2021 Most Durable Roofing Materials: Pros/Cons & Costs


Weather and climate can be torturous on your home’s roof. If your roof isn’t durable, it can cause problems such as water intrusion, mold, and structural damage. When replacing a roof, it’s crucial to select a durable and aesthetically-pleasing roofing material.

When looking for the most durable roofing materials, we should consider the roofing materials’ lifespan, maintenance, style, and cost. Certain roofing materials are long-lasting, like slate and copper; however, they are out of reach for most owners financially. Here’s a list of the most durable roofing materials that will keep your home safe and save you money. 

For the money, the overall most durable roofing material is 50-year premium architectural shingles. Architectural shingles are well suited for all areas and can last 30 to 50 years. Other durable roofing materials include metal, concrete tiles, wood shake, or slate tiles. Some roofing materials are not suited well for all areas or have higher installation costs.

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Most durable sloped roofing materials ranked by cost: the below table lists durable roofing materials ranked by cost from least expensive to most expensive.

MaterialLife/yearsPer Square*Rating
Premium Architectural Shingles40-50$500-$750Best
Metal (Standing Seam)40-80$700-$1,500Best
Natural Slate Tiles60-150$900-$2,500Best
Clay & Concrete Tiles100+$1,000-$2,400Best
Solar Glass Tiles100+$2,500-$4,500Best
Architectural Shingle30-40$350-$550Better
Metal (Corrugated)40-80$350-$650Better
Wood Shake & Shingle30-40$650-$1,250Better
Plastic Polymer40-60$575-$1,350Better
3-Tab Composite Asphalt (20 Year)15-20$100 – $150Good
*Square = 100 square feet – The above table data was gathered from Roofingcalc.com, HomeAdvisor.com, and other offline sources.

A home with 2500sf of roof area will have 25 square of roofing material (2500/100=25 square). The following is an estimated roof cost:

  • 3-Tab asphalt shingles (20 years): $2,500 to $3,750
  • 30-year architectural shingles: $8,750 to $13,750
  • 50-year premium shingles: $12,500 to $18,750
  • Wood shingles or shakes: $16,250 to $31,250
  • Metal corrugated: $8,750 to $16,250
  • Metal standing seam: $17,500 to $37,500
  • Clay or concrete tiles: $25,000 to $60,000
  • Natural slate tiles: $22,500 to $62,500
  • Plastic polymer: $14,375 to $33,750
  • Solar glass tiles: $62,500 to $100,000

Most durable flat roofing materials ranked by cost: the below table lists durable flat roofing materials ranked by cost from least expensive to most expensive.

MaterialLife/YearsPer Square*Rating
Rubber: TPO30-40$450-$1,250Best
Rubber: PVC40-60$525-$1,400Best
Built-up Roofing (BUR)20-30$400-$1,000Better
Rubber: EPDM20-30$425-$1,200Better
Roll Roofing15-20$300 – $600Good
*Square = 100 square feet – The above table data was gathered from HomeAdvisor.com and other offline sources.

A home with 2500sf of roof area will have 25 square of roofing material (2500/100=25 square). The following is an estimated roof cost:

  • Rubber:EPDM roofing: $10,625 to $30,000
  • Rubber:TPO roofing: $11,250 to $31,250
  • Rubber:PVC roofing: $13,125 to $35,000
  • Built-up roofing: $10,000 to $25,000
  • Roll roofing: $9,000 to $15,000

Roofing contractors will typically add 5%-10% to cover material trim and waste.

Composite Asphalt/Fiberglass Shingles

Composite asphalt roofing is the most popular roofing material, covering about 75% of all US houses. Composite asphalt shingles consist of an organic or fiberglass base saturated with asphalt, coated on the bottom side with asphalt—the exposed surface covered with granules of slate, schist, quartz, or ceramic granules.

Some houses still have organic shingles; however, manufacturers no longer produce them because they are heavier and more challenging to work with than fiberglass.

Asphalt shingles’ popularity has started to wane in recent years, thanks to most cost- and energy-efficient metal roofing.

A composite asphalt shingle roof is popular because its’ durable, versatile, and affordable. The cost of asphalt shingles ranges from $100 to $460 per square based on design and thickness. For the money, 3-tab asphalt shingles are the cheapest, most durable roofing material available.

