Like drains and subfloors, roofing shingles aren’t something that most people spend much time thinking about on a regular basis – until they need them. Shingles serve an important purpose in both the structural integrity and aesthetic design of a building. While they do not last forever, the type and design of shingle that you choose is something that you are going to live with for 20, 50, and possibly even 80 years or longer.
Whether covering a new construction or replacing a failing roof system, there are a few things that you will need to consider when selecting the right shingles for your particular needs. These include the actual material they are made of; the color and design; how well they match up with the rest of the exterior of the building; and whether you are planning to install them yourself or hire a contractor to do the job.
Your location will also play a part in what type of shingle will be right for you, as all shingles are not created equal when it comes to dealing with heat, cold, rain, snow, or particularly sunny climates.
You will also need to consider how much time you are willing to devote to the care and maintenance of your roof, as well as the general look of the neighborhood you live in. For example, if you live in an area governed by an HOA (home owner’s association) there may be restrictions on certain types and colors of roofing materials.
Thanks to advances in shingle technology (yes, that is a thing), there are plenty of styles, shapes, colors and materials to choose from and a large number of pricing points. Most shingling material is sold by the square installed, which equals 100 square feet.
So what type of roofing shingles will be best for you? Let’s take a look and see.
The vast majority of asphalt roofing shingles are a composite material made from asphalt, fiberglass, and assorted mineral granules. Available in a host of colors and designs, these have been the most popular roofing shingles for both new construction and roof replacement for decades, due to their low per-unit and installation costs, ease of maintenance, breadth of style selection, and durability.
Unlike most other roofing options, new asphalt shingles can often be installed directly over a failing roof, eliminating the need to remove the old roofing material – although this will depend on the structural integrity of the sub-roof, the previous roofing material, and the number of layers already installed on the structure.
Generally speaking, asphalt shingles will cost anywhere from $250 and $550 per square depending on the type and design. Installation costs will vary depending on the pitch of the roof and accessibility. Asphalt shingles will usually carry a manufacturer’s warranty ranging from 15 to 30 years which will cover curling, splitting, and defects in the material. Most warranties will not cover damage due to improper installation or naturally occurring events such as hurricanes or tornadoes.
Asphalt shingles generally fall into two main categories: architectural and 3-tab.
Architectural (also called Dimensional) Asphalt Shingles
Accounting for somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of sales, architectural shingles are by far the most popular type in the asphalt group. Offering multiple layers of asphalt and fiberglass, they are the thickest and most durable asphalt shingles on the market, and suitable for most homes and climates.
Along with decent durability (most manufacturers offer 30-year warranties, and it is not uncommon for them to last far longer), architectural asphalt shingles also offer the widest variety of styles and designs and are a relatively low-maintenance roofing product.
Due to technological advances over the last couple of decades, architectural shingles can look to the untrained eye like many other types of roofing materials including wood, slate, clay, and even metal. They are also available in a broad range of colors. Very popular as replacement roofing, they come in at the high end of the asphalt price range, but in most cases, their durability and aesthetic flexibility offset the initial cost over time.
While architectural shingles are appropriate for most roof designs, they do not perform as well on roofs with a very low slope. As is the case with all asphalt products, they are vulnerable to cracking and cupping in extremely cold climates and are not recommended for areas which are subject to frequent wind-driven rain or snow.
The least expensive of all the asphalt products, 3-tab shingles are usually comprised of a single layer of composite and are therefore lighter weight and less durable than their architectural cousins. 3-tab shingles are very popular in lower cost new construction and are a good alternative for individuals on a tight budget who need to find a cost-effective alternative to replace a failing roof.
3-tabs usually carry a 15 to 20-year warranty, and will normally be between 50 and 75% of the cost of architectural shingles. Installation costs are also generally slightly lower. While a correctly installed 3-tab roof can be quite aesthetically pleasing, you will be limited in the styles and colors available.
Due to their lighter weight, it is not uncommon to find multiple layers of 3-tab shingling on older homes. For this same reason, they are also particularly susceptible to damage from the elements in certain areas with curling, cupping, and blow-off being the most common issues. They are not usually recommended for high-wind areas.
Although not as durable, flexible in design, or popular as architectural shingles, 3-tabs do provide effective protection for the home and will often outlast their warranty. They are also fairly low maintenance.
