Posted On: May 14, 2018

Eco Friendly Roofing Materials, Benefits, Durability & More

Homeowners throughout the country are choosing to implement green updates in the house, from better insulation to compact fluorescent lamps to composting bins.

In an effort to protect the environment, many homeowners are also turning their attention to their roof.

While neglected in the past, eco-friendly roofs are becoming a popular option for people that are becoming more conscious of their environmental impact. This is great news, as the roof offers valuable space that can easily support your efforts to protect the environment and lower your energy costs overall. 

Whether you’re trying to do your part to protect the earth or simply want to reduce energy costs, an eco-friendly roof may be the solution you’ve been searching for.

To help you in your search for an eco-friendly roof, we are going to cover everything from defining eco-friendly roofing materials, to how to pick the right eco-friendly roof for you.

Let’s dive in!

What Is An Eco-Friendly Roof?

An eco-friendly roof is a roof made of either recycled materials or natural resources. A few common eco-friendly roofing materials are recycled shingles, wood shake shingles, or metal roofing.

6 Eco-Friendly Roofing Materials

There are many various types of eco-friendly roof materials, ranging from recycled-plastic shingles to recycled-metal roofs to sustainably harvested or reclaimed wood roofs.

The type of roof material you choose will depend on a number of factors, including local building codes, budgetary concerns, and the overall size and design of your home. Here are 6 very common roofing materials to get you started on your eco-friendly roof hunt.

1. Eco-Friendly Asphalt Shingles


The most basic roofing product, asphalt shingles, are petroleum-based, meaning their production requires a lot of energy. However, as asphalt shingles are incomparably the least expensive roofing material, the negative environmental effects from their manufacturing can be offset by installing 40 or 50 year-rated shingles or recycled shingles, made from recycled waste materials such as plastic, rubber, or wood fiber.

To further improve the eco-friendliness of your asphalt shingle roof, take a look at these three options:

  • Get the help of a reputable roofing contractor – not only does an inadequate roofing job contribute to higher energy costs due to air leakage, it can also cause serious health problems if mold should grow. Hire a roofer to conduct an inspection of your current roof to assess any repair or replacements needs that you may have.
  • Choose light-colored over dark-colored shingles to help limit restrict the sun’s reflection and create a “cool roof” – a cool roof reflects UV rays instead of absorbing them, which cools down the interior of your home when the weather is warm outside.
  • Set up a rain barrel to collect water that falls from your roof or gutter spouts. These catchment systems will give you all the water you need for tending to the landscape.
  • Install radiant heat barriers to improve insulation. These are simply a thin layer of metal insulation on the back of the roof material, used primarily for keeping the summer heat out and reduce cooling costs. The barriers consist of a highly reflective material that reflects radiant heat rather than absorbing it.

2. Recycled Shingles


The most eco-friendly option available in terms of roofing materials is recycled shingles. These shingles are made from various recycled components, from rubber roofs to plastic to wood fiber and more. There are products available made from clean post-consumer waste (residential waste), others from post-industrial waste (factory waste).

Recycled-content roof shingles reduce the amount of waste heading to landfills and the need to extract and process raw materials. This combination will help lower your energy bills while reducing pollution at the same time. 

You’re probably thinking that recycled shingles may not look as great as other types of shingles – but that’s simply not the case. Not only do they look fantastic, they’re also incredibly durable, capable of withstanding intense wind and hail. In addition, some of these products are recyclable, as well, and many come with amazing 40 or 50-year manufacturers warranties. A few also offer above-standard fire ratings that could ultimately bring down your insurance rates.

3. Wood Shingles and Shakes


Wood shingles and shakes offer a good solution to make your roof eco-friendly. This popular type of roofing material in its main form, however, is not a very sustainable option as traditional wood shingles and shakes are crafted from the massive harvesting of the world’s old-growth cedar trees. While it doesn’t necessarily consume a lot of energy to produce wood shakes and shingles, mowing down forests simply isn’t a sustainable model in the long run.

If you want to stay eco-friendly, yet are dead set on the wood-shingle look, there is an option for you. Purchase shingles made from reclaimed or FSC-certified lumber. Some companies even reclaim wood from various places, like old bridges, buildings, mills and more. Make an effort to seek out locally made products, which will reduce transportation costs and energy.

Be aware that wood roofs are highly combustible and not allowed in some parts of the country, especially in areas where there’s a high risk of forest and/or brush fires – check with your local government to check if local building codes permit them.

