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The Most Unusual Roofing Materials

The Most Unusual Roof Materials

A vital but often difficult part of your roof repair or replacement project is simply choosing which roofing alternative is best suited to your specific purpose and priorities.

Aside from the more common and popular choices, such as asphalt shingles or metal roofs, there are a plethora of unusual roofing materials which you may not have considered before. Some of these styles be your more viable option, in terms of convenience, pricing or just the overall aesthetic you are trying to achieve.

To make your selection process easier, we’ve done the research for you.

Green Roof/Living Roof


A green roof requires a flat roof surface, a specific construction standard and certain climate conditions (which are conducive to sustaining plant life all year). It provides benefits such as improved insulation and air quality.

The Fairmont Royal York hotel is the location of one of the most well-known green roofs in Toronto.

This type of roof generally consists of, at minimum: a layer of soil for vegetation growth, a waterproof membrane, a drainage system, and a root repellent system.

Green Roofs may be categorized as either Intensive or Extensive:

Intensive: Consists of a growing medium which is deeper and can be used to grow various types of vegetation growth, such as mature trees, in addition to being available as recreational space.

Extensive: Are much shallower, in terms of the layer of top soil they carry, and are built to sustain themselves. They require less maintenance and structural integrity than an Intensive green roof would.

Benefits include:

  • Promoting biodiversity in urban areas
  • Environmental benefits such as reducing the energy used up in the urban heat island
  • Its insulating ability
  • Increasing oxygen and improving overall air quality
  • Improving storm water management
  • Enhancing urban beautification creating more natural, green spaces
  • Its ability to be used for growing food

Rubber Roofing


Made from synthetic, single ply rubber, the benefits of these types of roofs are numerous. Rubber roofs are often more environmentally friendly, incorporating recycled material. They usually have a 30-year warranty and plants can be grown on top of them to protect them from further damage, thus further increasing their durability. Rubber roofs provide some of the best leak protection compared to any other type of roofing material.

They are great at reducing heating/cooling thus reducing energy costs in the long term, providing insulation with a water proof membrane. Installation/preparation costs are also reduced as rubber roofing can be installed directly on top of your existing roof.

Better suited to hotter climates, rubber roofs aren’t equipped to handle a large amount of rain and snow. They are also one of the more expensive materials available, ranging from around $300 – $400 per square.

Benefits include:

  • Providing excellent leak protection
  • Reducing energy costs for heating/cooling
  • Decreased installation/preparation costs (if installed directly on a pre-existing roof)
  • Their eco-friendliness
  • Their structural longevity and durability
  • They usually come with a 30-year warranty

Spray-on/Foam Roofing


If appearance or prestige is not one of your main priorities, spray-on polyurethane roofing may be your top choice. It is best suited to flat or low-sloped roofing, or mostly concealed roofing.

SPF/Foam roof is one common type of spray-on roofing. It involves spraying Polyurethane Foam in liquid form onto a roof area. Much like Rubber Roofing, one of its main assets is the way it can be applied over existing roofing material in addition to being used as a roofing material itself.

Foam roofing requires some maintenance, as it needs to be recoated regularly and may experience leaks and tears from animals, tree limbs, or falling debris.

Benefits include:

  • Its ability to guard against UV rays
  • Inexpensiveness
  • Light weight
  • Energy efficiency
  • Lack of leaks as it has no seams

Tar, Gravel, and Bitumen Flat Roofing


Tar & gravel roofs were a particularly popular roofing style for commercial buildings in the 50s and 60s. They are long-lasting (around 40 years, on average), quick to install, inexpensive and strong against wear and tear, as they are made up of rocks and bitumen.

Unfortunately, these types of roofs tend to be vulnerable to mould, forming in the walls or insulation, especially if there is trapped moisture or poor ventilation. They are also very heavy and require the building they are installed on to have the right structural integrity to withstand their weight. On a more minor note, the smell during installation can also be rather unpleasant.

Benefits Include:

  • Quickness to install
  • Inexpensiveness
  • Strength against wear and tear
  • Longevity
  • Durability


Clay Tiles


While they do have some drawbacks such as being heavy and expensive, overall Clay tiles may be a worthwhile investment as they are long lasting (between 40 to 50 years) and add a certain aesthetic beauty and elegance. Clay tile roofs mesh particularly well with Spanish, Southwestern, or Mediterranean styled structures.

Benefits Include:

  • Appearance
  • Longevity
  • Durability against insects, storms, and extreme weather
  • Fire resistance
  • Low maintenance
  • Insulating ability

Shake Roofing


Wood shakes are produced naturally, most often from cedar, redwood, or southern pine. Often appealing to people due to their rough, rustic look in comparison to many other types of roofing materials. They are better suited to colder climates, cracking easily in dry and hot conditions. One of the drawbacks of wood shakes is that they are often more expensive than shingles.

Benefits Include:


  • Appearance
  • Longevity
  • Wind-resistance
  • Low maintenance


Copper Roofing


Copper offers a unique, exquisite, and warm appearance which works well on both modernistic and vintage-styled buildings. While the main draw of this roofing choice is clearly its aesthetic beauty, Copper provides one of the most durable roofing materials which proves to be economical in the long run with low maintenance costs. The main disadvantage associated with this type of roof is the costs – at roughly four times the cost of asphalt roofing.

Benefits Include:

  • Appearance
  • Ability to be adapted to curved buildings
  • Ease of fabrication
  • Longevity
  • Durability

Solar Shingles


Photovoltaic roof shingles are an excellent option for home/business owners who are seeking to lower their energy costs while becoming more environmentally-conscious. Experts have noted that an average cluster of about 350 solar panels could reduce household energy bills by about 60%.

Traditionally very expensive to install, the cost has recently been greatly reduced and many governments offer subsidies and incentives.

Benefits Include:

  • Lower energy costs and long-term financial benefits
  • Environmental-friendliness
  • Tax credits/incentives
  • Noiseless
  • The energy is accessible even in remote areas


Recycled Roofing


Recycled products are increasingly being used as roofing materials as substitutes for traditional roofing types and are said to function just as well. To provide some examples, reclaimed wood, milk jugs, old tires, newspaper, aluminium cans, scrap metal and even carpeting are being used as alternative roofing.


To Conclude


While there are other, more conventional, accepted choices, there are many roofing alternatives for you to think about, which may better fit your needs.

Perhaps cost is an issue? Is the roofing material you want to purchase difficult to obtain in your area? Can’t find a roof which fits your aesthetic tastes? Maybe you’re looking for something slightly different to the norm? If so, you might want to consider some alternatives to traditional roof types.

Looking for a reliable roofing contractor? Look no further! Call us now for a free no obligation estimate at 1.855.582.7263 or fill in the form at the top of the page and we’ll get back to you soon!


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Reliable Roof Repair provides a dependable emergency roofing service in Mississauga and the GTA for shingle roofs, damaged attics, roof vents, soffits, eaves and more.