Eco-Friendly Roofing Options – Green Homes

Most homeowners will need to replace their roof shingles at some point. If you are lucky, conventional asphalt shingle roofs will last 20 years if you are lucky.

If you want a roof that will outlast a traditional asphalt shingle roof and made of environmentally friendly roofing materials, consider the products listed here. Many of them are practically immune to hail. Green roof products are diverse and range from recycled plastic shingles and recycled metal roofs to sustainably harvested or reclaimed wooden roofs. The best option for your home will depend on the design of your home, local building codes, and price considerations.

Recycled shingles

The most popular – and perhaps also the “greenest” – of all roofing products are shingles, which are made from recycled waste materials such as plastic, rubber or wood fiber. Some products are made from clean post-consumer waste (household waste), others from post-industrial waste (factory waste). Shingles made from recycled content are amazingly durable and look great too. You would never know they were made out of “waste” materials!

Roof shingles with recycled content help to divert waste from landfills and reduce our need for extraction and processing of raw materials, which reduces energy consumption and pollution. Some of these products are also recyclable, and many come with an amazing 50-year warranty. Some even carry fire classes that could lower your insurance rates.



Wooden shingles and shakes

In many parts of the country, wood shingles and wood shingles have long been a popular choice with builders and homeowners. Unfortunately, traditional wooden shingles are made from old western cedar. Although the energy required to manufacture this product is relatively low, harvesting old trees is not sustainable in the long term. These shingles are also highly flammable and can no longer be used in areas where there is a risk of bush and forest fires.

If you plan to install wood shingles and local building codes allow, consider a reclaimed wood product. For example, Connecticut’s Armster Reclaimed Lumber Co. makes wood shingles from mills, bridges, old water and wine tanks, and a number of other sources. This company buys reclaimed wood across the country and tries to process it locally – near the place of purchase – to reduce costs and transport energy.

Another environmentally friendly wood clapboard is manufactured by Maibec Industries in eastern Canada. The company harvests sustainably grown (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) Eastern white cedar to make shakes and shingles. These are most commonly used for siding, but can also be used for roofs if installed according to the company’s recommendations.

Slate and clay tiles

Slate is a natural material and makes an extremely durable roof tile – one that can last for hundreds of years. Several companies offer slate tile, and one company offers a 100-year warranty, a contract that will expire long after most of us.

Quarrying slate and getting it to market is an energy-intensive process, but several slate roof tile manufacturers offer salvaged slate and clay roof tiles. Durable Slate in Ohio sells both. Clay tiles are also a very durable roofing material, although they won’t last as long as slate.

Metal roof

Many metal roofing products contain at least some recycled material, but one advantage of metal roofing is that it can be recycled at the end of its life. Since metal roofs can last up to 50 years, roof replacement is less frequent, which means less waste in the long term. They offer exceptional durability and fire resistance and are ideal for those looking to collect rainwater from their roofs for water gardens (or for home use). You don’t have to worry about chemicals leaking from a traditional asphalt roof. Standing seam metal roofs are also well suited as a basis for thin-film photovoltaic modules.

Metal roofs are great in snowy climates as they allow snow to slide off, preventing the formation of ice dams. (Ice dams can damage roofs of poorly insulated houses.) To protect sidewalks from snow sliding off the roof, you must install snow guards or the like over sidewalks, garage doors, and entrances.

Rustic shingles, made by Classic Metal Roofing Systems, are made from recycled aluminum (mostly beverage cans). The shingles are similar to wooden shakes and are available in 11 colors. MetalWorks steel shingles from Tamko Building Products contain up to 50 percent recycled steel and look like wood or slate. Zappone Manufacturing shingles are made from either 100 percent recycled aluminum or 85 percent recycled copper.

Rubber roofing

Another recycled roofing material is reinforced rubber shingles made from old steel belt radial tires. The material is coated with sanded slate and available in different colors. A great advantage of this material is a long service life and a 50-year guarantee, even against hail and other extreme weather conditions. Check with your local building authority to see if rubber roofs are allowed in your area before choosing this option.

Roofing tips

Roofing work is not a job for the inexperienced. It includes working at dangerous heights – possibly on steep slopes – and lifting heavy materials. The roofing trade also requires a high level of knowledge and ability. Unless you’ve done this type of job before, are trained in carpentry, and may have the guidance of a professional roofer, this is a job that is best left to the professionals. Find out about safety precautions before doing roof work and never work alone.


There is a wide range of eco-friendly roofing products available, so compare your options carefully. Be sure to check the fire, hail, and warranty values ​​of the materials. Call your insurance agent to see if the product you are considering offers a discount on your home insurance.

In order to re-cover your home, you will likely need to get a building permit and pass an inspection. Make sure your construction department approves the clapboard product you choose before you spend your money!

While the products discussed in this article have many advantages, they also have some disadvantages. Some of them are not as widely used as traditional roofing products, so you may have to shop around to find the option you want. Many green building materials stores sell roofing products. Green Construction Products: The GreenSpec Guide to Housing Materials provides a helpful list of environmentally friendly products and manufacturers.

You may also need to shop around to find a roofer who is familiar with the product you plan to use. Some of these products are relatively new to the market and although they have been tested, not many roofers are experienced with them. When buying an eco-friendly clapboard, try to speak to roofers who installed it, not just a seller. Also ask your roofer whether your old asphalt shingles can be recycled. Some companies grind asphalt shingles to make road maintenance and repair products.

If you are interested in a new or recycled slate or clay tile roof, keep in mind that the frame of your roof must be strong enough to support the weight of these tiles, which can be considerable. You may need to contact a structural engineer or your construction department to determine if your scope is up to the task.

The cost of a metal roof compared to other options

Eco-friendly roofing products usually cost more than asphalt shingles – sometimes two to four times more – but you are most likely getting a product that will last two or three traditional roofs and give you significant savings in the long run. You can also qualify for lower insurance rates. These benefits add value to your home, whether you stay there or sell it, and you will also help promote a healthier, more sustainable world.

Cost estimate metal roof: The installation of standing seam metal roofs on a 2,500 square meter, two story house (roof area is estimated at 1,500 square meters) does not include the cost of removing old shingles:

Material cost only: $ 6,300

Total Contractor Amount, Including Materials, Labor, and Markup: $ 9,800 (about $ 6.53 per square foot)

Other options, per square foot installed:

Laminated, asphalt, 30 year old shingles: $ 3.15

Cedar shingles: $ 6.65

Clay tile: $ 9.20

The costs are national averages and do not include sales tax.

Cool roofs that reduce air conditioning bills

Consider a cool roofing material if you live in a hot, sunny climate. Cool roofs reflect heat instead of absorbing it, which helps make your home more comfortable and reduces air conditioning costs. Check with your local building authority or neighborhood association about possible roof color restrictions. For more information, see Why a White Roof Is a Cool Roof, for the Planet and Your Pocketbook, and the Cool Roof Rating Council.

Originally published: June / July 2010

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