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Eco-Friendly Roofing: A Helping Hand to Climate Change

Last modified: 2022-09-12 | Approximate reading time 7 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

Over the last couple of years, eco-friendly alternatives to traditional asphalt shingles have made their way into taking hands around Quebec. Between energy savings, fewer environmental impacts, and sure financial incentives, choosing eco-friendly roofing is quite the compelling option. 

Eco-Friendly Roofing Options

Metal Roof

metal roof_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source: George - Pixabay

There are many different types of metal: alloys, ferrous metals, and non-ferrous metals... Each sub-family includes several distinct materials. Copper, zinc, steel, and aluminum are the four materials that can be used to make an eco-friendly metal roof. Since it can be manufactured from recycled materials and then recycled at the end of its lifecycle, this type of roofing has significant advantages.

Metal roofing lasts for more than 50 years and offers an excellent price-quality ratio. It also allows snow to easily slide off and prevents the risk of ice damming. Metal is maintenance-free and durable, which significantly reduces the risk of any damage. Moreover, it's difficult for water to infiltrate and is resistant to the trials and tribulations of nature (wind, temperature variations, etc.).

And, to top it all off, an eco-friendly metal roof will increase the value of your home! Expect to pay anywhere between $4 and $15 per square foot, depending on the material chosen. As mentioned above, you can choose between aluminum, zinc, galvalume, galvanized steel, or coated shingles. 

Among the 4 materials presented above, aluminum stands out for having a variety of advantages over its counterparts. Aluminum is light and durable, and it's a material that has a finish which protects against anything that might alter its state: pollution, acid rain, salt spray, bird droppings, and the list goes on. It's malleable and conforms to any roof shape, is non-combustible, and is watertight, which will also provide you with protection against potential fires.

It goes without saying that aluminum has all the advantages of metal in the broadest sense, including over 50 years of durability. Prices are set between $16 to $20 per square foot, labour costs included.

Recycled Rubber Tire Roof

recycled tire roof_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source: Flickr

So what’s one to do with all those used tires? Part of the answer lies in the form of an eco-friendly roof made of recycled tires and hemp fibre. Such a roof has a lot in common with a metal roof: virtually no maintenance required, easy installation, extreme weather resistance, lasts a long time, affordable... Including installation, an eco-friendly roof made from recycled tires will run you about $8 per square foot. Naturally, the above picture reflects an artistic/ecological project; recycled tire roofs are usually more subtle.

Green (Vegetated) Roof

green roof_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source : Brigitte Werner - Pixabay

First of all, note that there are 3 categories of green roofs:

  • Extensive: It can be installed on any type of roof because it's thin and light and requires little maintenance. Extensive green roofs have low roofing plants instead of shingles. This type of system is more functional than aesthetic and is suited for both pitched or flat roofs.
  • Intensive: It requires a flat roof, roof access, and additional structural support given its weight. This system, with its 30 cm substrate, allows for a natural rooftop garden made of grass, plants, shrubs, and trees. To harvest rainwater, it's even possible to combine it with a blue roofing system.
  • Semi-intensive: It has reduced structural reinforcement and required little vegetation maintenance, which makes this system a good compromise between those previously mentioned.

That being said, if you're looking for the greenest solution on the list, here it is: A green roof will absorb dust particles and pollutants, reduce the effects of urban heat islands, and promote the development of local flora and fauna. The benefits of a green roof aren't limited to its visual appeal; Vegetation will protect your roof from the elements and, during summer, it will also protect your home from the sun and heat. On the other hand, during winter, this type of roof will retain it, meaning you can save energy without having to compromise your comfort level.

However, all these benefits aside, this type of roofing requires maintenance! You'll need to install a membrane as well as a drainage and moisture retention system. If the green roof is the most ecological solution, it's also, logically, the most expensive one. Prices range from $10 to $25 per square foot, including the installation of the different systems. For an intensive green roof, with a vegetable garden or terrace garden, expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $40; this amount includes longer and more difficult installations, as well as the plant purchase.

