Eco-Friendly Roofs — Pay it Forward

Homeowners pay it forward; make a positive impact on the well-being of your current and future family members and the planet by choosing an eco-friendly roof for your home.

The roof is the most important component of a home’s exterior and is constantly exposed to the elements. Leaking roofs can damage the roof structure, drywall, insulation, foundation, electrical circuitry, and home interior, and can lead to mold-related health issues. Repeat. The roof is important.

The majority of home buyers will purchase a newly built or existing home that already has a roof. In this case, consider the roof when choosing a home, maintain it well, and if it needs to be replaced down the road select good quality, environmentally friendly materials. Those building a new home have an opportunity to build a home with an innovative and eco-friendly roof.

New or Replacement Roof Considerations

A new or replacement roof is not only a major home investment (meaning it’s expensive); it can have a significant environmental impact. There are several factors to consider before buying a new or replacement roof.

Roof Materials

Roof materials vary widely in composition, durability, quality, fire and hail ratings, warranty, carbon footprint, cost, and aesthetics. Roof materials include:

  • Asphalt Shingles
  • Roof with Asphalt Roof ShinglesClay, Concrete, and Slate Tiles
  • Fiber-cement Shingles – cement mixed with wood fiber
  • Metal – copper, steel, and aluminum
  • Recycled-content Shingles / Roof Panels – made from recycled plastic, rubber, wood, or metal waste material
  • Wood Shingles or Shakes

Climate is a major factor in determining roof structure and material.

  • In sunny and hot climates, light colored or reflective roofing reduces solar gain which can reduce energy used for cooling by 10-15%.
  • High wind areas need roofing materials that will stay put.
  • Roofs that receive snow must be able to bear the weight and may need ice shields or heated gutters to prevent ice dams (a ridge of ice that can form on the edge of the roof and prevent melting snow from draining off).
  • In climates with a lot of moisture, roof materials need to resist mold and mildew.
Multi-function Eco-Friendly Roofs

Some roofs do more than protecting your home.

Home with Vegetated (Green) RoofVegetated (green) roofs filter pollutants from the air, can be part of a rain harvesting system, and in some climates provide produce for the family dinner table.

Photovoltaics built into shingles or roof panels enable homeowners to generate electricity.

Environmental Impact

The financial cost of a roof does not typically include the environmental cost associated with extracting, processing, transporting, and installing the roof, or disposing of materials torn off the existing roof and debris from the new installation. A few questions to consider about roofing materials include:

  • What natural resources will be used in producing the roof materials?
  • How will they be extracted (e.g. mined or harvested)?
  • Will roof materials be made from a renewable resource?
  • Does roofing contain recycled content?
  • Metal Roof with DormerHow much energy and water will be used during extraction, processing, transport, and installation?
  • Are any toxic compounds involved in the manufacturing or installation process?
  • How far will roofing materials travel from the factory?
  • Will the roof last at least 40, 50 or more years?
  • Can roofing be recycled at the end of its useful life?
  • Will the materials that are torn off the existing roof be recycled or sent to a landfill?
Financial Cost

The financial cost of a replacement roof includes repairing any damage from the existing roof, disposing of torn off existing roof materials, new roof (includes shipping), labor, sales tax, and contractor overhead and profit. Hire a reputable roofing contractor and select a good quality roof that is appropriate to your climate. The roof of your home is not the place to skimp.

As an old Fram oil filter commercial aptly put it,

“You can pay me now, or pay me later.”

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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