We've got you covered: Which roofing material is best for your needs? - Building NZ
We've got you covered: Which roofing material is best for your needs?

We've got you covered: Which roofing material is best for your needs?

Six commonly used roofing materials to explore.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

As a homeowner, keeping the roof over your head is your single most important consideration—both literally and figuratively. It can also be one of the largest financial outlays you can make during the construction and lifetime of your home.

There are a number of factors involved in choosing the right roofing material for your home—climatic conditions, architectural style, personal taste and of course, cost. In New Zealand, there are six commonly used roofing materials—asphalt shingles, clay or concrete tiles, copper, corrugated/long run steel, membrane and slate shingles.

That’s not to say they are your only options, you might be looking for a green roof option or something much more technologically advanced such as solar tiles, but for the majority of homes being built in New Zealand, these are the choices.

So let's check out each option and see what their strengths and weaknesses are:

Asphalt shingles impart a stylish and classical look to this home's roof.

Asphalt shingles

Asphalt roofing is relatively new to the New Zealand market, having a presence here of around 40 years. Internationally though, asphalt shingles have been a popular roofing choice for more than a century. There are two types of asphalt shingles—organic and fibreglass. Organic shingles have a base layer made from waste paper, cellulose or wood fibres that are impregnated with asphalt and then have a top layer of asphalt applied. Fibreglass shingles have a base layer of fibreglass that is bonded together with a urea-formaldehyde resin.

Asphalt shingles come in a variety of colours and patterns making them a visually appealing choice. Fibreglass options offer high fire resistance and both are durable choices that require little ongoing maintenance. Options also exist for use in high-wind zones.

On the downside, while they are a durable option, asphalt tiles will deteriorate over time and can require replacing sooner than other roofing options. Also, some organic tiles made prior to the 1980s may contain asbestos so it’s best to check this if you’re planning to buy an older house. As the tiles age, they will shed their granule coating, which could lead to water ingress issues.

This Mediterranean-style house in the Far North looks right at home with its clay tile roof.

Clay/concrete tiles

The first known clay roofing tile can be traced to China some 12,000 years ago, making it the oldest man made roofing material. With such a long history, it’s not surprising that clay tiles—and later concrete tiles—gained universal acceptance. As with steel, manufacturing advancements have resulted in lighter weight more durable composite materials being introduced.

There is no denying the curb appeal of a house with a tile roof especially on a Spanish Mission or Mediterranean-style home. Clay tiles are also very durable, as well as being fire and insect resistant. Aesthetically, they come in a variety of colours and finishes and are also recyclable at the end or their life cycle.

On the downside, tiles are a heavier roofing option and so require extra support, which may add to construction costs. They can also break if walked on, making carrying out repairs to other roof structures trickier and, if individual tiles need to be replaced colour matching can be difficult.

Install a copper roof on your house if you're after longevity and wanting to make a design statement.


The Rolls Royce of metal roofing options, copper has been used for roofing for hundreds of years because it is one of the most durable metals there is. Few materials offer the good looks of copper with its natural patination making it a design statement for the most contemporary of architectural designs.

Unlike some steel roofing materials, copper will never rust or corrode—making it ideal for coastal applications—nor does it require special coatings or finishes. Copper is highly recyclable and most roofing material contains at least 75 per cent recycled content.

On the downside, copper is a very soft metal, which means it can be easily dented by hail and the like. Copper is also susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and has a tendency to expand and contract, which, if not properly installed, can lead to water ingress issues.

A Kiwi favourite for more than a century and just as popular today.

Corrugated/long run steel

While the term corrugated iron is a bit of a misnomer these days—it’s been made from steel for more than a century—it is a Kiwi icon and has graced many a shed and home across our fair nation. Its durability is renowned and advances in technology have seen the introduction of many different styles and finishes.

Steel is easy to install, offers a high performance-to-weight ratio, suits just about every architectural style, is recyclable at the end of its lifecycle and can easily stand up to our changeable weather.

On the downside, steel roofing will dent when hit hard enough by something and this can mar its appearance and lead to leaks around seamed areas. Similarly, if installed improperly you’re likely to encounter problems around water ingress and your roof could lift off in high-wind situations.

Membrane roofing is a fairly new entrant in the residential market but is making a name for itself on flat and low-pitched roofs.


Traditionally, membrane roofing products were the domain of commercial buildings but have, more recently, gained a following in the residential market as they are ideal for use on flat- or low-pitched roofs. There are five major types of membrane roofing—thermoset, thermoplastic, modified bitumen, glass reinforced plastic and liquid.

Depending on the type of membrane roofing you choose, there are various benefits but as a general rule they all offer good performance-to-weight ratios, are easy to install by specialised contractors and offer high levels of aesthetics.

On the downside, some thermoset and thermoplastic products have been known to permit water pooling or water ingress if not installed properly or not maintained. Similarly, these products have been known to suffer punctures so care needs to be taken when inspecting the roof or carrying out repairs to other roof structures.

With centuries-old buildings still sporting their original slate shingles, slate roofing is known as the 'lifetime roof'.

Slate shingles

If you’re wanting to make a wow statement with your roof, few materials outshine slate and having a slate shingle roof on your home can actually increase its resale value. The natural tonal variations in slate make it an extremely attractive choice and it can be used with a variety of architectural styles.

For durability, you will not find a better material than slate and there’s a reason it’s called a ‘lifetime roof’ with centuries-old buildings across Europe still sporting their original shingle roof. Slate shingles require little to no ongoing maintenance and can be reused or recycled numerous times.

On the downside, slate shingles are the heaviest of the roofing options and will necessitate proper structural support. Slate shingles should also only be installed by a specialist slate roofing contractor, so make sure you get the right person for the job. Slate shingles can break if walked on so some care is required during maintenance and when carrying out repairs to other roofing structures.

Banner image: EURAMAX pre-coated Aluminium in "Cyprus Oxide" from Ambro Metals.

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