Two pitched rooflights installed across a large sleek material roof.

Roofing Materials Options for Renovations and Self-Builds

September 22, 2021

Whether you’re building a new home or renovating your existing property, the type of roofing material to use will be one of your biggest considerations. With so many different roof materials available, knowing which is right for your project can be tricky.

If you want to add more light into the space or room below, adding a flat, pitched or lantern rooflight can help, but you need to be aware that the roofing material and pitch will impact what type of rooflight you can choose.


Popular roofing material options

  • Modified bitumen torch-on felt roof
  • Built-up flat roof (BUR)
  • GRP fibreglass flat roof
  • EPDM rubber flat roof
  • Tiles for a pitched roofs
  • Slate for a pitched roof
  • Zinc for a pitched roof
  • Thatch for a pitched roof
  • Green roofs

Here’s some food for thought, we’ve outlined the most popular roof materials in this blog, providing pros and cons for each.

When considering any roofing material, you need to take into account the following:

  • Flat roof or pitched roof
  • The size of your flat roof
  • Your budget
  • The look you want to achieve
  • General weather conditions where you live

Once you’ve thought about all these factors, you can begin looking into the roofing material options that are available.


Modified bitumen torch-on felt roof


The modern way of installing felt is to use modified bitumen and the torch-on felt technique. This involves felt sheets that come in rolls, which are then heated using a blow torch or heat gun so they adhere to the roof surface.

Durable, lightweight and inexpensive, modified bitumen torch-on felt roofs are a popular choice among homeowners.

Pros of felt roofs

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Easily repaired
  • Flexible for a wide variety of roofs, regardless of shape and size

Cons of felt roofs

  • Require ongoing maintenance to keep them at their best
  • Can be prone to extreme weather like heat and snow
  • Prone to wear if the roof is walked on regularly

Built-up flat roof (BUR)

BUR flat roofs are installed by layering molten tar and gravel to achieve a waterproof finish. It’s one of the most common flat roof materials out there and has been being used for more than 100 years.

Pros of BUR flat roofs

  • Excellent water resistance
  • Low maintenance
  • Good insulation
  • Strong
  • Easy and cost-effective to maintain

Cons of BUR flat roofs

  • Can be expensive and slow to install
  • Installation can also be messy
  • Relatively heavy, making them unsuitable for lightweight structures
  • Advisable to not live in the property during installation because of the potentially hazardous fumes

GRP fibreglass flat roof

A GRP flat roof, also known as a fibreglass roof, is one of the most popular flat roofing choices.

GRP, which stands for ‘Glass Reinforced Polyester’, involves strengthening plastic with glass fibres to create a material that is strong, watertight and virtually maintenance-free.

Pros of GRP fibreglass flat roofs

  • Suitable for complex shapes
  • Good weatherproofing
  • Strong and durable
  • Maintenance-free (occasional cleaning is all that’s usually required)
  • Good insulation
  • Lightweight
  • No joints or seems

Cons of GRP fibreglass flat roofs

  • Can be noisy when it’s raining
  • More expensive than some other roofing materials
  • Can only be installed during dry conditions
  • Can be prone to curing problems if installed during cold weather
  • Often unsuitable for large roofs

EPDM rubber flat roof

EPDM stands for ‘Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer’ and it’s a single-ply rubber roofing system that is made up of recycled rubber, making it an environmentally-friendly choice.

EPDM flat roofs are installed by basically gluing the strips of synthetic rubber material onto clean roof decking. Because no naked flames or heat are required, no noxious or poisonous chemicals are released during installation.

Pros of EPDM rubber flat roofs

  • Suitable for extreme conditions
  • Long-lasting (50 years+ in some cases)
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Excellent insulation
  • Highly resistant to UV light and
  • Flexible (won’t crack due to expansion/contraction)
  • Easy to repair
  • Lightweight
  • Low maintenance

Cons of EPDM rubber flat roofs

  • Can only be installed during dry conditions
  • Can be prone to leaks if not installed correctly
  • Footfall and falling debris can cause the rubber material to tear
  • Requires a specialist to install

Pitched roof material options

Roof tiles for a pitched roof

In the UK, the dominant choice in roof tiles is either slate, clay or concrete. Slate is mainly used in areas where there is a local supply and has recently seen a rise in popularity. The choice of tiles for pitched roofs has increased significantly, encompassing everything from handmade clay tiles to mass-produced concrete and imported slate.

Available in a range of different shapes, sizes and colours, roof tiles provide plenty of choice for homeowners. Both concrete and clay roof tiles are durable and will last for a long time.

While concrete varieties tend to be cheaper, clay tiles generally weather better over time, improving in appearance with age.

