The time to think about how long your roof is going to protect you is before your house is built.
Several layers are involved in building up a standard slanted roof. First the sheets of roof decking material are fastened to the roof trusses or rafters. There are a few choices available, the most common being roofing grade plywood, (more expensive), and chipboard (less expensive). If using chipboard, make certain it is of water resistant quality.
You may want to talk to your contractor about installing a radiant barrier between the rafters and the roof decking. When a radiant barrier is placed between the roofing material and the insulation, the heat radiated from the hot roof is reflected back up toward the roof rather than directed downwards towards your ceilings. This also means less heat from the sun moving into the rooms below the ceilings. This can greatly reduce your cooling costs during the summer months.
On top of the decking, roof felt will be installed. This is the base material that the shingles will be laid on. The two most common choices here are 15 pound and 30 pound felt. For the slightly higher material cost, just go with the 30 pound felt. This is not a place to cut costs. 15 pound material has a higher risk of tearing under the workmen's feet, and any torn underlayment is useless in preventing roof leaks in the future.
Now we come to the layer of the roof that you will actually see. Here you want to choose for aesthetic as well as protective qualities.
"Builder Grade" standard three-tab asphalt shingles will be least expensive. That's also what they will look like, least expensive. Standard three-tab shingles normally carry a 15 year warranty. You may regret that choice a few years down the road. You want to be sure that the roof over your head stays in good condition for many years to come.
This is where an upgrade in quality will provide you sheer satisfaction every time you pull into your driveway.
A good choice is architectural style shingles. Unlike three-tab shingles, architectural shingles will carry a 30 year warranty. They are heavier, thicker than standard 3 tab shingles, do not have tabs, and provide more dramatic shadow lines. They have the look of natural roofing materials such as slate, cedar, shakes, and other natural materials, at a lower cost. Architectural shingles seal down better and are less likely to be lifted by the wind.
An architectural shingle roof will always be a plus when selling your home, and will boost your home's resale value.
There are many other choices available in roofing materials, including real slate, fake slate, various types of metal roofs and Spanish tile roof. Your home's style may dictate the type of shingles you will be using.
Note: When the roofing is being done on your new home, it's a good idea to ask your contractor to leave a bundle of shingles in the garage, just in case minor repairs are needed in the future.
The roofing material you choose should have the highest fire rating available, which is a class A rating. This is most important for you, your family and your belongings.