  • 3-tab composite shingles are composite shingles made from asphalt and fiberglass consisting of three cut tabs along the shingle’s bottom. Composite shingles have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years.
  • Architectural shingles are 3-dimensional shingles made from asphalt and fiberglass with a sculpted design that is thicker than 3-tab shingles and consists of multiple tabs laid down over one another that create a 3D effect. Architectural shingles have a lifespan of 25 to 40 years, depending on thickness.
  • Premium architectural shingles are rated to have a last 50 years; however, this could be less in some areas like Florida. These shingles are manufactured from upgraded materials designed to withstand the harshest conditions, including heavy rains, small to medium-sized hail, and wind up to 130 MPH. However, they may not withstand a Cat 3 or higher hurricane.

You will have to maintain your asphalt shingle roof to maximize its lifespan. Make sure to keep the roof free of debris and moss. Composite shingle roofing can be cleaned, but never power-wash it. Power washing removes the granules from the shingles, which is what protects the shingles.

Check out our article Common Roof Problems Found During Home Inspections.

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Shingles

The advantages of asphalt shingles are:

  • Asphalt shingles have a lifespan of 15 to 50 years, with architecture shingles being the preferred choice for quality and longevity. Architecture shingles offer up to 30 to 50-year protection suitable for homes in most areas.
  • Asphalt shingles can be professionally installed for as little as $100 per square. For the money, 3-tab asphalt shingles are the cheapest, most durable roofing material available.
  • Architecture shingles can be installed for an average of $480 per square.
  • Premium shingles can be installed for $500 to $750 per square making 50-year premium shingles the most durable asphalt shingles.
  • Homeowners can make minor repairs to asphalt shingles without having to replace the entire roof.
  • Asphalt fiberglass shingles offer fire protection from external sources.
  • Asphalt shingles of all types are well-suited for nearly every style of home and climate.
  • For those living in low wind areas, 3-tab shingles can withstand 60 to70 MPH winds. Architecture shingles can withstand 110 MPH uplift wind protection. 50-year premium shingles offer the best hail and wind protection up to 130 MPH winds.
  • Asphalt shingles provide a wide array of colors and styles to mimic wood shakes and slate tiles.
  • Asphalt shingles can be a DIY improvement for those with skills and experience working roofing materials.

The disadvantages of asphalt shingles are:

  • The lifetime cost of asphalt shingles is higher than metal, tile, or slate roofs. Metal, tile, and slate roofing have higher upfront costs but last much longer than asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles require more maintenance and more frequent replacement. Total cost over time is higher but spread over many decades.
  • Asphalt shingles are susceptible to damage from wind and hail. Once damaged, roof replacement is required to protect the structure.
  • 3-tab asphalt shingles can require replacement every 10 to 15 years in hot climates with direct sunlight.
  • Asphalt shingles are marketed as recyclable, yet most asphalt shingles end up in construction material landfills.
  • Most roofs can withstand two layers of shingles. Multiple layers of shingles increase demolition costs during the roof replacement.
  • Mold or algae can grow on shingles in shady areas, which require professional roof cleanings or algae treatment to remove.

Standing-Seam Metal Roof

The standing-seam metal roof is gaining popularity in areas prone to wildfire. As demand rises for more durable and eco-friendly roofing materials, metal roofing has answered the call.

Manufacturers are now offering a wide array of colors and design options, some of which can mimic shingles, shakes, or tiles. Metal roofing is commonly made from aluminum, steel, and zinc. Copper metal roofs are popular in coastal areas where the other metals can be affected by salt corrosion. Copper roofs are beautiful but expensive.

This roof is made out of large steel panels laid on the roof deck with the seams overlapping in raised ridges that run vertically along the roof slope.

You can choose between steel, aluminum, copper, and zinc. The standing-seam metal roof is very durable.  

The lifespan of metal roofing is about 40 to 80 years. In the right environment, this roof can last over 80 years. Routine roof inspections are needed to ensure that fasteners and sealants haven’t failed and inspected for distressed, bent, or slipped panels to maximize their lifespan. Standing seam metal roofing needs almost no maintenance. 

The standing-seam metal roof is also one of the more expensive roofs, but given that it lasts for upward 80 years, you probably won’t have to replace it during your lifetime. 

Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

The advantages of metal roofing are:

  • Metal roofing can last 40 to 80 years. Depending on the type and gauge of metal used, it can last over 100 years with routine maintenance. Manufacturers generally offer material warranties of 30 to 50 years.
  • Metal roofing demand on the rise due to demand for more durable and eco-friendly building materials, particularly in areas most affected by wildfires.
  • Metal roofing acts as a reflects barrier by reflecting heat, which keeps your home cooler than asphalt shingle roofs.
  • Metal roofing sheds snow and ice better than other roofing materials. Shedding ice and snow is essential to preventing ice dams from forming in freezing weather.
  • Metal roofing offers various colors and designs; some even mimic other roofing materials like shakes, tiles, and even shingles.
  • Affordable options of metal roofing exist, such as corrugated and ribbed panels. These cheaper options require more maintenance than standing seam metal roofing as fasteners need routine sealant.
  • Metal roofing is eco-friendly because it is recyclable at the end of life.
  • Standing seam metal roofing is resilient and can withstand small hail impact and 110 – 130 MPH winds.