4. Metal Roof Materials

roofing services minneapolis, mn

The greatest advantage to the environment when installing a metal roof is that it can be recycled after it’s removed. In addition, the material itself includes at least some recycled material, and since they have an average lifespan of 30-50 years, they require fewer replacements. Fewer replacements mean less waste overall.

Metal roofs also offer fantastic resistance to fires, and they’re ideal for those who want to collect rainwater from their roofs, due to the fact that there are no chemicals that might leach from other types of material like asphalt. Standing-seam metal roofs work nicely as the base for thin-film photovoltaic panels, too. While a metal is not considered a cool roofing material, it can be painted with a reflective coating and a light color to help you save money on your energy costs.

5. Slate and Clay Tiles

Slate Roofing is known for its durability, sometimes lasting up to hundreds of years. In terms of sustainability, slate is a good choice. While mining and transporting slate requires a lot of energy, many slate tile manufacturers offer salvaged roof tiles for a more eco-friendly option.

Clay tiles also are a highly durable roofing material, although they won’t last as long as slate. Additionally, clay tiles can help with ventilation, making them a popular choice in hot climates. Thanks to their curved shape and high density, clay tiles help lock cool air inside during warm weather.

6. Recycled Rubber Roofing

The final eco-friendly roofing material on the list is reinforced rubber shingles. These are made from a variety of resources, such as old steel-belted radial tires. To give the material its unique texture and colors, it is coated with an aesthetically-pleasing ground slate. One of the biggest benefits to using rubber shingles is its longevity. Most of these materials include a 50-year manufacturer warranty and are resistant to various types of storm damage. Contact your government’s local building department to inquire about whether or not rubber roofs are permitted in your area before installing one.

How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Roof

When it comes to sustainable living, it seems as though homeowners tend to neglect their roofs. Ultimately, it’s one of the most important components to keeping your home and the people inside of it safe, warm (or cool) and dry. While most of us would like to do our part to keep the environment healthy, expensive solutions like installing solar panels just aren’t accessible to the average homeowner yet. However, there are plenty of more affordable options that provide similar eco-friendly results.

Here are some tips on how to choose an eco-friendly roof.

1. Contact a Professional Roof Contractor

Unfortunately, most homeowners shouldn’t even entertain the thought of replacing a roof themselves. It’s a complicated, dangerous process that requires special training, safety equipment and tools. That being said, a professional roofing contractor should be able to provide the help you need.

When searching for the right partner for your upcoming project, ensure you’re inquiring about how they’ll support your efforts to install an eco-friendly roof. The main concern being the ability to recycle your old roofing material, rather than hauling it to the dump. It’s amazing what technology has been able to do in terms of repurposing old roofing materials.

For example, recycled shingles are now being recycled and reused in pavement materials, reducing manufacturing energy consumption. In fact, according to the National Asphalt Paving Association, the shingles from a single roof can contribute to 200 feet of paved highway. The environmental benefits of using recycled asphalt in pavement are twofold: recycling shingles conserves space in crowded landfills and reuses valuable resources – asphalt binder and fine aggregate.

Most importantly, for your budget and long-term security, make sure you choose a contractor offers a strong warranty, either on the labor or materials (hopefully both) so you have peace of mind knowing that their work will be that of high-quality.

2. Choose the Right Eco-Friendly Roofing Material for Your Needs

Drone view of grey home with dark grey roof

There a few guidelines to narrow down your choices of eco-friendly roofing materials, including:

  • Use a material that is considered cool – cool roofs reduce local air temperatures and lower peak electricity demand, which can help prevent power outages. They also reduce power plant emissions, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and mercury, by reducing cooling energy use in residential homes
  • Use a material that has a good warranty or high average lifespan – a material such as metal, for example, can last up to 50 years. Since roofs require such a large amount of material, replacing them frequently can cause a lot of waste. The longer your roof lasts, the less negative effects it produces for the environment.
  • Use a material that is durable – an eco-friendly roof material is one that can withstand intense wind, hail, blizzards and anything else nature decides to throw at it. Even if a few shingles are ripped off, it takes time, energy, money and resources to make the necessary repairs.

3. Cool Roofs Cut Energy Costs

Installing new shingles on roof

While we’ve stated this before, let’s explore the cool roof premise further. Roofs are a huge contributor to the greenhouse effect, meaning that when the sun’s rays strike the roof, they are then reflected back into the atmosphere. This traps the sun’s warmth in the earth’s lower atmosphere and creates what’s known as a heat-island effect in urban areas. In terms of eco-friendliness, the greenhouse effect damages the atmosphere and is a large contributor to climate change.

