What’s the Cheapest Roofing Material? Should You Use It?

by | Last updated Aug 27, 2023 | Roofing

Cheap is always expensive; this old saying remains true about the cheapest roofing material available. Choosing materials based only on which is the cheapest isn’t best, but in some situations less expensive materials can be sufficient to the project. 

We took the time to put up this post to investigate the cheapest roofing materials and their suitability for different roofing projects. This post covers the perks and drawbacks of each material and how much you can expect to pay per square foot.

Let’s begin by investigating the cheapest roofing materials. It will empower your decision-making with relevant information when selecting a roofing option that suits your budget and project demands. 

Asphalt Shingles Tops the Cheapest Roofing Materials

You’ll see asphalt shingles in neighborhoods, some social amenities, and even commercial settings in the US. Asphalt shingles owe their popularity to their affordability, which makes them a top roofing material choice for many homeowners. 

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Their widespread use can be attributed to several factors, including the following:

1. Cost-Effectiveness

Asphalt shingles are reasonably priced, and the raw materials are readily available, which also helps keep costs low. They are also relatively easy to install, reducing labor costs and installation time compared to more complex roofing materials.

2. Durability and Longevity  

Asphalt shingles are designed to last up to 20 years, depending on the climate conditions. They’re also resistant to UV rays and can stand up against strong winds. 

3. Low-Maintenance 

Asphalt shingles require minimal maintenance, so you don’t need to spend much money and time on upkeep. You can easily spot-clean them or replace any missing shingles to keep the roof in good condition. 

4. Weather Resistance

While less durable than some other materials, modern asphalt shingles are designed to withstand various weather conditions, including wind and hail.

5. Variety of Styles

These roofing materials come in diverse styles, colors, and textures, allowing homeowners to achieve different aesthetics for their roofs. You can customize the roof to complement any existing architecture and landscaping.

The Disadvantage

Asphalt shingles are not the right choice for every roofing project because of their susceptibility to weathering. Over time, asphalt shingles can be susceptible to weathering, fading, and deterioration from the sun’s UV rays.

Rolled Roofing: One of the Cheapest Roofing Options

Also popular as membrane roofing, rolled roofing is a type of roofing material consisting of asphalt-saturated felt sheets that are applied either with cold adhesive or hot bitumen. Rolled roofing is ideal for flat roofs, such as garages and small structures, and low-slope roofs, like sheds, due to its low cost and ease of installation. 

Some other advantages of using this roofing option include the following:

1. Quick Installation

Rolled roofing is easy and fast to install, which can be advantageous for smaller projects or areas with time constraints.

2. Suitable for Low-Slope Roofs

It’s particularly well-suited for roofs with low slopes, where traditional roofing materials might not perform as effectively.

3. Affordability

Rolled roofing is one of the most economical options, with low-cost material and labor demands, making it an attractive choice for budget-conscious projects.

The Limitations of Rolled Roofing

Despite its advantages, there may be better choices than rolled roofing for some applications. Possible drawbacks include:

1. Short Lifespan

If you compare rolled roofing to other roofing materials, like asphalt shingles or metal, this option has a shorter lifespan of about 5-7 years. It may need to be replaced more frequently than other materials. 

2. Limited Design Choices

Rolled roofing is limited in design, as it only comes in one style and color, significantly restricting the options available to homeowners looking for more customization. 

So, it primarily serves functional rather than decorative purposes.

3. Prone to Damage

Due to its thin nature, rolled roofing is susceptible to weather elements such as hail or high winds. It also gets punctured easily, which could lead to water leakage and other damage.

Metal Roofing: A Good Choice if You Are Looking for a Long-Lasting Material

Metal roofing is an excellent option for those looking for lasting protection from the elements, as it typically lasts up to 50 years with proper maintenance. It entails joining metal sheets together, usually done by welding but can also be achieved with rivets or screws. 

Metals are also fire-resistant, making them attractive for homeowners seeking to reduce their insurance premiums. We even explained how it’s worth the extra expense to get a metal roof.

Metal options used for roofing include aluminum, steel, and zinc alloy. Steel is the most common option due to its affordability and durability. 

In addition, metal roofing offers the following benefits: 

1. Low Maintenance Requirements

Metal roofing requires minimal maintenance, as you don’t need to worry about rot or insect infestations. It’s also resistant to rust and corrosion so you can enjoy years of trouble-free performance.

2. Lightweight 

It’s easy to install lightweight metal roofing panels, significantly reducing labor costs. In addition, the materials are less likely to cause structural damage due to their lightweight build.