The disadvantages of metal roofing are:

  • Metal roofing costs more than other roofing types, including all types of asphalt shingle roofing. On average, metal roofing costs two to five times more than asphalt shingle roofing. The added cost is offset by lifespan and reduced maintenance.
  • Metal roofing is not well-suited as a DIY improvement as special training and tools are needed to install metal roofing properly.
  • Metal roofing can be loud when raining. Roofers may need an additional substrate base installed to reduce noise on metal roofing during installation.
  • While metal roofing is more durable than other roofing materials, it can still be damaged by large hail. Replacing metal roofing panels is costly and may not be covered under your homeowner’s insurance coverage.
  • Metal roofing provides superior fire rating from external sources; it can prove difficult for firefighters to battle fires that originate from an internal source.

Clay & Concrete Tile Roof

This type of roofing is very durable and a perfect choice for roofs that get a lot of sun exposure. Clay and concrete tile roofing can last for more than 100 years, sometimes even more if installed in the right climate. The tiles are very well known for withstanding hail, high winds, and even fire. Most manufacturers will give you a 50-year warranty.  

Clay tiles are heavy and more durable. Modern concrete tiles are formed with a lightweight blend that is easier to work with.

Unlike wooden roofs, concrete and clay tiles will never decay. The tiles are made from earth minerals, not chemicals, which makes them recyclable. 

This roof requires very little maintenance. It rarely leaks, and a tile rarely needs to be fixed. Tiles are glazed or coated to provide waterproofing.

This roof is quite expensive, but when you consider that you’ll have it for more than 100 years, you realize that it makes sense to pay more. 

Pros and Cons of Clay & Concrete Tiles

The advantages of clay and concrete tiles are:

  • Clay and concrete tile roofs are very durable and can last over 100 years.
  • Tiles are generally low maintenance, limited to replacement of a few tiles every few years.
  • Tiles are fire resistant and do not decay like other roofing materials.
  • Tiles are light-colored, which reflects heat, which keeps homes cooler in warm weather climates.
  • Tiles roofs are a popular choice for Spanish, European, and the Mediterranean influenced modern home designs.
  • Tiles are eco-friendly and recyclable at the end of life.

The disadvantages of clay and concrete tiles are:

  • Tile roofs cost more to install initially than asphalt shingles, wood shakes, and metal roofing (except copper)—the cost of offset by longevity.
  • Tiles are very durable but can break when walked on for repairs or inspection.
  • Tile roof installation is not a DIY job and requires professional installation.
  • Not all roofers work on tile roofs, which can make finding repair contractors difficult.

Wood Shake & Shingle Roof 

There are two types of wood roofs, those made out of wood shingles and wood shakes.

Wood Shakes vs. Wood Shingles: What’s the difference

Wood shakes are thicker than wood shingles and stand up better to weather and UV rays. This roof requires professional installation and isn’t the best option for an environment where there’s a big fire chance. Wood shake roofs usually last about 30 years, but most of them last even longer.

Wood shingles are machine sawed and more uniform in thickness than shakes. Wood shingles are mostly made out of cedar because it’s durable, flexible, long-lasting, moisture-resistant, and insect-repellent.

Cedar also has natural oils that prevent decay. You can choose between red, yellow, and white cedar.

  • Red cedar is great for accepting stains and fire retardants.
  • Yellow cedar is more water- and insect-repellent because it has a tighter grain, but it doesn’t accept staining or painting as well as other species.
  • White cedar grows faster, so it’s better for the environment. 

Both wood shake and wood shingle roofs need a lot of maintenance, especially if you want them to last for a long time. Moss growth can cause wood shakes to decay prematurely. Split, curled, or cupped shakes need replacement occasionally. Depending on how wet your climate is, you’ll need to power-wash the roof every 3 to 5 years and apply a waterproofing preservative. 

Wood shake and wood shingles can be made from trees from certified sustainable forests and can be cut from cedar, redwood, cypress, and pressure-treated pine. Both can be turned into mulch at the end of life since it’s biodegradable. 

This roof varies in color and texture, and it turns into silver gray as it ages. Both are good insulators, which means that they will reduce the cost of heating and cooling. They also resist wind and impact, so they hold up well during storms.

