• Rainy Day Exteriors

5 Lightweight Roofing Materials for the Earthquake-Prone Northwest

Updated: Feb 10, 2019


Although earthquakes are a rare occurrence, the mountainous west coast of the United States is more at risk for earthquakes than other areas of the country. And like other natural disasters, earthquakes can do a lot more damage to your home if it’s not built to withstand the disaster. 

Because a bad quake can knock loose roofing materials and destabilize your home’s structure, choosing a lightweight roofing material is one way to help your house hold together and reduce your chances of injury during an earthquake. Here are several lighter-weight options to choose from.


1. Metal

On top of all its other benefits, metal roofing provides a great option for those in earthquake-prone areas. For example, aluminum can weigh as little as an eighth of what an asphalt roof weighs per foot.


But metal roofing has yet another bonus for earthquake-resistant buildings. Steel roofing can actually resist earthquake damage better than other major types of roofing, according to one study. Large metal panels have more structural value than smaller tiles or shingles, helping your roof hold together better during the quake.


2. Fiberglass Shingles

If you’re determined to go with traditional shingles, you can still switch things up slightly by choosing a lighter-weight version. Many shingles are made with fiberglass now rather than the old-fashioned organic ones made with asphalt-impregnated paper materials.


Fiberglass asphalt shingles can typically weigh between 2.75 and 4.25 pounds per square foot. This means even if your home is less than a thousand square feet, choosing an option at the lighter end of the range (rather than the heavier architectural shingles) could easily reduce your roof’s weight by half a ton or more.


3. Wood Shakes

Cedar shakes are popular in the Pacific Northwest, both because they’re beautiful and because they’re locally plentiful and easy to source. But they’re also relatively lightweight. To be fair, they’re not as light as aluminum (and they get heavier when wet) and they’re not as structurally strong as large metal panels.

However, they’re still a much better option than clay or concrete tile. And they can weigh less than asphalt shingles as well.


4. Modified Bitumen

Although it’s more often used for commercial buildings, modified bitumen roofing can be used for most lowslope roofs. So if your home has a relatively flat roof, you may want to consider this lightweight option. 


Some modified bitumen roofing systems can add less than two pounds per square foot of load, making them lighter than lightweight asphalt shingles and about on par with steel (although still heavier than aluminum). 


5. Other Composites

Some manufacturers focus on alternative roofing materials and methods rather than traditional ones. Composite roofing materials provide the ideal opportunity for these companies. The best-known composite for roofs is the conventional asphalt shingle reinforced with fiberglass, but several less-conventional alternatives exist as well.


Composites can become valuable and innovative roofing products. For example, compressing a combination of resins and glass can create a completely new roofing material that’s quite lightweight. 

These products tend to be very new on the market, however, so there are typically fewer statistics available for comparison. The weight, price, and earthquake resistance of composites will depend on variables such as the manufacturing process, the quality control, and the ingredients used.


These five alternatives give you plenty of choices that may perform better in an earthquake than heavy architectural shingles or clay and concrete tiles.


Whether you need help finding the right roofing product for you or whether you’re ready to schedule an inspection or a roofing repair or replacement, give Rainy Day Exteriors a call today. We can install a lightweight, durable roof for your home.

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