Home Improvements

Replacing a Roof: Material Matters

When it comes to replacing a roof, you need to consider the different roofing materials available and how much they cost. Roof tiles, asphalt shingles, and sheeting are some of the most common roofing materials used, but they aren’t your only options. 

Rather than just replacing your roof with the same material you previously had, you might want to consider the benefits other roofing materials can offer you. Things to consider when choosing the roofing material for your roof replacement include your home’s climate, your budget, and the style of your home. 

Replacing a Roof article - close up of a bright red roof with a bright blue cloudless sky behind it

Pick the Perfect Pitch for Your Roof Replacement

The pitch or angle of your roof helps regulate the temperature of your home. Homes built in warmer climates tend to opt for a flat or low-pitched roof to help keep the house cool. However, a steeply pitched roof works better in colder climates so water and snow can drain away easier.

Flat Roof

Flat roofed houses are incredibly popular in South Africa as they are easy to build and require less material, making them cheaper than pitched roofs. A flat roof also leaves you with more freedom as far as the design.

A flat roof isn’t 100% flat since there still needs to be a small pitch to allow water to drain. A gradient of 3-15 degrees is still classified as a flat roof. The material you use will determine the specific gradient.

While flat roofs are easier to build they require a bit more maintenance than pitched roofs. A membrane is applied under the roofing material to ensure that your roof is watertight. If damage to a flat roof or its membrane isn’t fixed immediately, it can lead to more expensive repairs.

replacing a roof article - shot looking down a hill with lots of closely packed brightly coloured houses that all have flat roofs

Single Pitch Roof

If the angle of your roof is more than 15 degrees, then it’s referred to as a pitched roof. A higher pitch can end up being more expensive as more materials are needed, but they are less likely to leak, making maintenance and repairs cheaper in the long run.

Double Pitch Roof

A double pitched roof has gradients that run in different directions to form a ridge where they meet. When thinking of a pitched roof you most likely picture a double pitched roof. 

Similarly to the single pitched roof, the greater the gradient of a double pitched roof means the less likely the roof will be to leak. This means they’re more expensive to build, but cheaper to maintain in the long run. 

replacing a roof article - close up of 3 connected double pitched roofs. Roofs are dark, houses are painted a light grey, contrasting with the light blue cloudless sky in the background

Material Choices When Replacing a Roof

Once you’ve made up your mind about what type of roof you’re going for, you can start looking at roofing materials. Some materials might be better suited to a specific type of roof pitch and climate, so make sure your roof type and material work together.

Roof Sheets

Roof sheets are a popular and cost-efficient roofing material. Roof sheets are best suited to flat roofs or pitched roofs with a very small gradient. 

Roof sheets absorb a lot of heat when in direct sunlight which can make your house very hot in the summer. Sheeting can also be very loud when it rains or hails, so you need to make sure your roof is properly insulated to keep the temperature regulated and dampen the sound. If you take the time to ensure your roof is properly insulated then you’ll be left with a modern, lightweight roof that offers high resistance to impact.

Roof sheets are also available in a wide range of colours and styles and can even emulate shingles. If the roof sheets are installed properly they can last over 50 years! So while this is a most cost-effective material, you don’t need to settle for an unappealing look.

replacing a roof article - close up low angle of a dark grey roof with metal sheets, close roof in the foreground and another similar roof slightly behind it. cloudy grey skies in the background


When it comes to roof tiles, you’ll probably be looking at either clay or cement tiles.

Clay tiles are fired in a kiln which means they require a lot of time and energy to produce. This means they end up being a more expensive roofing material. 

While clay tiles are aesthetically pleasing and can be a low maintenance option that lasts for years, they’re also prone to breaking. This means you might need to replace a few tiles every few years.

Cement tiles are a less expensive tile option and are pretty popular in South Africa. These tiles are extremely durable and can be produced in a wide range of colours, styles, and textures. 

While cement tiles are a popular option, they can be heavier than other roofing materials. This means your roof might require extra support to hold up the weight of the tiles, increasing the costs of replacing your roof.

replacing a roof article - close up of orange ceramic tiles

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are one of the most common roofing options and are used worldwide. Asphalt shingles are extremely lightweight and resistant to wear and tear. These shingles are either made from fibreglass, or an organic fibre mat that has been injected with asphalt.

Asphalt shingles need to be replaced more often than other roofing options, but they are also easier and cheaper to replace in the long run.


Thatched roofs can fit any size or shape roofs which makes it a versatile option. The durability of a thatched roof depends on what type of thatching is used and the weather conditions of your home. Cape Reed and Hyparrhenia Hirta are the two main types of thatching used as a roofing material.

replacing a roof article - double story brickface house with a thatch roof and two chimneys

Cape Reed

Cape Reed is a heavy and strong thatching material. This type of thatching works better in more inland areas where it can last for over 30 years if maintained properly. However, if you use this thatching near the coast you’ll need to replace it every few years as it tends to rot and needs constant maintenance. 

Hyparrhenia Hirta

Hyparrhenia Hirta is a lightweight thatch with a hollow core that works well in coastal homes. The lightweight thatching allows for more airflow during hot humid summers.

replacing a roof article - grey roof tiles with a triangular turret in the centre of the image

Pick the Right Materials When Replacing a Roof

Replacing a roof can be a costly and time consuming project if you don’t plan ahead. The materials you use can make a big difference, not only in the look of your home, but in how frequently you need to replace or repair it.

When it comes to roof replacement there’s a lot of things to consider, but you don’t need to make all these decisions on your own! You can hire a roofing expert to answer all your roofing material questions and help you decide what roof will best suit you.

You’re in good company