Over the life of a product, more-durable and longer-lasting options are generally better investments. These options are also better environmentally because they reduce both solid waste and resource waste.
Compare the properties of a material with its use and type of exposure in mind. Some plastic and composite materials withstand the outside elements, moisture, heat or exposure to sun better than others. In general, metal, tile, concrete tile and slate roofing can last two to three times longer than asphalt or fiberglass shingles. Pressure-treated wood resists decay but should still be protected from the elements with finishes to prevent splitting and warping.
Many composite materials are resistant to damage from moisture, decay, termites and ultraviolet radiation. Brick, stone and concrete are very durable; aerated concrete is sensitive to moisture, however, and must be protected from weather. Metals are durable if sufficiently protected from corrosion. Fiber cement, protected metals and many plastic composites resist deterioration. Solid floorings (decorative concrete, tile, solid vinyl, linoleum, solid wood, bamboo, etc.) generally last longer than carpeting and resilient floorings with a surface-applied pattern.
Product warranty: Durations are a rough indicator of relative longevity that can help you compare options, but do not expect a precise prediction. For example, fiberglass and asphalt roofing shingles typically do not last nearly as long as their pro-rated warranties in this climate. Examine warranty terms and favor those with longer-than-average and more-comprehensive warranty coverage.
Roofing manufacturers now offer both traditional pro-rated warranties and shorter-term “total system,” “100% non-prorated” and wind warranties that may cover the full cost of replacement. A total system warranty may include the underlayment and even workmanship and require a certified installer. Such total-system and non-prorated warranties are stronger indicators of relative durability and longevity than are pro-rated warranties. Look for roofing with 40- to 50-year pro-rated and 12- to 15-year total-system, 100% non-prorated warranties; 50-year siding/cladding warranties; and window 10-year frame, 20-year glass or lifetime warranties.