Synthetic vs. Traditional Roofing Materials: Making an Informed Decision

by | Jul 16, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Roofing materials play a crucial role in the construction industry, protecting buildings from the elements and enhancing their aesthetic appeal. When choosing the suitable roofing material, homeowners and builders often have many options. In this article, we will explore the differences between synthetic and traditional roofing materials, aiming to provide readers with the necessary information to make an informed decision.

The Process of Synthetic Roofing Materials

Synthetic roofing materials are artificial products that resemble natural materials such as slate, shakes, or tiles. They are typically made from recycled plastics, rubber, or composite materials. Synthetic materials are durable and resistant to rot, insects, and fire.

Types of synthetic roofing materials

  1. Synthetic slate: This alternative to natural slate offers the same elegant appearance but at a fraction of the weight and cost.
  2. Synthetic shakes: These materials mimic the rustic look of wooden shakes while providing superior resistance to weathering and decay.
  3. Synthetic tiles: These lightweight alternatives to traditional clay or concrete tiles are available in various styles and colors, providing versatility for architectural designs.

Benefits of synthetic roofing material

  1. Durability and longevity: Synthetic materials are highly durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions, outlasting many traditional materials.
  2. Lightweight and easy installation: The lightweight nature of synthetic roofing materials makes installation easier and faster, reducing labor costs.
  3. Various styles and colors: Synthetic materials offer various design options to match any architectural style or personal preference.
  4. Low maintenance requirements: Synthetic materials are virtually maintenance-free, reducing the need for regular upkeep and repairs.

Potential drawbacks of synthetic roofing materials

  1. Higher initial cost: While synthetic materials may have a higher upfront cost than traditional options, their long-term durability often offsets this expense.
  2. Limited availability and higher shipping costs: Some synthetic materials may only be readily available in some areas, and their transportation costs can be higher due to their lightweight nature.
  3. Environmental considerations: While synthetic materials can be made from recycled content, their production and disposal may have environmental impacts. However, advances in recycling technology are reducing these concerns.

Exploring Traditional Roofing Materials

Traditional roofing materials have been used for centuries and are typically derived from natural resources such as asphalt, wood, clay, concrete, or metal. These materials offer a classic and timeless appeal.

Types of traditional roofing materials

  1. Asphalt shingles: These widely used roofing materials are cost-effective, easy to install, and available in various colors.
  2. Wood shakes and shingles: Wooden roofing materials provide a warm and natural aesthetic but require regular maintenance to prevent decay and insect damage.
  3. Clay and concrete tiles: These materials offer durability, fire resistance, and an elegant appearance, suitable for traditional and modern architectural styles.
  4. Metal roofing: Metal roofs are known for their longevity, energy efficiency, and resistance to extreme weather conditions. They are available in various styles, including standing seam and metal shingles.

Advantages of traditional roofing materials

  1. Cost-effectiveness: Traditional materials often have a lower initial cost than synthetic ones, making them more accessible for budget-conscious projects.
  2. Wide availability and familiarity: Traditional materials are widely available in most areas, and their installation methods are well-known to roofing professionals.
  3. Fire resistance and insulation properties: Many traditional materials, such as clay tiles and metal roofs, offer excellent fire resistance and insulation, enhancing the safety and energy efficiency of the building.
  4. Aesthetic appeal and versatility: Traditional materials provide a timeless and visually appealing finish, allowing various architectural styles and customization options.

Potential drawbacks of traditional roofing materials

  1. Shorter lifespan compared to synthetics: Traditional materials generally have a shorter lifespan and may require replacement or repairs sooner.
  2. Heavier weight and complex installation: Some traditional materials, like clay tiles and metal roofing, can be heavy and require additional structural support during installation.
  3. Regular maintenance requirements: Traditional materials often require periodic maintenance, including cleaning, painting, or treating, to prevent weathering, decay, or corrosion.
  4. Vulnerability to weathering and deterioration: Traditional materials, especially wood, and asphalt, are susceptible to weathering, fading, and deterioration.

Factors to Consider in Decision-Making

When deciding between synthetic and traditional roofing materials, several factors should be taken into account:

  1. Climate and weather considerations: Consider the local climate, including temperature extremes, precipitation levels, and the likelihood of storms or high winds.
  2. Building structure and design: Assess the structure’s architectural style, roof pitch, and load-bearing capacity to determine suitable materials.
  3. Budget and long-term cost analysis: Evaluate each material option’s upfront cost, expected lifespan, and potential maintenance or replacement expenses.
  4. Environmental impact and sustainability: Consider the ecological footprint of the roofing materials, including their manufacturing process, recyclability, and energy efficiency.
  5. Personal preferences and local regulations: Consider aesthetic preferences, neighborhood guidelines, and local building codes or regulations.

Case Studies and Real-Life Examples

To illustrate the decision-making process, let’s explore two case studies involving different scenarios:

  1. Case study 1: Residential property in a humid climate

Considerations for synthetic roofing materials:

– Superior durability against moisture and mold growth.

– Lightweight nature and ease of installation.

Considerations for traditional roofing materials:

– Classic aesthetic appeal and compatibility with the neighborhood.

– Cost-effectiveness for a budget-conscious project.

Decision and outcome:

After considering the factors, the homeowner opted for synthetic tiles due to their durability, low maintenance requirements, and resistance to humidity. The property’s curb appeal was enhanced with various synthetic tile styles, providing a long-lasting and visually appealing roof.

  1. Case study 2: Commercial building in a high-wind zone

Considerations for synthetic roofing materials:

– High wind resistance and durability.

– Lightweight nature to minimize structural stress.

Considerations for traditional roofing materials:

– Fire resistance and insulation properties.

– Long-term cost-effectiveness for a commercial project.

Decision and outcome:

Considering the high-wind zone and the need for superior durability, the commercial building owner decided to invest in metal roofing. Its strength, longevity, and energy-efficient properties ensured a secure and long-lasting roofing solution for the structure, meeting functional and budgetary requirements.

OKC Roofers, one of the leading roofing companies in Oklahoma City (OKC), is well-equipped to handle synthetic and traditional roofing installations. With our expertise and experience in the industry, OKC Roofers has successfully installed a wide range of roofing materials, including synthetic options like synthetic slate, shakes, and tiles, as well as traditional materials like asphalt shingles, wood shakes, clay and concrete tiles, and metal roofing. Our team of skilled professionals ensures the highest quality of workmanship, paying attention to detail and delivering exceptional results. Whether it’s a residential or commercial building, OKC Roofers has established a reputation for their commitment to customer satisfaction and their ability to meet the diverse roofing needs of clients in OKC.


Choosing a suitable roofing material is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. Synthetic and traditional roofing materials have advantages and disadvantages, and the final choice should align with specific needs and priorities. Consulting with roofing professionals, considering local regulations, and assessing individual requirements will help ensure an informed decision. As technology advances, the future of roofing materials holds promising advancements in sustainability, durability, and aesthetic options, providing even more choices for homeowners and builders alike.

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