Asphalt shingles: everything you need to know

Asphalt shingles come in a variety of types, so you’re bound to find one to meet your needs. Image source: Nobord

Catherine Lane

By Catherine Lane

October 22, 2020

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If you're looking to replace your roof, you might be wondering: what kind of shingles are right for me? The most popular shingles on the market are asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles are known for their durability, versatility, and low cost. No wonder they're the roofing material of choice in the United States!

Even if you narrow your search down to asphalt roofing shingles, there are several different asphalt shingles to choose from. In this article, we break down the different types of asphalt shingles and what their best uses are.

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What are asphalt shingles?

Shingles cover your roof deck and roofing system to protect them from moisture. In North America, the most popular shingles to protect your roof are asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles get their name from the asphalt used to make the shingles waterproof.

All asphalt shingles contain three main layers:

  • Matting - serves as the base material for the shingle
  • Asphalt sealant - coats the matting to make the shingles waterproof. It also acts as an adhesive.
  • Ceramic granules - stick to the asphalt layer and give asphalt its signature texture and color variety, while simultaneously protecting the other layers from UV rays.

Before 2008, you could choose between two types of asphalt shingles: organic-mat and fiberglass. The matting in organic shingles was made from cellulose fibers, like recycled wood and paper. Now, shingle manufacturers only produce fiberglass shingles.

Fiberglass shingles are easier to install than organic shingles and they cost much less. Not only that, but they are more resistant to the elements. Organic shingles are prone to warping and algae growth from retaining moisture, so they need to be replaced more often. Because of this, the production of organic shingles ceased in 2008.

How much do asphalt roofing shingles cost?

On average, asphalt shingles cost anywhere from $3.50 to $6.00 per square foot, making them the cheapest roofing material option in most cases. For a typical 1,700 square foot roof, asphalt shingles will cost somewhere between $2,555 and $9,350, depending on the type of asphalt shingles, the roof pitch, and what roofing contractor you choose.

The price of a DIY roofing installation is cheaper, but you should always consider having a skilled professional complete or inspect your roofing system, just to make sure everything is installed properly. Asphalt shingles are usually the cheapest roofing material option.

The cost of your roofing project can also be influenced by the brand of shingles you choose. Some of the most popular asphalt shingle manufacturers are CertainTeed, GAF, IKO, Owens Corning, and Tamko. The following table outlines some of the most popular asphalt shingles and their estimated prices:

Shingle Model Shingle Type Price (without installation) Estimated installed price
GAF Royal Sovereign 3-tab $1.00 per square foot $3.35 per square foot
CertainTeed Landmark Architectural $1.30 per square foot $4.35 per square foot
GAF Slateline Premium $2.04 per square foot $5.10 per square foot

Calculate the cost for asphalt shingles with our roofing calculator.

Types of asphalt shingles

Asphalt shingles come in three different designs: 3-tab shingles (also referred to as three-tab shingles), architectural shingles, and energy-efficient shingles. Let's take a closer look at each of these shingle types.

3-tab asphalt shingles

Average cost (including installation): $3.45 - $4.65 per square foot

Warranty: 25 to 30 years

Best for: Roofing on a budget

Popular brands: CertainTeed XT25, GAF Royal Sovereign, Iko Marathon Plus AR

3-tab shingles

3-tab shingles are the cheapest type of asphalt shingles. Image source: Triad Roofing Services

3-tab shingles, also called strip shingles, are the most basic type of asphalt shingles. 3-tab shingles are designed to make it look like there are three separate pieces installed, hence the name. In reality, it is only one piece of material that is cut to appear like there are three shingles.

3-tab shingles have remained one of the most popular roofing materials because they are cost-effective, lightweight, easy to install, and create a simple, uniform look. Keep in mind, 3-tab shingles have shorter warranties and aren't as durable as other types of asphalt shingles.

Architectural asphalt shingles

Average cost (including installation): $3.00 - $15.00 per square foot

Warranty: 30 to 40 years

Best for: Curb appeal and durability

Popular brands: Tamko Heritage Premium, CertainTeed Landmark, GAF Timberline HDZ

Architectural shingles

Architectural shingles are more aesthetically pleasing, as they add depth and dimension to a roof. Image source: Nimbus Roofing, LLC

Architectural asphalt shingles, sometimes called dimensional shingles or laminate shingles, are rising in popularity, especially for high-end homes. Architectural shingle tabs come in different shapes and sizes to give the roof a more interesting, dimensional look. There is more variety in the colors and styles of architectural shingles as well, which enhances a home's curb appeal.

Although they come at a higher price tag than 3-tab shingles, architectural shingles are more aesthetically pleasing and come with a longer warranty. Plus, their multi-layer construction makes them durable and wind-resistant.

Aside from standard architectural shingles, you can also install premium architectural shingles. Premium shingles are usually designed to look like more traditional roofing materials, such as slate tiles or cedar shakes. Using premium luxury shingles allows you to get a more unique look, while still taking advantage of the durability of an asphalt shingle roof.

Premium shingles come at an even higher price than regular architectural shingles, but are usually impact-resistant. These durable shingles won't be damaged from hail storms and therefore won't need to be replaced as often.

Premium asphalt shingles

Average cost (including installation): $4.35 - $6.00 per square foot

Warranty: 30 to 50 years

Best for: Increased warranty and designer aesthetic

Popular brands: Owens Corning Berkshire, GAF Slateline

Premium shingles

Premium shingles have a higher price tag, but they look great and don’t need to be replaced as often. Image source: Owens Corning

Aside from standard architectural shingles, you can also install premium architectural shingles. Premium shingles are usually designed to look like more traditional roofing materials, such as slate tiles or cedar shakes. Using premium luxury shingles allows you to get a more unique look, while still taking advantage of the durability of an asphalt shingle roof. Some are even energy-efficient, so they can help keep your home cooler and decrease your electricity bills!

Premium shingles come at an even higher price than regular architectural shingles but are usually impact-resistant. These durable shingles won’t be damaged from hail storms and therefore won’t need to be replaced as often.

Why pick asphalt shingles over other roof shingle types?

The main appeal of asphalt shingles is that they are cheap and durable. Because they are now manufactured with multiple layers of fiberglass and asphalt, they are more resistant to weather and algae growth than other roofing products, like wood shakes.

The materials used in asphalt shingles extend their lifespan, meaning you don’t have to worry about replacing your roof as often. They also have an increased fire rating, which can give you peace of mind that your roof is as safe as can be. You should still regularly inspect your roof, or contact a roofing inspector to make sure your roof is in good condition. Regular roof inspections will help prevent problems like leaks before they start.

While tile and metal roofs are also durable, many homeowners tend to prefer the look and design of asphalt shingles. The combination of the price point, the look, and their rugged design have given asphalt shingles a leg up over other roofing types.

What type of asphalt shingles are right for you?

For most homes, architectural shingles are the best choice for an asphalt roof replacement. Although they cost a little more than 3-tab asphalt shingles, they last longer and won’t need to be replaced as often which saves you money in the long run. Plus, they give your roof a more elevated look than 3-tab shingles, without having to pay the premium prices for luxury asphalt shingles.

Overall, there’s a reason that asphalt shingles are so popular for roof installations and roof replacements. No matter which option you choose - 3-tab, architectural, or premium - asphalt shingles will do a great job of protecting your roof while looking great.

Local roofing installers can help you pick out the right shingles for your budget and your home’s design. It’s important to get quotes from multiple roofers to get the best price on shingles. Once you pick your contractor, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your new roof!

Get a quote for your roof with help from our roofing calculator.

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