5 Best Roofing Materials for Cold Climates

tile roof

Cold weather creates some of the harshest environments, and your roof has to withstand it all: snow, ice, wind, and freezing rain. Not all roofing materials perform well in these conditions and all have different strengths. Learn more about the five best roofing materials for cold climates.

What Are the 5 Best Roofing Materials for Cold Climates?

Your roof slows down heat transfer, stabilizing your room temperatures and creating a more comfortable living environment no matter the weather. However, certain roofing materials perform better in specific climates. 

Cold-weather roofs must stand up to brutal winds, freezing temperatures, heavy snow loads, and freeze/thaw cycles, relying on extremely durable and dense materials.

1. Slate Tile Roofing

slate tile roof
Photo Credit: PaulMaguire / Canva Pro / License

The natural density of slate prevents heat loss, stabilizing room temperatures and lowering energy costs. Slate is one of the most durable roofing materials available. It is high-end, naturally energy efficient, and can last from 60 to 150 years.

Also known as shale roofing, the thin sheets of actual stone are fire resistant and can withstand extreme temperature fluctuations, winds up to 160 mph, and hail. Often found on luxury homes, slate is one of the best roofing materials for outlasting winter damage. 

It is virtually indestructible and can withstand heavy snowfall and layers of ice, holding more weight than other roof types. The natural-looking material performs best on sloped roofs, making it ideal for snowy climates like Colorado and Minnesota. 

Cost: $7 to $20 per square foot 

Pros

  • All-weather
  • Durable
  • Low-maintenance
  • Water-resistant; not susceptible to fungus or mold growth
  • Fire-resistant
  • Eco-friendly and recyclable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy; requires additional structural support
  • Highly specialized installation

Metal Slate Roofing

Metal slate roofing, also known as stone-coated steel, is a budget-friendly alternative to traditional slate. These tiles last around 30 years and give the look of a slate roof without weight or a high price tag. 

Stone-coated steel is weather-resistant and eco-friendly. Like all metal roofing, the downside to these steel tiles is the noise. Consider soundproofing and insulation before installing your new roof to reduce outside noise and vibrations. 

2. Metal Roofing

Metal Roof
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Metal roofing is a highly reflective roofing material known for lowering your average cooling costs. However, metal is an insulator, creating an airspace between your roofing materials and decking. This improved air circulation increases the overall energy efficiency of your home in both hot and cold climates. 

Metal roofing is the second most preferred roofing material in the U.S., covering a broad range of materials, styles, and price points. Metals like aluminum, zinc, tin, and galvanized steel are cost-effective and low-maintenance options, while copper offers a unique appearance for a high-end metal roof. 

Metal roofs last between 40 to 80 years and require very little maintenance. They are lightweight, and the slick surface allows ice and snow to slide off, preventing ice dams and icicle formations. 

For peak cold climate performance, these roofing systems require snow guard installations at the eaves of your home to allow snow and water to slide off your roof gently preventing pooling water on your walkways below. 

Price: $3 to $20 per square foot

Pros

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Low-maintenance
  • Energy-efficient
  • Fire-resistant
  • Mold– and rot-resistant
  • Recyclable

Cons

  • Noisy without soundproofing
  • Can warp over time
  • Specialized labor required for installation

Types of Metal Roofing

There are two dominant types of metal roofs – standing seam and stamped metal roofing. 

Standing Seam Metal Roofing Systems

Standing seam roofing systems comprise an underlayment with large, vertical metal roofing panels joined by interlocking seams. The concealed fastener system allows for increased durability and a seamless aesthetic.    

Stamped Metal Shingle Roofing

Stamped metal shingle roofing comprises small modular panels stamped to mimic the aesthetics of classic roofing materials like asphalt shingles, wood shakes, clay tiles, and slate. Each panel features a four-way interlocking system for staggered installation matching traditional shingles. 

Stamped metal shingle roofing is often pre-painted with a protective coating. Steel and aluminum are the most commonly used metals and are premium residential metal shingles. 

3. Asphalt Shingles

Textured pattern of asphalt shingles
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Asphalt roof shingles are the most common type of roofing material and a great budget-friendly, all-weather option. Found in 80% of homes, these shingles comprise fiberglass or cellulose mat, asphalt, and mineral granules and come in a variety of colors. 

Asphalt roofs last approximately 20 years, however, some varieties are prone to cracking in cold temperatures, leading to higher repair costs while others are prone to hail damage. Be sure to install shingles rated for your particular climate. 

Like metal roofing, asphalt shingles are also prone to ice dams and require ice shield installation at roof eaves and valleys to prevent leaks. 

