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Using your roof to do more than stay dry

Our table of roof materials is a work in progress so information will change as new materials come on the market and prices change.

Roofing Material Advantages Disadvantages
Approx. $/square
Green roofs - Intensive
  • Deeper growing medium allows planting a greater variety of plants
  • Improves air quality
  • Reduces stormwater run off


  • Expensive
  • Heavy—requires structural support
Green roofs - Extensive
  • Lighter weight than intensive green roofs
  • Less expensive
Asphalt shingle (aka composition)
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Appropriate for moderate to steep roofs.
  • Some manufacturers offer recycled content.
  • Least durable roofing material (check warranty)
  • Environmentally questionable.
  • Some types contain moss inhibitors that are toxic to aquatic life.
  • May make run-off unusable for rainwater harvesting.
Tile, Concrete
  • Low maintenance
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
Tile, Clay
  • Low maintenance
  • Recyclable
  • Durable
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
Wood Shake
  • Beautiful
  • Natural
  • Low maintenance
  • Recyclable
  • 25-30 yrs in dry climates
  • 15-20 yrs in damp climates
  • Can be a problem in areas where fire is an issue
Fiber Cement
  • 50-year warranty
  • Comparable performance with premium grade shakes and shingles
  • Maybe expensive to install
  • Relatively expensive
  • May be too heavy for lighter framed buildings
  • Available with more than 50% recycled content.
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Powder-coated steel is particularly low-impact
  • Good water quality allows rainwater harvesting
  • Roofing cut to size at manufacturer reduces waste and prevents open metal that can be subject to rust.
  • May be installed over existing roof material.
  • Galvanized products contain zinc which is harmful to water life.
  • Aluminum can be noisy and may dent.
  • Paint finishes can peel, chip, scratch which can lead to rust.
  • Beautiful
  • Longest lasting roof material
  • Highly recyclable
  • Low maintenance
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Resistant to weather damage
  • Fungus resistant
  • Freeze thaw stable
  • Look like slate
  • Relatively light weight
  • Comparatively less expensive
  • Made of recycled tires
  • Flexible
  • Limited color options
  • Protects the roof and produces energy
  • Very expensive to install


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The Good House Book: A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding

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