In rain, hail, high winds and belting sun, the roof is a home’s first line of defence against the elements. So, it pays to choose the right one for your family. There are plenty of factors to consider – material, climate and colour can all have an impact, especially on your electricity bill.
Choosing a sustainable option can help keep your heating and cooling costs low and protect your home from the elements without excessive maintenance – the less often you need to clamber onto the roof, the better! From the old faithful styles to emerging trends, we’ll walk you through some popular options and key factors to consider when choosing a roof for your home.
Sustainable roofing options in Australia
Material is one of the most important considerations when choosing a roof. The right choice can reduce your energy bill, increase your property value and protect your home for decades, or the materials could be recycled for future use. Here’s a quick run-down of our top picks.
Metal: Metal roofs have stood up to Australia’s harsh climate for decades. They’re popular because of their durability and simple installation (a single sheet is easier to lay than a hundred tiles). Metal roofs often use recycled materials and incorporate zinc, aluminium or galvanised coatings to resist corrosion. Popular brands in Australia include Colorbond, Stramit and Lysaght, and most offer a range of colours for you to choose from. Solar panels can easily be mounted on a metal roof using brackets called straddle blocks
Tiles: Tiled roofs provide that polished suburban look, but they sometimes get a bad rap because of the ongoing maintenance required. Cracked tiles can be a pain to replace, but with quality materials and proper installation, they can really go the distance. You’ll likely be choosing between terracotta and concrete tiles. Terracotta or clay tiles are significantly lighter than concrete, provide natural insulation and can last between 30–60 years. Concrete tiles require more structural support due to their weight, however, they are typically more affordable than terracotta and hold up well in high winds. Your solar panels will easily clip onto either style of tile using roof anchors, mounting rails and clamps.
Slate: Slate roofs are a more premium option. The natural texture and variation in colour can turn your roof into a real talking point. They’re slightly brittle and tricky to work with, but once installed, a slate roof can last a century in mild weather conditions. Unfortunately, they are a little pricier than metal or tiled roofs. While slightly more fiddly, solar panels can also be installed on a slate roof. However, since the material is more brittle than terracotta or concrete, extra care must be taken when installing the bracket system to the rafters below.
Green roofs: An option you may not have considered, green roofs are made of a waterproof membrane that allows vegetation to spread across the surface. Aside from looking totally unique and being compatible with solar panels, a green roof can improve your home's energy efficiency by providing natural insulation and shading. They also reduce stormwater run-off and support biodiversity – a big win, especially for urban neighbourhoods.
Colour, a secret weapon of insulation
You may have a certain aesthetic in mind, but don’t forget that the colour of your roof can impact your energy bills. Lighter colours – light greys, cream, sand and terracotta – can reflect between 30-60% of the sun’s heat and prevent your home from sizzling on a hot day. That means you won’t need to pump the air conditioner so hard throughout the summer. Darker-coloured tiles are better for cooler climates where absorbing the sun’s heat can actually be beneficial during winter.
Keep in mind, your local council might have guidelines around roof colours and materials. So, check with them before you start stripping off your old roof.
Considerations for your climate
Battling wind, rain, blistering hot sun or icy frosts? The weather patterns in your area can play a role in your choice of roof.
In tropical climates where temperatures soar into the high 30s and every summer afternoon brings a fast and furious downpour, a slate or light-coloured tile roof will keep your home dry and cool.
In windy areas that are prone to thunderstorms, a metal roof may be your best bet. A well-installed metal roof can withstand high winds and heavy rain, but you’ll need to pair it with the right insulation to minimise heat loss or gain.
By now, you’ll have a good idea of what type of roof would suit your home, but it’s time to factor in cost – does your first choice fit into your budget or do you need a little help to make it happen?
Do you need any additional insulation for your home? You might want to tackle this at the same time to reduce labour costs.
Considering investing in solar? You still have plenty of options. Solar panels can be installed on just about any type of roof. The panels can be attached by mounting brackets, attaching clips or drilling directly into the roof.
To measure the impact of your roof upgrade and to find out what other improvements you could make to the energy performance of your home, consider getting a home energy-efficiency rating. The Residential Efficiency Scorecard is a government initiative available nationwide, where an assessor will visit your home, discuss your goals and provide you with an energy efficiency score out of ten, along with some recommendations on how you can reduce your emissions and running costs.