Not every roofing material can be used on every roof.
Wood. Wood was the main choice for centuries, and it’s still a good option, though in some areas fire codes forbid its use. Usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine, shingles are sawn or split. They have a life expectancy in the 25-year range (like asphalt shingles) but cost an average of twice as much.
Metal. Aluminum, steel, copper, copper-and-asphalt, and lead are all durable—and expensive—roofing surfaces. Lead and the copper/asphalt varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal that are joined with solder. These roofs start at about $250 per square but often cost two or three times that.
Tile and Cement. The half cylinders of tile roofing are common on Spanish Colonial and Mission styles; cement and some metal roofs imitate tile’s wavy effect. All are expensive, very durable, and tend to be very heavy.
Slate. Slate is among the most durable of all roofing materials. Not all slate is the same—some comes from quarries in Vermont, some from Pennsylvania and other states—but the best of it will outlast the fasteners that hold it in place. Hundred-year-old slate, in fact, is often recycled for reinstallation, with the expectation it will last another century. But slate is expensive—typically prices start at about $800 a square—and very heavy.