3. Environmentally Friendly 

Most metal roofing material gets recycled after lasting decades in service. It saves energy to recycle metals rather than mining and refining the raw materials. 

Metal roofing is also an eco-conscious option for homeowners as it’s energy efficient. It helps to reduce your energy bills as it reflects heat in the summer and retains heat in the winter. 

4. Longevity

Metal roofs have an exceptionally long lifespan, often 50 years or more, making them an excellent long-term investment. This extended lifespan is because metal roofs aren’t susceptible to rot and insect infestations. 

5. Energy Efficiency

Metal roofing can reflect sunlight, reducing heat absorption and potentially leading to energy savings in cooling costs.

Some Potential Downsides of Metal Roofing

1. Noise

Metal roofs can be noisy during heavy rain or hailstorms, although insulation and sheathing can mitigate this issue.

2. Higher Upfront Costs

While cost-effective in the long run, the initial investment for metal roofing is higher than other budget options.

Corrugated Fiberglass or Polycarbonate Panels for Cheap Roofing Solutions

Corrugated fiberglass or polycarbonate panels are one of the cheapest options available for roofing, as they can be a fraction of the cost compared to traditional materials. They’re lightweight and easy to install, making them ideal for DIY projects. However, we recommend professional installation if you want a longer-lasting roof. 

While these panels offer impressive protection against various elements, such as rain and hail, it’s important to note that they have a degree of impact resistance but are susceptible to denting and scratching when not handled with care. Flying debris or large branches, for instance, can potentially cause damage.

In addition to their affordability, corrugated fiberglass or polycarbonate panels provide an economical solution for sheds and outbuildings, accompanied by several advantages:

1. Translucency

They allow natural light to enter the space below, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day.

2. Lightweight Construction

These panels are lightweight, making them suitable for structures that cannot support heavier roofing materials.

3. Resistance to Impact

Corrugated fiberglass or polycarbonate panels can withstand hits better than traditional roofing materials.

The Potential Concerns with Corrugated Fiberglass or Polycarbonate Panels

1. Yellowing

Over time, these panels may become yellow or discolored due to prolonged exposure to UV rays.

2. Limited Insulation 

These panels provide limited insulation, which could result in temperature fluctuations within the building.

The Importance of Professional Installation

Professional installation is crucial regardless of the roofing material you choose. Even the most affordable options can perform poorly if not installed correctly. Improper installation can lead to leaks, reduced lifespan, and higher maintenance costs.

We covered more on the cheapest roof design, and you should read it to help your planning process. 

Local Reviews
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Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars based on 9 customer reviews

Map of Lexington, KY 40502

Glad we chose them

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40502 37.9975-84.485

We recently had Jacob’s Ladder replace our roof, and I’m really glad we chose them. They were professional and really attentive to detail. Andrea and Lisa were great at keeping us informed throughout the process. They even checked in with us multiple times to make sure we were happy with how things were going.

Map of Lexington, KY 40517

Very Satisfied!

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40517 37.9875-84.515

Jacob's Ladder did a roof replacement job for a shed in my Backyard. I am very much satisfied with their work and definitely recommend them for all of your roofing needs.

Map of Lexington, KY 40503

Great Company!

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40503 38.01-84.5575

Great Company to Work with Very Professional did a really nice job on our House and our Barn.

Map of Lexington, KY 40505


Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40505 38.0875-84.46

Everyone was wonderful from start to finish!

Map of Lexington, KY 40517

Their work is so good it withstood the 100 mph plus winds!

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40517 37.9825-84.52

In May of 2022 a very damaging hail and windstorm pretty much destroyed my entire roof in Lexington Kentucky. Due to an insurance company that did not want to pay Jacobs Ladder was able to negotiate payment for an entirely new roof, decking and all which now meets current codes. Final work was completed January of 2023. Now my roof which leaked into my kitchen from May 2022 through December of 2022 has ceased to leak onto my kitchen floor. Their work is so good it withstood the 100 mph plus winds of 3rd March 2023.

Map of Lexington, KY 40505

All around #1 business!!

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40505 38.065-84.455

Easy to communicate with, professional, cleaned up after working. All around #1 business!! I recommend Jacob’s Ladder for all your related needs, they’re very friendly and treat you right!

Map of Lexington, KY 40503

Very pleased with the roof!

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40503 37.9875-84.555

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Roof Repair Completed

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40503 38.01-84.5075

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Easy Insurance Claim!

Review of Jacob's Ladder Roofing and Restoration
LexingtonKY40504 38.0375-84.5425

Jacob’s Ladder did a great job for us. They where easy to contact, knowledge in handling Insurance claim did our job in a timely manner and left no mess behind. Very pleased.

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