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How to Choose the Right Material for Your Roof

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Affordable and attractive asphalt shingles adorn modern Canadian rooftops

Repairing your roof is a big investment. Whether Calgary’s wild weather has caused serious roof damage, the natural life of your roof is coming to an end, or you’ve noticed some maintenance issues (perhaps missing shingles, leaks, or even rodents), knowing the materials available for your roof repair can make you more confident in spending your money. 

Here’s what you need to know to make an informed choice about your roof in Calgary’s very particular hail-prone, windy, snowy, low-humidity climate.

What to Consider When Replacing Your Roof

Your roofing plans might differ based on whether you’re planning to live in your home for a long time or if you’re preparing for a sale. Here are some of the prime considerations when replacing your roof.

Price

The initial cost of your roof repair is a combination of the price of materials and installation, but you’ll also want to consider the frequency of maintenance. 

That maintenance can include roofing underlayment, also known as an ice and water shield. This is an extra waterproof layer of protection that helps keep snow and ice from causing trouble. The underlayment will need to be replaced about every 20 years, so even if you invest in Class 4 shingles (more on those in a moment) that last 50+ years, there will be maintenance along the way.

Longevity and Durability

Basic asphalt shingles will last for about 15 years, while more durable materials can outlive even us. Class 4 shingles, which have the highest rating for impact-resistance, have 50-year lifespans. In Calgary, it’s key to choose a material that will resist hailstorms, wind gusts, and heavy snow.

Warranty

A manufacturer’s warranty will generally cover defects in roofing products. Warranties will range between materials, but the longest ones are 50 years and limited lifetime warranties.

The other warranty to consider is a workmanship warranty. It’s important to hire a Calgary roofing company you trust to deliver quality work. Every project we complete comes with our very own 5-year workmanship warranty.

Eco-Friendliness

The construction industry has a significant impact on the production of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. To make an environmentally conscious decision, consider whether the roofing materials:

  • Are made from renewable or recycled materials
  • Can be reused or recycled after their lifespan
  • Last a long time

Roof Pitch

If your home has a particularly high pitch or low pitch, there may be some limitations in the type of materials that can be used. This is something you can ask your roofer about if you’re unsure.

What are the Different Types of Roofing Materials?

There are lots of roofing material options to choose from to suit your budget, your home’s design, Calgary’s climate, and your long-term (or short-term) plans for your home.

Asphalt or Composite Shingles

By far the most common and affordable roofing material in Canada, asphalt or composite shingles are available in a range of colours. Some types can even be installed over existing roof decks, a potentially cost-saving approach.

This type of shingle is available in three main types:

  • Basic strip shingles, also called 3-tab shingles, last about 15 years.
  • Dimensional (laminate) shingles provide a three-dimensional appearance. These are the most common type of asphalt shingles in Canada and last about 25+ years.
  • Luxury shingles, like the hexagonal Iko Armourshield, have Class 4 hail-resistance. These shingles can last 50+ years.

Asphalt and composite shingles are generally made, at least in part, with bitumen and are sent to the landfill at the end of their lifespan. However, there are more sustainable options, like Malarkey Roofing’s Class 4 shingle made from recycled tires and Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS).

Generally, these shingles are fairly low maintenance. We recommend maintenance every five years.

Traditional cedar shake roofs offer rustic beauty but sacrifice fire protection

Traditional Cedar Shake and CeDUR Fire Retardant Cedar Shakes

Cedar shakes can make for a stunning, rustic roof, but they’re not suited to Alberta’s dry climate. They cost more upfront than asphalt shingles (about $8 per square foot vs. $4 per square foot) and require more maintenance. In Alberta’s climate, a cedar shake roof will last 20-25 years, compared to 30+ years in more humid climates.

Traditional cedar shake roofs don’t have great underlayment, as they use an organic tarp paper between each row of shake. And while cedar shake can be very environmentally friendly if the wood is harvested responsibly, it can be a serious fire hazard.

