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What is the most durable roof for the Pacific Northwest where we get a lot of rain, a short summer, and less than a foot of snow?

I'd like a roof that requires no maintenance and could theoretically last hundreds of years. Options which aren't more than two or three times the cost of typical roofing are ideal.

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    Slate would be my hands down pick for a 100 year roof, but would fail miserably at the "two or three times the cost of typical roofing" test. If you want something really left field, there are thatched roofs that are over 500 years old. – Comintern Mar 5 '16 at 17:01
  • Looks like about $10 per square foot: neslate.com/articles/43-roofing-with-slate. Installation of asphalt shingles is about $1.40: angieslist.com/articles/real-cost-new-roof.htm – MattD Mar 5 '16 at 17:07
  • Sounds about right, plus easily 3 to 4 times the installation time, plus the fact that most roofs need to have the framing reinforced before installing slate or tile. – Comintern Mar 5 '16 at 17:10
  • Your "left field" suggestion got me wondering about green roofs: lid-stormwater.net/greenroofs_cost.htm Seems to be even more expensive than slate. Any idea about longevity? – MattD Mar 5 '16 at 17:14
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    So you want a roof that lasts forever, and is cheap!? Good luck. Any company that's adopted that business model, is likely long out of business. – Tester101 Mar 5 '16 at 17:22
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I like the thatch idea! ;-)

According to a variety of sources--for example this one--it's probably slate shingles, closely followed by concrete or clay shingles, with metal not far behind. In all three cases, barring natural catastrophes, you will have passed on before the roof wears out.

There are terra cotta (clay) roofs in Europe and the middle east that are hundreds of years old, but there are also people who maintain those roofs and occasionally replace broken shingles. Metal seems appealing in the Pacific Northwest, especially if you're in an area with extremely high snow loads, because the metal roof itself will be very strong, but weigh less than slate, clay or concrete. You can apply metal to a very steeply pitched roof that will shed snow more easily (reducing the load on your structure and on the roof itself), and it will have ridges extending down the slope of the roof that will help naturally segment the snow into sheets and provide a channel for it to slide on. And, of course, some people like the sound of rain on a metal roof.

There are architectural composite shingles that look more or less like traditional cedar or clay shingles, but they haven't been around long enough to know for sure how they perform over decades or more of exposure. Cedar shingles would really look nice, but you'll be replacing them in your old age.

"Traditional" asphalt shingles will probably cost between $0.80 and $1.50 per square foot unless you have a complicated roof design, which will drive the cost up. You might get away with doing a metal roof for three times the cost of asphalt and still have a roof that will outlive you. Slate will probably cost at least $10 per square foot, up to $40. Clay and concrete will fall somewhere in-between.

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"The best", "no maintenance", and "not super expensive" are usually diametrically opposed to each other in the real world. Anything better than shingles will cost more than shingles. No magic bullet here

Reading between the lines, what you seem to be asking is "the best within reason given a limited-or-at-least-not-infinite budget."

In order to get that, you're going to have to sacrifice one of your goals. Don't sacrifice "the best" because then there's no point. That leaves price and "maintenance-free."

If you're going to live in this house forever and are capable of saving more money before needing to replace the roof (i.e. it isn't an emergency and you're not totally financially adrift) than do that and go with mechanically-seamed 22 to 24 gauge standing seam metal. Zero maintenance and it will outlast your children--probably even your grandchildren if the metal is aluminum and likely your great-great-grandchildren if the metal is copper.

If that's not appealing, then sacrifice "maintenance free" and go with the cheapest kind of metal roof you can get. Metal shingles can be reasonably priced because they install quickly like asphalt shingles. Though-fastened metal roofing panels (often "R-panel") can also be pretty cheap. Get lots of bids and go with the most reputable and most highly recommended contractor even if they're not the cheapest. Ignore high-ballers who bring iPads and fancy gizmos to do the estimation and drive up in 2016 crew cab F350s. You want some who drives up in a Ford Ranger or a Toyota Tacoma.

Both of these kinds of metal roofing will last darn near forever if installed properly and periodically maintained. What does the maintenance look like? Removing debris caught between shingles or panel seams, and replacing the screws every 20-50 years for the through-fastened panel roofing.

  • Watch out on the quality of the roofing manufacturer and aptitude of the installer, we have a standing seam aluminum roof that's having a fatigue fracture issue in the 90 degree bend (in trough) due to thermal movement at about 29 years. It's developed leaks in two different spots on different sides of the building. – Fiasco Labs Mar 6 '16 at 2:47

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