Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Initial costs versus lifetime costs for alternate roofing materials

Canadian Contractor Smart House Fire Market Mould

Most contractors understand the basic cost differences for asphalt shingles versus steel. But let's look at the economics of some other popular roofing materials.

A heightened interest in green and eco-friendly materials may lead your customers to inquire about roof materials other than traditional asphalt shingles or steel sheets/panels. Often the final decision will come down to a balance between eco-consciousness and economics. However, the economics should be considered not only in the immediate term but over the expected life of the material.

Here’s a quick overview of what might come up in your discussions with clients.

Wood Shingles & Shakes
Although attractive, wood is losing popularity due to concerns over fire hazards, declining shingle quality, and tree harvesting ideologies. Some areas actually prohibit wood. Thin shakes easily split, and can be damaged by hail. Cleaning may be required due to mould and lichen buildup. Wood shingles and shakes cannot be installed directly onto roof decks; an under layer of strapping for ventilation purposes is required.

Solar Roofing
There are continual advances in solar roofing aesthetics, some incorporating panels directly into or onto steel roof panels as opposed to bracket mountings. Be aware that not all these are time-proven technologies, the payback period can be extremely long, and that repairs or replacement can be very difficult. Also consider access for rooftop maintenance: Can these solar panels handle foot traffic?


Composite and Faux Roof Materials
Comprehensive composite and plastic polymer products from a number of major manufacturers now mimic the look of cedar shakes, slate, roman tile, and even traditional shingles. These materials offer a wide variety of ‘looks’, are relatively low in weight and most importantly, are warrantied for long life.

Traditional Clay, Slate and Concrete
While they may offer long life and perhaps even bragging rights between neighbours, there are cost and important structural considerations surrounding these very heavy roof materials which must be factored into the architectural design.

The table below will help you explain to your client Initial Costs and Costs-Over-Lifetime expectations for various roofing material choices. Traditional 3-Tab asphalt shingles are used as the base for cost comparisons. This table is calculated from costs and values originally published by, and may reflect U.S. market pricing. Please research the costs specific to your own regional market.



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