The type of roofing on a structure not only affects the budget but also the protection provided to the building. Whether installing a new roof or replacing an old one on a house, cabin, garage, or shed, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Some of the cheapest roofing materials have been in use for more than a century, so if you’re having trouble deciding which is best for your project, we’re here to help!
The cheapest roofing is rolled roofing followed by 3-Tab or Architectural shingles. Corrugated or ribbed steel is slightly more expensive but can last 5 to 10 times longer, making them the better choice over time. All three roofing materials are DIY-friendly and will protect the interior of a structure.
In this guide, we’ll review the 5 cheapest roofing materials, explain what to look for when choosing a roofing material, and provide a quick comparison chart. We’ll also identify the cheapest roofing material, which is best for the DIYer, and which is the best low-cost roofing material. Our aim is to provide you with the information to make the best choice for your roofing project.
- Affordable Roofing Options: Quick Comparison
- Cheapest Roofing Materials in 2023: Review
- What to Look for When Choosing Affordable Roofing Material?
- Cheapest Roofing Material for a Shed
- Cheap DIY Roofing Material
- What is the Best Low-Cost Roofing Material?
Affordable Roofing Options: Quick Comparison
Roofing materials are best compared by factors such as price, durability, lifespan, energy efficiency, and maintenance. The Table below compares the five least expensive roofing options commonly available to help make selection easier.
|1. Rolled Roofing
|$0.75 to $1.25/sqft
|8 to 15 years
|Remove dirt and debris and heat-seal or tar tears
|2. Asphalt Shingles
|$0.80 to $2.15/sqft
|7 to 30 years
|Remove dirt and debris, replace damaged or curled shingles
|3. Metal Panels
|$2 to $25/sqft
|50 to 100+ years
|Check seams and ridge/hip caps and remove debris yearly
|4. Corrugated Metal
|$1 to $2.50/sqft
|50 to 100+ years
|Check and reset screws in spring and remove debris yearly
|5. Wood Shingles and Shakes
|$2 to $7.50/sqft
|20 to 50 years
|Medium to High
|Remove dirt and debris seasonally and seal or stain as required.
Cheapest Roofing Materials in 2023: Review
Inexpensive roofing materials are widely used on homes, cabins, sheds, garages, and even playhouses and Fido’s dog house. They may not have the aesthetic appeal of some high-end options, but they’ll protect the structure and won’t require a second mortgage either.
In this section we review five of the cheapest roofing materials, identify some pros and cons, and the average DIY price per square foot. Additional charges include installation, fasteners, underlayment, ice-guard, rake edge, flashing, and other materials.
1. Rolled Roofing
Rolled roofing or MSR (mineral surfaced roofing) commonly refers to asphalt-saturated paper-felt or tarpaper-like material with colored granules on one face. The base felt-like material of some products is reinforced with fiberglass and is slightly more expensive and more durable. It typically comes in 36” or 39” widths by approximately 34’ or 36’ rolls that cover 100 square feet and weigh 75 to 100 pounds.
It is similar in composition to 3-tab asphalt shingles but is less expensive and not as durable since it’s thinner so it can be rolled. Rolled roofing has a Class A fire rating and is available in a variety of granule colors. It’s easy to transport and quick and easy to install. Some products are peel-and-stick, but all should be affixed with roofing nails.
The roofing is rolled out across the roof from eaves to eaves and progresses to the ridge in overlapping strips. The overlap covers the nails to create a waterproof seal. Some installers also use a torch-down method that heats the roofing adhesive and bonds the roofing together. Depending on climatic conditions, winds, and roof slope, modern rolled roofing will last between 8 and 15 years.
- Easy to transport
- Quick and easy to install
- Suitable large flat slopes and low slope roofs
- Good color selection
- Low durability and lifespan
- Poor aesthetic appeal
- Can lower resale value
Price per Square Foot
- The cost of a 100-square-foot roll of asphalt roofing usually ranges from $75 to $125, or $0.75 to $1.25 a square foot
2. Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material in much of North America. There are three types with multiple styles and colors to choose from, all with color granules embedded into their surface.
