Asphalt Shingles Review: Pros, Cons, and Cost

Are Asphalt Shingles Right for You?

Asphalt shingle roofing

RichG -

There are many types of shingles used with a sloping roof including asphalt shingles, tile roofing shingles (clay or concrete), slate shingles, wood shingles and shakes, and metal shingles. But of all these material types, the overwhelmingly most popular, versatile, simple to install, and cost-effective choice is the asphalt shingle roof.

Asphalt shingles are durable for the price, affordable, and come in many different textures and colors. The most common styles of asphalt shingles are the "strip" shingle or the "laminated" shingle.

Although fairly durable, asphalt shingles are still subject to damage, and your roof should be checked after major hail or wind storms. Additionally, you should always make sure that your roof is properly ventilated.

Asphalt Shingle Cost

The average cost of asphalt shingles runs around $1 to $6 per square foot for materials. Asphalt roofs are inexpensive in comparison to other types of roofs and have a lifespan of about 15 to 40+ years. The professional installation is most of the expense to put on a new roof, costing about $2.5 to $3 per square foot, and results in approximately 70% of the entire project's cost.

Maintenance and Repair

Asphalt shingled roofs require very little maintenance and repair. Check your roof periodically for any problem spots or issues. Look to make sure there are no missing shingles or loose lying branches and debris. It is also important to clean the gutters out occasionally. 

If there are any bare spots where shingles should be, they should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent any damage from happening to your roof. 


Types of Construction

The most common type of asphalt shingle homeowners will have installed are either fiberglass shingles or organic mat-based shingles. The shingle will have either an asphalt-saturated organic substrate made from cellulose fibers like wood or paper, or it can have a fiberglass-based substrate or mat.

Fiberglass shingles can have these general characteristics:

  • High durability and strength
  • Lighter weight and thinner material
  • Higher fire rating than organic varieties
  • Longer warranties

Organic mat shingles can have 40 percent or more asphalt content than fiberglass which makes them heavier, thicker, and more expensive. However, they are also rugged, flexible, and able to absorb more damage over time.

The weathering side of the shingle is coated with a harder asphalt material and then embedded with special aggregate granules for a weathering surface. A heat-sensitive adhesive or "self-sealing strip" of mastic is then applied above the tabs, so the shingles adhere to each other once nailed in place in a staggered manner.


Shingles come in different basic design styles including the old standby three-tab strip shingle and the more textural dimensional laminated architectural shingle.

  • The strip shingle is a basic shingle with a strip of material (usually 3 times the length to height in proportion) with cutouts or tabs. The most common strip shingle is the 3-tab strip shingle.
  • The laminated dimensional shingle is a premium shingle and has multiple layers of tabs to create a texture and dimension to the shingle. A variation of the dimensional shingle is the luxury shingle which is much thicker and has larger exposures than dimensional shingles. Luxury shingles can mimic the appearance of wood or slate shingles.

Three-tab shingles have cutouts or tabs that are lined along their lower edges. This means that each shingle looks like three different pieces, but they’re one large piece. This type of shingle design remains the most popular and economical means of covering a roof. The three-tab shingle, after all, covers a lot of ground.

In comparison, laminated dimensional shingles have no cutouts but rather portions that are laminated with more asphalt. The sealant of asphalt bonds their layers, which reinforces their ability to defend against impact damage, rain, and wind.

Asphalt shingles are designed for roof slopes of at least a 4:12 pitch (4-inch vertical rise over a 12-inch horizontal run). Between 2:12 and 4:12 some manufacturers may allow their product to be used if installed according to their special instructions. Never install asphalt shingles on roof slopes less than 2:12.


Apart from the different asphalt shingle varieties and designs, there’s also no shortage of colors to choose from to put on your roof. The color choices have expanded since the inception of asphalt shingles, and your choices depend on what you want for your home and what matches its style.

Some of the tones will range from gray to red to brown, and you’ll find blue and green mixed in as well. You can also mix light and dark tones to create weathered or vintage shingles for older homes. Roofing professionals have access to new technology that allows you to experiment with colors on your home through an online tool before installing them on your home.

Asphalt Shingle Installation

The obvious first step is to remove the old roof. While it might be tempting to leave the old materials on to cut down on the labor costs, it's best not to lay a new roof over an old one. Removing the old roof also allows you and your contractor to see any potential bad wood that needs replacing. Start fresh to help ensure a longer-lasting roof without disintegrating or problem materials laying under it.

Protection barriers then are laid down before applying the shingles. An ice and waterproof protection barrier is attached over the drip edge area. Next, an underlayment layer is put down, overlapping each strip, across the entire roof. Metal drip edging and valley flashing are then nailed in their place before applying the asphalt shingles. 

The shingles are then attached, starting at the eaves and working upwards toward the roof's peak. Any roof vents needed are installed along the way. 

How to Select a Roofing Contractor

When it's time to replace your roof, you want to ensure that your roofing contractor is experienced in the field and has a good reputation for quality work. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured, also.

Top Brands of Asphalt Shingles

You can find asphalt shingles at all home improvement stores and roofing manufacturers. Top brands include:

  • GAF
  • CertainTeed
  • Tamko
  • Atlas
  • Owens Corning
  • IKO

Energy Efficient Shingles

For those homeowners who want to move towards green and energy-efficient homes, many manufacturers in the industry are starting to produce energy-efficient asphalt shingles. Using cool-roof technology, asphalt shingles are now being designed to absorb less heat from the sun. This cuts down on how much your air conditioner has to turn on during those hot summer days.

Are Asphalt Shingles Right For You?

Determining whether asphalt shingles are the right way to go for your home comes down to two factors: your preference and what you can afford. Asphalt shingles hold up well in any kind of weather conditions, from hot to cold climates. This type of shingle is the most cost-effective and the most popular due to its affordability and ease of maintenance.