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What is the Cheapest Type of Roof to Build?

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While there are many different types of roofing options to choose from for a shed, picking one that blends in with your homes roof and surroundings is a good choice. Some types are more difficult to construct so, keep that in mind when choosing.

The easiest and cheapest type of shed roof to construct especially for the beginner is the shed roof or lean to. Easy to build with one side of the roof higher which allows for good drainage.

What is the Most Common Roof Type?

The most common roof type is the pitched or gable roof. The common gable roof seen on ranch-style homes for decades is easy for the homeowner to keep clean. The pitch is not too steep to be walked upon easily, which allows for leaves, pine needles and twigs to be swept off when they get too numerous.

During the past two or three decades, roofing with a higher pitch has become popular, especially on the more expensive homes. The steeper the roof pitch the more material will be needed to cover it. The steeper pitch is better at keeping debris from sticking to the roof, but if the homeowner wants to inspect his shingles up close, it’s not a safe roof to walk on without some kind of safety lines.

One variation on the gable roof is known as the saltbox roof. These have one short and one long side. The long side usually has a steeper slope than the short side, and the shape limits the space you will have in your attic for storage. The long slope also means that your ceiling might have to be lower than you would like.

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However, if you need some vertical space to store taller items such as lumber, with an open attic the short side means that you have a taller sidewall on one side, enabling you to stand your lumber or other tall items on end. You can still have a ceiling going most of the way across the shed for attic storage.

Another common type of shed roof is the barn-style roof, also known as a gambrel roof. You can even get some prefab sheds with a gambrel roof at some dealers. These roofs offer more attic space for storage, as the pitch of the first rafters from the top of the walls is much steeper than for one-piece rafters.

The second set of rafters that connects to these planks pitches more horizontally to the peak. You can also order gambrel roof trusses. While you can build your own gambrel frame or trusses, these are even more complicated than using rafters and use more sections, all cut at precise angles to fit.

Even if you want to do it yourself, it’s recommended by some that for any shed wider than 12 feet, trusses should be ordered. For more information on types of shed roofs read my article The 7 Most Popular & Practical Shed Roof Designs.

Which are Better Rafters or Trusses?

Rafters may seem to be a stronger choice, as they are usually made of planks that are 2x8s, 2x10s or 2x12s. However, trusses are actually stronger because of their form and because they include more material.

Rafters are easier to transport, as they fit right into a pickup truck bed. You may think you can just unload them and start up your table saw. However, rafters take quite a bit of carpentry skill to form and install. All the top ends are cut at an angle that must be precise in order to firmly attach to the ridge board.

The end hanging over the roof edge is usually also at least partially cut at an angle. The collar ties that connect each pair of rafters must also be cut at an angle at each end to attach to the rafters. The angles cut must be uniform for all the rafters and collar ties, which is almost impossible cutting each one separately.

It’s not something the average person can do. In fact, the use of rafters for home building has fallen out of favor in recent years because there are fewer people with the skills to build them.

Rafters also take longer to install once you have them cut. They have to be installed piece by piece along with their collar ties between them. It will undoubtedly take longer than one day to do this, so if rain threatens you may find yourself having to cover your shed with tarps for protection halfway through.

If you find something doesn’t meet right, you might end up having to make another trip to the lumber yard to get a few more planks unless you thought ahead and bought extra ones to start with.

Trusses are built to spec in a factory, with all the trusses assembled and no worries about joints not meeting firmly. Truss factories work according to your specifications, with your measurements programmed into software to direct the cuts and assembly. Truss packages also usually include detailed instructions as to fastening and spacing.

While you do have to have help to raise them to the top of your shed, you’ll find that the actual installation goes fairly quickly compared to forming and installing rafters. Depending on the size of your shed, you may get the job done in a day.

Trusses do take special delivery trucks to get them to your site, but even with the additional shipping costs, you probably will find that they actually cost less than rafters once you figure in labor costs. After all, your labor time is worth something and should be figured into the job.