3-Tab or strip shingles are similar to rolled roofing but slightly thicker and cut in rectangular panels with 3 equal square-edged tabs cut into the bottom portion. They will last between 7 and 15 years and have a Class A fire rating.
Architectural or Dimensional shingles are usually thicker than 3-Tabs and their tabs or bottom portion is sculpted to look like cedar shake, tile, or slate. They are more durable and commonly last 15 to 25 years. Luxury or Designer shingles are larger, thicker, more durable, better looking, and expected to last 50 years but often need replacing after 30.
The 3 types of asphalt shingles are laid from eaves to ridge and often have a starter strip. However, 3-Tab may simply have the first row flipped so the top is down and the tabs cut off for use on the ridge.
The successive rows overlap the lower row hiding the top portion and fasteners. Each row is usually offset by 1/3, 1/2, or 2/3s of a shingle so seams don’t run from top to bottom. Architectural and Luxury shingles require special ridge and hip shingles too.
- Easy to install
- Good durability
- Wide color selection
- Looks like natural materials
- Requires more time and more skill than rolled roofing
- Lose granules and can curl
- Higher-end are expensive
- 3-Tab shingle $0.80/sqft to $1.10/sqft
- Architectural shingles $0.92/sqft to $1.75/sqft, plus $2.10 to $2.50 per linear foot for hip and ridge shingles
- Luxury shingles $1.55 to $2.15/sqft, plus $2.20 to $2.75 per linear foot for hip and ridge shingles
3. Metal Panels
Metal panels are interlocking metal sheets with standing seams that run from ridge to eaves. The seams interlock, not just overlap, making a better seal against moisture and wind.
Commonly made of steel or aluminum but also of copper or zinc, the metal is cold-rolled into the pattern profile and enameled, painted, or sealed in a wide selection of colors. The sheets are available in different thicknesses and widths, and customizable lengths up to 30 feet or longer.
Metal panels are ideal for wet or dry regions and shed snow easily too. They are also recommended for wildfire-prone areas as they are highly resistant to fire and flying embers. It can also improve energy efficiency as it reflects solar rays, although dark colors can counter that somewhat. Metal roofing is very durable and often warranted for 50 years, but has protected many homes for 100 years or more.
Installation requires some training/practice and skill, especially when handling longer panels and multiple hips, valleys, and ridges. However, it can be managed by a DIYer.
Keeping the long panels square and preventing buckling is paramount so seams interlock properly. Fasteners are also hidden by the interlocking seams, reducing some maintenance issues.
- Faster installation
- Very long-lasting
- Low maintenance
- Fewer seams
- Metal can crimp, bend, buckle, and scratch
- Gets hot in sunlight, very slippery when wet, and edges are sharp
- More expensive initially
- Galvanized steel standing seam roofing ranges from $2.10 to $8.30/sqft
- Aluminum standing seam roofing from $2.50 to $10.00/sqft
- Copper standing seam roofing from $9.50 to $25.00/sqft
- Matching ridge and hip caps, valleys, and vents are additional costs
4. Corrugated Metal
Corrugated or ribbed metal roofing is made of steel or aluminum and ranges from 2 to 3 feet in width and lengths of 6’ to 30’ or longer. It is available in different thicknesses and a wide range of colors. The metal is cold rolled into its profile and usually cut to length at the mill.
Metal roofing reflects heat and is resistant to mold and moss growth. It is also recommended for areas prone to wildfires as it is resistant to fire and wind-carried embers.
Metal is waterproof as well as fireproof, and sheds rain and snow well. Often used on sheds and barns in the past, it has become common on houses due to its low maintenance and long lifespan of 5 to 10 decades.
The ribs run from ridge to eaves and overlap at the edges. A neoprene strip or bead of caulking often helps seal the overlapping seam.
Fasteners with rubber, lead, or neoprene washers typically secure the overlap seams as well as intermediate ridges across the width. Improper spacing of fasteners can result in the risk of wind damage.
