replace the roof entirely.

Solar Shingles and Solar Glass

solar best roofing materials

Finally, we have solar glass roofs, which come in many styles. They differ from standard solar panels that are attached on top of a roof, in that the photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are built into the roof itself. 

Solar shingles were pioneered by CertainTeed but are now produced by a handful of companies. The technology comes in the form of both solar shingles and solar roof tiles made of slim PV sheets that overlay or replace the current shingles on a roof.

According to solar expert and installer, David Snyder CEO of Nova Home Buyers, LLC, solar roofs are the future of the roofing industry:

“A solar roof is a great and obvious way to reduce energy use and has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Other options include a metal roof that is painted white to reflect the sun’s rays and reduce the amount of heat that is absorbed by your home.”

As of July 2022, Tesla is the only company that has come forward with a solar glass roof option. According to Tesla, its solar roof is made up of both glass solar tiles and steel roofing tiles, making it durable and weather-protected.

Pros

  • Durable, with a high hail rating
  • Generates electricity for your home, making it by far the most energy-efficient roofing option
  • More attractive than standard solar panels
  • Cost-effective if you’re building a new roof

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May not be as efficient as standard solar panels, as the technology is still evolving
  • Limited styles and colors
  • Not widely available
  • Needs to be replaced every 25-30 years

House Styles

Solar shingles are a great option for any style of roof that gets direct sunlight. Keep in mind that solar shingles will be a little darker in color than traditional roofing materials.

Installation Costs and Average Lifespan

The average solar shingle installation cost runs somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.3 However, high-end solar shingles from a company like Tesla may cost as much as $70,000 or more for full roof installation.

Choosing a Roofing Material

types of roofing materialIt’s best to choose as strong and long-lasting a roofing material as your budget will allow. Although you’ll pay more upfront, you’ll save money over time by not having to pay for frequent roof repairs and replacements.

Durable roofing material is also better for the environment, as between 7 and 10 million tons of shingle tear-off waste and scrap are generated from residential roofing replacement and installation each year.4

Each material has its own benefits, and you need to choose the best roofing material based on your specific needs. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to start the process:

  • Is this material durable enough for the weather and climate in my area?
  • How much does this material cost?
  • How long will this material last?
  • What is the warranty for this product?
  • How heavy is this material? Will it require special reinforcements or underlayment?
  • Does this material complement my gutters and the rest of my home?
  • Does this material meet fire codes and local requirements?

You’ll also want to consider the manufacturer of your product and do some research on their reputation. For example, GAF (General Aniline & Film) is an American building material manufacturer known for its quality roofing products. And if it’s for a commercial roofing project, you’ll probably want to look into other roofing materials, like EPDM.

Finally, roofing industry experts, such as Samantha Odo, COO at Precondo and Licensed Real Estate Agent, want homeowners to know that the climate is equally important in choosing a material:

“Homes in hurricane-prone areas will need roofs that can withstand high winds. Other factors to consider include the cost of the materials, the expected lifespan of the roof, and the ease of installation and repair.”

The best way to find out what material would be best for your home is to connect with a roofing company. Most provide free consultations and can provide expert recommendations based on budget and climate. 

How to Make An Informed Roofing Choice

The EcoWatch team spoke with Todd Miller, a roofing and HVAC expert that has been in the first for over 35 years. Here’s what he had to say about eco-friendly roofing materials.

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Todd Miller, Roofing and HVAC expert and technician
Since 1986, Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the exterior building products industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of specialty residential metal roofing based in Ohio. Todd also serves on the Boards of Metal Construction Association and Metal Roofing Alliance and is a frequent speaker and author on topics related to roofing, condensation, ventilation, and leadership. Through his educational website, Ask Todd Miller, he answers hundreds of questions each year related to his fields.
Note: responses were edited for length and clarity.
What purpose does a roof serve? 

A home’s roof provides a lot of things for a home. It provides protection from all types of severe weather, whether that be rainstorms, heat, windstorms, firestorms or snow and ice.

A home’s roof can also provide beauty. On a lot of homes, the roof is 50% or sometimes even significantly more of the home’s visible exterior, so the roof is a really nice open palette to add beauty and looks to a home.