Additionally, the materials the truss company uses are bought wholesale, while you will pay retail for any raw lumber you purchase for rafters. You can read my article Are Trusses a Better Choice for a Shed Roof? Where I go into more detail and go over the pros and cons of trusses and rafters.

What is the Strongest Roof Design?

Hipped roofs are the strongest roof design. These have all four sides slanting upwards to a ridge. This roof is the best design for keeping debris off the roof and withstanding wind. These roofs are more expensive to build and the additional seams make it easier for moisture to get in, but this shouldn’t be a problem with the proper installation of roofing materials.

Are Flat Roofs Cheaper Than Pitched Roofs to Build?

Flat roofs are cheaper than pitched roofs to build because you are using less material. However, you do have to have a sufficient slant to allow rain and snow to slide off and keep leaves and other debris from piling up. If you’ve ever passed some old farm buildings, you may have seen old sheds or outbuildings that have flat roofs with a slant. Even outhouses had slanted roofs.

Flat roofs allow leaves and other debris to pile up in clumps that hold moisture. The longer moisture is allowed to stay on a roof the more possibility there is that it will eventually find an opening to seep down into places you don’t want it. Additionally, you’ll need to inspect a flat roof regularly for any rain puddling, which might indicate a sag in the roof or roofing materials.

With a slant, the steeper the slant, the more likely that anything that falls on the roof will slide off. This is especially important if you live in a place that experiences deep snowfall. Flat roofs are also more susceptible to wind damage or even being torn off, either whole or in part.

While not usually seen on sheds, there is another type of flat roof. A mansard roof is flat with sides sloping steeply down on all sides. These provide more space inside the attic portion of the building but are more expensive to build. The main flat part also is prone to problems from roof debris or the weight of heavy snow. Check out my article 5 Advantages of a Slant Roof Shed to see if this type of roof is going to be best for your shed.

What Type of Roofing Material Lasts the Longest?

While any type of roofing lasts longer with regular maintenance and care, the various materials do have average lifespans. As stated before, mineral-coated felt or roofing felt is expected to last only about five years. Common asphalt shingles, the most popular type of roofing, lasts from 10 to 20 years on average.

If you use the more expensive architectural shingles, which are thicker, you’ll get 15 to 25 years of life from them. The one thing that contributes to shortening of the lifespan of these shingles is strong sunlight. Being subjected to constant heat tends to make the shingles dry and crack more quickly, so this may be a consideration if the shed has no shade and you live in a hot climate.

Wood shingles or shakes, usually made of cedar, typically last up to 30 years. They are rot and insect resistant. They are not cheap and usually take some skill to install. In addition, they must be inspected annually for warped or split shingles, which must be replaced promptly. If you need to measure a roof for shingles check out my article How To Measure a Roof for Shingles?

Cedar shakes do not deteriorate on their own, but moisture is the main cause of their decay. Consequently, the shakes must also be inspected for the growth of moss, mold, algae, lichen and fungi, which are more prevalent in moist climates or on shaded roofs. These all retain moisture which can seep into the shakes. Eventually, they break down and become spongy or stringy. Any such growth must be clean off regularly.

Metal roofing can be made of stainless steel, copper, titanium or zinc. This type of roofing is not the type made of corrugated panels. The thicker the metal used the longer it will last. Metal roofing often lasts for 50 years or more. Read my article How to Install Galvanized Metal Roofing On a Shed for tips on installing metal roofing.

While metal gets hot, these roofs are especially good at keeping your shed from getting hot in the summer, as they are usually installed with a wooden grid to provide airspace and the insulation and airflow that provides underneath the metal. The metal itself also absorbs the heat and disperses it more quickly than asphalt shingles do.

Standard seam roofing is the most commonly used type of metal roofing, but ribbed metal panels are often used on gabled roofs. They are usually less expensive than standing seam roofs and can last up to 40 years. Metal shingles are also less expensive and are another option to consider.