Pros and Cons of Wood Shakes & Shingle Roofs

The advantages of wood shingles and shakes are:

  • Wood has a lifespan of about 30 years. Which proper maintenance, wood can last 40 years.
  • Wood shakes and shingles cut from cedar and redwood are naturally resistant to moisture and insects.
  • Wood shakes and shingles are naturally durable due to the density of the wood.
  • Wood shakes and shingles are recycled to make mulch, wood chips, or compost at the end of life.
  • Wood shakes and shingles are a staple of Tudor, Victorian, Cape Cod, and similar style homes.

The disadvantages of wood shakes and shingles are:

  • If you live in a very wet climate or where wildfires happen often, this roof isn’t for you. Non-treated wood shakes and shingles have a Class C fire rating. Treated wood with a Class A fire rating is available but is more expensive.
  • Untreated wood shakes and wood shingles are high maintenance. Regular cleanings are needed to prevent moss and algae growth, which can cause decay.
  • Wood shakes and shingles can be a DIY improvement for experienced contractors. Low-quality installations can lead to serious water leaks or damage.
  • Wood shakes and shingles are durable, but when repairs are needed, they can be expensive.

Slate Tile Roofs

Slate roofing has been used for generations and is well known for its beauty, durability, and longevity. Slate is the most durable roofing material and has been used for centuries. It is a natural stone product, and it gives your home a unique, beautiful appearance.

Its appearance is one of the classiest, most celebrated on the market. Slate roofing tiles come in various sizes, thicknesses, and colors, including black, gray, green, purple, and red tiles. 

The slate roof is built to last about 100 to 150 years. That is a huge plus, considering that most other roof materials last about 20 to 30 years. 

Composite slate tiles can last 40-60 years. They are lightweight compared to natural slate tiles and are installed to mimic real slate at a lower cost. Composite slate tiles are often used to repair genuine slate tile roofs.

This roofing is one of the most fire-resistant roofs out there. Even the tiles are completely fireproof, unlike some other roof materials. 

Roofing waste from the slate roof accounts for more than 5 percent of the total waste sent to landfills across the nation every year. Installing a roof that will last 100 years or more has a positive impact on the environment. 

However, there are some drawbacks to this roof. Most contractors don’t know much about it and won’t be able to install it properly. This roof is also quite fragile, which means that you can’t walk on it unless you know what you’re doing. It is easy to break the tiles. 

Our article, How Home Inspectors Examine Roofs – Methods & Safety Concerns, discusses whether home inspectors walk on roofs and other methods inspectors use to inspect roofs.

Pros and Cons of Slate Roofing

The advantages of slate tiles are:

  • Real slate roofing is superior in durability and beauty.
  • Real slate roofing is an actual lifetime roofing material that enhances curb appeal and market value.
  • Real slate tile roofing is very low maintenance.
  • Composite slate materials are a lighter weight material that lasts 40 to 60 years and mimics the real slate look.
  • Slate is an eco-friendly material that can be recycled.

The disadvantages of slate tiles are:

  • Real slate weighs about 1500 lbs per square (100 square feet). Extra framing support is required to carry the added weight, which means added construction costs.
  • Slate tiles, like wood shakes, can develop roof leaks quickly if not installed right.
  • Slate roofs are not a DIV roofing installation. Contractors specializing in slate tile installations are becoming hard to find unless you live in an area where slate tile installations are typical.
  • Slate tiles are durable, but if walked on, they can break. Contractors experienced in slate tile installations should perform inspections and repairs.

Tesla Solar Glass Tile Roofs

Many manufacturers offer solar panels for your roof, but Tesla is the only manufacturer that offers solar glass roof tiles. You will be able to power your house with it. It is about three times stronger than regular roof tiles. 

You can say that the roof will pay for itself because of the energy it produces. This roof is designed to protect you from all types of weather. A waterproof layer is added to the roof to keep your home dry.  

The roof is costly, but you might qualify for a tax credit to offset the cost, depending on where you live. 

Tesla is working to improve the look of their solar glass tiles. The tiles are made of four styles of glass tiles. However, Installations have been sparse to date.

Pros and Cons of Solar Glass Tile Roofs

The advantages of solar glass tile roof are:

  • According to Tesla, solar glass tile material will last a lifetime, making it the most durable roofing material available.
  • The solar glass tiles make your house self-sustaining, producing 100% of the energy used.
  • Tesla guarantees its solar glass tiles to generate power for 30 years.
  • Tesla provides a lifetime warranty against breakage and material defect.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Presently, Tesla solar glass tiles are expensive and not within everyone’s budget. Pricing is running about $2500 to $4500 per 100 square foot. For most roofs, the cost can run between $70,000 and $100,000.
  • Installers are few at present. Tesla is working on getting contractors trained in installing solar roofing tiles.

