Every day we are moving toward adapting to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Lots of households focus on recycling, low energy appliances, optimizing their heating and cooling systems, adding water saving devices. Some will even go as far as replacing windows – but what about roofing materials?
A lot of the more traditional roofing options are less than friendly to the environment, which can cause problems based on the fact that roof replacements are at an all-time high.
Every year 7 million homes need a new roof in the United States which puts 11 million tons of asphalt shingles added to landfills and they are a non-renewable, petroleum product. These shingles require replacement every 15-20 years, increasing our dependency on fossil fuels.
Additionally, there is a fairly consistent maintenance and repair with traditional shingle roofing. Often after high wind scenarios, shingles will need to be repaired or replaced to protect the underlying wooden roof.
Knowing this information, it is important to be aware that there are plenty of roofing alternatives that will not destroy the atmosphere around them. Here are 5 options and some details supporting their invention and renaissance:
Wood Shingles – “AKA Cedar Shake Roof”
Here’s a blast from the past: wood shingles. Raising in popularity over the last 3-4 years because their “greenness”, this type of roofing material is more than desirable when you are trying to go the environmentally friendly route with your home.
Historically, wooden roofs have been durable and last about the same time frame as a traditional petroleum shingle. When the roof’s lifecycle is coming to an end, the shingles can be recycled and reused, also homeowners may choose a reclaimed wood roof extending the life cycle of the shingle.
In addition, there is a long-lasting plastic material option available mimicking the wood shingles which is a nice compromise. They are made from recycled plastics, cost about as much as a metal roof instillation and. Have a life expectancy of about 50 years.
These synthetic shingles also don’t need to “breathe”. Either option here provides a look that can last 50-60 years, they are simple to install and look beautiful. The maintenance of this option is also very simple and can be kept up by any DIY homeowner.
Simple maintenance includes debris removal, cleaning to remove algae and moss, and the addition of a wood preservative. More extensive maintenance concerns are that with no maintenance the roof might only last 10 years or more, depending on the severity of the elements.
An unexpected aspect of adding wood shingles to your abode is manpower. This roofing drives jobs and manpower, that can often support local communities. Many of these contractors are also using the remnants of the traditional wood shingles for mulch, after chipping them up another great repurposing of the waste material.
Concerns about where your roof comes from? As a consumer, you can ensure that your cedar shakes are coming from a sustainable forest, one that is certified by the Forest Steward Council or other forest organizations.
Additional concerns about wood roofing are noted as they are not a fire proof solution, which could impact your homeowner’s insurance coverage. You could easily be denied insurance or charged a premium rate. Cedar shakes have come a long way and some factories are providing B and C rated fire-resistant chemicals.
Just like our friend the wood shingle, we are seeing a renaissance in metal roofing. Cars, cans, and even old appliances can be recycled into metal roofs, and some are warrantied up to 50 years. Once the metal roof has reached its end of life, it too can be recycled. Metal roofs are also known for reflecting heat and driving down energy costs.
Homeowners now have more options than ever. As the metal roof industry evolves there are now many more options than the silver, red and green we have all seen. There are coated products that resemble the look of marble or granite.
As an added bonus, metal roofs can be added on top of the existing shingle, increasing insulation and roof protection, as well as a reduction of waste removal, and less nonrenewable resources hitting our landfills.
Metal roofs are also made from tin, zinc, aluminum or galvanized steel – just make sure your metal roofing materials are tested and labeled by UL and check with your local building agency for any code requirements.
As mentioned before, metal roofs can last 40-70 years, depending on the material and the elements it’s exposed to. These roofs can sustain wind gusts up to 140 miles per hour and are impact resistant. They will also not corrode or crack.
These roofs will also not spark and ignite flames like traditional shingle roofs and can withstand lightning strikes. The metal roofing materials we tend to see on the market now range from 25-95% recycled content and are 100% recyclable at the end of their life.
In choosing a metal roof, the homeowner will need to balance affordability vs longevity. Some metal roofs can be as much as 3 times the cost of traditional roofing materials and, as a result, this choice makes fiscal sense if this is your “forever home”.
Metal roofs also can be noisy, in higher wind conditions, you can and will hear vibrations on the roof as the wind crosses the ridges. In areas prone to heavy rain and hail come noises as well. Most of this can be remedied by adding environmentally friendly insulation.
Metal roofs also expand and contract to allow the metal to breathe, on occasion, particularly after wind events, some fasteners can work loose and should be replaced immediately.
Clay tiles make up another great roofing option that is friendly to the environment. The nickname terracotta literally means cooked earth in Latin. Clay tiles are one of the most noticeable roofs out there with their earthy appeal, and they are 100% recyclable.
