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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > Buying Guides > A Guide to Roofing

A Guide to Roofing

A roof can be as simple and basic as a means to keep the rain out. A roof can also be a dramatic addition to a home's architecture. With the roofing products available today, you can accomplish both. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Roof Inspection

Before you think about which material to use, decide if you really need a new roof. Do a roof inspection. Look for:

  • Loose, warped or worn roofing material.
  • Excessive roofing granules in the gutters (from shingle roofs).
  • Discoloured paint or peeling wallpaper inside the house (indicates the presence of moisture).
  • If you find any of these, then you may soon need a replacement roof. Roofing can be a daunting task. First decide whether you wish to do-it-yourself or hire a contractor.

Roof leaks are not always the sign of a failed roofing system. You may not actually need a new roof. Loose or missing shingles and many flashing problems can be easily repaired.

Types of Roofing

Composition Shingle

The most widely used roofing material is the composition shingle. Commonly known as asphalt shingles, they come in two types, differentiated by the base material. They consist of either an organic fibre mat or fibreglass core. Each type is impregnated with asphalt and coated with mineral granules to add colour and texture. An adhesive back combined with nails, tacks or staples is the fastening method used. You will most likely find a "good/better/best" selection. Compare warranties (number of years the roof should last) when shopping. Shingles are available in the common 3-tab style or newer architectural designs that replicate other roofing materials such as wood or slate.

3-tab shingles. Gray architectural shingles.

Composition shingles are available in 3-tab and architectural designs.

Corrugated Sheet

There are two main types:


  • Sheets composed of fibre and impregnated with asphalt are available in many colours (or can be painted). This sheet roofing can be installed over existing roofs of other types. This is one of the easiest roofs to install for a do-it-yourselfer.
  • Sheet roofing made from translucent fibreglass or PVC.

Metal roofs have returned from the olden days to become a popular roofing option. Once limited to low-slope structures, standing seam steel roofs can now be used on steeper roofs as well. Metal is durable, practically maintenance-free, heat reflective and nonflammable. Installed in sheets, a metal roof will actually dissipate a lightning strike rather than conduct it (a concern left over from the olden days). For real visual impact, a copper roof ages to an attractive patina.


There are two types. Shingles are cut to a specific size and smooth finished. Shakes are irregular and rough-textured. Wood gives a natural look to a home. It also requires more maintenance to protect it from the elements. Wood roofing is commonly made from cedar. Fire-resistance is definitely a consideration in some areas due to local ordinances.

Corrugated fibreglass roofing.

Corrugated sheet roofing is a cost-effective choice.

Built-up Roofing

Built-up roofs are installed on flat or very low-sloping structures. They consist of alternating layers of felt or fibreglass treated with asphalt. These layers are topped with asphalt (tar) or aggregate. Built-up roofs are more common in commercial buildings.

Tile and Slate

These are two of the oldest roofing materials around. They are long-lasting and durable. Their weight requires a reinforced roof structure that can support them. Both can be quite expensive and neither are easy to install.

Factors That Affect Roofs

  • Sun delivers a combination of ultraviolet rays and heat can prematurely age a roof.
  • Snow or ice that melts and refreezes (called ice damming) pushes up the roofing material and causes leaks. Ice damming can be a temporary problem that ends when the thaw is complete. Excessive amounts can damage the roof and roof structure.
  • Rain is normally kept at bay by a roof. But when rain or moisture gets underneath roofing, damage can occur.
  • Wind can remove any roof in the most extreme occurrence. However even minimal amounts can weaken a poorly installed roof by letting dirt and moisture get underneath.
  • Moisture from condensation underneath a roof not only harms the roof and sheathing, but also can cause problems inside of the house.
  • Trees provide shade to help cool a house. They also provide leaves and limbs that can fall or scrub against the roof.
  • Algae and moss get a foothold on moist surfaces. Excessive growth can retain moisture and cause eventual weakening of the roofing material.
Home surrounded by trees.

If your home is surrounded by trees, be sure to clean your gutters at least twice a year.

Whichever Roofing Material You Choose:

  • Repair structural problems before installing a new roof. Troubles caused by factors such as improper or damaged sheathing and roof trusses and poor drainage will only resurface in the new roof if not dealt with.
  • Not all roofing materials can be used on steep-slope structures. Know your slope before you go shopping.
  • Pick colours to complement the rest of the home.
  • Look for the fire rating. The scale is rated A, B or C. The A rating is the most fire-resistant, C is the least.
  • Roofing treated with zinc or copper particles for algae resistance is a good idea in humid climates.
  • Proper ventilation to prevent condensation is critical to an efficient roofing system.
  • Adequate insulation also increases a roof's efficiency.
  • Local building codes may dictate roof types and, as in shingle roofing, mandate how many layers may be installed before a complete replacement is required.
  • Compare warranties when shopping. Actual roof performance will depend greatly on installation, climate and maintenance.
Grey shingled home.

A complex roof such as this may require the services of a professional.

Shop All Roofing Supplies Design your roof with IKO shingles

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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