Price: $1.75 to $7 per square foot 

Pros

  • Available
  • Affordable
  • Variety of color options
  • Low-maintenance

Cons

  • Short lifespan compared to other options
  • Less energy-efficient than other cool roof options
  • Prone to wind damage
  • Overused; 80% of homes have asphalt shingles

Types of Shingles

There are two dominant styles of asphalt shingles – three-tab and architectural shingles.

Three-Tab Shingles

Three-tab shingles are the cheapest option and not the best suited to cold climates. They have a flat appearance and are cut to look like traditional shingles. These economical shingles only last between seven to 15 years and are only rated for winds up to 60 mph.

Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles offer a more substantial alternative to three-tab shingles and are your best option for cold weather. They are thicker, creating a layered, textured roof that is more durable, lasting between 18 to 20 years. They are more weather-resistant and can withstand strong winds up to 120 mph. 

4. Concrete Tile Roofing

Photo Credit: Visut Thepkunhanimit’s Images / Canva Pro / License

Concrete tiles offer the same qualities as clay tiles for half the price. These tiles last over 100 years, and their seamless design prevents leaks and water damage. They can stand up to the weight of snow and resist damage from hail and ice.  

Many concrete roofs feature a wave pattern to improve airflow between your roof’s decking and surface, reducing heat transfer and increasing your home’s energy efficiency. Concrete tiles come in any color and a variety of profiles, including those mimicking wood shakes and terracotta tiles. The material is fire-resistant and darkens with age for increased curb appeal.

Cost: $4 to $10 per square foot 

Pros

  • Durable
  • Low-maintenance
  • Energy-efficient
  • High curb appeal
  • Fire-resistant

Cons

  • Heavy; require additional structural support

5. Clay Tile Roofing

clay roof tiling
Photo Credit: Pxhere

Clay tiles, also known as terracotta tiles, are one of the oldest roofing materials, dating back 5,000 years. Similar to slate roofing, terracotta roofing will last over 100 years. These tiles are most common in tropical climates like Southern California and Florida, however, their high insulation properties make them well-suited for cold climates.

Clay tiles can withstand extremely high winds and constant salt exposure and naturally darkening with age. They come in four dominant styles: mission, interlocking, French, and Spanish to fit any design aesthetic. The molded ‘s’ shape in many clay roofing styles allows for good airflow below the surface of your roof, making your home more energy efficient. 

Clay tiles are more fragile than slate and do not perform as well in extreme hail conditions. However, they are still a great choice for mild cold climates.

Cost: $8 to $20 per square foot 

Pros

  • Low-maintenance
  • Energy-efficient
  • Salt-tolerant
  • High curb appeal
  • Natural materials 

Cons

  • Heavy; requires additional structural support
  • Expensive

What Makes a Roofing Material Suitable for Cold Climates?

The number one quality that makes a roof adaptable to cold weather is its ability to maintain its temperature. The ideal roof will keep your home comfortable and will not release excess heat, increasing your risk of ice dam formation. 

The best roofing materials for cold climates must hold up against anything Mother Nature throws at it. Your roof must withstand stress factors like extreme temperatures, high winds, hail, snow, freezing rain, and ice, all while keeping your home warm.

Cold climate roofing relies on extremely dense and durable materials that must allow snow and ice to easily slide off the surface. 

FAQ About the Best Roofing Materials for Cold Climates

What are ice dams?

Ice dams form when heat from your home warms your roof and melts the accumulated snow on top. The melting snow flows down to the edges, or eaves, of your roof where it refreezes into ice. 

Ice dams build up, blocking and pooling the melting snow which makes its way under flashing and shingles, causing stress, cracks, and eventually, leaks. 

Are ENERGY STAR roofs worth it?

Yes. While most people consider energy efficient-roofing for tropical climates, it actually works just as well in colder temperatures. ENERGY STAR roofing pays for itself, and homeowners can recover 100% of their investment when installing a new roof. 

The average homeowner saves up to $500 per year, and ENERGY STAR-rated roofing materials can help lower annual energy costs by up to 25%. 

How much does a new roof cost? 

The cost of a roofing system includes coverings, attachments, and all structural components. A new roof requires more than just removing shingles and nailing down new ones. Nationally, new roof systems cost between $8,000 and $21,500, for an average cost of $14,500 with labor.

Installing Roofing Materials in a Cold Climate

If I asked you to name the U.S. state with the highest annual snowfall, you would probably answer Alaska, Colorado, or maybe even Minnesota, but you would be wrong. Vermont actually receives more snowfall than any other state, averaging 54 days of snow annually. 


If you live in a cold climate like Vermonters and need to complete a roofing project, contact a LawnStarter roofing pro to learn about your options so you can start saving money on your utility bills to enjoy more hot chocolate.

Main Image Credit: Pexels

Kimberly Magerl

Kimberly Magerl

Born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, Kimberly Magerl enjoys growing fruits and vegetables in her garden. When she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.