Roofing Materials Guide

From Pitched to Flat and Everything In Between

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Homeowners purchase new roofs for a variety of reasons. While some want an updated look to their home or  want to enhance curb appeal with a brand new roof, others will purchase a new roof for their house out of necessity due to leaks or other damage. Regardless of your reasons for a roof replacement, it’s best to understand what roofing materials work best for your home before beginning the buying process. In this roofing 101 post, we’re providing you with a complete guide to roofing materials.  

The Top 8 Types of Roofing Materials 

There are plenty of roof materials out there, and choosing the right one for your home depends on various factors. That includes how you want your roof (and your home, in general) to look, the level of maintenance you’re willing to put into it, the structure of your home, and how much you’re able to spend. Additionally, your geographic location can also influence what type of roof you choose for your home. Some modern roofing materials can’t stand up to certain climates, so you should keep this in mind when considering your roof type.

Asphalt Shingles

As seen on most houses in North America, asphalt shingles are the most cost-effective of roofing materials. Asphalt shingles are known for their flexibility due to being constructed on top of a fiberglass or paper base. This method enables your shingles to stay put as your roof expands and contracts due to heat, weather conditions, or age. Our asphalt tiles also offer the added benefit of energy efficiency. 


Homes along the west coast typically use clay shingles. In Maryland, North Carolina, D.C., and Northern Virginia, this roofing material is a lot less common and, in most cases, more expensive to source. Clay is best on roofs in hot climates as it helps keep colder air contained indoors, and it typically outlasts many other roofing materials. In some cases, the life of a clay roof can exceed 100 years.


Concrete is often selected as an alternative to clay, as it provides similar benefits and comes at a lower average cost. Typically, concrete roofs don’t last as long as clay, but they have a longer life expectancy compared to many other materials. Concrete is fire-resistant, making it a good choice for homes in areas where wildfires are common.


Wood shingles or shakes look beautiful, but they aren’t always the best option for those who live near the water or in climates with high levels of rain. They’re vulnerable to rot when exposed to excessive moisture, which requires more frequent replacements than alternatives such as asphalt. Wood roofs typically offer good insulation, and they’re more eco-friendly than other options since the shingles or shakes are biodegradable.


Slate roofing is long-lasting and looks luxurious, but is difficult to install and expensive to purchase. A slate roof can last more than a century, but they’re expensive and often difficult to obtain because they require specialized craftsmen to install it. Slate is mold-resistant and fire-resistant, and because it’s heavy, it generally withstands heavy winds quite well.


There are several types of metal roofing, with standing seam metal roofing being the most popular. Metal roofing is recyclable and relatively affordable compared with slate and other more expensive options; however, just as with slate roofing, metal roof installation requires specialized skills that not every roofing company can offer.


Composite shingles have similar features to asphalt, including flexibility and moisture resistance; however, they’re also more expensive than asphalt to install. Composite shingles are also one of the most lightweight roofing materials, making them easier for roofers to install.


A green roof is an eco-friendly alternative to the materials listed above. Also known as a living roof, the green roof is made from moss and other plant materials. It absorbs water, puts oxygen back in the air, and can even sustain a garden. The cost of installing a green roof varies, but the maintenance costs associated with this type of roof are often high.

Flat Roof Materials

Homeowners looking to stray from the appearance of the traditional pitched roof look might consider a flat roof. While these roofs often look completely flat, they do have a slight pitch to them that helps with drainage.

The different roofing materials generally used to cover a pitched roof, such as asphalt shingles or metal, don’t work on a flat roof. Instead, there are several other materials to consider when you’re looking for the best roofing material for flat roof homes.

Traditional Tar-and-Gravel

Tar-and-gravel roofs, also known as built-up roofing (BUR), consists of alternating layers of bitumen such as asphalt or coal tar, and gravel. These roofs are known for their ability to withstand frequent traffic, making them a great choice if you’ll be adding a rooftop patio to your home.

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen is an asphalt-based roofing material that’s similar to BUR. Its layers are adhered to the surface using high heat or cold-rolling technologies. Both methods use high amounts of tar and require intensive labor to install. The biggest advantage of modified bitumen is its durability, particularly when compared with rubber roofing.

Rubber Membrane

A rubber roof, or EPDM rubber, is one of the less expensive options for flat roofs. While they tend to look sleeker than other flat roofing materials, rubber roofs are more prone to damage and may absorb heat if their surface is dark-colored.

List of Common Materials Needed For Constructing a Roof

The process for completing a new roof or replacing an existing one varies depending on the type of roof installed. While some materials find themselves in nearly every roof style, other roofing materials, such as rubber flat roofs or slate pitched roofs, will require additional materials to complete the installation process. Below are some of the most common materials needed for roofing a house.

Roof Decking

Roof decking, also known as sheathing, is the base that lays on top of your house, creating a foundation of the roof. It covers the rafters of your home’s upper level or attic, helping to support the weight of your shingles or other roofing materials.

Roof Flashing

Roofs have several vulnerabilities to leaks, including cases where they meet a wall or dormer. Most professional roofers use roof flashing, which is a thin sheet of steel that reinforces these vulnerable spots and diverts water away.


Between your roof deck and its shingles lies an underlayment, which provides an extra layer of protection against rain, snow, and other issues that can result in leaks or damage. An underlayment can incorporate several materials, but most professional roofers use either asphalt-saturated felt or synthetic underlayment.

Drip Edge

Another way roofers prevent moisture from damaging your roof is with a drip edge, a metal flashing installed around the perimeter of your roof, just above the fascia. It creates a watertight seal around the edge to ensure you don’t have water penetrate the layers of your roof, which could cause mold, rot, or leaks.

Ice and Water Shield

An ice and water shield is a form of underlayment that adheres to your roof to prevent damage commonly caused by high winds, cold rain, or ice dams. Some professional roofers prefer using ice and water shields in areas where slopes adjoin, while others may strictly use them along the eaves just above the drip edge.

Ridge Capping

When you have a pitched roof, the ridge cap sits atop the points in your roof, protecting the areas where the roof’s slopes intersect. These triangular caps are fixed onto the roof points to close small gaps between slopes and protect against the elements.

Roof Vents

Roof vents sit along the slopes in your roof to enhance airflow in your attic. Without them, your attic may overheat, and ultimately, that high temperature can cause damage to your shingles and other parts of the roof.

Pipe Boots

A pipe boot, or a plumbing vent boot, is a flexible metal base that affixes your roof to pipes, enabling them to come through the roof and function as necessary without creating vulnerabilities in your roof. The pipe boot is flexible so that it’s able to expand and contract along with your pipe, preventing cracks and other potential damage to your roof.

Understanding the Roof Replacement Process

Regardless of what materials you use, a new roof is also an investment. Re-roofing a home is an expensive process that requires the advice and assistance of professional, licensed roofers. Before embarking on a roof replacement, you should also understand the process behind it, including the typical replacement timeline, as well as necessary features and materials such as roof ventilation and insulation. In fact, ventilation is vital to your roof and your home. Without adequate ventilation, your roof can’t breathe properly and a lack of air circulation leads to roof structure decomposition, because moisture can’t escape. 

If you’ve decided that now’s the time to replace your roof, trust the professionals at Thompson Creek. Our experienced roofers use high-quality materials to build long-lasting roofs that add curb appeal to your home while keeping you and your family safe and warm. To learn more about our roofing service, contact us to request a free estimate today.

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