The Ultimate Guide To Every Roof System [2024]

Roofing plays a critical role in protecting buildings from the elements, enhancing energy efficiency, and contributing to the overall aesthetics of a structure. With advancements in technology and sustainability practices, the options for roofing systems have expanded significantly, offering solutions that are not only durable and functional but also environmentally friendly.

Join us on this journey through the fascinating world of roof systems. Whether you’re planning a new construction project, a roof replacement, or simply want to stay informed about the latest industry developments, this guide has you covered. Let’s dive in!


Residential Roof Types:


Asphalt Shingles


Asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material in the United States. They are affordable and durable.

Made of fiberglass and asphalt sealant, asphalt shingles can protect your roof structure from snow, wind, rain, and harsh UV rays.

How long do asphalt shingles last?

Most asphalt shingles will last between 15 and 30 years. But this can vary based on the climate and weather conditions of where you live. This system is best for moderate climate cities such as Los Angeles.


Shingle Roof

3-tab shingles typically last between 15 and 20 years. They are the cheapest asphalt shingle option.

Architectural shingles, or dimensional shingles, have a longer lifespan of 20 to 30 years. However, architectural shingles do come at a higher price tag.

Premium shingles can last between 25 and 40 years and have the highest price.

Signs you need an asphalt roof replacement:

Cracked shingles, curling, and/or mineral granules from the shingles in your gutters.


Wood Shakes and Shingles 


Wood System Maintenance includes yearly cleaning and repainting and staining every 5 years.

Also, it’s important to note, that the type of wood that you use will also determine how long the roof will last.

wood shakeCedar shakes, for example, last longer than other wooden shingles because cedar is rot and insect-resistant. Cedar shakes can also withstand winds up to 245 miles per hour, making them a popular type of roofing material for coastal homes.


How long do they last?

Wooden shingles last about 30 years.

Signs you need a wooden roof replacement:

Splitting shingles, rotting shingles, pest damage, mold, and/or algae growth.


Clay Tile 


Clay tile roofs have a long lifespan due to the clay tiles being weather and fire-resistant.

However, for a clay tile roof to last as long as possible, roof maintenance is required.
Maintenance includes cleaning the tiles periodically throughout the year as moss can grow, its roots can penetrate the tiles and cause roof leaks.

Colder climates are a thorn in clay tile roofs side, as the constant freezing and thawing damage the tiles easily. To remedy this, clay tiles can be sealed to help prevent cold weather impacts

Clay Tile

How long do clay tiles last?

Clay tile roofs are extremely durable and can last anywhere between 50 to 100 years.

Signs you need a clay tile roof replacement:

Cracked tiles, chipped tiles, pieces of tile in gutters, roof leaks, and/or water staining in the attic.

Slate Tile System

Slate holds up great to extreme weather conditions, like high winds or changing temperatures. It also doesn’t require much maintenance, as slate retains almost no moisture.

But a downside to Slate Roofs is that they are extremely heavy. In fact, 100 square feet of slate will weigh around 1,000 pounds.  It’s crucial before installing a slate roof, you need to have your roofing system inspected to make sure it can withstand that weight.

Slate How long do slate roofs last?

Slate Tile roofs have one of the longest life expectancies of any roofing material, ranging from 75 to 200 years.


Signs you need a slate tile roof replacement:

Missing shingles, cracked shingles, and/or water damage in the attic.


Commercial Roof Types:


Liquid-Applied System


There are some basic universal truths for a lot of roofs that start their lives as a liquid:

  • They are de facto custom-fitted roofing solutions because they can be painted on or around nearly any existing roofing structure or fixture. Liquid materials are also seamless and monolithic.
  • Liquid materials fill in cracks, seams, or other gaps in the roof, immediately upping the roof’s water resistance.
  • They often don’t need to be reinforced with fabrics.
  • They do need to be applied to an existing roof structure.



Liquid-Applied systems are de facto custom-fitted roofing solutions because they can be painted on or around nearly any existing roofing structure or fixture. Liquid materials are also seamless and monolithic.

Additionally, the liquid materials fill in cracks, seams, or other gaps in the roof, immediately upping the roof’s water resistance, but they do need to be applied to an existing roof structure.

Acrylic and Silicone Liquid-Applied Systems

Acrylic coatings are like paints, in that they can be delivered to the surface in similar ways—brushes, rollers, and sprayers. Acrylic coatings fit best with low-slope commercial buildings and offer superior resistance to foot traffic, and dust build up.

Silicone coatings are like acrylic coating systems, but offer better water resistance. They are less likely to fail under standing water. However, they are less durable than acrylic under physical stress.

Both are problematic from the perspective of installation and labor. These are highly sensitive materials before they mature, and most roofing companies charge premiums for their expertise. Also, weather conditions play a role in installation, because dry weather is necessary for both coatings to adhere properly.

How long do liquid-applied systems last?
20-30 years

Cool Roof CoatingHow long do cool roof coatings last?

Elastomeric roof coating typically lasts 10 or 20 years (sometimes longer) depending on how thick the coating is applied and how well it is maintained.

