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The Environmental Impact of Roofing Materials In Houston

Aug 03, 2022

Roofing materials on average account for nearly 20% of the waste in landfills. They are one of the biggest sources of waste in the United States due to their limited options in recyclability and relatively low lifespans. Additionally, the weight, size, and amount of roofing materials disposed of in landfills often make them difficult to remove or relocate. The dumping of roofing material has started to become a significant problem in waste management, with a growing number of landfills outright refusing to accept it anymore.

As big of an issue as waste management is, it isn’t the only environmental reason in Houston Texas to consider when selecting a roof. Pollutants being released into the atmosphere, protection against weather events, and material costs and availability are all contributing factors as well.

What Are the Different Types of Roofing Materials?

There are five major materials that comprise roofs here in the United States, and each of these different options comes with its own pros and cons:

  • Wood shingles
  • Clay/concrete tiles
  • Metal roofing
  • Slate shingles and tiles
  • Asphalt shingles

It is important to remember that geographical location can play a significant role in the prevalence of certain materials in some areas compared to others. Different communities have different needs and environmental concerns, which should always be a part of any decision regarding your roof. For example, you may not want to select wooden shingles if you live in an area with a high risk of wildfires, and it may not be as beneficial to have clay tiles if you live in a cold location with snow.

What Are Some of the Environmental Issues With Different Roofing Styles?

There are several major problems with popular roofing options when it comes to protecting the environment. These are three of the top issues:

  • Short lifespan. Asphalt shingles are one of the most commonly used materials and have one of the shortest life cycles. The typical lifespan of an asphalt shingle roof is only 12-20 years, meaning that there will be frequent need for repairs or entire replacements.
  • Use of fossil fuels. This relates mainly to asphalt shingles, but also to some synthetic forms of slate shingles. The use of fossil fuels in the creation process of these types of shingles leads to a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions during production.
  • Non-reusable waste. Asphalt shingles are again the main offender here, as they are one of the largest sources of non-renewable products that are introduced into landfills. Since asphalt shingles are composed of fossil fuels, contaminants are constantly being introduced to the soil as the shingles sit in the landfill. According to the EPA, in 2015, there were nearly 12 million tons of asphalt shingles sent to the landfill. That is a mind-boggling amount of waste.

These issues tend to be interlinked and are part of a worsening feedback loop. As one of the cheapest roofing options available, asphalt shingles are commonly selected during the construction process. Due to their construction, however, these roofs then have to be replaced at least once every two decades. Yet people in Houston select asphalt shingles as they are the cheapest and most readily available option, and the cycle continues. The cheapest materials to produce are often the most harmful to the environment, making their usage a short-term answer in a world that increasingly needs more long-term ones.

Increasing Shortages

Supply chain issues have been the story of the past couple of years, and every industry has felt the impacts of less readily available materials. The construction and roofing industries have been hit particularly hard, specifically when it comes to lumber. Wood is a crucial component of building in so many ways, and due to shortages, consequential decisions have to be made as to where this increasingly rare and valuable building component should be used.

The construction of typical roofing support structures can require a substantial amount of wooden framing, especially for your standard roofing materials of asphalt, slate, wood, and clay shingles. As project costs soar and delays become more common, questions have begun to form regarding the necessity of a wood-framed roof. With advancements in other roofing materials and construction practices, traditional roofing practices could become a thing of the past.

Which Roofing Option Is the Best for the Environment?

As it currently stands, metal roofing is the best choice when it comes to being environmentally friendly and cost-efficient. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Metal roofs on average can last from 40 to 70 years, making them one of the longest-lasting roofing types in the industry.
  • Metal roofs are designed to not spark or ignite, making threats from lightning strikes and wildfires a non-factor. They also are great in the snow and rain with their non-stick capabilities. Metal roofs can easily adapt to a variety of different climates.
  • Energy efficiency. Compared to its counterparts, a metal roof is great at reflecting heat rather than absorbing it, which can make a big difference when keeping your house cool. Metal roofing is also optimal for the installation of eco-friendly projects, such as rainwater capture and solar panels.
  • Metal roofs are 100% recyclable, making them by far the most eco-friendly option when it comes to roofs. Not only are they fully recyclable, but they are typically made up of a large percentage of reused material.

Metal roofs are a big investment, as they can be more costly compared to some of the other common roofing types. However, even with their high upfront costs, metal roofs can save you money in the long term. Taking into account the lower house cooling costs, less frequent repairs, and longer lifespan, this is an ideal option for roofs in the Houston Texas area.

If you are thinking about a metal roof as an option for your house, it’s highly recommended that you speak with a trained professional to explore all of your options. They can help give you personalized information and recommendations to help better serve you and the environment.

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