How to choose the best material for your new roof

The best material for your roof depends on its pitch and the location of your home. Your budget will also play a role in what you end up with.

There’s several roofing systems available for every application. These encompass everything from thatch to asphalt tiles to polycarbonate sheeting.

With any roofing system, the aim of the game is longevity. Yes, the roofing system should “get the job done”, but it should do that job for a very long time. You don’t want to end up replacing it just ten years after forking out for it, do you?

Pitched roofs

Pitched roofs always have roofing tiles, except on period cottages, where thatch is immensely desirable. Another exception is eco-homes, which use turf and seed to create a natural, bio roofing system. For everyone else, tiles are the system.

Tiles are available in a variety of materials. We’ll look at these below.

  1. Slate tiles

The best natural stone for roofing. Slate tiles last for over a hundred years. Slate tiles are easily replaced if they get broken. The only limitation is your roof’s truss strength. Slate is a heavy material, so your trusses might need upgrading.

  1. Clay tiles

The best man-made material for roofing. Clay tiles have been used for over a thousand years. They don’t decay or degrade. Travel to Spain and you’ll find clay roofing systems in abundance. A great choice for any home. They last for over a hundred years.

  1. Wood shake shingles

A popular organic option. Wood shake shingles have a lifespan of around 40 years and are much thicker than standard wood shingles. This makes them more durable. Wood shake is a popular material on high-end and period builds.

  1. Composite shingles

Composite shingles are the most common tile on modern roofs. They last for 15 to 20 years, but they’re also cheap. If you go for composite shingles, opt for a trusted brand that guarantees their durability. Some brands over a warranty in excess of 30 years.

  1. Asphalt shingles

Not recommended for house roofing systems generally unless repairs are being made to an existing asphalt roof. Asphalt shingles aren’t as durable as the options above. They are better suited to outbuildings and sheds.

Flat roofs

Flat roofing systems are very different to pitched roofing systems. You don’t tile flat roofs, you layer them with a waterproof membrane. There are a five main flat roofing systems used today. These have their own pros and cons and vary in price.

We’ll take a look at these roofing systems below.

  1. Felt

The cheapest and easiest material to lay, felt offers reliable performance and lasts for over ten years if installed properly. The latest membranes are impenetrable and offer far better waterproofing performance than the basic systems of old.

  1. GRP fibreglass

Considered the best flat roofing system by experts. GRP is much more durable than felt and only costs around 12 per cent more. It’s suitable for most roof sizes but requires a strong foundation to lay. It’s heavier than felt and not as flexible.

  1. EPDM rubber

EPDM rubber is a flexible and lightweight material. The top layer is impenetrable and offers good performance. A common issue with EPDM rubber is shrinkage. Also, it doesn’t look very nice. It’s best used on outbuildings that aren’t visible from above.

  1. Asphalt

Asphalt roofing is inexpensive and offers excellent waterproofing. It lasts for around 15 years. It’s extremely hard-wearing and suitable for any roof size. The only issue with asphalt is a risk of it cracking in extremely hot weather.

  1. Single ply membrane

A single ply membrane is more pleasing to look at than EPDM rubber and offers very similar performance. Examples include PVC, TPO, TPE and PBE. The drawback to a single ply membrane is its price – it’s typically more expensive than the others listed.

Choosing the right material

If you’re working to an extremely tight budget, we recommend a high-quality, branded composite tile for pitched roofs and felt for flat roofs. If you have a higher budget, you can’t go wrong with slate or clay tiles for pitched roofs and GRP fiberglass for flat roofs.

The saying you pay for what you get rings true here. The most durable roofing systems always cost more. They’re worth it though. Slate and clay roofs last a lifetime. GRP fibreglass lasts for well over 50 years. These are the best materials for a new roof.

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