3 Budget-Friendly Roofing Alternatives That You May Not Have Thought About

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated May 9, 2022
Wooden house with extensive green living roof
Photo: josefkubes / Adobe Stock

Think outside the shingle

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With the average cost for installing a new roof running between $5,000 and $45,000, it's understandable that you may look for ways to save money on this expensive (but very important) home project. You might already know that asphalt is a popular budget-friendly roofing choice, but what else is out there? If you’re looking for a roofing material that is unusual but affordable, consider these options.

1. Synthetic Slate

Child looking out through roof window
Photo: Halfpoint Images / Moment / Getty Images

Also known as composite, synthetic slate offers the look of slate tiles without the high cost. Composite tiles can be an excellent choice if you are concerned about environmental impact since many manufacturers use recycled materials, including post-industrial plastics, hemp fibers, and some discarded roofing materials. In addition, the tiles are very customizable, coming in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. 

One thing to keep in mind is that some synthetic slates don’t meet industry-wide fire-rating specifications, so composite might not be the best choice if you live in an area prone to wildfires. Check with the manufacturer and a local roofing professional to choose the right material for your location and home; your contractor may suggest you install a layer of fire retardant material beneath your tiles.

Cost

Composite roof tiles cost an average of $400 to $600 per square or $4 to $6 per square foot in materials. While this is slightly more than the cost of asphalt tiles, synthetic slate tiles tend to last 10 to 30 years longer than asphalt, saving you more money in the long run.

2. Single-Ply Roofing

An option for low-slope and flat roofs, single-ply roofing consists of large, flexible sheets that are placed between your home’s structure and the exterior elements. The sheets are typically made from either thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) and ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM) and are resistant to UV radiation. But it should be noted that they do not include insulation, which might be a good thing if you wish to choose your own insulating material. 

However, single-ply roofing has some drawbacks. It can have a shorter lifespan than some other materials, punctures easily given its thinness, and the seams may be vulnerable to leaks. 

TPO vs. EPDM

TPO is a newer material than EPDM. While it is most commonly manufactured as highly-reflective white sheets, it is also available in tan, gray, green, blue, and red. Most manufacturers add titanium dioxide to the materials, which protects against UV rays. During installation, TPO requires a hot-air gun to meld the seams and fuse them together. 

EPDM, which has been on the market for decades, is typically made of a high-performance rubber compound that offers heat retention and strong resistance against the elements—a better choice for colder climates. Unlike TPO, EPDM is installed using seam tape.

Cost

The average cost is $1.50 per square foot for EPDM (excluding insulation) and $1.70 per square foot for TPO (excluding insulation). Talking to a pro about which option is best for your home will help you make a decision you feel confident about.

3. Green Roofing

When cared for and planned out, moss can become your actual roof (rather than your roof’s enemy). A green roof can make a bold statement. As an added benefit, moss (or other organic material) can provide excellent insulation and absorb rainwater. 

These roofs require very specific layers to support the greenery on top. Typically, layers consist of vegetation, a growing medium, a filter membrane, a drainage layer, a waterproof and root repellent layer, membrane support for greenery on top, thermal insulation, vapor control layer, and structural roof support.

Extensive vs. Intensive

There are no firm rules to define the two types of green roofs, but generally speaking, an extensive green roof has a shallow growing depth (less than 6 inches) which requires less watering and allows for a small selection of plants.

Intensive green roofs have more soil (and thus, more weight on top of your home), allowing for a wider variety of plants but requiring more maintenance and watering.

Cost

The cost for a green roof varies greatly depending on your home’s size and how intensive you want it to be. You might spend as little as $10,000 for the installation of an extensive green roof, which is comparable to the cost of an asphalt roof. 

Blue Roofing 

Blue roofing is an excellent option for homeowners who are hoping to minimize their environmental footprint and save money on their utility bills. While the more well-known green roofing involves layering moss and plants on your roof, blue roofing is all about water storage. 

Blue roofs consist of a series of small, shallow tanks that catch and temporarily store rainwater. After the storm passes, the tanks release the water slowly to mimic the normal absorption of water into the underlying land. 

Cost

Blue roofing installation generally costs just under $1 per square foot and has the potential to offer long term cost savings. Blue roofs can substantially reduce a home’s cooling costs as well as offer stored water that can be used to irrigate landscaping. 

Shingle Overlay

If you’re stressed about the cost of replacing your whole roof, you may want to ask a professional if a shingle overlay could work for you. Shingle overlay, when you simply add a layer of new shingles over any damaged areas of your roof, is typically a much more affordable project than a whole roof replacement. 

A shingle overlay could be an option for you if:

  • Just the shingle layer, not the actual underlying roof, is damaged

  • The damaged portion of your roof is small and contained

  • The non damaged portion of your roof is in good repair

  • A shingle overlay has not already taken place on your roof 

There are some drawbacks to doing a shingle overlay. Some roofing companies won’t do the job because they don’t want to accept liability for covering up damage that they can’t see. 

“If you cover up the old roof, you cannot inspect the decking of the roof for rot caused by leaks,”  says Ami Feller, Expert Review Board member and owner of Roofer Chicks in New Braunfels, TX. “Also, many manufacturers negate their manufacturer warranties on overlays. Tearing off the old roof is not a large percentage of the roof cost and in my opinion is not worth the increase in risk and loss of warranty coverage.”

Cost

The cost to repair a roof using a shingle overlay is, on average, about $1,000, substantially lower cost than a whole roof replacement. The size of the damaged area as well as local labor costs will impact the overall cost of the project.

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