Cool shingles are a relatively new member of the asphalt family that will appeal to those looking to increase the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of their homes.
The asphalt face of a cool shingle is coated with highly reflective granules that are designed to reflect sunlight – and particularly ultraviolet and infrared rays – away from the roof, keeping it (and consequentially the interior of the home) cooler. The shingles’ reflective properties also help keep them from fading over time.
They are comparable to architectural asphalt shingles in terms of durability and longevity and usually come with a 20 to 30-year warranty. Most cool shingles come in white or light gray, as darker hues tend to retain heat. In the last few years, however, some manufacturers have started to offer cool shingles in a wider range of darker colors.
Asphalt Shingles: Pros and Cons
- Cost: Material and installation costs tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum.
- Design Versatility: Asphalt shingles provide the buyer with the broadest range of design options in the industry.
- Ease of Installation: Installing asphalt shingles is normally a simple, straightforward process that almost any roofer (and many DIY enthusiasts) can complete quickly.
- Maintenance: Very little maintenance is needed.
- Durability: Most asphalt shingles will need to be replaced every 15 to 30 years.
- Blow-off: Asphalt shingles are susceptible to being blown off due to their relatively lightweight.
- Slope Issues: Asphalt shingles are not generally recommended for roofs with severe slopes (or pitches) due to potential damage from wind-driven rain and snow.
Wood Shingles and Shakes
Durable, reliable, and attractive, wood shingles have been around for centuries and remain very popular today.
Wood shingles fall into the middle range as far as price is concerned; depending on the type of wood, they can be substantially more expensive than asphalt, but usually less expensive than tile. Prices vary greatly depending on the style and type of wood, but usually fall between $400 and $900 per square, with some specialty woods such as teak running higher.
Wood roofing comes in two styles: shingle and shake. Shingles are uniform in cut and thickness, which gives them an elegant, finished look. Shakes are thick at the base and taper down in the front, usually featuring rough, grooved sides and faces which gives them a rustic look and feel. Shakes will generally be slightly more expensive than shingles.
Although pricier than asphalt, wood shingles are more durable which helps to offset the initial cost. Most wood shingles come with at least a 30-year warranty, and with proper care can last 50 years or longer.
Wood shingles and shakes do need some maintenance. Applying wood sealants or preservatives every ten years or so is usually recommended. In wooded areas, most wood shingles and shakes are susceptible to moss and fungi growth, which damage their integrity. Regular power washing or fungicide application will usually take care of this problem.
Before deciding on a wood roof, you will need to check the building ordinances in your community. Some municipalities do not allow wood siding or shingles, as they violate fire codes.
So what are the most popular types of wood shingles?
One of the most cost-effective wood roofing materials on the market today, cedar shingles and shakes are very popular due to their durability, ease of maintenance, and attractiveness. Providing excellent insulation, cedar is able to stand up to extreme temperature changes without shrinking or warping and deals with humidity, sun, wind, rain, and snow well. Cedar also has a natural resistance to insects and moss growth.
Because of its low density, cedar is a relatively lightweight roofing material and easy to work with, reducing installation and repair costs. Most cedar shingles and shakes will come with a 30-year warranty, and with proper care can easily last twice that long. They will turn a grayish silver color as they age.
Cedar shakes and shingles are among the most environmentally-friendly of all roofing materials. There are usually no chemicals used in production, and they will naturally decompose when removed.
Pine shingles and shakes (usually sourced from southern white pine trees) are also a long-lasting, cost-effective wood roofing solution. Denser than cedar, pine stands up to wind, hail and snow well, and will usually come with a 30 to 50-year warranty. Pine’s density and weight make it more difficult to work with than some other woods, so installation and repair costs may be slightly higher.
Unlike cedar, most pine shingles and shakes are pre-treated with chemicals to protect against rot, mold, fungus, and insects as they have no natural immunity to these. Some general maintenance will be required with a pine roof, including periodic cleaning or power washing to stem mold and fungus growth, and reapplying a wood preservative. Pine shingles and shakes are also quite susceptible to cupping and splitting, and some repair or replacement may be needed.
