Selecting a roofing material for a home is among the most important and costly decisions when designing a home. Though style is important aesthetically, the roofing material serves both aesthetic and functional purposes. Most products will work with a variety of roofing styles; the more critical determination is which roofing style will fit the needs of the homeowner and the region, including local weather, expected lifespan and cost.
A mansard roof, also called a French roof, is a design that includes four sides, each of which has a double slope. In this style, the lower slope is steeper than the upper slope, and a great deal of surface area will be visible from most angles of the home. Since so much roof will be visible, selecting a roofing material that is highly functional, aesthetically appealing and within budget is key. A number of materials fit these credentials, each with its own positive and negative attributes, and each with a different look, lifespan and price tag.
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Metal roofing, particularly something like copper, is one way to allow this style roof to stand out. This is a product that has grown in use in recent years since it is recyclable, lightweight and highly resistant to fire. The cost is usually significantly more than traditional roofing -- between two and three times as much -- but the lifespan of most metals is as long as 100 years, according to Copperroofing.net. Additionally, metal roofing is remarkably resistant to harsh weather, high winds, rain and snow, and won't crack, warp or chip like other materials.
Asphalt is perhaps the most widely used roofing material on the modern market as it is fairly inexpensive, priced between $50 and $150 per square foot as of September 2011, and has an average 20- to 30-year lifespan. It will stand up well against harsh weather, particularly sun exposure, high temperatures rain and snow, making it an ideal choice for most areas of the country. One downfall is that asphalt is not necessarily an aesthetically appealing choice, particularly when compared against other materials.
Ceramic and Cement Tiles
Ceramic or clay tiles are a product that is widely used in hot climates with lots of sun exposure. Cement is a fairly new addition to decorative roofing but has many of the same attributes as ceramic. Both are naturally light in color, which means they reflect light and keep the home cooler during hot summer months. Additionally, each is highly resistant to fire damage but will potentially crack or break if exposed to extreme cold. Unlike natural wood, these tiles require very little maintenance and carry an approximately 50-year lifespan even in harsh sun and heat. These materials come with a significantly higher price tag than other materials, and their heaviness means additional support is required. For more aesthetic appeal, cement is stainable, paintable and can be stenciled to match exterior decor.
Synthetic and Wood Shingles
Synthetic roofing materials are among the most easy to care for products on the market. This material is created by combining plastic, recycled wood and rubber, which makes a highly durable, eco-friendly alternative to natural wood. It is resistant to fire damage, wind, rain, snow and extreme temperatures without the warping and cracking of traditional wood. They are moderately priced, come in a wide color and texture selection and, when cared for properly, will last between 30 and 50 years. Natural wood shingles are some of the costliest, most high maintenance products on the market. Even with proper care, they are more prone to splintering, cracking and warping than synthetics, metals or asphalt and are more prone to fire damage unless chemically treated.