Which Choice is Better? Synthetic Roofing or Traditional Materials

orange synthetic roofing tiles

At a certain point, repairing a roof is no longer an option. While routine inspections and maintenance will prolong the longevity of your roof, at some point, it will need to be replaced. With that comes choices Will you go traditional or chose a synthetic roofing option? 

What is synthetic roofing?

 

“Synthetic” as it pertains to steep-slope roofing materials refers to manufactured products that replicate asphalt shingles, concrete tile, clay tile, metal panels, slate, wood shakes and wood shingles. Synthetic roof coverings contain recycled plastic and/or rubber as a key ingredient. 

Everybody Needs A Roof


Around since 1993, there are a number of synthetic roofing options. As to which is better, traditional (or natural) vs synthetic – that is hard to answer. 

Deciding which option is best for you

Cost

A roof replacement is expensive, regardless of the material chosen. The larger the surface area to cover, the bigger the expense. Add in more stories and/or steep slopes and you increase the cost. Often the decision as to which way to go will be affected by the cost. 

In general, expect costs to be higher for quality synthetic roofing over traditional options.

Expect estimates 25% to 50% higher than for cedar shingles and shakes. The average cost is 2-3 times higher than average asphalt shingle costs. If you expect to move in the next 10 years and are concerned about value, this isn’t a cost-effective choice. 

Roofing Calculator

 

A note about moving within 10 years….there is the issue of appearance affecting resale:

 

Appearance

From an appearances standpoint, there is something to be said for how traditional slate tiles and cedar shake shingles look. That is hard to duplicate with something man-made. Even asphalt shingles can look ‘fake’ if you opt for a less expensive brand or line. Is a synthetic roof visually appealing? That all depends on who you ask. It could affect resale value. One big plus for synthetic roofing – you can likely find any color you could imagine.

 

Warranty

There are 2 points to consider – the manufacturer’s warranty and the workmanship warranty. The first covers defects in the material. The latter covers the actual installation. 

In the case of the manufacturer’s warranty, you can expect anywhere from 20-50 years. For workmanship, it could be from 10-30 years. With such a range and variety of circumstances (who installs the roofing and what brand and tile you choose) affecting the warranty period, it’s impossible to assess whether synthetic is better than traditional materials. 

You’ll want to do your homework here, but in general, synthetic roofing options will have a longer manufacturer’s warranty period, some for a lifetime, due to increased durability

 

Durability

Which is more durable? There are definite benefits with synthetic roofing including:

  • With all materials man-made, there’s nothing organic to breakdown
  • With plastic/rubber as a key ingredient, they can withstand significant impact and are less prone to tearing. 

Of course, natural slate roofs can last for more than 150 years. How long any roof lasts still depends, in the end, on how well the roof was installed and maintenance.

Maintenance

Routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs are needed, regardless of roofing material choice, to ensure your roof lasts. While synthetic materials are generally more durable, there are still maintenance requirements. Some warranties will require it. 

As with traditional materials, there are still vents, skylights, chimneys. That means flashing which can fail. Less prone to algae and moss growth doesn’t mean there is no risk. Leaf and tree debris will still build up, especially on low-sloped roofs. Over time this can/will create dams in valleys, clog gutters, and create the possibility for water to get under the shingles.  

Fire rating: This might not be your first concern, but it’s an important one, especially in wooded areas. 

 

Fire ratings for roofs are classified as either Class A, Class B, Class C or are unrated if a roof covering cannot meet the requirements for any of these classifications. Class A is the highest rating, offering the highest resistance to fire, and unrated is the worst. 

Surviving Wildfire

 

If you live in an area where forest fires are a risk, metal roofs tend to be an excellent choice, as do concrete and clay tiles. That does limit you a bit in roof architecture and style. With many synthetic options being Class A rated, you can consider a ‘cedar shake’ roof where a natural one is not as safe a choice.

Be sure to check the fire rating. Not all synthetic roofing choices are rated Class A. Brava Roof Tiles, for example, come in both Class A and Class C.  Opting for the cheaper choice to make it affordable could leave you at risk.

 

Eco-friendly

All roofing materials have an environmental cost to produce, but to some degree, all roofing material is eco-friendly. Cedar shake is biodegradable, asphalt shingles can be recycled and used for roads, and metal and slate roofing’s longevity means less likely to need replacing. Synthetic roofing is predominately recycled. That means, unless you are going with a naturally harvested and installed bamboo or thatched roof, it may be the most sustainable – especially if they last 50 years.

 

Is synthetic roofing the better choice?

Neither is a poor choice. Whether you choose synthetic roofing or something more traditional will ultimately depend on your needs, budget, and personal preference. 

Regardless, don’t skip the inspections and maintenance.

1 reply
  1. Henry Killingsworth
    Henry Killingsworth says:

    Wow, it really stood out to me when you mentioned that slate roofing can last for more than 150 years. I would like to have slate tiles installed on my roof. It seems like I should look for a roofing contractor that specializes in slate.

    Reply

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