It’s one of the biggest and most expensive renovation efforts for your home and one where homeowners have plenty of questions. What is actually replaced in a roof replacement? Which materials are the best? What about energy efficiency? And how much does it cost?

These are just a few of the questions that come up for homeowners potentially facing a roof replacement. Costs can range from as little as $3,500 to as much as $44,000, says Adam Graham, a construction industry analyst for home improvement project website Here, we look at some of the best materials to use for a home in the desert and dig up some expert insights into what the job actually entails.

Concrete and clay tiles

Concrete tiles are among the most popular tiles used today, says Travis Harvego, vice president of, a nationwide roofing contractor whose online service allows homeowners to get pricing for a roof replacement online before being connected to contractors in the area. They are most popularly used on new homes in Southern Nevada.

Harvego says concrete tiles are similar in price to clay tiles. They hold up well and can often cost in the neighborhood of $30,000, for an average-sized roof, in the range of a clay tile. But there are many more lower-priced options that are fueling the popularity.

“They’re a durable option. They’re strong, for when you need to walk on them, which makes it easier for the homeowner,” Harvego said.

The lone drawback to concrete tiles is they’re heavy. If you’re switching from a lighter material, you’ll likely need an engineer’s stamp on the job, the expert added.

Clay tiles are another popular option in the desert. Graham likes how clay tiles are sustainable, durable and low-maintenance. Both concrete and clay will typically last about 50 years, both experts said.

“Really, it comes down to looks,” Harvego added. “A lot of your concrete tiles are going to be more of your square look, where the clay tiles come with the barrel styles — the roll styles to them — for a more classier look.”

Metal roofs

Gregg Hicks, a home improvement expert and spokesperson for Modernize, an online platform to help homeowners navigate home improvement projects, says when evaluating any roofing material, you should consider four factors: reflective qualities and heat resistance, energy efficiency, fire resistance and cost to install.

Hicks’ No. 1 recommendation for the desert is a metal roof. Costs are reasonable, about $7 to $10 per square foot, slightly higher than asphalt shingles. Metal roofs are heat- and fire-resistant, and are also considered a “cool roof,” he explained. “It doesn’t retain heat and has reflective qualities. It cools quickly overnight, and it’s also energy efficient.”

Given the abundance of Mediterranean architecture in the valley, you may be thinking a metal roof is not an option. That’s not the case.

There are companies that create metal offerings with a tile look. California-based DECRA Metal Roofing Systems is one of them. The company presses its 26-gauge steel into five different shapes, including several tile profiles, explained Trevor Underwood, a DECRA spokesman.

The metal is coated with a ceramic material manufactured by 3M for extra strength and color variety. It can last two to three times longer than traditional asphalt shingles, which have a 15- to 30-year lifespan. DECRA products also bring energy savings up to 25 percent, according to Underwood.

“I think people today are willing to look at different materials because they do a lot of research on their own,” he said. “They don’t rely on contractors telling them ‘this is what you need on your home.’ People learn what others are talking about and gravitate towards that.”

Asphalt shingles

In older valley homes, you still see your share of asphalt shingles. They are the least expensive option. Graham calculates an average cost of just under $7,000.

“They are easy to install, however they’re not very durable,” he noted.

Added Hicks: “They absorb rather than reflect heat, they’re generally darker colors, and even if they’re a lighter color, they’re made of asphalt, so they’re always absorbing heat and strong UV rays will break them down.”

Rubber and slate

Hicks also has two other strong recommendations. One is a rubber roof as a very low-cost option, only $4 to $8 per square foot, on average, and most have a clay tile appearance, he said. They are very eco-friendly, recyclable, and provide a tremendous insulation layer for energy savings. But the lifespan is only 15 to 30 years, he said.

Hicks also recommends slate tiles. They are the best quality and can last 100 years, but range in price from $50 to $100 per square foot, an obvious barrier for many homeowners.

“They’re really attractive and come in lighter colors and reduce heat absorption. They are impervious to extreme sun.”

Is it time to replace?

Roof replacements are avoidable if problems are caught early, Graham adds. He cites leaks that go unrepaired for a long time that soak the roof’s decking for long stretches as the biggest factor that leads to a roof replacement. Some roofs will even sag, which is a big warning sign.

Harvego says, when evaluating your roof, a pro will look in the attic and on the roof for leaks and problem areas. They may also look for wet drywall in the home. You can expect an appointment to take a couple of hours, he said.

Prices vary depending on age, condition, whether the roof has been replaced before, if the damage is due to a weather event and other factors. And don’t be surprised if you see wide ranges on estimates.

He says some pros will factor in needing to replace all or some of the decking while others may not. Some contractors with a lower bid will tell you they may need to increase the price if there is more damage discovered than noted once the underlayment is pulled off.

What to expect, maintenance

A roof replacement typically consists of replacing the roof tile or shingles and the underlayment, as well as making necessary repairs to decking. You should expect several inspections throughout the process as well, Harvego adds, and it usually takes two to three weeks from the time a contract is signed and the job is completed.

Once you select a material, make sure the company is certified by the supplier to install the product. “It’s one of the biggest things companies look for if you have a warranty claim,” Harvego said.

The expert also says it’s a good idea to have a roofing contractor visit your home every five to seven years to look for leaks and problem areas. They can make sure roof penetrations like vents are not leaking. They can spot chipped tiles, damaged ridge caps that need sealing and other problems ahead of time.

“With tiles, once the edges are chipped, the interior of the product is exposed and it will start to deteriorate,” he added. “Having that inspection is how you’re going to get those 50 years out of your (clay or concrete tile) roof.”