Pine shingles and shakes provide excellent insulation, are quite resistant to humidity, and handle extreme temperature fluctuations well. They tend to weather uniformly, giving the roof a rustic silver-gray look after a few years.
Similar to cedar, redwood shingles and shakes are valued for their resistance to adverse weather conditions, as well as their natural immunity to insects, moss, and fungus. A bit pricier than cedar or pine, redwood has a very distinctive appearance and will usually retain its natural color throughout its life.
Most redwood shingles and shakes come with a 25 to-30 year warranty and are relatively easy to install or replace. Redwood is a naturally fire-retardant wood, resistant to rot, and does not require the use of chemical preservatives. Although it does provide good humidity protection, redwood is not normally recommended for areas with heavy annual rainfall as it can cup and warp in these conditions.
Redwood shakes and shingles are very environmentally friendly and will decompose naturally upon removal.
Growing in popularity in the US over the last decade, wallaba shingles are both durable and attractive. Sourced in South America, the natural oils and resins found in wallaba make it particularly resistant to insect damage, humidity, and weathering. These same oils help to prevent the wood from rotting even in the dampest environments, as well as warping, cupping and shrinking.
Cost-wise, wallaba roofing falls into the middle range of wood roofing materials and usually comes with a 30 to 50-year warranty. However, wallaba is denser than many wood (about 30% denser than cedar, for example) which not only contributes to its longevity but also makes it quite easy to work with and subsequently can substantially lower installation and repair costs.
While wallaba does require some regular maintenance and inspection, it is not one of the more labor-intensive roofing materials.
Growing in popularity in the US in recent years, teak shingles have been used in Southeast Asia for centuries. Definitely on the high end of the price range (teak shingles are about five times the cost of cedar) teak is the most durable wood shingle on the market, and will often come with a lifetime warranty. It is not uncommon for teak shingles to last 80 years and longer, and they are among the easiest to install.
Naturally resistant to just about everything that affects the life of a roof (weather, rot, insects, fungi, mold, etc.) teak shingles require almost no maintenance. They are offered in a range of colors including natural wood, copper, silvery-gray, and gold and will usually hold their color throughout their lifespan.
No chemicals or preservatives are used in the production of most teak shingles, making them quite environmentally-friendly.
If you have your heart set on wood shingling but your local fire code won’t allow it, composite wood shingles (also known as synthetic wood) might be the answer.
Usually made out of plastics and recycled materials, most composite wood shingles are manufactured to look like cedar shakes and cost about twice as much like cedar. Installation is usually slightly more expensive than the real wood, but they tend to be more durable than natural cedar; warranties run anywhere from 30 to 50 years.
One of the main selling points of composite wood shingles is that they come in a plethora of different colors (and combinations of colors) and simulated grains. Some manufacturers will fully customize shingles to customer specifications. Additionally, most composite wood shingles are virtually maintenance free and are usually very environmentally-friendly.
Wood Shingles and Shakes: Pros and Cons
- Durability: Wood shingles usually last anywhere from 30 to 80 years.
- Price: Wood shingles are more affordable than many other alternatives.
- Aesthetic Appeal: Wood shingles look good on most home designs, and lend a feel of rustic elegance to a house.
- Ease of Installation: Most wood shingles and shakes are relatively easy to install or replace.
- Maintenance: Some wood shingles and shakes require substantial maintenance to keep them performing properly.
- Flammability: Wood shingles are flammable, and are not allowed in some municipalities.
Tile shingles have been used for centuries throughout the world, and date all the way back to ancient Egypt.
Falling in the upper-middle to high range price wise (usually between $500 and $1300 per square), much of the expense is due to the difficulty of proper installation. In some cases the load-bearing capacity of the roof will need to be increased to accommodate the weight of the tiles, substantially adding to the cost.
Along with their considerable aesthetic appeal, tile shingles are the most durable type of popular shingle available. Not prone to damage from insects, moss/fungi growth, or climatic conditions, they are generally sold with a 50 to 80-year warranty, and it is not uncommon for a tile roof to outlive the building upon which it is installed.
Tile shingles are relatively maintenance-free, and will normally hold their color throughout the life of the roof. While they do not rot or crumble frequently, they are susceptible to cracking and breakage when foreign objects such as tree branches fall on them and can be quite expensive to repair or replace.
