Roofer on a roof

Roofing: A visual guide to roof coverings

Roofing options to protect your home

Your roof is your home’s first protection against losses and leaks. Whether you’re living in a coastal, storm-prone area, or a snowy region, wind, rain, hail, sleet and snow can wreak havoc on your home. Having homeowners insurance is your first step in protection. Ensuring the integrity of your roof is next.

Structurally, your roof must be sound. The roof style can impact its strength and resilience against storms, but it must also have the proper covering. Making changes or enhancements to your roof covering is far easier than changing your roof’s structure.

Roof covering selections to protect your home come in a range of prices and styles and may vary from region to region. No matter what material you choose, lighter color options will provide significant energy efficiency as they absorb less heat.

This simple visual guide can help you understand what type of roof covering exists on your home and what options you have to replace your roofing material when the time comes.

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3-tab shingle

The name comes from the shingle design — one shingle with three cutouts or tabs on the lower edge of the shingle – making one shingle look like three separate pieces. Composed of waterproof asphalt and ceramic granules, 3-tab shingles are a common roof covering.

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Architectural shingles

Also made of waterproof asphalt and ceramic granules, architectural shingles are coated with an additional asphalt layer, which provides dimension, and enhances their aesthetic appeal. Architectural shingles are more durable and wind-resistant than 3-tab shingles.

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Clay and concrete tiles

Clay tiles are made from baking molded clay. Concrete roof tiles are a mixture of water, sand and cement. Concrete tiles are heavier and stronger than clay tiles but absorb more moisture than their clay counterpart. Clay tiles require less maintenance and last longer.

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Slate roof tiles are a natural roofing product made of hard (metamorphic) rock. One of the costliest roofing materials, slate roofs are pursued for their appearance, longevity, fire resistance and environmentally friendly attributes.

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Steel and aluminum are the most common metal roofs. They can also be made of stainless steel, copper and zinc alloys. Metal roofs can be applied in several ways but are commonly constructed from sheets. Metal roofs are lighter and have longevity on their side, but they are not ideal in hail-prone areas.

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Solar roofs can be composed of shingles (with solar cells) or panels. Both are made of silicon, the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. While the initial cost can be high, the return on investment might make solar options worth consideration.

Built Up Roofing Graphic

Built-up roofing (BUR)

BUR consists of layers of fabric and asphalt finished with a layer of stone or gravel. This type of roof is used mostly on low-slope roofs and is known for waterproofing, ultra-violet and fire protection. While the installation cost can be high, the maintenance cost is low.

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Wood shingles

Available in shingles or shakes, wood roofs come from cedar, treated pine, redwood or cypress. Wood roofs require maintenance and are prone to mold but are one of the best insulators and are also wind-resistant.

No matter what type of roof covering you choose, it must be installed according to the manufacturer’s specs. Improper installation can lead to significant damage, including blow-offs during dangerous wind events, and can void manufacturer’s warranty options. Asking the right questions before hiring a roofer is one way to ensure you are taking the proper steps to protect your home. If you make any changes to your roof, don’t forget to contact your insurer. You may be able to benefit from premium reductions because of your new roof.

Read SageSure’s Roofing Guide
Read more about selecting and maintaining your roof
Read more about roof styles
Read more about questions you should ask before hiring a roofer