Unusual roof ideas that could work for your house

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | June 20, 2014

Drive though most neighborhoods and look up -- you will see the same sight, house after house. It's the typical shingled roof, one of the most common types of roofing material. Occasionally you might see a metal standing seam roof, or one made of fiber cement, or any number of other typical materials.

So what do you do if you want something different? Something that stands out from the rest of the neighborhood? Something that actually - dare we say it - helps you save money? You read this list, and then you call a roofing expert to talk about your amazing idea:

Go green -- really green

When it comes to uniqueness, nothing beats a living roof. A living roof is just what it sounds like -- it is covered in grass, flowers, or other gifts from Mother Nature. Creating these roofs can be tough, because they require serious expertise: the roof must usually include structural support, layers of waterproofing, vapor control and drainage, the proper insulation, filters, and the right kind of growing medium. But when done properly, a living roof can provide a habitat for wildlife, a sustainable garden for the homeowner, and a beautiful sight for anyone who happens to walk by.

Going all white

You wouldn't wear black on a really hot day -- so why should your house? The traditional roof is usually made of a dark color, and that absorbs light, thus potentially making your house warmer than it needs to be. A white roof does just the opposite -- it reflects the light, leaving your house cooler and saving money on utility bills. Studies have found that white roofs can reduce air conditioning costs by more than 20 percent. Just keep in mind that these savings are much more pronounced in warmer climates, such as the southern U.S., than they might be in places like New England or Canada.

Let the sunshine in

Love the great outdoors? Bring it closer than ever with a retractable roof. Normally reserved for football stadiums and large arenas, the idea is catching on with homeowners who want a smaller-scale version over their dining room, living room, or bedroom. With the touch of a button, the roof slowly retracts, leaving the house open to fresh air and sunlight. You will definitely pay more for a roof like this, but for the ultimate in luxury, it just might be worth it.

The bouncy house

Take old rubber to a new extreme by turning tires into roofing material. Car tires seem to last forever, so what better way to give them new life than by turning them into shingles? These shingles are lightweight, can withstand wind and rain, provide additional insulation to a home, have no problem with sweltering heat, and can even help prevent hail damage when ferocious storms blow through. Besides that, they have a Class A fire rating. These shingles might seem like an odd choice, but when viewed from the street, some types of rubber shingles look just like any other shingles.

Take recycling to an extreme

Recycled materials are always a good idea, but these unique roofs take the concept to an extreme -- with pretty impressive results. Take the case of vinyl records. Nashville musician Matt Glassmever decided to put his music on display in a unique way by shingling his porch roof with vinyl. By using a washer over the holes in the middle, those old LP records became shingles that have stood up surprisingly well in the southern heat.

Or how about license plates? These uniform sheets of metal seem to work pretty well as a shingle for a unique roof. Dan Philips of Huntsville, Texas takes unusual materials and recycles them into homes for low-income areas. He's used corks from wine bottles for flooring, pieces of salvaged wood to create mosaic floors, and license plates for a unique yet very sturdy roof. After all, license plates can last for several decades on vehicles -- so they will surely last on a roof, too.

Whether you dig the eco-friendly living roof or groove on the idea of vinyl records topping your house, there are many unique roof ideas that can set your home apart from the rest of the neighborhood -- and maybe even save some energy while imparting that fun vibe. Take a look at new roof types and let your imagination soar.

About the Author

Shannon Lee has been writing professionally for two decades on a wide variety of topics, including medical and health issues, education, home repair and relationships.