Roofing Inspections: Different roofing materials and their lifespan

A roofing inspection is one of the more important aspects of a home inspection. The roof is your first line of defense against weather and water intrusion. There are many different styles and designs of roofing. While it may not be possible to determine the exact age of a roof, or how long it may potentially last, below are some general guidelines for some of the most common roofing types in our area.

*Note: All life expectancy values listed below are dependent on environment, maintenance and manufacturer. We base these values on our years of experience in the field, and information provided from manufacturer’s specifications. These values are not meant to be used for any legal or warranty purposes and are for informational purposes only.*

Composite Asphalt Shingle Roofing

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including architectural-shingle New Paltz home inspections

Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles are generally thicker, have a texture to them and provide better coverage and life expectancy.

Lifespan: Architectural Shingle - 15-30 years

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including 3-tab-shingle-Roofing-Inspections-1

3 Tab Shingles

Three tab shingles are more affordable, are equally as easy to install but have shorter life span

Lifespan: Three Tab Shingle - 15-20 years

Roll Roofing

Roll roofing is typically used when there is a low slope, or pitch, to the roof. Traditional shingles are not rated to shed water on such a low pitch. Roll roofing will have little or no seams, therefore there are less possible areas for water to penetrate. This pitch is usually 3:12 or less (3 inches vertical for each 12 inches horizontal). Roll roofing comes in a variety of materials. Asphalt roll roofing, EPDM rubber (ethylene propylene diene monomer), and modified bitumen (torch down) roofing are most common. Each of these materials have their advantages.

Asphalt roll roofing

asphalt-roll roofingAsphalt roll roofing may be the least expensive and easiest to install. It is similar to asphalt shingle roofing material, however it comes in large strips which are installed overlapping one another. This typically comes with an adhesive pre-applied to the roll.


Lifespan: Asphalt Roll Roofing - 5-10 years

epdm-rollEPDM roofing

EPDM roofing can come in strips which overlap, or in large sheets which can cover a large area at a time. This roofing is applied using a contact glue and often uses a special substrate under the rubber.

Lifespan: EPDM Roofing- 40-50 years

torch-downTorch down roofing

Torch down roofing consists of a non-woven polyester mat and a membrane embedded in a thick asphalt layer. Torch down is installed as the name suggests, using torches. As the material is rolled out, open flames are applied, melting the overlapped sheets together to form a waterproof layer.

Lifespan: Torch Down - 15-20 years

Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes are a very attractive option and have been used for centuries. A thin wedge of wood, typically cedar or yellow pine, is nailed to the roof deck in a pattern which creates an overlap of the wood, allowing water to shed from the roof. These are more time consuming and difficult to install than standard shingles, and can require some upkeep for longevity. This involves replacement of cracked or split shingles/shakes and keeping the wood clean from moss growth.

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including wood-shingles
Wood Shingle

Lifespan: Wood Shingles- 25-30 years

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including wood-shake shingles
Wood Shake

Lifespan: Wood Shakes- 35-40 years

Both products can increase their lifespan up to 50 years with proper maintenance.

Shakes differ from shingles in that they are thicker, last longer, and are better at reflecting UV rays. Shakes also cost more per square foot. There is an aesthetic difference as well, with shakes sometimes having a rougher, rustic look while shingles have a clean flat profile.

Metal Roofing

There are several types of metals which can be used for roofing. Aluminum, copper, tin, zinc and steel. These all have differing benefits depending on budget, aesthetic, longevity and ease of installation. Metals come in different gauges, or thickness, depending on their intended use. There are also several different ways to fasten metal roofing to a building.

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including exposed-fastener-corrugated roofing

Exposed Fastener Corrugated

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including hidden-fastener-standing-seam roofing

Hidden Fastener Standing Seam

Exposed fastener metal roof is usually the most affordable and is typically a corrugated
material, fastened to the roof deck using screws with a rubber washer to prevent water

Other metal roofing types use hidden fastener systems. This can include a hidden nail fin with pre-punched slots, others can use a separate clip which is attached to the roof deck. These are considered standing seam roofing systems.

Not typically found in residential applications, mechanically seamed roof panels are also used. All of the above systems offer excellent weather protection and can be used on a variety of roof designs and pitches. They are also low maintenance and fire resistant.

Lifespan: Metal Roofing - 40-60 years

Clay or Cement Tile

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including clay tiles.

Clay Tile

Known for their durability, clay tile roofing is most commonly found in the Southwestern United States. However, they provide excellent protection anywhere in the county. These tiles can be made of terracotta, ceramic or cement. Similar to other shingle applications, these are installed individually, overlapping to provide coverage. These roof systems should be monitored for cracking, and broken tiles should be replaced when necessary. These tiles can also be treated with a clear alkyd to increase their longevity.

Lifespan: Clay Tile - Up to 100 years

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles including slate tiles

Slate Tile

Slate tile roofing can be found on older structures throughout the Hudson Valley. The first recorded slate tile roof is reported to be found in North Wales, England and dates back to 1300 AD. The slate from New York and Vermont produced a variety of colors not found in any other part of the world. It’s popularity declined with the rise of the less expensive asphalt shingle roofing. Again, installed in a similar fashion to other shingles, the tiles overlap to shed water. These tiles require upkeep and monitoring to assure the flashings have not failed and the tiles have not cracked. It is possible to provide this maintenance, but total replacement of a slate roof is typically cost prohibitive.

Lifespan: Slate Tile - 100 plus years

Solar Roofing

Silver Maple Inspections inspects all roof shingles and tiles. Solar-Roof-tile

Solar power shingles, also known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) or photovoltaic shingles, have the appearance of a conventional roof system but are made up of individual solar panels. These have gained popularity in recent years as the technology has become more viable. Many of the shingles on the market are composed of thin-film solar cells (TFCS) made from copper indium gallium selenide. This has a high energy conversion rate of 12%. At a 20% conversion rate, a monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si) is available, but is a more expensive option. These are typically installed by a qualified roofing contractor with a specific set of skills, oftentimes contracted directly through the shingle manufacturer. They offer a very sleek look, while providing the benefits of producing a sustainable energy source.

Lifespan: Solar Roofing - 20-30 years peak energy output

Of course there are always alternatives not discussed here!

Silver Maple Inspections of Ulster county NY inspects all types of properties

About Andy Lewis Home Inspector

Andy Lewis, Owner of Silver Maple Inspections has been local to Ulster County since 1998. Andy Lewis graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelors Degree in 2003. Soon after he started work as a carpenter, and has since performed all aspects of home construction and repair. From project management, framing to finish, to electrical, plumbing and mechanicals. Most recently he moved into building inspection in 2017. These many years of experience go in to every home inspection report produced by Silver Maple Inspections.

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