5 Of The Cheapest Roof Materials To Install

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Roofs provide shelter and insulation all-weather round, making proper roofing vital in building and construction right from the structural design to the choice of roofing material, and finally, installation.

You may wonder what factors homeowners consider when choosing the type of roofing material to use on their property. Well, here are a few points to note.

Asphalt roofing is the cheapest to install but carries a higher lifetime cost because of frequent replacements. Typically, an asphalt roof will have to be replaced every 15 years. However, if you can afford a higher upfront cost, metal roofing should last 50 or more years and has a lifetime cost of about half that of asphalt shingles.

Weather Conditions – strength comes to play in this case. The ability of your roof to withstand extreme weather conditions like strong winds and storms ranks high in safeguarding the life and property of its occupants.

Property Value – a roof is the face of your property. It is the first thing people look at and creates a first and lasting impression on the value and integrity of your home. 

Energy Efficiency – cool and bright-colored roofs reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat, saving you energy and money in terms of bills when you use less air conditioning. 

Roof Slope – your roofing budget is greatly affected by the shape and design of the structural layout. 

The weight and thickness of the roofing material determine the ideal roofing material and how much of it it will consume. 

Examples of roof slopes include bonnet roofs, which feature twin slopes inclining at different angles, gable roofs, peaked roofs and are easily recognized by their triangular outlines. Finally, flat roof surfaces with no pitch.

Long Term Maintenance entails frequent general inspection of the roofing system and early identification and repair of any problem to ensure a long-lasting, well-maintained roof.

That said, note that roofing materials are either natural or synthetic and come in shingles, shakes, and tiles. 

As you build and look forward to a wholesomely beautiful home, you may wonder if there are cheap roofing materials whose quality is not substandard? 

Well, affordability varies from person to person depending on the budget at hand.

So as you shop for an economical roofing solution that best suits your price range, here are five of the cheapest roof materials to consider;

  • Asphalt Roofing Shingles
  • Rolled Roofing
  • Metal Roof
  • Clay and Concrete tiles
  • Cedar Shake Shingles

Asphalt Roofing Shingles Cost Less About $1 a Square Foot

Topping the cheapest roofing materials is asphalt shingles, costing about $1 to $2 a square foot plus labor.

Asphalt roofing shingles are considered the most popular and cost-effective roofing material among homeowners working on a budget. They are relatively lightweight and easy to install, lasting between 15 to 20 years. Some higher-weight architecture shingles can last 25 to 30 years.

Asphalt shingles come in layered rows on a roof, creating an illusion of the more expensive single shingles like cedar and slate. 

There are three types of asphalt shingles available in the market today; strip shingles, dimensional shingles, and luxury shingles. 

It is important to understand their differences before picking the right one for your project. The downside of using shingle roofs is that they are more susceptible to heat damage, algae, and mold caused by excess moisture gathered underneath if you live in a colder region.

Rolled Roofing Can Cost About $0.50 a Square Foot

A rolled roofing membrane consists of relatively inexpensive long rolls made of asphalt-saturated materials and topped with mineral granules. 

All materials, nails included, are inexpensive, offering a fast and convenient covering to a low inclined roof. 

Rolled roofs should, however, not be used on flat roofs because they lead to leakage. Modified bitumen is a much better product for flat roof applications.

The downside is that rolled roofings range low in lifespan, averagely lasting between 5-10 years depending on maintenance. As a result, roll roofing is commonly used on sheds, barns, and other smaller buildings where aesthetics are not a top priority.

Metal Roofing is Inexpensive, Long-lasting Product

When it comes to price, corrugated metal roofs average $1.80 to $2.50 per square foot. Another advantage is you can pick out any color you want since there’s a variety available. 

If corrugated metal roofs don’t meet your taste, consider steel metal roofs. These are affordable, durable, and also easy to install. In addition, many people pick steel since it increases longevity, costing about $3.35 per square foot.

Metal roofs come in galvalume, aluminum, zinc, copper, and steel pieces and tiles and can vary widely in price.

Galvanized and galvalume being the most popular and long-lasting metal roofing substrates. Galvanized is coated with a zinc alloy, while galvalume is both coated with zinc alloy and aluminum. 

Generally, metal roofs are environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and stylish. But they are also noisy and are slightly more expensive compared to other roofing materials. 

When installed well and left undisturbed, the payoff is a beautiful-looking roof requiring less or no repairs for up to 50years as they receive less damage from storms and house fires. 

Aluminum is lightweight and does not rust easily, therefore suitable for coastal environments. 

Clay and Concrete Tiles Have Lower Lifetime Costs

Clay tiles are machine-baked molded clay. Top-quality clay tiles are one of the more durable roofing materials. They are affordable in the long run as their installation and maintenance costs are lower than other roofing materials.

Clay roofing materials cost averages from $12.50 to $24 per square foot. The price is mostly for simple clay roofing options, but more exotic tiles have a higher price. 

Concrete tiles, on the other hand, are made by mixing sand, cement, and water. 

One of the differences between clay and concrete is their water absorption rate. Concrete tiles at 13% and clay tiles at 6% qualifying clay tiles as the best and most popular in the market despite being the more expensive of the two. 

Clay and concrete tiles, in comparison, keep your home cool as they have heat-reduction properties, and on average, concrete roof tiles hold up better in extreme weather conditions, unlike clay that can crack and shatter.

Cedar Shake Shingles 

Cedar shake shingles are either split or sawn from blocks of unseasoned cedar and laid in overlapping layers on a sloping roof, standing out as naturally resistant to water, insects, and moss. 

Many people prefer wood singles since they have a longer lifespan. After proper installation, you don’t have to worry about replacing the roof for two decades or more. 

All they require is adequate maintenance to keep the roof healthy for longer. For instance, you can get cedar wood shingles whose price starts from $2 to $4.50 per square foot. 

Its longevity exceeds other roofing materials and is also resistant to harsh winds, unlike asphalt shingles that curl and lift in the wake of storms. 

Cedar is naturally insulating, providing up to twice as much as asphalt shingles, and ensures that you save on bills as heating and cooling energy is conserved. As long as they are correctly installed and maintained, you can get up to 30years on their lifespan.

Here are a few things to take note of:

  • You should be aware that the lifetime cost of shingles is higher than metal, tile, or slate because you must replace the composition shingles more frequently.
  • The asphalt shingle industry may claim that you can recycle its products for paving. However, few recycling facilities take asphalt shingles. Besides, they are among the least eco-friendly roofing options.

Final Thought

Recent years have witnessed an overwhelming ever-changing consumer need for superior roofing solutions.

Choosing one that works for you, considering all important factors, could prove a task.

The trick is to get value for money, and it’s your budget that will set the tone right from the start, but it is also important to understand that a product could be cheaper when buying but could require lots of maintenance over time, leading to unplanned expenses. 


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.