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Roofing 101

There are many material options for a roof. Cost of the different materials varies as little as $.50 per square foot or as much as $10 per square foot. Material options include asphalt, wood, metal, plastic, clay, stone and clay tile. You can buy shingles, rolls, panels, or strips. You can have virtually any color or texture you want.

The Square

The square is how roofers measure the size of roof. The materials are also purchased by square. A square is 100 square feet in area, the equivalent of a 10-foot by 10-foot square. The roof of a 1,000-square-foot one level house with a gable roof has less than 1,500 square feet of roofing area, 15 squares.


There is more than just the number of squares that determine the cost of a new roof. The price of the material is the main factor, but there are others too. One is the condition of the existing roof. Does the roof structure need repair. Another factor is the shape of the roof. The more complex the roof lines like multiple dormers add to the cost. Also the pitch of roof is a factor. A steeper roof is harder to work on and requires the roofers to put up scaffolding for safety.


The style of the roof limits which materials can be used. The pitch is biggest factor.

Asphalt Shingle

Asphalt Shingles is the most commonly used of all roof materials. It?s the least expensive and is relatively easy to install. The shingles come in many different thicknesses. The thicker the shingle, the longer it will last and the more expensive it will be. A good asphalt shingle has a 25 year warranty.


Wood was the popular option for years, and it?s still a good one. Usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine, shingles are sawn or split. Wood shingles have a lifetime in the 25-year range (like asphalt shingles) but can cost two times more.


Aluminum, steel, copper, copper-and-asphalt, and lead are all metal roofing surfaces. Lead and the copper/asphalt varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal that are joined with solder. These roofs are more expensive than wood or asphalt shingles but can last a lifetime.

Tile and Cement

The tile roofing are common on Spanish Colonial and Mission styles. All are expensive, very durable, and tend to be very heavy. A good tile roof will last decades making it a good investment.


Slate is among the most durable of all roofing materials and the most attractive. Hundred-year-old slate, in fact, is often recycled for reinstallation, with the expectation it will last another century. Slate roof is very expensive but might be the only option for the stately home.

Making the Choice

More often than not, if you are remodeling, the existing roof of your house will determine your choice of roofing material. Should you be considering other options, you?ll want to consider not only the cost but the color, texture, weight, and durability of your alternatives, as well as what traditionally has been used on houses like yours.

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