- Faster installation
- Low maintenance
- Wide choice of colors
- Very long-lasting
- Long sheets can bend, buckle, crimp, and scratch
- It can be damaged by high winds
- Fasteners require maintenance
- Galvanized steel corrugated roofing ranges from $1.00 to $2.50/sqft
- Matching fasteners, valleys, ridge and hip caps, and vents are additional costs
5. Wood Shingles and Shakes
Cedar is a common wood used for shakes and shingles, but cypress, pine, and redwood are also used. Shakes historically were hand split from logs cut to set lengths that were varied in thickness and width and had a rougher more rustic surface.
Modern shakes may have the underside smoothed, so it lays flatter for installation against the roof deck. Shingles are commonly milled from planks with a saw and are less expensive than shakes. They have a smoother, more precise finish and shape for a uniform look.
Cedar shingles and shakes start out with a fresh-cut brightness that changes over time to silver-gray or dark brown. They are a sustainable natural material that helps insulate to improve energy efficiency.
Cedar won’t curl or lift like some shingles and withstands wind better too. However, they can be damaged during installation and by dampness, debris, moss, and fungi.
Both shakes and shingles can be treated to be more flame-resistant, but the treatment must be reapplied regularly. Shakes and shingles can last 20 to 30 years or longer with regular maintenance, with some even lasting up to 50 years or more.
Installation is more complex and time-consuming than asphalt shingles or metal roofing, but it is DIY possible. Shingles and shakes can be fastened to modern roof decks or to traditional strapping or slats.
A starter course is installed at the eaves and the first course of shingles nailed on top of it. A string line or laser helps keep each row or course aligned. Traditionally, copper nails or brads were used, but any 2” weather-resistant nail works. Care, though, needs to be taken as shingles and shakes can split during installation.
- Natural and aesthetically pleasing look
- Squared or sculpted edges
- Can be painted or stained
- Improve resale value
- Greater insulator
- Flammable unless treated
- Requires greater skill to install
- High maintenance due to moisture, mold, and fungal concerns
- Cedar shingles range from $2 to $4.50/sqft
- Cedar shakes range from $4 to $7.50/sqft
What to Look for When Choosing Affordable Roofing Material?
Choosing an affordable roofing material isn’t just about the price; it’s about durability, lifespan, and installation. Plus, the amount of maintenance, energy efficiency, and warranty are also important factors to consider too. In this section, we’ll discuss what to consider when selecting a roofing material.
The durability of a roofing material includes its ability to withstand the blistering effects of the sun and different climatic conditions. The impact of the wind, snow, rain, hail, and freeze-thaw are some of the conditions that can make a new roof look old and worn quickly.
If you live in a zone that is prone to certain weather issues, select a roofing material that can withstand them. Also, consider the roof slope, composition of the roof deck, use of underlayment, proper ventilation, drip edge, flashing, ice guard, and other ways to improve the durability of your roof.
The life span of a roofing material is affected by its durability and ability to withstand climatic conditions and whether it was installed properly. Selecting the correct roofing material for the roof slope, shape, and orientation to prevailing weather will also affect the lifespan, as will maintenance.
Some materials are rated for longer lifespans and may have demonstrated consistent longevity in your region, so ask and look around. Some roofing materials state they’ll last 25 to 50 years and may do so in some areas, but in your area, they may need replacing in 7 to 15.
The type of roofing material usually determines how it is installed and the type of prep work required. A new install or replacement roofing can also affect the installation. In many areas, asphalt shingles and steel roofing can be installed directly over an existing single layer of asphalt material. However, wood slats may need to be attached to existing shingles before the steel is installed.
Most installations also require an underlayment or waterproof membrane, proper ventilation, drip edge, flashing, and the use of proper fasteners. The condition of the roof deck on older roofs should also be checked and repairs completed prior to installing new roofing.
Contrary to what some may believe, there is no maintenance-free roof. Some materials are lower maintenance than others and less susceptible to environmental issues, but they still need some maintenance.