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White Roof

white roof_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source: Flickr

  • EPDM (Elastomeric or modified bitumen membrane): Found on virtually all flat roofs in Canada given its very low installation requirements, and its double-layered membrane makes it durable and ideal for green roofs. The only downside to this material is its risk of catching fire during installation since it’s done with torches. Moreover, although elastomer is recyclable, no company in Quebec deals with this material as it's derived from asphalt.
  • TPO: White roofs made with TPO are gaining popularity in the U.S., and for good reason: they’re recyclable, UV ray-resistant, heat-island friendly, and suitable for vegetation. The material is particularly well suited for flat roofs and lasts between 15 and 25 years. However, the use of this material isn’t recommended for accessible rooftops as it's a single-layered membrane. On the other hand, it won't require any maintenance, as long as the installation has been carried out correctly.

TPO and EPDM roofing needs to be laid by a roofing specialist, which won't, rest assured, make your invoice skyrocket: expect to pay $8 per square foot, installation included.

  • Multi-layer bitumen roofing: Multi-layer asphalt roofing is an important element in combating heat islands. Unfortunately, this material is sensitive to UV rays and water leaks, so a thorough, yearly inspection (minimum) is necessary. Since it's not recyclable, the gray energy required to produce it is also significant. Its lifespan depends on the quality of the installation, ranging from 15 to 30 years. Its purchase price starts at $6 per square foot, installation included.

Wood Roof

wood roof_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source: Flickr

In spite of its drawbacks, such as its maintenance requirements or the fact that this material requires a minimum slope of 35° to be installed, wood remains a must when it comes to eco-friendly roofing. Often more resistant than tiles or slate, it can last up to 120 years, and its visually pleasing design is widely appreciated. The insulation it provides, combined with the fact that its use contributes, as surprising as it may seem, to the development of forests, making it one of the most appropriate roofing materials today.

Note that you can choose between solid or composite wood to cover your roof, the latter being more high-end. Expect to pay between $9 and $25 depending on the type of wood you choose.

More specifically though, let's take a look at cedar. Cedar is a type of wood that can be found in a number of species, of which only two (white or red) are commonly used for shingles. Although appreciated for its elegance and durability, this type of roofing has unfortunately become increasingly rare over the years, having been replaced by more modern materials such as steel, asphalt, or even bitumen. However, cedar roofing has never been equalled in performance and, in light of this, there's been a resurgence in its use.

Cedar shingles are ideal for seaside locations as they're moisture-resistant and provide over 50 years of reliable thermal and acoustic insulation. Although cedar shingles don't splinter when nailed down, the main drawback of these is the installation cost, which is about $15 per square foot. Moreover, the material is flammable.

Although it doesn't necessarily require maintenance since it's considered rather resistant, applying a good preservative to cedar wood will help extend its durability. Opt for stain, which is porous, and thus protects from premature aging, whereas varnish will only provide temporary protection.

Slate Roof

slate roof_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source: Hans - Pixabay

Despite the fact that it's not widely used in Quebec, slate has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Its durability ranges from around 70 years to 150 or even 300 years. Slate is an excellent insulator, it resists well to bad weather and doesn't deteriorate when in contact with water. If its composition doesn't contain pyrite, for example, like the slate produced in Saint-Marc-du-Lac-Long (in Quebec), it won't rust nor burn.

The weight of the slate also makes it resistant to strong winds. Although it adapts to all types of roofs, it's best suited for roofs with slopes greater than 45 degrees and requires little or no maintenance for the first few years. Priced between $24 and $42 per square foot, to which one must add the cost of installation, which is carried out by a roofing contractor. 

Solar Roof System

roof solar panels_Eco-Friendly Roofing: Climate's Ally

Source: Charlie Wilde - Pixabay

Out of all the options available to you, you’ve undoubtedly already heard of solar panels, which have been extremely popular for years. By installing solar panels, you'll be able to significantly reduce your Hydro-Québec bills and, at the same time, do a little good to help the planet. It goes without saying that installing your solar panels southward will maximize their efficiency.

Some maintenance is required: warm water and a soft cleaning rag, once a year. Ideally, you should contact an engineer to confirm whether your project is feasible and cost-effective; it would be a shame to proceed with the project only to find out that it isn’t viable or that it won't bring you the anticipated benefits. As for the price, expect to pay about $14,000 for 16 solar panels.

Notably, there's a wide realm of possibilities when it comes to eco-friendly roofing. Depending on your budget and the constraints you might face, we hope that this article has helped guide you to understand and determine which material is best suited for your roof renovation.

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