Tile shingles are non-combustible and energy efficient; they provide excellent insulation against cold and help keep a home cool in extreme heat. Blow-off, shrinkage, cupping, and warping are not problems commonly associated with tile shingles.
So what types of tile shingles are available?
Ceramic tile shingles are generally made of clay and usually feature an earthy, terracotta color. One of the oldest building materials on earth, clay is resistant to fungi and insects and stands up to wind, snow and rain well. It also is a naturally cooling material and helps keep the heat out on severely hot days. Ceramic tile shingles usually carry a 60-year warranty, and will often last a century or more.
While material costs are at the low end of the tile spectrum, ceramic tile shingles are fairly difficult and expensive to install and replace, increasing the overall cost. These shingles are also some of the heaviest in the tile family (for example, about 30% heavier than concrete), and structural inspection of the roof will be needed to ensure it can handle the weight.
Ceramic tile shingles are very low-maintenance although individual tiles may crack over time and should be repaired or replaced as quickly as possible to preserve the integrity of the roof.
Lighter weight and slightly less costly than ceramic, concrete tile shingles are a mixture of Portland cement, sand and water. They are less durable and require more maintenance than ceramic. Routinely carrying a 40 to 50-year warranty, they are not prone to insect or rot damage, but are susceptible to moss/fungi growth and moisture build-up – particularly in heavily wooded areas – and should be power-washed routinely.
Installation costs tend to be on the lower end of the tile spectrum. Repair or replacement of concrete tile shingles can be quite difficult, and should usually be handled by professionals.
Energy-efficient in both hot and cold weather, concrete tile shingles are available in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes.
Bituminous tile shingles are made from a mixture of bitumen and fiberglass and covered with basalt or granite chips. They are on the low end of tile shingles in terms of material and installation costs but are less durable, usually offering only a 20 to 30-year warranty. Lighter and more flexible than solid tiles, they look like asphalt shingles but are thicker, last longer, and provide better protection against the elements.
Relatively easy to install and repair, bituminous tile shingles provide good insulation and require little maintenance. They are available in an assortment of colors and designs.
A newer member of the tile family, polymer (also called polymer-sand) tile shingles – as the name indicates – are made from a mixture of sand and polymers and look like ceramic, concrete or slate shingles. Weighing substantially less than most other tiles, polymer-sand shingles are solid and come with a 50 to 60-year warranty. They stand up well to weather and temperature fluctuations, are not susceptible to fungi/moss or insect damage, and are both fire and rot-proof.
Though on the high end of the per-tile shingle price-line, they are easy to work with so their low installation cost make them a relatively economical tile shingle option.
Composite tile shingles are also a relatively new product. Made from recycled plastics and acrylics, they are topped with stone granules which give them the appearance of clay, concrete, or slate shingles. With a 50 to 60-year warranty, composite tile shingles offer the durability, protection and look of more traditional tile shingles at roughly one-third the weight, eliminating most structural concerns.
Though pricier than most natural tile shingles per-unit, installation costs are comparable to asphalt roofing making them an affordable tile option. Composites are mostly maintenance free, hold their color for their lifespan, and are relatively easy to repair or replace.
Metal tile shingles fall into two categories: steel & aluminum, and stone-coated steel. Both offer a 40 to 60-year warranty; however, stone-coated is about half the price of steel & aluminum (roughly $300 per square). Both offer excellent protection against the elements, are fairly lightweight, easy to install, and resistant to pretty much everything that damages a roof.
Stone-coated steel shingles approximate the look and texture of clay, concrete or slate at about half the weight. Steel & aluminum are more durable; have a sleek, uniform appearance; and are one of the most energy-efficient shingles on the market. Both types require very little maintenance, although steel & aluminum will need periodic cleaning.
Tile Shingles: Pros and Cons
Durability: Tile shingles typically last from 50 to 80 years or longer.
Low Maintenance: Very little regular maintenance is needed.
Flammability: Most tile shingles have fire retardant properties, and will not burn.
Price: In terms of installation, materials, and repair costs tile shingles are more expensive than many other shingles.
Weight: Most tile shingles are very heavy compared to wood and asphalt, and will sometimes require structural modification to an existing roof.
