Which roofing material to choose?

When we build or renovate a home we often only think about the colour of the roof and rely on the builders or architects to advise the type of roof. As it turns out, there are many different roofing materials to choose from and your roof does more than just keep the rain out … so what are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how sustainable are they?

In the Southern hemisphere, your roof has to withstand some pretty harsh conditions such as high levels of solar radiation, rain, hail and wind. It also acts as the first line of defence against ember attacks in a bush fire situation too.  And that’s not all. Think about all of the other load-bearing considerations such as solar panels, air conditioning units and, of course, people walking on the roof surface to install and service all of this equipment. Your roof can also be responsible for collecting the rainwater for your home and garden.

Your roof has many hats to wear and therefore, choosing the best option for your home is important.

But where to start? 

There are so many options and aside from personal preference, there are likely a bunch of other determining factors such as the building method, level of maintenance, range of colours available, eco-credentials, fire resistance levels and local council requirements.  Let’s take a look at some of the more common roofing types.

Colorbond Steel or Galvanised Iron

You’ve probably seen these all around Australia and, whilst they look similar, one brand that has done exceptionally well is Colorbond. As it turns out, Colorbond actually relates to the coating on the rolled sheets of steel (often corrugated). Colorbond is a paint-over-zinc-alloy production finish whereas galvanised iron is where the sheets are coated in zinc. There’s a reason these steel products are used so commonly.

Pros:

  • they are relatively light and easy to handle
  • they are easy to attach and, for professional roofing companies, are quick to install
  • if installed properly they’ll provide decades of faithful service
  • they are extremely fire resistant

Cons:

  • noise and heat travel through the thin steel sheets

From an environmental perspective, steel sheets can be a sound option. Whilst it varies between products and manufacturers, many steel roofing products contain high levels of recycled materials and can be recycled again in the future. This helps to keep them out of the landfill sites once their current task is completed.

Insulated Panels

This is where Colorbond sheets often come into play again but, with this option, there are two sheets forming a sandwich with a layer of insulating foam. These are also very light and strong, with the added advantage of helping to overcome the challenges of noise and heat transfer mentioned above.  

Tiles

Tiles have traditionally been very popular in Australia. They can be coloured from new or whole roofs can be painted as required. Of course, one obvious advantage of tiles is that individual units can be replaced in the event of damage (as opposed to replacing whole sections of the roof as is often required with steel sheets). 

There are numerous products used in the production of tiles but the more common are concrete, clay (terracotta) and composite. 

As the name would suggest, concrete tiles are made from cast/pressed concrete and are available in a wide range of options. One important consideration is that they are quite fragile and fairly easy to break. This can be an issue if you are having accessories fitted to your roof that require tradespeople to walk on them.

Clay (Terracotta) Tiles

These are less commonly used in Australia today but have been very popular in certain regions. Available in a wide range of colours and if installed professionally offer a very long working life. They are more easily broken if they’re not treated correctly and tend to be more expensive to install as they require more infrastructure to lay them on and therefore it takes longer (time is money). They are however reasonably effective at reducing outside noise so maybe a consideration if you’re in a high ambient noise area.  

The future of roofing?

In the same way that most modern properties in Australia are built using Colorbond-style roofs, these days it’s interesting to consider what the future looks like. Tesla now produces solar roof tiles (pictured in the banner image above) and, as the name suggests, this is a roof tile (the North American shingle style) that is also its own solar panel. 

That’s right, if your roof is covered in 2,000 Tesla roof tiles then you, in essence, have around 2,000 mini solar panels as an integrated solution. Pretty clever!  The Tesla roof tiles are reported to be 3 x stronger than traditional roof tiles which means they are more resistant to damage from falling branches and major hail events. They are more aesthetically pleasing compared to large solar panels being mounted onto roofs, they’re more efficient as a larger percentage of the roof space is utilised for converting the sun’s energy and come with a 25-year warranty.  

It’s all rather compelling isn’t it. 

Of course there are the naysayers out there about this being a viable solution, but as Tesla has shown with the advancements in electric vehicles, disruption is what they do best. Like with Tesla’s cars, and space travel, their visionary CEO, Elon Musk is driven (pun intended) to reduce the cost of their vehicles (and roofs) to make them as available to the masses as possible. 

Watch this space (again, pun intended) …

So in summary. There are many considerations that a professional roofing company has to consider when advising a client as to the most suitable design and product choices. No doubt, today the most popular choice in Australia remains Colorbond or a variant of the same. For longevity and peace of mind, using a professional roofing installer is key so take your time and choose wisely. 

We have installed thousands of commercial and residential metal roofs in the Shoalhaven over the last 20 years. For more information about Colorbond roof installations get in touch with the Parrish roofing team.

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