Roofs: How to make the best possible choice, part 2 — Go Beyond Shingles to Slate, Clay Tile, and Metal

The material composition of a roof is a big selling feature since the chosen material protects the exterior and interior of the home from all kinds of inclement weather conditions. That choice can make a huge difference in whether the roof lasts 10 or 20 years or as long as 100.


The type of roof will also greatly change the price. Asphalt shingles—and the best version in that category are known as architectural—function fine and will look right in most neighborhoods with a variety of housing styles. But there are several pricier roof choices that should be considered if there’s a bigger budget and the goal is to gain durability and a longer lasting roof choice.


I spoke with Bill Lomel, president of Sentry Roof Services based in Atlanta, to get the scoop on the pros and cons of three choices that fit those needs: slate, tile, and metal.


best roofing materialsSlate. Drive through neighborhoods with older estate-style homes and many will have slate roofs, chosen for their ability to last dozens of years—perhaps, more than 100! This option also looks good with facades of brick, stucco, and clapboard. Newer homes are often constructed with slate tiles. But there are several caveats any homeowner considering this material should contemplate.




  • The house needs to be structurally sound to support the weight, which means a structural engineer should be brought on board.
  • There are different thicknesses available and some of those that are thinner won’t hold up as well over time. Beware being enticed by a lower price.
  • Slate is a natural stone that varies in color even within shades so matching is difficult at times. Order enough extra of the same lot for future needs, including replacing broken tiles. What’s “enough?” About 2 to 5 percent more than estimated.
  • Flashing installed at the same time should be of a comparable quality, which means copper rather than any aluminum product.
  • A homeowner should be prepared for the hefty price tag, which can run up to $100,000 or more.
  • Though it’s highly durable, the slates can be damaged by limbs falling during a storm on the roof or workmen walking atop them to repair gutters or chimneys, so know the length of the warranty and what it includes and excludes.
  • Finally, because of the wide variety of widths, lengths, thicknesses and colors, there isn’t always stock available in every market at a given time. Be prepared to give yourself a long enough lead time to purchase it than with a more readily available roof choice like asphalt shingles.


New slate roof tiles background close up.



Close up on attic brick house roof construction with ceramic clay roof tiles.

Clay tile. Also fabricated from natural ingredients as slate tiles are, clay tiles also come in numerous shapes, colors, and finishes to make a roof distinct. But the decision to go with this material should also be weighed carefully.


  • As with slate, the tiles add a lot of weight to a roof, so a competent structural engineer should check if the support is adequate.
  • The tiles may also break easily as work is done on the roof.
  • They also tend to offer a long life span, often 50 to 100 years depending on the type of clay and thickness.
  • The price, too, will be more expensive than with asphalt but sometimes less than with slate. Generally, the cost is 30 to 50 percent less than slate.
  • Availability in all areas also may not be as common so expect a longer lead time.


Red clay roof tiles, detail.



Metal. Once considered a choice best for industrial and commercial applications and farm buildings, metal roofs have popped up in recent years on many contemporary homes, partly because of their whimsical colors, from blues to greens, and reds. They, too, offer certain advantages and disadvantages and require special considerations.





  • The panels are available in different widths and thicknesses so it’s best to see examples in advance and know what will work best both for durability and aesthetics. A 12” to 16” wide metal panel width is very typical, along with a 24 gauge thickness.
  • They should be installed by a roofing company with experience since several techniques are possible, from the least expensive method of screwing panels together from the top surface, which can come undone over time to a full standing seam that attaches the panels with concealed clips offering a sturdier method.
  • The price is generally far less than slate or clay tile and averages between $30,000 and $35,000.
  • Most colors are produced from a granular paint finish called “powder coating” that will withstand weather, including sun. However, ask before making a choice since some finishes will hold up better than others.
  • These roofs can last anywhere from 20 years for less thick metal choices to 50 years for a standing seam.



Most residential roofing installers are 100 percent in the shingle business and even though these products are attached to a sloped surface they are very different and require specialized skills and experience. Ask about experience, job history, and references, and go check out some finished jobs in person.


Next up in Part 3 will be green and solar panel roofing choices.

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