When it comes to roofing, there are a variety of materials to choose from. While traditional materials like slate and clay tiles are durable and long-lasting, they can be heavy and become a complication for homes that weren’t built to withstand the added weight.
In this article, we’ll discuss lightweight roofing materials available on the market, any benefits and drawbacks of each, and the expected costs.
5 Best Lightweight Roofing Materials
Ordered from lightest to heaviest, below you can find information on five different types of lightweight roofing materials.
1. Roll Roofing
What roll roofing cuts out in aesthetics, it makes up for in lighter weight and low cost. Roll roofing, also called MSR, or mineral-surfaced roofing, is made from long rolls of asphalt paper that are anchored to the roof with fasteners, ballasted using stone, or adhered with glue. This material is sold in 100 sqft and weighs about 75 – 90 lbs per roll. On a 2,000 sqft, roll roofing only adds between 1,500 – 1,800 lbs to the weight of your home.
The huge advantages of roll roofing are its easy installation, lighter weight, and low cost. This material has some disadvantages, including a shorter lifespan than other materials, increased maintenance, a cheaper look and feel, and raised seams or ragged edges after installation. Because they’re not as attractive as other roofing options, roll roofs may not be allowed by your township or homeowner’s association.
Roll roofing costs approximately $50 per roofing square or 100 sqft. Expect to pay about $1,000 for 2,000 sqft of roll roofing (not including installation costs).
2. Metal Roofing
Metal roofing has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its lightweight, energy-efficient properties. Many are surprised at how lightweight metal roofing can be, with steel standing seam roofing weighing about 85 – 120 lbs per roofing square and aluminum standing seam roofing weighing in at about 70 lbs per roofing square.
Made from steel, aluminum, or copper, metal roofing can be highly durable and long-lasting. It is also available in a range of colors and styles, from traditional standing seam to modern corrugated designs. Unfortunately, metal roofing can be noisy during heavy rain or hail, and it may require additional insulation to maintain consistent temperatures in extreme climates. It is on the pricier end as well, which may be a deterrent for some individuals.
In 2023, seamed metal panel roofing costs between $10 – $17.65 per foot with installation, and between $17,000 – $30,000 total. The price can vary widely, depending on the type of metal used for your roofing. For example, copper is in high demand right now and has skyrocketed in price; copper roofs can cost up to $76,000 for a 3,000 sqft roof.
3. Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles are a popular choice for homeowners due to their affordability and easy installation. Shingles are sold in bundles, and you can expect each bundle to weigh between 60 and 80 lbs. It takes about three bundles to cover one roofing square. For a 2,000 sqft home, asphalt shingle roofs can weigh between 3,600 – 4,800 lbs.
The benefits of asphalt shingles are their wide range of colors and styles, from classic three-tab to dimensional and architectural designs. They’re great for most climates, and their flexibility makes them ideal for many roof shapes and slopes. One disadvantage of this material is that it may not be as durable as other lightweight options and requires more maintenance over time.
Asphalt shingle roofs can cost between $4.20 – $13 per sqft, not including labor and other materials. Installation for a 2,000 sqft roof costs between $8,500 and $24,500.
4. Cedar Shingles
Like asphalt shingles, cedar shingles are sold in bundles. The bundles are significantly heavier than asphalt shingles, weighing between 40 – 80 lbs per bundle. It takes about four bundles per roofing square, so anticipate a 2,000 sqft cedar roof to weigh between 3,200 and 6,400 lbs.
Cedar shingles are naturally rot and insect-resistant, and weather over time to a beautiful silvery grey. These rooftops can withstand powerful storms with high winds and hail. They’re relatively low-maintenance and boast an impressive 50-year lifespan. Cost is a hindrance, and they’re not suitable for arid or extremely hot climates.
Cedar roofing can cost between $8 – $14.30 per sqft including installation costs, totaling between $16,000 to $28,600 for a 2,000 sqft roof.
5. Synthetic Slate Tiles
Synthetic slate tiles are a lightweight alternative to traditional slate tiles, which can be heavy and expensive. A roofing square of synthetic slate weighs about 300 lbs. While this doesn’t seem lightweight, it is compared to the approximately 1,000 lbs per roofing square of real slate. A 2,000 sqft roof made from synthetic slate will add up to about 6,000 lbs.
This type of roof tile is made from a variety of materials, including rubber, plastic, and polymer, synthetic slate tiles offer the same look and durability as traditional slate at a fraction of the weight and cost. They are also resistant to fire, impact, and UV rays, and they are very low-maintenance. Some cons of synthetic slate are cost and wind resistance.
The cost can still be relatively high for synthetic slate, and they’re typically only rated up to 110 miles per hour, which is slightly lower than their lighter-weight counterparts.
Advantages of Lightweight Roofing Materials
Lightweight roofing materials are incredibly versatile, with many designs, colors, textures, and styles available to choose from. It should be relatively easy for a homeowner to find a lightweight roofing material that suits their needs and aesthetics.
Cost savings are a big advantage of lightweight roofing materials. Overall, the cost stays relatively low for lightweight materials because they can keep shipping costs down and reduce the amount of labor needed to offload the materials and transport them to the job site.
Finally, maintenance for lightweight materials, while not needed often, is relatively easy and can be done by most homeowners. These materials don’t require specialized installation, so the process of repairing and replacing damaged roofing should be low effort and cost.
Disadvantages of Lightweight Roofing Materials
Lightweight roofing materials tend to be less durable than other, heavier roofs. For example, the lifespan of asphalt shingles ranges from about 20 – 30 years, while heavy natural slate roofing lasts anywhere from 50 years to an entire lifetime. Lighter materials may be exposed to more damage in heavy storms and can deteriorate from rot or mold and algae buildup over time.
For those that choose lightweight metal roofing, noise can be an unexpected consequence. This can be particularly apparent in heavy storms with high winds and hail.
Finally, there’s high variability in cost for lightweight roofing. Budgets may be hard to set, as a lighter weight doesn’t mean a lighter cost. In this article alone, roofing costs range from as low as $1,000 to as high as $50,500 and above depending on the material you choose.
If you’re in the market for a lightweight roofing solution, there are a variety of materials to choose from. From polycarbonate roofing to metal roofing, and asphalt shingles to synthetic slate tiles, each material offers its own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Whether you’re looking to reduce your energy costs, save time, or just save some money, it should be easy to find the best lightweight roofing material to suit your needs.