Other Types of Shingles
One of the most durable and attractive roofing materials on the market, slate shingles have been used for hundreds of years. They are highly resistant to insects, fungi, temperature variations, wind, rain, snow, hail … pretty much everything you can think of. Slate shingles routinely outlast the building upon which they are installed, are virtually maintenance-free, and rarely require repair or replacement.
Usually sold with a 60-year to lifetime warranty, slate shingles are also among the most expensive in terms of material ($400 to over $900 per square) and installation. In fact, they are so difficult to install properly that many roofing contractors won’t work with them, and those that do charge top dollar. Slate is also one of the heaviest shingles, and will often require the roof to be structurally reinforced.
So why would anyone consider slate shingles? Aside from their durability, slate shingles are beautiful. Usually not perfectly uniform in shade, color or texture, slate shingles provide an aesthetic uniqueness and rustic appeal that is not found in any other roofing material. No two natural slate roofs are exactly the same. For some, that makes them well worth the price.
A new innovation in roofing technology, rubber shingles are usually made from recycled tires and wood, slate, or ceramic debris depending on the desired look. Running from $300 to $500 per square and offering a 50-year warranty, they are relatively easy to install and maintain and mimic the shingle-types mentioned above quite well. Rubber shingles perform well in most weather conditions and are particularly effective in high hail and ice areas.
Rubber shingles are an excellent alternative for roofs with a very low pitch, as well as homes in high-wind areas. Because of their low per-shingle weight (roughly 60% to 70% lighter than ceramic or slate) they put little stress on the roof’s structure; being a flexible material, they are less susceptible to blow-off and wind damage than traditional wood shingles.
Rubber shingles rarely crack, cup or curl; provide good insulation and waterproofing; resist insects and mold/fungi; and are fire retardant.
Copper shingles can be found at the top of the shingle price range. While there are a number of composite, metal, and other shingle-types with copper coatings or that approximate the look, a real copper shingle roof can cost tens of thousands of dollars in materials, and even more for installation – if you can find a roofer who will do it.
If you are willing to invest that kind of money, however, copper shingles are all but indestructible, and the odds are that they will last longer than either you or your home. They are lightweight and perform well on almost any roof pitch. While they can dent if something heavy falls on them, they are otherwise impervious to things that normally damage other shingle types.
A full copper shingle roof creates a stunning aesthetic effect unlike any other; as they age the roof will take on an elegant greenish patina. Copper shingles are often used in conjunction with other roofing materials as trim, accents, and over bay windows and turrets in older houses.
Solar shingles (also called photovoltaic shingles) first hit the commercial market in the mid-2000s, and convert sunlight into electricity that can be used in the home in the same way as solar panels. Designed to approximate the look of asphalt shingles, they can be installed over an entire roof, over ‘sunny’ parts of a roof, or integrated into a conventional asphalt shingle system.
Often sold in bolt-on panels (or clusters) varying in size and shape, solar shingles can reduce a home’s energy costs by 50% to 70%, and can be installed by most roofing contractors (although an electrician will be needed to connect them to the building’s electrical system). Solar shingles typically generate between 10 and 12 watts per square foot.
Solar shingles are very expensive (a cluster of 350 will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 installed), but in some areas of the US state and federal subsidies and tax incentives can cut that cost by 40% to 50%.
Along with their look, solar shingles also approximate asphalt in terms of weight, resistance to damage, and the protection they provide the roof. As a new product, their longevity has yet to be conclusively determined.
Used for years as home siding, a number of manufacturers have recently started offering vinyl roofing shingles. Usually made from a mixture of vinyl and cellulose fiber, they are available in versions that look like different types of wood, ceramics, stone, and other traditional roofing materials, as well as in a variety of shapes and colors.
Vinyl shingles are durable, weather and damage resistant, and perform well in most climates. They provide excellent insulation and are not prone to cracking, splitting, or damage due to insects or moss/fungi. They hold their shape and colors well in almost any conditions.
Usually running between $300 and $400 per square, most vinyl shingles come with a 50-year warranty and are fairly easy to install. They require very little maintenance.
Lisa has a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Arts. She is an experienced blogger who enjoys researching interesting facts, ideas, products, and other compelling concepts. In addition to writing, she likes photography and Photoshop.