Can a roof impact the energy efficiency of your home? Is this something that homeowners are considering when choosing a roof? 

I think that homeowners are increasingly starting to think about how their roof impacts their home’s energy efficiency. They’re looking at that not only from an operational cost standpoint but from doing the right thing for the environment as well.

And another thing is that oftentimes, a roof is really great real estate to put solar on up on a home. It usually doesn’t have as much obstruction and shadowing to it, and it’s often well-angled for the sun. So, roofs are increasingly thought of as being a great place to locate solar panels or a solar array.

How do you recommend homeowners go about selecting a roofing material? 

My advice really is to start out by setting your criteria– what it is you want to accomplish with your next roof. Once you set those criteria, you can use that to help you go out and use the internet or other resources to find a product that meets those needs.

My general advice is a little different than most roofing contractors are going to tell you. My advice is to find a product that first your needs and is right for you and your home. Then contact the manufacturer of that product to find someone in your area who has been trained or is in some way qualified to install that product.

Otherwise, if you go the normal route of just choosing a roofing contractor, you’re probably going to end up with a product that they want you to have, not necessarily the product you want to have on your house.

And frankly, the product that they want you to have probably is going to be the product that they’re the most familiar with, or in a lot of cases, the product they feel they can be most profitable on.

Other than color and style, what are some of these criteria that homeowners look for when deciding on a roofing material?

Because the roof is such a significant portion of a home’s exterior, homeowners are obviously going to care about life expectancy.

Chances are, if they are reroofing their house, they know how long that roof lasted. They may want to do better than that, and we certainly hope that they’re going to be interested in the carbon footprint of the roofing material that they are choosing.

Energy efficiency is another big thing. As you know, energy efficiency impacts the cost to operate the home. But, of course, it’s also an environmental choice.

I think that based on the climate they live in, homeowners are going to think about any severe weather considerations. Homeowners in Florida are going to be thinking a lot about wind resistance, homeowners in California are probably going to be thinking a lot about fire resistance, and homeowners in Texas and Oklahoma are probably going to be thinking a lot about resilience and hail.

What should homeowners know about the lifecycle of different roofing materials?

Another thing we’re seeing a lot is homeowners looking at the total product lifecycle. Folks are saying, Okay, what’s going to happen to this roof when it wears out? Is it recyclable? Some roofing materials are and some are not.

Another thing homeowners are asking is, I’ve got a roof up there right now, does that have to go into a landfill? Or would there be potential to install a new roof over my existing roof?

That being said, what roofing materials are made with recycled content?

There are some asphalt shingles out there that have recycled content, but about 15% is the highest I have ever seen.

Then there are polymer plastic roofing materials. Some of their manufacturers say they have some recycled content, but I’ve never seen any actual figures on that.

Steel roofing typically has at least 35% recycled content, and some steel mills are as high s 85% recycled content.

Aluminum, which is a highly recycled metal almost always has around 95% recycled content when it’s used as roofing.

Copper, which is a fairly high-end roofing material typically has around 35% recycled content.

What can you tell us about roofing materials that end up in landfill?

About 12 million tons of asphalt shingles go into landfills every year. Scientists estimate that asphalt shingles take about 300 to 400 years in a landfill before they will fully decompose.

And at the same time, asphalt shingles have a lot of oil content. So they are releasing that oil into the landfill as well. 

However, Building codes in most areas of the country allow up to two layers of roofing. So if someone does just have one layer of roofing on their home right now, they can go over that with another layer, which could be asphalt shingles.

But a lot of times they will also choose a lower-weight roofing material, such as steel or aluminum to go over those existing shingles.

FAQ: Best Roof Materials

Below, we’ll answer some of the most common questions we get about the best types of roofing materials.

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The EcoWatch Reviews team is your trusted source for sustainable home recommendations. We know it can be hard to find eco-friendly solutions to common homeowner headaches. We're here to help by providing honest, unbiased reviews of brands and services. Our reviews and rankings are never affected by revenue or partnerships.
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Melissa is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainability studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a nonprofit that’s featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.