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Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or you’ve owned your own home for decades, there are always things that you don’t know that maybe you should. Residential roofing, as well as commercial roofing for those who own their own business, falls into that category. Take a residential roof for example. If someone asks you, “What kind of roof do you have?” and your answer is, “The kind that’s on top of my house.” then this blog is for you. Because your roof is more than just your home’s top-hat. Although the look and curb appeal are obviously important, you also need to consider what shape and material are best for your roof.

Roof Shapes

If you’re building a home, whether it’s your first or your twenty-first, you will eventually have to consider what shape roof you want on your home. As you’ve probably seen from driving down the street or watching shows on television, there are actually several shapes that homeowners can choose from depending on the look and style they’re hoping to achieve. Let’s explore some of the most popular residential roof shapes, including the pros and cons of each.

Flat Roof

You’ve seen a commercial flat roof – they’re on practically every large building in every city across the county. But what about for homes? Is a flat residential roof a thing? Absolutely! While more popular in commercial roof design, flat roofs on homes have increased in popularity in recent years due to a change in design preference as well as the numerous benefits that flat roofs have. Flat roofs are perfect for those looking to add a garden, solar panels, or a water tank to their homes, especially if they want to conserve space. The shape also gives the home a more modern look, allows for safe access, and believe it or not, can be more economically friendly due to the square footage in comparison to a pitched roof. Also, despite the name, flat roofs aren’t actually flat. Although definitely less sloped than some of their counterparts, flat roofs still have a slight slope to them to aid in the drainage of rain and moisture.

Pyramid Hip Roof

Visualize a pyramid: four slanted sides that all come together in a point, which in this case is the tip of the roof. A pyramid hip roof is not only one of the simplest styles of commercial roof, but it’s also incredibly beneficial for a number of reasons. Pyramid hip roofs lack ridges, meaning a lessened chance of damage and leaks occurring. They also feature eaves, or the portion of the roof that extends past the sides of the house, which helps provide additional shade during the warmer months.

Gable Roof

Everyone has seen a gable roof before, whether in person or on paper. Categorized as two sloped sides that meet at the top, a gable roof is what we see when we doodle a stick figure house. Gable roofs are popular because they’re extremely affordable and are perfect for any climate. They’re also customizable and comprise several styles, including front gable, side gable, cross gable, and Dutch gable. Homeowners looking to choose a gable residential roof should ensure that the roof features strong supports connecting it to the home, especially in areas that are prone to hurricanes or high-winds.  Although nice for providing shade, eaves on gable roofs can be problematic if they are too exaggerated, giving high winds a sort of grip that can cause roofs to be torn from their supports during inclement weather.

Shed Roof

A shed roof, also known as a Skillion roof, features only one steep slope. Due to their steep slant, a shed roof is ideal for homes in areas that receive high amounts of rain or snow because their design encourages easy runoff. Although typically used for additions, porches, or sheds — hence the name — this residential roof is becoming more common as a residential roof choice for those who are looking to add visual interest to their homes. Builders must be careful to ensure that this roof choice doesn’t cause ceilings to be too low inside and should also note the typical weather in the area, as these roofs can be susceptible to problems when exposed to high winds.

Dormer

Although not necessarily a roof in itself, a dormer is an addition to a residential roof, usually with a window, that allows for an increase to the internal space. Dormers extend vertically from a pitched roof and are commonly included in loft or attic conversions. Although seen as an addition, dormers can feature their own roofing styles, giving them the ability to conform to or accentuate various architectural styles.

Roof Materials

Not only are there more than a dozen residential and commercial roof styles, but there are also multiple materials to choose from when constructing a roof. In the past, homeowners were confined to asphalt shingles, or clay, slate, or concrete tiles when choosing a roofing material. Now, however, construction technology has evolved to include solar tiles, metal roofing, membrane roofing materials, and wood shake shingles, though the originals are still heavily used.

Asphalt Shingles

Why fix it if it’s not broken? Asphalt shingles are not only the most popular roofing material in the United States, but they’re also some of the most affordable. Asphalt shingles come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes including weathered wood, slate, and charcoal, and allow homeowners to customize their curb appeal in accordance with their overall home look with a greater variety. One of the main issues with asphalt shingles is that they tend to crack in climates where the temperature changes dramatically over a short period of time. Asphalt shingles last for approximately 20 years. In addition, they can only be used on roofs with steep slopes.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is an in-between option in terms of price when compared to asphalt shingles and concrete tiles. Metal roofing has many pros, including its ability to duplicate the look of slate, tile, and shake, its ability to repel large amounts of snow and rain, and its ability to resist high wind speeds. In addition, it’s light, able to be installed on top of existing roofs, and lasts for as long as 100 years depending on the type of metal (for the record, copper lasts the longest). The biggest consideration? Noise. Heavy rain on metal roofing can create a unique sound that can be fairly loud depending on the severity of the storm. Though some people love it, those who aren’t as appreciative of its music can easily tone down the sound by speaking with a builder about adding additional insulation between the rafters.

