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Roof systems and materials generally are divided into generic classifications: low slope and steep slope.
Typically less expensive to install than sloped roofs, flat roofs require a lot of maintenance. Roof coating will extend the life of flat roofing and slow down its degeneration. Low slope roofing will last up to 15 years.
The five most common low-slope or flat roofing systems are:
- Built-up roof (BUR) membranes
- Polymer-modified bitumen sheet membranes
- Thermoplastic membranes (e.g., PVC, TPO)
- Spray polyurethane foam-based (SPF) roof systems
Most low-slope roof membranes have three principal components: weatherproofing layer or layers, reinforcement, and surfacing.
- Asphalt shingles – The most common and least expensive roofing material in the United States, asphalt shingles are easy to install and come in a variety of styles and colors, working well with many architectural styles, especially traditional suburban styles. Lightweight and fire-resistant, asphalt shingles can be installed over an existing roof. Depending on location, quality of material, and installation, shingle roofs last anywhere from 15 to 25 years – 15 to 20 years for three-tab, 20 to 25 years for architecture.
- Slate roofing – Slates are very durable, fire-resistant, and make a sustainable roof. Slates can be recycled, offer distinctive beauty, and come in a variety of unique shades. Natural slate roofing can be expensive, however, and very heavy, requiring extra framing and specialized installation. Original slate roofs can last more than 50 years and sometimes 100 years or more. An alternative to natural slates, composite slate roofs are virtually maintenance-free, lightweight, and easier to install. They can last 40-60 years and come in a broad palette of beautiful and distinctive colors and blends.
- Metal roofing – Available in aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and zinc, metal roofs are lightweight, durable, long-lasting, environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and resistant to extreme weather conditions. Metal roofing can be expensive, but it requires low maintenance and can be installed over an existing roof. It typically lasts 25 to 50 years.
- Wood shakes and wood shingles – Usually made from cedar, redwood, and southern pine, wood shingles offer a natural rustic look and are environmentally friendly. Susceptible to mold and fire, however, they don’t work well in wet climates, and require treatment with a fire-resistant coating for installations in fire-prone areas. Lasting around 25 to 30 years, wood shake/shingle roofing can also be an expensive roofing material requiring professional installation and regular maintenance.
- Clay tile and concrete tile – Easy to maintain, long-lasting, fire-proof, and highly durable. Tile roofs can be expensive, however, tricky to install or repair, and very heavy. They usually require additional framing and must be installed by a professional. If maintained properly, tile roofs last around 40 to 50 years.
Steep-slope roof systems typically are composed of individual pieces or components installed in shingle fashion. Steep-slope roof assemblies typically consist of three primary parts: roof deck, underlayment, and roof covering.