Asphalt may remain the most popular roofing material, followed closely by metal, but a few other products have started making headway and could be worth your attention in the future.
Synthetic slate is less expensive than traditional slate, especially in installation cost. It also weighs less than natural slate, thus making it cheaper to ship. Owners of asphalt- or metal-roofed homes who use composite slate products in a remodel don't have to worry about reconfiguring the roof to handle higher weight loads, as with natural slate, says James Kirby, associate executive director of technical communications for the National Roofing Contractors Association.
"We've seen synthetic products, for the higher end, replacing some of the natural products like slates and shakes," says Jim Jennings, business manager of roofing for the Midwest region of ABC Supply Co.
That opportunity to look upscale is fueling some demand, says Mike Casciano, president of Roslyn Supply Co., which has five locations in Pennsylvania.
"In this area of the country, people like the look of a slate roof. It's associated with a higher-end house," he says. "But the cost of slate is prohibitive, and there's not a lot of people left who know how to install it."
The downside is that imitation slate costs anywhere from four to five times the price of a lower-end asphalt product to slightly less than double the price of a higher-end asphalt shingle, says Larry Tagle, director of residential products for Bradco Supply, which has more than 130 locations in 29 states. This means that while some clients ask about imitation slate, they don't buy it, Casciano says.
"We're seeing a fair amount of interest, even though in this economy, there's not a lot of [people] purchasing the composite roofing products that look like slate," he says.
Cool roofing is another category that has captured customer interest. The products, available in a variety of different materials, allow roofs to reflect heat. This saves homeowners money on cooling bills, making the products beneficial for hotter parts of the country.
"Energy efficiency is a huge trend," Kirby says.
Dealers should look for products rated by Energy Star and approved by the Cool Roof Rating Council. These products can also qualify for the federal tax credit program.
California's Title 24 has stipulations for more efficient roofs, which has made cool roofing a popular selection for Randy Brown, co-owner of Los Gatos Roofing in San Jose, Calif. While there are a variety of methods to increase the efficiency of a roof, including upgrading roofing insulation, most of Brown's clients opt to install a cool roof product, he says.
In addition to riding the popularity of the sustainability wave, these products have improved their looks. One of the biggest deficiencies of cool roofing in the past was that it came only in light colors, which many homeowners didn't like. However, manufacturers now offer the roofing in darker coolers that can still meet Energy Star reflectivity standards.
"They are offering the products in a wider range of colors," says Scott Heitmeier, business manager of roofing products for the Southwest region of ABC Supply. "It's much more appealing to the homeowner."
But, as with synthetic slate, some lumberyards are finding the products are garnering more interest than sales.
"A lot of folks ask about this stuff, but as you go to higher prices, some folks get scared off," Heitmeier says. "That's something that has to be dealt with if these products are truly going to gain their share in the market."