Plastic Polymer Roofing

Plastic polymer roofing is mostly made out of recycled plastic. Because polymer hasn’t been used as a synthetic roofing material for as long as concrete roof tiles, wooden shingles, or most other roofing materials, there is no way of knowing with certainty just how long it will last. However, we know that polymer doesn’t disintegrate quickly and should last for approximately 40 to 60 years. 

Even though it’s a good thing that polymer doesn’t break down easily, it also not eco-friendly. Polymer shingles are recyclable; however, they could end up in landfills at the end of life.

Polymer shingles are made to resemble shingles, shakes, and tiles at a lower cost. They’re available in an array wide range of colors. 

Pros and Cons of Plastic Polymer Roofing

The advantages of plastic polymer roofing are:

  • Roofing made from plastic polymer is a durable material made from recycled plastic. The plastic polymer is durable because the material doesn’t degrade quickly.
  • Plastic polymer roofing is low maintenance.
  • Plastic polymer resembles shingles, shakes, and tile roofing and is available in a variety of different colors.
  • Plastic polymer is lightweight compared to natural materials but still has rugged weight, which adds to its durability.
  • Plastic polymer offers fire and wind resistance.

The disadvantages of plastic polymer roofing are:

  • Plastic polymer roofing is not suited for all houses.
  • Due to the products moderate weight, the roof may need structural reinforcement.
  • More expensive than more traditional, time-tested, and proven roofing materials.
  • Not all roofers are familiar with installing plastic polymer roofing materials, which could increase installation costs.

Flat Roofing Options

Rubber Roofing: EPDM, TPO, & PVC

Rubber roofing is commonly used on flat or low sloped applications. It is a durable material for flat roofs that lasts 20 to 30 years. However, there are three types of rubber roofing, they are:

  • Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) membranes use manufactured from recycled rubber, slate, and sawdust to create a tear-proof material suitable for roof applications. The material is resistant to impact from hail and other debris; however, it can only withstand one significant hailstorm. The material is installed with a roofing adhesive with overlapping seams to prevent roof leaks. EPDM has a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.
  • Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) is a step up from EPDM and is made from polypropylene and ethylene-propylene material. TPO is white, which reflects heat from the roof. The material fully adheres to the roof. TPO has better durability again hail and debris than EPDM. TPO has a lifespan of 20 to 30 years; however, it can last up to 40 years under good conditions.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the most durable of the rubber roofs made from recycled PVC materials. It can withstand heavy foot traffic and multiple hailstorms, which means it’s more durable than EPDM and TPO materials. PVC roof coverings can last 40 to 50 years and up to 70 years in ideal conditions. PVC is the most durable flat roof material.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Build up roofing (BUR) is a layered roof, and it has been used for over 100 years. It is created by alternating layers of roofing felt and waterproof materials. Build up roofing is usually used on flat roofs or roofs with a very slight pitch. This roof is inexpensive and fire-resistant. It provides excellent water and UV protection.

Build-up roofing usually lasts about 20 to 30 years. You can maximize its lifetime by regularly repairing and inspecting it. Make sure you keep all debris off the roof to prevent degradation of the surface. This type of roofing is better in warmer climates than in cold regions.

Rolled Roofing

This type of roofing is used for utility type structures such as work sheds, shops, potting sheds, barns, garages, outdoor roofed exercise structures, kids’ treehouses, and other outbuildings. It is often used on flat and low-sloped roofs. 

It is the least expensive roofing material, which means that you won’t have to invest a lot of money in your child’s playhouse, or a garage that you rarely use. Rolled roofing is the best way to cover low-incline roofs. You can take it down very easily and very quickly. 

Unlike some other roofing materials, rolled roofing is easy to transport. It is light, and it is tightly rolled up and sealed when you buy it. This roofing is very adaptable, and you can cut it into 12-inch by 36-inch strips to act as hips and ridges or 9-inch strips for eaves and rakes.

You can even put this roofing over existing shingles.

Rolled roofing offers you limited coverage choices. It mostly comes in black, but you can also find it in green, tan, and gray. This roofing is considered to be less attractive than others. 

The lifespan of rolled roofing is about 5 to 8 years. This may not sound like a lot, but you have to consider that this roofing isn’t used on residential buildings. If you put it on your child’s playhouse or a treehouse, it will probably last until they outgrow it. This roofing can also be used to fix your current shingles and postpone your roof’s expensive replacement for about ten years.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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