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With so many roofing options on the market, it can be difficult to tell what materials are best suited for your property. Both homeowners and commercial property managers grapple with this dilemma, but finding the right roofing solution may be easier than you think – it all starts with location.

Selecting the best materials for your roof depends on where your property is located. For example, New England properties have different needs than Midwestern locales, and rural areas face distinct challenges that urban centers do not have to contend with. As such, the first step to choosing the right type of roof is evaluating your specific operational needs against all the available options. Your personal preferences will also help to narrow down your choices until only the best are left standing.

Here are some important questions you should ask before investing in a new roof or commissioning a roof replacement:

  • Is your building used for residential or commercial purposes?
  • Is the property located in a rural, urban or suburban area?
  • Is the design of your roof pitched or flat?
  • What are the most important qualities you’re looking for? Durability? Aesthetic? Both?

Once you’ve created a comprehensive list of your preferences, the next step is to research into the benefits and limitations of each roofing material. To help you save time, we’ve gathered together some of the most popular options for Massachusetts homes and commercial buildings.

residential pitched roof

Residential pitched roofs

Most residential homeowners prefer the durability and design of pitched roofs, which offer exceptional drainage and a range of stylish shingling options. A pitched roof can effectively channel rainwater and snowmelt away from your property, while also providing exceptional UV protection during the hot summer months. While there are a significant number of materials to choose from (asphalt, composite, slate, metal, etc.), the most reliable options are shingle-based roofing systems, which are common in residential areas like Newton and Wellesley.

Traditional asphalt shingles

Traditional (organic) shingles are made with felt paper saturated with an asphalt mixture to make it sturdy and waterproof. The shingles are embedded with ceramic granules to improve toughness and protect against weathering.

  • Pros: Low material costs, medium durability, quick and easy installation, water repellent, suited for cold and dry climates, moderate shelf-life
  • Cons: Paper-based substrates are less fire resistant, rapid changes in temperature can cause cracking and curling, may be susceptible to moisture damage, limited availability
  • Recommendations: Certainteed Traditional Series

Fiberglass-based asphalt shingles

Fiberglass is a great alternative to traditional asphalt shingles, as they are crafted with glass fiber rather than degradable waste paper or other organic substrates. These shingles are coated with asphalt and mineral fillers to help with waterproofing and are often lighter than traditional options.

Composite slate shingles

Synthetic slate (composite) shingles provide the beautiful aesthetic of slate roofs without the high costs and extreme weight. These types of shingles are typically made from a plastic/polymer composite or from recycled rubber and come in a wide range of styles and colors.

  • Pros: Cheaper than slate, appearance of a natural slate roof, superior color stability, UV fade resistant, ENERGY STAR compliant, excellent weathering capabilities, impact resistant, recyclable
  • Cons:Higher material costs than asphalt shingles, less durable than genuine slate with a shorter overall lifespan
  • Recommendations: Certainteed Symphony Slate

Commercial Flat-Roofs

Commercial buildings often require flat roofs to support external building fixtures like industrial HVAC units and to allow ease access for routine maintenance. Major repairs are much less common with this roof type, but annual inspection and upkeep is needed to ensure the building is running at peak efficiency. Additionally, the low slope of flat roof installations make water management a bit more of a hands-on process than with pitched, shingled roofs. While there are many different types of flat roof systems, the most effective for New England properties include membrane (single-ply) coatings and built-up roofing (BUR) installations.

Commercial flat roof

Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) 

Often referred to as “rubber roofs,” EPDM coatings are the most commonly used roofing material for commercial applications due to its extreme durability and low installation costs. EPDM roofing is often made from recycled rubber which is turned into a synthetic membrane of varying thickness, usually 45 and 60 mils.

  • Pros:Low material and installation costs, high durability, long shelf-life, waterproof, simple and inexpensive repairs, extremely lightweight, may reduce cooling and heating costs, resistant to ozone and UV light
  • Cons: Must be installed by a professionally licensed contractor, exterior pipes and HVAC systems can create leak risks, may be worn down from heavy and sustained foot traffic
  • Recommendations: GenFlex EPDM, Firestone RubberGard EPDM

Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO)

This single ply roofing membrane is both flexible and highly resistant to weathering without the need for multiple layers of material, making it an affordable option for commercial installations. The membrane itself is made up of three layers – TPO polymer base, polyester-reinforced fabric and a thermoplastic top ply – and combines the best qualities of EPDM and PVC coatings. TPO roofing can be mechanically attached, adhered, ballasted or plate bonded, and is installed using hot-air welding equipment.

  • Pros:Low cost, reliable durability, easy installations, high energy efficiency, exceptional wind ratings, hot-air weldable seams, resistant to mold growth and dirt accumulation
  • Cons: New roofing technology with uncertain longevity, must be installed by a professionally rubber roofing expert, may experience accelerated weathering in areas with high thermal or solar loading
  • Recommendations: Firestone UltraPly TPO, GenFlex TPO

If you’re looking to install or repair a roofing system that will hold up to the tough New England conditions, our team of certified contractors can work with you to select the best materials for the job. Our roofing experts will help you anticipate risks and find low-cost solutions without putting your preferences on the back burner. Whether you’re a homeowner living in a residential area or a manager of commercial properties, we’ll make sure you get the best deal available.

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