For the rustic look of cedar shake without the fire hazard, we recommend CeDUR Fire Retardant Cedar Shakes, which are made from a strong polyurethane material and have the highest Class A fire rating. Plus, CeDUR has a Class 4 impact rating, and is certified to survive 185 km/h wind speeds, so you don’t have to worry when that spring hail storm rolls through.

Slate

Slate roofs might just be the height of elegance. Slate shingles can last a lifetime—perhaps more than 100 years—because they’re made from stone. And since they can sometimes be reused after the life of the home, they’re an eco-friendlier option. 

Their beauty comes with a cost. They can be 10 to 20 times the price of some asphalt shingle roofs due to the price of materials and more complex installation. They’re less common for residential roofing because the weight of slate requires particular structural support. If your home isn’t designed for a heavier roofing material, slate may not be a viable option.

Slate roofs are hail-resistant, but not as impervious as other materials. You can achieve a similar look to slate with better hail-resistance and a much lower cost with many other materials, including asphalt and composite shingles, concrete, metal, and stone-coated steel.

Concrete

Concrete tiles are more economical than slate with a comparable look and excellent durability. Concrete tiles are highly resistant to the elements. They’re lower maintenance than some other roof types, but still should be checked by a professional throughout the years to make sure no unseen issues have crept in.

Concrete tiles come in a wide variety of colours, and if they’re “through colour” tiles, their pigment runs all the way through them, meaning minimal appearance changes throughout their long lifespan. On the other hand, a painted concrete tile roof will probably need a fresh coat after 15 to 20 years.

While concrete tiles can last a long time (and have 50-year warranties to match), concrete has been called “the most destructive material on Earth” for its considerable impact on carbon dioxide emissions. However, the very long lifespan compared to some other roofing products does mean you’re saving materials from the landfill. Plus, many areas, including Calgary, are able to recycle concrete. Look for a concrete tile product that uses recycled materials, or post-industrial waste products ilke fly ash, for a more environmentally friendly product.

Clay Tile Alternatives

Though beautiful, the traditional clay tiles that inspire thoughts of the Mediterranean simply aren’t a good fit for Canadian weather. They’re susceptible to hail storm damage, absorb up to 15% of their weight in water, and are extremely prone to being ripped away in high winds. 

Instead, for homeowners looking for the classic coastal feel of clay tiles, we recommend DECRA Tile, which offers the elegance of clay tile with the strength and resiliency of stone-coated steel. These tiles have Class 4 impact resistance, a Class A fire rating, and endure our freeze and thaw cycles.

They’re made from recyclable materials and can be recycled at the end of their long life—two to three times longer than some other roofing materials.

Metal

A metal roof is highly damage and fire-resistant, and while you’ll see a premium cost for materials and installation, a metal roof is likely to last you (and your descendants) between 40 and 70 years. In Canada, steel is the most common material, which offers excellent resistance to hail damage. Copper and aluminum might see some dents following a particularly nasty hailstorm, but this is often not visible from the ground.

Metal roofs aren’t particularly louder than other roofs as long as they’re properly insulated. They can be designed to mimic other roofing materials and come in a variety of colours.

Since metals are highly recyclable, these roofing materials can be made from recycled materials. And, after their long lifespan, they may be able to be reused or recycled.

Rubber (Euroshield)

Like metal roofing, rubber roofing can mimic traditional roofing types and is very attractive. Euroshield rubber roofs can overcome the extreme weather and temperature swings we see in Calgary, which may cause splitting, peeling, cracking, or rotting in other materials. Plus, it can withstand hail up to 2” in diameter thanks to the natural bouncy properties of rubber.

Euroshield rubber roofing is made from 95% recycled tires and has a 50-year warranty.

How to Know What’s Best for Your Home

Even with a strong baseline understanding of the roofing materials that are out there, you may still have some questions about the precise right type of roofing material for your home. And you may be wondering what your next roof will cost. 

Please contact us for a free estimate or to ask any questions about your particular roofing needs. We’d love to bring you peace of mind about your home.

Written by Eric Vezina

Eric is an industry expert with formal education in carpentry and history as a general contractor. He knows his stuff and makes sure everyone on the team has the skills and determination to meet his exceptionally strong standards.
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