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  • Lily Dittschlag & Dennis Dittschlag

ROOFS AND THE TYPES OF MATERIALS USED



As homeowners, we often don't pay attention to our roofs until there is a problem. By the time we discover water dripping from the ceiling, we are too busy panicking to find the nearest bucket. When it comes to roofs, understanding the different types of materials used and the material's drawbacks can help anticipate the condition of the roof before emergency leaks happen.


There are a variety of roofing materials, but in our Toronto climate, the common types are asphalt, metal, wood, and clay. Each varies in lifespan and has its own advantages and disadvantages.


Let's check them out!



Asphalt


Asphalt shingles are the most common type of roofing material and are found on a majority of homes. It is the most affordable option on the market. They are straightforward to install and remain a popular choice because there are a variety of colors to choose from.


The downside to asphalt is the relatively short lifespan of approximately 12 to 15 years. Asphalt shingles are classified by weight and measured by pounds per square inch (PSI). The most common is 210 PSI. Thicker and heavier shingles, such as 320 PSI typically last longer and can extend the life by a few additional years.


An obvious clue when the roof is nearing its end of life is the appearance of curling shingles or missing pieces.



Metal


Metal roofs are the second most common roofing material. Metal is more expensive than asphalt shingles but is growing in popularity because of its energy efficiency. This makes metal roofs suitable for a Passive House because it can effectively reflect solar rays and enhance energy savings. It can withstand harsher weather including a better resistance to higher winds, which makes it very durable. It lasts about four times longer than asphalt with a lifespan of approximately 40 to 70 years. Because of its low maintenance needs and good resistance to decay, it can be worth the premium price.


The most common materials for metal roofs are copper, tin, aluminum, zinc, and stainless steel. The styles are unlimited, come in all shapes, and are fairly lightweight. Whether you like round or rectangular shingles, the choice is up to you. We personally prefer a timeless look that will last a long time, in particular the one with the standing seam panels depicted below. Metal roofs usually don't have to be replaced until near the end of their lifespan when bowing, sagging, and bucking of roof edges start to appear.



Wood


Wood shingles are another type of roofing material used, but it's more common to see these in rural or cottage areas. It has a unique look that gives a rustic feel. Not to mention, it is completely natural, usually made from cedar, which makes it a great choice for eco-conscious homeowners. It is well insulating and effective in retaining heat during the winter and keeping hot air out during the summer. It is quite durable with a lifespan often between 30 to 40 years.


The downside to wood shingles is the high maintenance required. Frequent sunlight can dehydrate the shingles and cause them to become brittle. Excessive shade or moisture can lead to rot and moss making it not suitable for relatively flat rooftops. Therefore, ongoing maintenance is required to varnish and stain the shingles to protect against cracking and insects.



Clay


Clay roofs are not often seen in Ontario, but when you do see them, you can often recognize them by their wavy red look. Other styles and colors are available, but that is the most classic option. Clay is durable, long-lasting with a lifespan of 50 to 100 years.


One downside to clay shingles is the extra weight. A clay roof can weigh four to five times as much as asphalt shingles. Therefore, the support system under the roof has to hold the weight of the clay tiles and it may not be suitable for installation for all homes. For example, you would not often see clay roofs in areas prone to snowier climates because the combined weight of clay and snow may not meet the structural integrity of Ontario's Building Code.


Also, clay is brittle and subject to mechanical damage such as from falling tree branches. An excessive number of broken tiles may be a sign that the roof material is nearing the end of its lifespan.



Other Roofing Materials


There are more options for roofing materials than those mentioned above, but they are not as common, and not all roofing companies are equipped to supply and install them. For example, slate, made from natural stone that is cut into shingles is a premium roofing material that is durable, waterproof, and fireproof. Slate roofs are elegant and eco-friendly, but finding a local roofer with experience installing them can be tricky. While slate can last 60 to 100 years, the shingles can easily break just by walking on them. So the cost of labor and material sets the price point higher than almost all other roofing options.


A recent innovation has offered another eco-friendly option using recycled tires, which can be made from up to 95 percent recycled materials and still offer the same benefits as other roof materials. But it still more expensive than asphalt since it's fairly new to the market.



Our Thoughts...


For us, the decision to choose a metal roof was an easy one. We knew we wanted something durable, easy to maintain, and lightweight. We also knew that we would have a minimum roof pitch, which makes smaller shingles more prone to wind damage. This meant asphalt is not long-lasting enough to be on our forever home. Wood is not low maintenance enough for our low-pitched roof. And clay is not lightweight enough to support our solar system. Whatever roof material you choose, it is important to consider the longevity, advantages, and disadvantages that work best for you.


We also recommend taking a walk in a neighborhood with a mix of older and newer houses and homes of different styles. This way you can see the look of the different materials first hand and determine if it's something you would like to see on your home as well.




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