by | Feb 1, 2017

Comparing Popular Roofing Materials


At Cutting Edge Contracting, we’ve been working on roofs in and around Vancouver and Portland for years. We’ve helped homeowners throughout the area choose the best roofing materials and products for their homes. Probably the most common questions we hear are about the different roofing options available today.

Today, we’ll run down some of the most common roofing materials and products used on homes in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each and tell you more about the brands we’ve come to trust.


Common Roof Materials in the Pacific Northwest


In our area, the 3 most common roofing materials are asphalt composite shingles, cedar shakes, and metal roofing. Let’s take a closer look at each.



Asphalt composite shingles are by far the most commonly used roofing material, for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re weather resistant and durable
  • They’re less expensive than other options
  • They fit well with the look and style of most homes in the area
  • They’re easy to install and maintain compared to other roofing materials
  • Individual shingles are easy to replace when lost or damaged

But asphalt composite shingles aren’t perfect. They’re not completely waterproof which means they can absorb water and encourage the growth of mold and mildew. Asphalt shingles can also become crack during extended periods of cold or hot weather. Asphalt shingles also require regular maintenance and inspection to repair damaged sections– but of course, every roof material requires some level of maintenance. There’s just no such thing as a maintenance-free roof.

Architectural shingles are the most common type of asphalt shingle used. Presidential-style shingles are an upgraded asphalt shingle that are used on higher end homes or used to mimic the look and feel of cedar shake roofs in older neighborhoods.

At Cutting Edge Contracting, we use CertainTeed brand shingles and are certified Master Shingle Applicators with CertainTeed. The CertainTeed Landmark and CertainTeed Presidential Shake shingles are excellent examples of these types of asphalt shingles.



Cedar shakes have long been a common roofing material in the Pacific Northwest. Why? The answer is simple: one of our region’s main industries has been timber and wood to use as a roofing material and has been in an abundant supply.

Cedar shakes really do look great on most types of homes. You might even think of them as an investment to help your home sell for a higher price. Cedar shakes are also a renewable resource (unlike asphalt shingles which are made from petroleum products). They’re also quite durable and can withstand severe weather better than some other roofing materials.

But the beauty of cedar shakes come at a price:

  • They’re more expensive than other roofing materials
  • Because they’re a natural material, they can be a target for termites and other pests
  • Weather can be hard on cedar shakes: UV rays from the sun can make them brittle and water encourages fungus, moss, and rot to develop
  • Regular maintenance is required to replace damaged shakes, check for water and insect damage, and protect the roof from the elements



When most people think of metal roofs, they imagine a piece of tin on a shack. But nothing could be further from the truth. Metal roofing panel and shingle technology has come a long way in recent years. Modern metal roofing materials are:

  • Very durable and can last as long as your house
  • Available in a variety of colors, shapes, textures, and styles– some can even mimic the look of natural cedar shakes
  • Impervious to insect damage, fire, and rot
  • Incredibly lightweight, about 80% lighter than other materials

Metal roofs are more expensive than other roofing options, however. In addition they can be noisy, especially in heavy rain. Extreme weather, particularly hail, can dent some metal roofing materials like copper and aluminum. Because metal roofs come in large panels and not small individual shingles, replacement and repair (if needed) can be more involved processes compared to other roofing materials.


What About Roofing Underlayments?

Many people don’t know this, but the material between your roof deck and your shingles (known as the underlayment) is just as important as the material you use for the roof itself. Your roof’s underlayment acts as additional protection against water and acts as additional insulation against heat, cold, and noise.

Let’s look at the 3 most common underlayment materials found in local roofs.

FELT Underlayment

If you’re on a tight budget, a felt underlayment may give you the most bang for your buck. Felt provides protection against water (important in our climate) because it can be applied in thicker layers than most synthetics. However, felt:

  • Weighs much as 6 times heavier than synthetic underlayments
  • Cumbersome to work with, leading to increased installation costs
  • Breaks down and degrades faster than fiberglass or other synthetic materials

SYNTHETIC Underlayment

Underlayments are commonly made from fiberglass, polyester, polypropylene, and other synthetic materials. These synthetics are very lightweight and can provide excellent protection against water without the bulk and weight of felt. Synthetic underlayment also last much longer than felt.

But synthetics are more expensive per square foot– although the longterm value they provide often makes up for the initial out of pocket cost. The downfall of synthetic underlayments is that the don’t have the permeability and breathability that felts provide, nor do they provide the extra level of protection that asphalt-based underlayments have.

HYBRID Underlayment

The latest advancement in underlayment technology comes in the form of hybrid underlayments. These hybrids are made from asphalt polymers and synthetic fabrics that offer extremely high performance and durability. The hybrid fibers attach to fasteners more securely than other materials and provide better resistance against punctures and tears than both felt and fully synthetic options.

Hybrid underlayments also lie flat and don’t expand and contract under extreme temperatures, weigh less than felt and can cover more square footage per roll than other underlayment materials.

Safeguard30 is the roofing underlayment choice of Cutting Edge Contracting. It provides the best protection and durability of any roofing underlayment in the area.

What’s Right For Your Roof?

We’d love to help! Contact Cutting Edge Contracting for a free evaluation of your home’s roof. We’ll talk to you about the condition of your current roof and explain your options for repairing or replacing it.

We have years of experience and we’re here to help! Give us a call at (360)558-3236 to learn more.

Sean Kelly

About the author: Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is the COO & President of Cutting Edge Contracting. His background in business, accounting, and the construction industry helped him become the award-winning manager of a nationally-known paint company before joining Cutting Edge.

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