Roofs are one of the most important components of a home – they protect us from the weather, keep our home cool during summer months and warm in the winter, and they’re also an important visual component. And, like with any other component of our home, it’s important to know how long a roof will last before it needs to be replaced. So, what are the most popular roofing materials out there, and how long will they last? We’ll be answering that question and more in this post. What is a Roofing System? There are a variety of different types of roofing systems, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. We’ll go over the most popular ones below, and talk about how long they typically last.
What Are the Most Popular Roofing Systems?
There are many popular roofing materials on the market, but which one is right for you? Some of the most common roof systems in Arizona are concrete roof tiles, clay roof tiles, asphalt shingles, foam flat roof, flat rolled roofing, cedar shake and metal. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
In Arizona, concrete roof tile is the most common roof system. Why? Because the concrete roof tiles act as a thermal barrier between the house/attic and the sun. Most roofs have no insulation or thermal break between the roofing system and the attic/crawl space of the home, but concrete roof tiles do. The concrete roof tile is the heaviest roof system compared to the others, but the trusses in most homes are engineered to withstand the weight (especially when the building plans of the home call for concrete roof tiles). Most concrete roof tile systems can be walked on, when walked on properly and do not break. Concrete roof tile systems do require maintenance, so you will need to have a roofing contractor inspect these types of roofs annually and service the roofs accordingly.
Many homes in Arizona have a different type of tile roof called clay. There are several variations of the clay tile (2-piece, 1-piece, Mexican Sandcast are the most common) and these types of tiles are very brittle and prone to breakage. These clay roof tiles offer a similar thermal break from the sun just like the concrete roof tiles. Due to this roof system being made of clay the tiles do break easier than its concrete counterpart and roof maintenance will be necessary for this roof system often.
Asphalt shingles is the second most popular roofing material in Arizona because it’s less costly than concrete roof tile, they’re lighter weight and can be installed quickly. There are a lot of different shingle manufacturers and color options available that homeowners enjoy and can take advantage of. However, asphalt shingle roofs can be damaged by weather conditions such as extreme wind, hail, rain and snow. Asphalt shingles are very low maintenance; the roof penetrations will need to be re-sealed every few years, but that is basically all these roofs need regarding maintenance.
Foam flat roofs are becoming more popular in Arizona due to their insulation benefit. Foam roof systems generally have 1” of polyurethane foam sprayed to the substrate of the roof and an elastomeric coating is installed right on top of the foam. Foam flat roofs provide a lot of insulation and thermal break which homeowners love, but there is a downside to foam flat roofs. The foam roof system is more susceptible to damage from storms, birds, bees, and foot traffic so routine roof maintenance is required for these roof systems.
Rolled flat roof systems are very common on commercial buildings as well as residential flat roofs and patio roofs predominantly. These rolled flat roof systems are durable and very low maintenance. Rolled flat roof systems are generally cost-effective and safe to walk on.
Cedar shake roof systems are beautiful roofs but come with a high price tag. These roof systems are usually found on higher-end homes and are low maintenance. These roof systems are made of wood so they typically come with a little higher insurance premiums (due to their fire rating being so low) than most homeowners insurance policies, but homeowners invest in the durability and appearance of this roof system.
Metal roofs are much more costly than the other types of roofs, but they are very durable and can last for many years. Metal roofs are maintenance-free (besides the roof penetrations), which is a huge benefit to this roof system for homeowners and building owners.
How Long Does a Roof Last on Average? How long your roof lasts will depend on the type of roof, the quality of installation, and how well the roof is maintained. A well-maintained roof will last much longer than a poorly maintained roof. We recommend every roof be inspected annually and be maintained/serviced depending on the annual roof inspection’s findings. The average roofing material will last between 15 and 25 years. However, this is only an average – every roof is different, and there are a variety of factors that can affect how long a roof will last.
Tile roofs are a great option for people who want a durable and long-lasting roof. Unlike other types of roofs, tile roofs can last between 20 and 30 years without needing replacement. The roof tiles themselves last multiple decades, but it is the underlayment (commonly known as felt or paper) that needs replacement every 20 years or so. The roof tiles act as a sunblock from the sun and rain for the underlayment. The underlayment is the actual waterproofing of the roof, not the roof tiles. The tiles, contrary to prior belief, are not waterproof and do allow water underneath them onto the underlayment. The underlayment is the main waterproofing of the roof system and the tiles rest on little slats of wood called battens. Many of the roof tiles get nailed into these battens but not all of them.
The majority of homeowners and building owners reuse the existing roof tiles when they “replace the roof” because it is much more economical and the roof tiles should have a long, happy life ahead of them after their first underlayment replacement (re-felt). One downside to tile roofs is that they can be more expensive to install than other types of roofs. However, the long lifespan and ability to reuse the roof tiles when the underlayment gets replaced is very appealing to residents in Arizona.
Clay tile roof systems have a very similar life expectancy as the concrete roof systems, but the underlayment typically lasts longer due to the quality of underlayment installed beneath the clay tiles being better than the typical concrete roof tile underlayment. Most concrete roof system underlayment is 30# or 40#, but the clay tile roof underlayment is usually >55# or is double layered.
How Long Do Asphalt Shingles Last?
Asphalt shingles in the valley (Phoenix Metro area and similar climates) last around 20 years before the shingles dry out or are susceptible to being blown off from the extreme winds and hail we experience during monsoon season. There are better, thicker, longer-lasting shingles available, they just cost a little more. This roof system will need minor roof maintenance around A/C units, roof penetrations (plumbing pipes, dryer vents, hood ranges, bathroom vents), skylights, chimneys and walls every few years, but it is usually very simple and inexpensive.
Foam flat roofs can essentially last forever, as long as the coating is kept up with. The foam is a closed-cell membrane that is typically 1” thick and has a white coating installed overtop of it to preserve the foam from burning by the UV rays. The coating generally lasts 5 years before it will need to be re-applied with a new coating which comes with a warranty from the coating manufacturer.
Flat rolled roofing systems last between 15-20 years depending on the quality of material and how well it was installed. The maintenance on flat rolled roofing systems is usually just around the roof penetrations and around the drains/scuppers. Debris occassionally will collect on the flat roof which will need to be removed, which would be part of the roof maintenance that will want to be consistently done to the roof.
How Long Do Cedar Shakes Last?
Cedar Shake is almost always a beautiful, golden color when it is installed. As time goes on the shakes turn a more brown color. The best practice for these cedar shake roof systems is to apply a type of oil overtop of them to preserve the wood and prolong the life of the shakes. Most cedar shake roof systems last 30 years, depending on the maintenance or foot traffic it experiences during its lifetime.
How Long Do Metal Roofs Last?
Roofs are an essential part of any building, and are typically a long-lasting investment. A metal roof can last more than 40 years, depending on the type and condition of the metal. Metal roofs don’t require much roof maintenance, except touching up around the roof penetrations and around the walls every several years which is one of the main reasons people invest in metal roofs. The metal panels will fade over time, but the longevity of the panels are unmatched.
So, there you have it – the answer to the question of ‘How long does a roof last?’. Knowing the average lifespan of the most popular roofing systems will help you make an informed decision about whether or not you need/want to replace your roof sooner rather than later. This information will also help you make a better, informed decision when purchasing a property when you know the age and type of roof the building/home has and how to service/maintain it.