If you live in a warm, sunny climate, a cool roof is the ideal option. A high solar reflectance-or albedo-is the most important characteristic of a cool roof as it helps to reflect sunlight and heat away from a building, reducing roof temperatures. Picking a “cool roof” will help reduce the amount of heat transferred into the house, and also help lower the use of your HVAC system, therefore reducing energy use. It also makes your home more comfortable, improving your overall lifestyle. Check with your local building department or neighborhood association for possible roof color restrictions.

4. Never Neglect Proper Ventilation

Gray Shingled Roof: Northface Construction

Proper ventilation is a necessary component of any functional roof. Not only does it allow cool, fresh air to enter and hot, stale air to escape, a ventilation system extends the life of your asphalt shingle roof by years or even decades.

With better air circulation underneath the roof, it reduces humidity throughout the house, minimizing mold-causing condensation. An estimated nine out of 10 homes do not have proper roof ventilation systems. As a result, the average roof lasts only 10 to 12 years, when it should last for at least 25 years. In addition, manufacturers’ shingle warranties are generally voided if a proper roof ventilation system is not installed.

5. Consider the Cost of an Eco-Friendly Roof

Like most environmentally-friendly products, an eco-friendly roof is usually more expensive than regular materials. However, the upfront cost may be worth bearing. With eco-friendly materials, your roof is much more likely to outlast conventional roofs – sometimes up to three to four times. Additionally, many insurance companies offer homeowners a discount when a more secure roof is installed. Other opportunities include an increased curb appeal and resale value of your home, while still promoting a more sustainable way of living.

Disadvantages of Eco-Friendly Roofs

While we encourage you to always improve the energy efficiency of your home, eco-friendly roofs do have some downsides that you should be aware of. First, many materials are not as widely available as conventional materials like traditional asphalt or wood. You’ll most likely have to do a little shopping to find the perfect solution for your needs. As a starting point, your local green building material outlet is the most likely place to sell the eco-friendly roofing materials you want.

Secondly, some roofing contractors simply do not offer eco-friendly products and services. Many of these products are cutting-edge and have only recently come to market, meaning roofers do not have the experience implementing them. When searching for an eco-friendly shingle, ask your potential partners whether or not they’ve installed it. If they can’t provide an example or reference, it may be a dead end.

The last disadvantage is aimed specifically at those who want to install a slate or clay tile roof. Because of their excessive weight, the framing of your roof needs to be strong enough to support the tiles. It will be necessary for you to contact a roof inspector or structural engineer to make a professional recommendation on whether or not the framing can get the job done.

Getting Started with Eco-Friendly Roof Installation

metal roofing 101- why choose metal roofing for your home

Unless you have experience working on roofs, you shouldn’t attempt to repair anything yourself. Because the job involves working at dangerous heights, balancing on steep slopes and lifting heavy materials, there are many injury risks involved. Plus, you’ll need a variety of specialized skills and tools to get the job done correctly, so it’s normally best to get in touch with a professional roofing contractor who can help put you on a path to success.

To get started re-roofing, you’ll likely need to obtain a building permit and pass a professional home inspection. Be sure your building department approves the shingle product you’ve selected before you lay your money down – many products are restricted based on color or flammability, so always call your local building authority to double check.

When picking out eco-friendly roofing materials, always take time to analyze fire ratings, hail ratings, warranties and average lifespan. Additionally, get in touch with your insurance agent to see which specific materials will qualify you for a discount on your homeowner’s insurance, to help guide your decision on which roofing material will provide the biggest cost-cutting benefits.

Eco-Friendly Roofs In Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a new roof, do your research to assure you choose the best professional for the job, the best materials for your situation, and a disposal plan for your existing roof that’s the right choice for the earth.

Not only is an eco-friendly roof attractive and beneficial for the environment, it will drastically reduce your energy costs. Now that you know more about what eco-friendly roofs are, as well as some of their benefits and uses, you can start making preparations to install a new roof.

Searching for the best eco-friendly roofer in Minnesota? Get in Touch with the team at Northface Construction Today!

Northface Construction is the premier leader in roof replacement, repair and rehabilitation. We’ll make your home beautiful and functional once again with our comprehensive eco-friendly roofing services. We know that the roofing process can be a stressful experience — our team wants to make it easier for you. It’s our commitment to always provide our clients with the highest level of customer service, working as a partner to bring your vision to life.

Our small but dedicated team of experienced craftsman works with only the highest of quality materials. Let us know how we can support your efforts to implement a more environmentally-friendly roof. Get in touch with our dedicated team of construction specialists today!


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