Slate roofs or those using clay or concrete tiles aren’t often seen on sheds, but these have the longest lifespan, possibly reaching 75 to 100 years. They do need additional rafters or trusses to hold the extra weight. Their drawbacks include the fact that they have to be inspected regularly, with any slate shingles or clay tiles being replaced promptly. They also have a tendency to come loose or fly off with high winds, possibly causing injuries to anyone nearby. For more information on the types of roofing material available check out my article How to Choose the Best Roofing Material for a Shed.

What is the Best Roofing Type for a Shed?

The best type of roofing for your shed really boils down to strength and lifespan versus cost and ease of installation. The longer the lifespan of the materials, the more the cost. Additionally, some roofing materials require professional installation, such as metal roofs. Conversely, you can spend comparatively little on roofing using MSR roofing, and it is easy and quick to install.

However, this type of roofing does not last more than a few years, so it will need to be replaced every few years. With a more expensive and longer-lasting type of roofing, you’ll only have to spend it once. Most people move 9.1 to 11.7 times in their lifetimes, according to a supplement from the United States Census Bureau.

Most likely you’ll move to a new place well before you need to replace roofing on your shed if you use better materials than the cheapest. In the meantime, you won’t have to worry about replacing the shed roof or with moisture or leaking problems.

Composite three-tab roofing shingles are most commonly used on shed roofs. In most localities, they are also the most commonly used on home roofs, which tells you that they are a good choice for your shed roof. They balance cost with durability and lifespan. They are also fairly easy to install.

What is the Cheapest Roofing Material?

As far as the least expensive roofing material, there is MSR roofing or mineral-surfaced roll. It is similar in makeup to asphalt shingles. While easier to install it is thinner, and so will not offer the protection of actual shingles. There are thicker forms available but it is considered hard to work with for someone who has not had any experience installing it.

Unless you use special nails or screws that come with neoprene washers on them your roof will be susceptible to leaks where the fasteners are. Because of this, it is only expected to last about five years before it needs to be replaced.

Corrugated roofing panels are another choice. They come in metal, fiberglass and polycarbonate plastic. They usually come in panels eight feet long by two feet wide. When installed the panels overlap to keep out water. The panels also come with special screws or nails.

These have gaskets or washers meant to seal the fastener opening and keep out moisture. One thing to remember is that corrugated metal panels are not the same as actual metal roofing. Standing seam metal roofing features sealed edges and requires specially trained roofers to install.


Learning how to install them is pretty simple and doesn’t take long. Of course, there are other options to consider, and you may want your shed roofing materials to match whatever is on your house, but for the best bang for your buck, asphalt shingles are probably the best choice.

Recommended Resources

In this area I will go over the best resources that I have found that you will find very helpful:

Here are my favorite eBooks for beginners as well as those of you who have a lot more experience with home projects.

I know how disappointing it can be to finally find some plans online only to find out after that theirs a lot of essential information missing making these resources useless and a waste of your time!

First is “Ryan’s Shed Plans”… Provides 1,000’s of shed plans, so there’s something for everyone with detailed cross sections and very easy to follow instructions. What I really like is the material and cutting lists which means you know how much material to get.

And if you act soon, you can also get some free books: Advanced Woodworking Tips, List of suppliers to get your materials even cheaper and for you woodworking types you also get 400 free wooding plans. Definitely worth every penny… Check it out here and get your free 8×12 plan just for looking.

Second is “Ted’s Woodworking” … You get thousands of woodworking plans and they come with step-by-step instructions, material and cutting lists, very detailed plans, something for beginners as well as the professional woodworker.

You’ll also get woodworking guides and a detailed book on how to start a woodworking business and how to sell your woodworking projects for profit. See for yourself all the projects you can do and start making impressive pieces right away. Check it out here.

Third is the “Ultimate Small Shop” … This guide walks you thru everything you need to get a small workshop set-up on a budget. Goes into detail what you need to set-up, organizing your space and laying out your work areas, tools list, safety and so much more. Covers everything you need to have a complete shop.

You also get some Free bonus: The workshop cheat list, shows you where to get cheap supplies and tools. You also get a lifetime subscription to the deal alert service and so much more, see it for yourself here.

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