The roofing material protects everything underneath it from the elements, so it is important to seasonally or yearly inspect it for damage and loose fasteners. Remove dirt and debris and hose it clean if necessary; especially where precipitation doesn’t clean it.
Leaves and pine needles collecting in valleys or between shingles can hold moisture and cause moss and fungi to grow, which can significantly damage and shorten the lifespan of some roofing materials. Also, inspect flashing, vents, caulking, and roofing tar for damage and cracks and repair or replace if necessary.
The type of roofing material can affect heating and cooling costs. Some roofing materials will absorb heat more than others, making cooling costs higher, and some will reflect it, making heating more costly. Much, though, depends on the climate and how the roofing affects what is important to the homeowner.
The type of roofing, its color, density, or thermal mass, and treatments such as a reflective UV coating also affect energy efficiency. Lighter colors reflect better than dark colors, and thicker materials retain heat better than thin materials.
Some materials also have air spaces or pockets between them and the roof deck, which also improves their energy efficiency. Coupled with the thermal quality of the roofing is the need for proper ventilation and insulation in the attic too.
The material warranty provided by the manufacturer varies with product and manufacturer, but usually only addresses defects or issues arising from the manufacturing process. Installation warranties are typically provided by the contractor installing the roofing and address problems arising from their workmanship.
Some manufacturers, however, offer a warranty that covers both, provided the installation is done by an accredited contractor on their list. The length of time and amount of coverage provided by both types of warranties depends on the manufacturer and the installer.
A warranty usually only addresses what is identified in the wording and is not a replacement for insurance should something be damaged.
Cheapest Roofing Material for a Shed
The cheapest roofing for a shed often depends on its purpose and roof shape and slope. If the shed has sheathing on the rafters or trusses, then any roofing material will do.
Rolled roofing is the least expensive and least durable option. It will shed precipitation and snow, and provide reasonable weather protection.
3-Tab asphalt shingles will last longer, look nicer, and provide better protection for the shed’s contents.
Ribbed or corrugated metal roofing is even better but more expensive. However, it can be attached to strapping on the rafters instead of sheathing, which can make it less costly overall compared to asphalt shingles.
All three are DIY-friendly, but the steel will last significantly longer and require less maintenance.
Cheap DIY Roofing Material
Rolled roofing, 3-Tab shingles, and corrugated or ribbed steel roofing are the easiest roofing materials for a DIYer. It’s interesting to note that that is also their order when comparing cost, durability, and lifespan.
Depending on the roof location, some consider 3-Tab more aesthetically pleasing than ribbed steel, and others don’t. Rolled and 3-Tab are the cheapest, but corrugated and ribbed can be fastened to strapping attached to the rafters while the other two require more solid support, like plywood.
The savings on roof deck material can make steel roofing a more competitive choice, especially as it is quicker to install and will last 5 to 10 times longer.
What is the Best Low-Cost Roofing Material?
The best low-cost roofing material depends on your location, color choice, aesthetics, and any local covenants or ordinances. Compare the possible choices based on price, durability, lifespan, energy efficiency, and maintenance.
If you’re in a region where cooling is more important, then a reflective material like steel is better. If in a cold region where heat is of greater importance, then a heat-absorbent material like asphalt may prove more energy efficient.
Some roofing materials handle dirt and debris better than others, and some shed rain and snow better too. Most new subdivisions seem to have the same type of roofing, so check out the roofs of some older homes in your area for what may be best for your location.
Lifespan is often a good indication of durability and maintenance. So, while rolled roofing is cheapest and may do for a shed, 3-Tab or Architectural shingles are better for a home.
If you’re reasoning that short-term costs are more important than a more durable material with a better lifespan, or you’re only doing it to improve resale value in the near future, then asphalt is a good deal. Especially if you don’t mind replacing the shingles every 7 to 15 years, even though they may be rated for 25 to 50 years. However, ribbed or corrugated steel is even better, and the cost difference is almost negligible, making ribbed or corrugated steel the best, low-cost roofing material.