Raise The Roof: Green Roofing Materials

Investing in a new roof? Let us help you find the best material for your home, climate and budget.

| July/August 2008

  • Durable metal shingles such as these Stone Crest Slate ones from MetalWorks are recyclable and resist rotting, cracking and breaking.

More than 11 million tons of America’s most common roofing material—asphalt shingles with an underlying fiberglass layer—end up in landfills each year when they are stripped to make room for the replacements. While asphalt shingles can be recycled into roadbed material, only a small percentage of them actually are.

Some conventional fiberglass shingles incorporate waste paper and reclaimed wood fiber in the manufacturing process. But from an eco-friendly standpoint, the new cutting-edge options, as well as a few old-fashioned favorites, are even better.


Wood shakes are split by hand for a rougher look, while wood shingles are machine sawn. Untreated, they weather to silver or gray, and most come from old-growth Western red cedar. You can, however, find them made from sustainably grown Eastern white cedar; look for products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (with the FSC symbol).

Wood roofing can burn easily, so it should never be installed in fire-prone areas and may make your home ineligible for home-      owner’s insurance policy coverage. Some wood roofing materials come pretreated with fire-resistant chemicals; manufacturers are searching for greener ways to reduce fire hazards. Mildew, moss and lichens also can grow on wood, causing decay and making them less suitable for constantly humid climates where regular, professional cleaning is necessary. Avoid shingles treated with preservatives—especially copper chromium arsenate (CCA), a known carcinogen—which can leach into runoff.


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