Pros of roof tiles for pitched roofs

  • Long-lasting
  • Impervious to rot and insect damage
  • Weather-resistant
  • Low maintenance

Cons of roof tiles for pitched roofs

  • Heavy
  • Can be expensive
  • Can leak if not installed correctly
  • Brittle, so may crack if hit by falling debris
  • Regular cleaning required to achieve the best results

Slate for a pitched roof

Roof slates have been being used for pitched roofs for hundreds of years. The fact they are environmentally friendly, fire-resistant and can withstand high heat makes them suitable for numerous applications.

Slate is also suitable for different shaped roofs, but installation is often labour intensive and requires the services of a professional.

Pros of slates for pitched roofs

  • Reusable and recyclable
  • Extremely durable
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Fire resistant
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Cons of slates for pitched roofs

  • Heavy
  • Expensive to buy
  • Professional installation required
  • Fragile, leaving them open to damage from falling

Zinc for a pitched roof

Zinc is often used for pitched roofs on modern houses. It provides a unique look and will last for years with little to no maintenance. In fact, in an unpolluted urban environment, zinc roofs can last more than 100 years. Other than copper roofing, no other roof material offers such a long lifespan. They’ll last between 60 and 80 years even in marine environments. Zinc is also fungicidal, which means it will prohibit the reproduction of mould, mildew and fungus.

But while zinc is a durable option for roofs of virtually any pitch, its associated costs can make it prohibitive for some homeowners. It also requires a specialist installer.

Pros of zinc for pitched roofs

  • Can be easily shaped
  • Corrosion, rust, moisture resistant and fire resistant
  • Insect-proof, mould, mildew and fungus resistant
  • Environmentally friendly, they use less energy to produce than metal roof materials
  • 100% recyclable
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Zinc roofs can self-heal, meaning scratches can recover over time
  • Low maintenance

Cons of zinc for pitched roofs

  • Expensive to purchase and install
  • Aged patina hard to predict – starts dark grey, changes to a patina light grey or bluish
  • Must be installed by a specialist

Thatch for a pitched roof

Thatch roofing is a traditional roofing method that can be used on pitched roofs. Straw, rushes, water reed, sedge and other dry vegetation are used to create the ‘thatch’. Because thatch has natural air pockets throughout, it’s a very effective insulator, helping to keep houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. When applied correctly, thatched roofs are robust and will stand up well against high winds.

You may be surprised to learn that a thatch will normally last between 40 and 50 years which is the same as any other roof. You will need to replace the ridge roughly every eight to ten years. Thatch needs to be installed by skilled professionals.

Pros of thatch for pitched roofs

  • Great insulation
  • Sustainable
  • Flexible, making it suitable for a range of shapes and sizes
  • Lightweight

Cons of thatch for pitched roofs

  • Expensive to install
  • Must be installed by a professional
  • Higher maintenance than some other materials
  • Can pose a fire risk
  • Prone to damage from algae and moss (if not maintained properly)

Green roofs

A ‘green roof’ also known as a ‘living roof’ or ‘eco-roof’ is a roof where vegetation or habitat for wildlife is intentionally established. Not all ‘green roofs’ are consistently green in colour. The use different types of vegetation, stones, sandy soils and/or dead wood create a wildlife habitat and also introduces a variety of colours and textures. Green roofs help support wildlife by creating healthy habitats and providing an eco-friendly environment for birds.

A green or living roof should last for between 30 to 50 years if properly installed and maintained. You can install most living roofs onto any pitch of roof including completely flat to vertical. Green roofs can be installed on existing buildings, planning permission is not always required, however it is advisable to check with your local planning department.


  • Excellent thermal performance
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Helps to improve air quality
  • Provides wildlife habitat
  • Helps reduce noise


  • Can be more expensive to install than traditional roofs
  • Heavier than a standard roof so may require increased structural support
  • Susceptible to damage and leakage
  • Requires regular maintenance

Considering any of these roof materials and thinking about adding a rooflight?

Speak to our team to find out which Roof Maker rooflight is best suited to your chosen roofing material and pitch.

We’re always happy to help. We are not able to offer advice but we can give you all the information you need to make your choice.

So if you would like to discuss your requirements in more detail please give us a call, drop us an email or find us on chat.

Call us Monday-Friday 8.30am-5.30pm and Saturday 10am-4pm on 0116 497 9832; email us at [email protected] or find us on chat at roofmaker.co.uk

Roof Maker designs, manufactures and supplies world class rooflights. All our rooflights are hand-crafted and made to measure with a full 20-year unit seal warranty.

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