Roof Replacement Basics Every Homeowner Should Know

man working on roof next to chimney

Roof replacements are large, costly home remodel projects that many homeowners encounter. Before hiring a contractor for the project, learn the basics about common roofing materials, prime seasons for getting your roof replaced, and more.

There are different kinds of roofing materials.

The material you end up choosing for your roof will largely depend on the weather where you live as well as your own personal taste.

Asphalt Composition Shingles 

Cheap and easily obtainable, asphalt shingles are the most common material chosen for roof replacements.

There are two main types of roofing shingles available today, and they come in many different styles and colors.

  • 3-Tab Shingles — These are the most basic type of shingle on the market. These shingles come from the factory as a single row—about 36 inches long and three tabs wide (as the name implies).
  • Architectural Shingles — Also known as laminated strip shingles, these are also a popular choice. This type of shingle features several layers of individual shingles, producing a highly-desirable 3D effect on the roof. These shingles typically cost more than 3-tab shingles.

Wood Shakes

Shakes are more expensive than asphalt shingles but are commonly viewed as a more attractive option. Used for centuries, wood shakes are split from logs. They are most commonly made from cedar and pine, but California redwood, cypress, and spruce are used as well.

A wood shake is instantly recognizable due to its beautiful, textured, and three-dimensional appearance.


Metal is a somewhat rare option, and not many roofers know how to install it properly. If installed correctly, metal roofs come with a number of advantages:

  • Durability — When properly installed, metal roofing can last as long as 50 years or more. It is more efficient in sealing out water, withstanding high winds, and shedding snow than shingle roofing, and is resistant to fire, mildew, insects, and rot.
  • Long-term warranties — Many metal roofing manufacturers warranty their product for 50 years or longer. Compare that to asphalt shingles, which may need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years.
  • Lower energy bills — A majority of modern metal roofing products have Energy Star finishes that are certified to reflect sunlight, keeping your home cooler than other roofing materials.


Slate is a highly expensive but extremely fashionable roof replacement option. If you’re looking for a long-lasting roofing material, slate should be at the top of your list. 

There are documented cases of slate roofs in Europe that have withstood the elements for more than two centuries. A high-quality natural slate roof can be expected to last 60 - 125 years if installed correctly.

You might be able to lay a new roof over your old one.

man cutting asphalt shingles on roof

Once you decide on a roof material for your replacement project, you’ll need to decide whether to remove the old material or roof over it.

Before making this decision, take the advantages and disadvantages of each process into consideration.

Weight Issues

The biggest problem with adding additional layers of asphalt shingles over old roofing materials is that the roof may become too heavy for the underlying framing. This is especially true for older homes.

It’s commonly said that three layers of asphalt shingles are equal to a single layer of slate, which is an exceedingly heavy type of roofing material.


Another problem with roofing over old material is that surface irregularities become repeated. If you’re thinking about replacing an old roof, there’s a good chance it has bumps, depressions, and bubbles you want to get rid of.

Putting new material over these problems doesn’t do much for the aesthetic value. If you choose to leave the old layer in place, you can correct these problems with a hammer, some nails, and a few shingles.

Reduce Waste and Labor

Stripping off the old layer of roofing material adds more time and work to the roof replacement process. Most contractors can do this task in a short period, but if you’re doing it yourself, it can be a time-consuming and challenging job.

LEARN MORE: Should I Replace My Shingle Roof or Repair It?

Find a reliable roofing contractor

Cost depends on a number of variables.

The national average for a shingle roof replacement is $8,250. 

Roof replacement costs depend on...

  • your location
  • roofing materials
  • individual contractors
  • the pitch of your roof

All of these factors play a role in determining roofing prices, so your costs may be significantly more or less than the ones listed below. These prices represent removing 1 - 2 layers of old shingles and installing new, quality shingles.


There are optimum seasons for roof replacements.

roofers installing new shingle roof

In most areas of the United States, the optimal season to have work done to your roof is from late spring to early fall.

During this time, temperatures aren’t high, the chance of storms is low, and snow hasn’t arrived yet.

If contractors work before or after this season, you'll have to squeeze in the project. The key to doing this successfully—i.e., quickly and without any damage from rain or snow—is having a large team of professionals who can complete the job in a matter of hours, not days.

Know basic roofing terminology.

Learning a few key roofing phrases can make the entire roof replacement process easier. You'll be more informed and able to communicate effectively with your roofing contractor.

  • Square: The word “square” is used commonly in the roofing industry and means 100 square feet. Roofers speak in terms of squares because of the vast amount of materials and space they deal with.
  • Bundles: Shingles, as well as other common materials, come in bundles. Typically, three or four bundles of shingles are enough to cover a square.
  • Eaves: This is the roof edge from the fascia to the structure’s outside wall. In general terms, the first three feet across a roof is called the 'eave.'
  • Underlayment: Asphalt-based rolled materials designed to be installed under main roofing material to serve as added protection.
  • Flashing: Materials used to waterproof a roof around any projections
While this short list is by no means a comprehensive glossary of roofing terms, familiarizing yourself with basic roofing vocabulary will be beneficial in dealing with roof leaks, replacements, tear-offs, and more.

Make sure you hire the right contractor for the job.

Finding the right roofing contractor involves a little research, but it's worth it.

You should check out a minimum of 2 - 3 companies to ensure they’re the right fit for your roof replacement project.

They should be skilled and experienced in installing the roofing material you’ve chosen for the replacement. They should also be able to commit to the budget you agree on, and have the proper licenses, insurance, and coverage to work on your home.

Hometown Roofing Contractors is one of the most convenient ways to find the right local roofing contractor for you. There, you can research company profiles, read how other customers rate their services, and request quotes from as many roofers as you'd like.

Find a reliable roofing contractor