Signs you need a liquid applied roof replacement:

Ponding lasting more than 3 days, Yellow stains on the ceiling, and a smell of mold are the three most prominent signs of roof replacement.




Single-ply membranes are pretty much self-explanatory. A material that’s similar to rubber is rolled out over a low-slope room and held on the roof by chemical adhesion, fasteners or with ballasts, or a combination of the three.

Three basic types of single-ply roofing membranes make up what you will most likely see and they all have complicated names and an easier acronym:

Thermoplastic polyolefin = TPO
Polyvinyl Chloride = PVC
Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer = EPDM

Acrylic Roof Coating on Commercial RoofEach of the membranes above has varying characteristics. One will do better at one thing than another. For example, TPO membranes have superior puncture and erosion resistance while PVC membranes have greater resistance to chemical exposure in industrial or polluted urban areas. It’s important to note that no matter which single-ply system you choose these types of warehouse roofing systems are the most expensive roofing option. But for the most part, they are strong and durable commercial roofing systems that should last you for many years, albeit if it is installed correctly.

Additionally, you should know that you could combine these types of roofing membranes with a fluid-applied roofing system to turn your warehouse roof into a cool roof for even more added benefits.

How long do single-ply systems last?

Depending on which single-ply system you decide to get it can vary but generally between 25 and 40 years.

Signs you need a single-ply roof replacement:

Leaks, sagging, mold. 


Multi-layer Membranes


Modified bitumen

Another more common, more affordable option is Modified bitumen. It is not inaccurate to think of these as rolls of shingle-like material. It also uses similar fastening methods as single-ply membranes. The big difference is that multiple overlapping layers are needed.

Its multi-layers give it the advantage to withstand penetrations better than single-ply roofing systems. The big drawback of modified bitumen warehouse roofing is that the life expectancy is relatively short compared to the other warehouse roofing options. However, this can be somewhat rectified by applying a cool roof coating and thus extending the life of the modified bitumen.

Modified Bitumen Flat Roof System

Modified Bitumen Thickness is roughly 5 quarters

Built-up systems

Built-up roofing systems vary widely. But as the name suggests several layers and substances factor in. The more common materials are tar or other liquid polymers, fabric or fiberglass sheets, bitumen or other aggregates, and reflective top layers.

These are usually more affordable than other systems. However, they take a little bit more time to install and have more points of failure through multiple layers and seams.

Often, heat through blow torches or heated rubber-like substances during installation bring in an inherent fire risk during installation.


[optin-monster slug=”vyo67u2a2yd7ynnjfktz” followrules=”true”]


How long do multi-layer systems last?

In general, a properly installed built-up roofing system will last 20 to 30 years.

Signs you need a multi-layer roof replacement.

Cracks, holes, or tears.

Commercial Roofing Systems

Mod-Bitumen (Multi-Ply) Compared to Single Ply Roofing Systems



Metal roofing is the most expensive option for commercial and residential buildings and some kind of slope is a must to get the most out of the possible lifespan of metal.

But the upside is that the metal roof will outlive almost everything else in the building.

It comes in three basic forms: sheets, tiles, and look-alikes. The look-a-like option just means the metal is designed to look like something else such as a cedar shake.

Also, don’t be surprised if your metal roofing installer is a little distressed. Prices for metals used in roofing are on the rise as China and the U.S. continue their trade war.

Commercial Cool Roof Coating System

Commercial Cool Roof on a Metal Roof

Steel materials are the most common and mid-grade price option. It is often coated or mixed with another material to increase some kind of resistance factor for specific uses. Galvanized steel has a zinc coating to increase corrosion resistance; galvalume steel is coated with aluminum to increase reflectivity and corrosion resistance, for example.


Aluminum is a pricier option but more durable. Its price often restricts its use to smaller buildings or sections of commercial buildings. It is a lighter metal for lower-durability roofs or easier installation. It is also easier to work with and is more easily fitted to roof interruptions.


Zinc is a must for high-stress environments, especially those with high chemical or saline water exposure such as cities, industrial areas or coastal areas. Zinc is also easy to fit roofing specifics. But it is also pricey. That’s why it is often used with other metals


How long do metal roof systems last?

They can last anywhere between 40 and 100 years with warranties from 20 years to a lifetime warranty. 


Signs you need a metal roof replacement.

Widespread rust, discoloration, roof leak damage, water staining in the attic, and/or mold.




One key theme in all of the roofing systems available is maintenance. No matter which system you choose in order for it to last you need to have regular roof maintenance. This will ensure you get your money’s worth on your roof as well as save money from potential catastrophic failure. 

Also, keep in mind that all of the roofing systems have their benefits and downsides, I think what’s most important is that you find a roofing contractor that has experience in installing the system you’d like so that they can install it correctly. Too many roofers too many times claim to install every system out there but have very little experience in actually installing it which causes them to install incorrectly and cost you more money. In the end, a new roof is not cheap but you can buy a cheap roof if you don’t do your homework. 

Skip to content