More often than not, these roofs are seen in desert climates because of their ability to redirect heat and they are also incredibly durable. These tiles create air insulation against both heat and cold which often drive down electricity costs.
These roofs are known most for their durability. They can last for ages when installed and maintained properly. The color selection is limited with these tiles to the traditional red and brown but reflects the natural beauty of the area from which it was harvested.
It provides a rustic look that cannot be imitated. While being limited in terms of color, there are a multitude of designs that are available in the marketplace encompassing several shapes, sizes, and patterns. Finally, it is naturally resistant to mold, fungus and bacterial growth.
Definitely, the sturdiest material for roofing, the tenure and warranties of slate tiles are generally measured in centuries not years. In some metropolitan areas salvage and repurpose dealers are popping up which makes this selection even more environmentally friendly.
Slate has long since been known as the highest quality and longest lasting roofs on the market. When considering slate as an option when choosing roofing materials, you are looking at a higher cost, more difficult installation and some fragility so it might not be for everyone so let’s take a look at some of its features.
Firstly, slate adds curb appeal, and whether or not that impacts its impact on the environment, it can positively impact your home’s value. It has a standard of class that cannot be mimicked.
Today’s slate is available in a multitude of lengths and thickness as well as a wide range of colors, such as but not limited to: gray, green, black, red, purple and mottled tiles that have several non-uniformed colors mixed together – guaranteed to catch the neighbor’s eye!
Slate, as mentioned above, should be able to last a century. Genuinely, 150 years is a reasonable expectation of a roof of that type. It is a wonderful product for home owner’s insurance as well as slate itself is completely fireproof, working well in areas that experience regular forest fires.
Even the most environmentally friendly roofs do have a few cons out there. Firstly, when installing slate, you should always find someone with a history and the manpower of installing these roofs.
Due to its expense, it is a niche market, but doing your homework here can save you many headaches down the line. The sheer weight of the slate also comes into question. The weight of slate roofing tile averages out to be about 1400lbs. So you will need your residence inspected to ensure from a structural standpoint your home can withstand the weight.
Finally, the fragility of slate can be a downside for some homeowners. Any maintenance personnel or contractors that will be walking on the installed roof, need to have experience with slate and know where to step.
Cool roofs represent the fastest growing segment of the roofing industry. These materials consist of a mixture of white glue and white gravel which reflect the sun’s rays and thus reducing the amount of heat that invades the home.
Cool roofs can be installed during a roofing replacement project or by retrofitting existing shingles using a cool roof coating. The silicone, acrylic or polymer paints typically contain resistant materials and can be applied to the roof surfaces post installation.
Cool roofs are defiantly chilling the competition as they are known to reduce the surface temperature of a roof by up to 50 degrees. Studies show that cool roofs that were measured in California, Texas, and Florida during their peak heats, electricity demand was down more than 30%.
These roofs are very geographically specific. While driving down temperatures in high-temperature areas, the effect remains the same in the cooler areas, thus having the opposite effect with electricity demand. Pairing a cool roof with a well-insulated attic will most defiantly maximize the effect of the new offering.
Additionally, been found that cool roofs are best suited for one level homes. Even if you do not use air-conditioning, a cooler home through the warmer months of the year seem to be more comfortable but there can be a phenomenon called the “chimney effect” in the cooler months. This is where the more heated air heads upwards and can make the upper floor warmer than the primary level.
Intergrade that with a cool roof and tight insulation, and you have a recipe for some uncomfortable sleeping quarters. Finally, these lighter roofs can look dirtier quicker especially the lighter gray shingles. They are pretty quick to expose algae streaks and reveal dirt. Some installers incorporate copper into these cool shingles, which assist in the postponement of development of the discoloration, but it only slows it, not eradicates it.
How To Find The Best Roofing Material
With so many new innovations coming to the market and our trusty tried and true solutions a homeowner can easily get overwhelmed with the decision. First, are there any geographical constraints of the roofing materials you were considering? Is there a governing organization that also must weigh in – such as a Home-Owners Association?
Once those are crossed off getting referred experts on the roof types you are interested in to provide detailed quotes can also help make the decision. Often those quotes do not consider debris removal, how and where the waste goes, or if it is recycled. These are all key factors in the final stages of nailing down your most environmentally friendly roofing materials.
Finally, do some research. Look at homes in the area that have installed your ideal material, is there any in your neighborhood, or that friends or family can provide you incite to for your area.
There are tons of resources online to help make an educated decision. Do not forget to factor in that you might not be in your forever home and might need to provide a balance of eco-friendly and fiscal sense to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
At the end of your journey to discovering which roofing materials are right for your home, make sure you have everything documented. It’s also important to make certain that you have asked around, checked your budget in case there are surprises and mostly, are getting the greenest product that suits your family’s needs and is best for the environment.