By Max Mervis

Until it starts to leak or shingles begin to blow off during the strong Santa Ana winds, most of us give little attention to the roof on our homes. However, along with keeping the inside of the house dry, the roof is probably the most important part of the overall appearance and personality of a house. When the time comes for replacement, or if you’re building a new home, a good starting point is to define what style of roof is the most appropriate for the architecture of your home. As for materials, currently there are more options on the marketplace than ever before, making it that much more difficult to choose just the right one. The following breaks down the various options to help you choose which roof will not only protect but also compliment your home.

Shingle and Shake
Craftsman, Traditional, Ranch Style

For overall appearance, wood shingles and shakes are hard to beat. The most common species used is cedar in either red, yellow or white, which over time will weather out to grey or a soft silvery tone that blend the home beautifully into the environment. Although nothing compares to the look of real wood shingles, they are expensive to install and do require periodic maintenance; pressure washing to remove built up moss or mildew, followed by re-oiling with a wood finishing product. Despite the expense of installation and maintenance, a shake or shingle roof should last anywhere from 30 to 50 years, somewhat offsetting the cost due to its long lifespan. Be sure to have your roofer check current city fire codes as not all areas will allow the use of natural wood roofing products.

Clay Tiles
Mediterranean, Spanish, Moorish

Once individually made by hand and achieving the barrel-like shape by placing the clay over a log or thigh, these tiles are timelessly beautiful and last for generations. Although real clay tiles are still obtainable, barrel tiles are now on the market made of metal, concrete or plastic resin and are a great alternative to clay. High-quality reproduction barrel tiles are practically identical to original clay tiles and are ideal for an historic renovation or Mediterranean influenced new construction. If you choose to stick with authentic clay tiles, remember that all high-quality tile roofs are expensive, both in terms of the material and the installation. Yet, in the long run, the most expensive might be the most cost effective, since you can expect to get 60 to 80 years out of a well installed tile roof.

Asphalt Shingles
Traditional, Ranch Style, Contemporary

This type of shingle is what we see the most of these days, the majority of which are standard three-tab. The least expensive choice on the market, they come in a limited choice of 12 or more colors, either solid in tone or blended with other hues for a more natural appearance. Guaranteed for 20 to 30 years, asphalt shingles are a good value which contribute to their popularity yet, depending on the style of your home, often do little for its appearance. A better version than the standard 3-tab shingle is a thicker version called an “architectural shingle.” Depending on the color, they can resemble slate or even wood shakes, so for a small increase in price from the standard 3-tab you can add a little more style and flair.

Modern, Some Traditional Styles

Metal roofs are definitely back in vogue. In the late 1700s, zinc, copper, and lead were the most popular materials used for roofing and can be found on historic buildings throughout the country. Modern day metal roofs types span from galvanized steel on the lowest end to copper on the highest. Gracing some of the finest mansions and public buildings in the US and abroad, copper roofs have been and will remain a sophisticated choice. Appearance aside, metal roofs offer environmental benefits as they are made from around 65 percent recyclable material, and because they weigh very little, they can be installed over existing roofs, eliminating the need to dispose of excess material in a landfill. The cost of a premium metal roof is higher than most other roofing materials, so you will need to compute the lifecycle expense to see if paying more upfront will prove to be a better investment than other types of roofing.