Shopping for a new roof might not be as much fun as picking out kitchen cabinets, but it's an unavoidable task of homeownership.
Roofing has changed a lot in the past 15 years, said Michael Loughery, a spokesman for CertainTeed, a roofing-material company based in Blue Bell, Pa.: "You didn't have a lot of innovation, not a lot of styles. But lately, more homeowners have realized that a roof can actually add a design statement."
Selecting the right roof is a matter of function, architectural style and, of course, cost. Materials are sold "per square," which means for 100 square feet. When figuring out how much to buy, round up and add another 10 percent for waste.
Here's a look at what you can get for your money. All prices are for materials only and do not include installation costs.
Composition shingles, commonly called asphalt shingles, are the cheapest and most popular roofing material, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of the roofing materials market.
A variety of manufacturers compete in this business. CertainTeed's Landmark Series, with a 30-year guarantee, runs about $45 to $55 per square, but asphalt shingles can top $150 per square.
All the major roofing materials companies now offer shingles in a variety of colors, as well as those that mimic more expensive materials, including slate and wood. "Everything used to be flat," Loughery said. "Now things are a little more architectural."
Within this category, price will vary depending on the durability of the shingles. A typical lifespan is 12 to 20 years.
For those willing to spend a bit more, wood shakes or shingles are a popular option. That warm, rustic look has several drawbacks including the need for regular maintenance to prevent rot.
Price varies considerably, depending on the quality of the wood and the level of architectural detail; you can expect to pay $90 to $300 per square for cedar shingles. They will last 20 to 75 years, depending on climate.
The next step up in cost is metal. There's also a wide variation here, depending on the particular metal (most often aluminum) and the style of the roof; materials can run from $100 per square to more than $600.
For that, you get something durable and low maintenance. In some areas, you may even gain a break on your energy bills. In recognition of this, the federal government offers a tax credit worth up to $500 for homeowners installing an Energy Star-qualified metal roof. The drawbacks include noise.
The top of the line in roofing materials includes a couple of natural materials: clay and slate.
Aesthetically, they are the natural choice for Spanish-style homes. But that look comes at a price: $300 to $600 per square. They will last about 50 years.