Clay/Concrete Tiles

According to “A Summary of Experimental Studies on Seismic Performance of Concrete and Clay Roofing Tiles” by the University of Southern California, clay and concrete tiles can survive tornadoes, hurricane-force winds up to 125 miles per hour, and even earthquakes. Although clay and concrete tiles are good for a residential or commercial roof application in warm, dry climates, homeowners should be warned that they may require additional structural support and are also likely to break if walked on.

Slate

If you’re looking for longevity, slate may be a good option. With a lifespan of more than 100 years, slate won’t burn, and is waterproof as well as mold and fungus resistant, making it effective in wet climates. However, slate does have its downfalls. It’s heavy, expensive, and may be easily broken by someone stepping on it or the falling of heavy hail. Another “slate” option is rubber slate. Created to look identical to the natural stone for which it gets its name, rubber slate can also last up to 100 years and is designed to fit intricate roofing details such as those found on Victorian-style houses. Unfortunately, it can experience some of the same issues as the original, including being susceptible to damage from satellite dishes, being walked on, and heavy hail.

Wood Shake

Those who prefer the environmentally-friendly options may be partial to cedar wood shakes as a roofing choice. Not only are cedar shakes visually appealing, but they’re also strong, reduce energy consumption, and resistant to decay and insects thanks to the natural oils contained in the wood. Cedar’s strength makes the roofing material durable enough to withstand hurricanes, hail and snow storms, and heavy rains, while it also insulates homes up to two times better than asphalt shingles. Though the price of both the materials and the installation is usually higher than that of more traditional roofing choices, the increased durability leads to a longer-lasting roof as well.

Stone-coated Steel

Sometimes, some of the best products are also the best-kept secrets. That’s the category that stone-coated steel falls into. Designed to look like clay, shingles, or slate, stone-coated steel panels can resist damage from rain that falls in excess of eight inches per hour, hail, drastic temperature changes, and winds of 120 miles per hour. Sounds great, but what’s the catch, right? Surprisingly, the panes are reasonably priced and even good for areas that are prone to experiencing wildfires. In addition, some stone-coated steel roofs are covered by a warranty that extends for the whole lifetime of the home.

Additional Options

The final two options, built-up roofs and green roofs, are designed specifically for flat or low-slope roofs. Built-up roofs are made up of multiple layers of tar, adhesive, or asphalt and topped with a layer of aggregate, such as crushed stone or gravel. A popular choice for rooftop decks, more popular for a commercial roof such as a bar or restaurant, this type of roofing choice can last for 20 to 25 years if cared for correctly. Green roofs are a fairly unusual choice though still an option nonetheless. Aptly named due to their composition, green roofs are covered with plants to help reduce water runoff, insulate homes, and improve air quality. Though they promote very environmentally-friendly practices, green roofs require an intense amount of planning and forethought. The structure below must contain added reinforcement to compensate for the increase in weight from the plant and soil, and the roof itself must contain a vapor barrier, waterproofing measures, appropriate drainage, a water filtration system, and thermal insulation, not to mention a careful selection of plants.

Solar Tiles

Though existing roofs can be outfitted with solar panels (which you can learn more about here), technology has also given consumers the option of solar tiles. As I’m sure you can imagine, however, they aren’t exactly inexpensive.  Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in November of 2016 that his company had integrated solar cells and roofing tiles (it’s important to note that Tesla didn’t invent the technology or tiles), and several other shingle companies have also started to increase production of their own solar roofing options. Though it’s impossible to know when normal folks may be able to easily and affordably put solar shingles on a residential roof or even a commercial roof, the existence of the technology alone means we’re closer than we have ever been.

At the end of the day, there are multiple determining factors when considering the best material for your commercial or residential roof. Homeowners should consider their budget, the climate and typical weather conditions in your area, and the style of home and different curb appeal visions they have before making any decisions on what type of roof is best. It’s also important to consider durability, any general maintenance or unexpected repairs that may be needed, as well as the look and feel of any surrounding homes or businesses and whether it’s important to fit in or stand out in your neighborhood, if applicable. Ultimately, only you can decide what your goal and vision are for the future of your home. However, having the assistance and expertise of a licensed, certified, and insured professional contractor can be essential. Consistently ranked among the top 1% of roofers in the nation, Model City Roofing provides residential and commercial roof services in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Panama City, and surrounding areas as well as the Tri-cities area of Tennessee. Contact them for a free roofing estimate by calling 888-552-1028, emailing info@modelcityroofing.com, or by visiting their website