How to Select the Best Roof Shingle Material for Your Home

We all need a "roof over our head" as the saying goes. Selecting the proper roof material for your home is an important decision affecting the curb appeal and degree of maintenance your home will require, not to mention the impact to your budget. 

This article describes the features, life expectancy and maintenance characteristics of the most common roof materials for homes which include:

  • Asphalt Shingles;
  • Luxury Asphalt Shingles;
  • Wood Shingles;
  • Wood Shakes;
  • Clay Tile Roof;
  • Concrete Tile...MORE Roofing.
  • 01 of 06
    A close-up of asphalt shingles
    Dimensional Asphalt Shingles. © GAF 2011

    Asphalt shingles are a very popular roof material for American homes. First used in 1901, asphalt shingles are durable, affordable and come in a variety of textures and colors.

    Organic base shingles are made of roofing felt or paper saturated with asphalt, making them waterproof. Fiberglass base shingles have glass and fiber with asphalt on top to make them waterproof as well. They are then covered in mineral granules for a wear surface.  Organic shingles are most durable but can be prone to...MORE fire. They are less environmentally "friendly" since more asphalt goes into them during manufacturing. If you’re concerned about fire, consider installing fiberglass shingles.

    Styles of asphalt shingles come in two varieties, the "strip" shingle and the "dimensional laminated" shingle. The strip shingle is a strip of shingle 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 dimensional laminated shingle has multiple layers of tabs to create a texture and dimension to the shingle.

    Maintenance Required: Initially asphalt shingles will not require much maintenance. However, over time roof maintenance will be required as the shingles can curl, crack and be subject to granule erosion. They may also be subject to environmental damage from mold, algae, and fungus if in a shady or wooded location.

    Life Expectancy: The range of lifespan for asphalt shingles varies considerably depending on the quality of the shingle, but properly installed, asphalt shingles can last 15 to 40+ years.

    Cost: Asphalt shingles can range from $180 (for strip shingles)  to $400 (for dimensional laminated shingles) per square (100 square feet of roof area) furnished and installed in 2016 dollars.




  • 02 of 06
    A close-up of luxury composite shingle
    Luxury composite shingle that simulates a slate roof. © Certainteed 2014

    For those who want the look of wood shake or slate roofing, there is the option called luxury asphalt shingles.

    These are very thick laminated shingles (up to 5⁄8 inches) and simulate the shadow lines and texture of expensive roofing products. The shingles are made up of several layers of fiberglass coated in asphalt, and then aggregate granules are added for weathering protection.

    This premium construction causes these shingles to be referred to as "lifetime" shingles since they can...MORE achieve warranties of up to 50 years.

    Maintenance Required: Very low maintenance due to the thickness and durability the shingle.

    Life Expectancy: The lifespan of luxury asphalt shingles can be upwards of 50 years.

    Cost: Luxury asphalt shingles can range from $300 to $600 per square (100 square feet of roof area) furnished and installed in 2016 dollars.


  • 03 of 06

    Wood Shingle Roof

    A close-up of wood shingles
    Cedar Wood Shingles. © Silva Timber Products 2011

    Wood shingles provide some of the most beautiful natural roofing options for your home. They can go by other names such as ‘perfections,’ ‘fivex,’ ‘5X’ and ‘royals’ and are precisely cut and sawn into specific sizes. Wood shingles are most commonly made from red cedar due to red cedar's availability and natural resistance to rot. In addition to being a roofing option, wood shingles can also be used as an exterior wall siding.

    Wood species less commonly used than red cedar include other...MORE rot-resistant options such as white cedar, redwood, and cypress (yellow cedar). Some wood species that are prone to wood rot (such as pine) will require special installation and rot treatment to minimize weathering problems.

    Part of selecting the correct wood shingle includes selecting the correct amount of exposed surface the wood shingle presents to the weather. This can vary by roof pitch, shingle length and shingle grade. As the roof pitch increases, so will the exposure of the weathered surface. As a result, for roof pitches of between 5:12 to 12:12, a 16" 5X shingle will have between 5" to 3-1/2" of exposure; an 18" Perfection can have 4" to 5-1/2" exposure and a 24" Royal will have between 5-1/2" and7-1/2" of exposure.

    Maintenance Required: low maintenance, however softwood species such as pine require special installation and treatment to minimize weathering problems. Unsealed wood shingles may experience rotting, warping or splitting. Over time, they will develop a patina of a soft grey. Wood shingles are easily replaced.

    Life Expectancy: Cedar and redwood shingles will last between 20 to 30 years if properly maintained and not located in damp wooded areas.

    Cost: Wood shingles cost more than asphalt shingles and can range from $350 to $450 per square (100 square feet of roof area) furnished and installed in 2016 dollars.


  • 04 of 06

    Wood Shake Roof

    wood shake
    Cedar Shakes (hand split). © Silva Timber Products 2011

    Unlike wood shingles which are sawn to precise dimensions, wood shakes are usually made by hand or machine split. This manufacturing technique provides the characteristic rustic, rough-hewn texture and slight irregularity of a wood shake.

    Cedar shakes have four main grades as defined by the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau:

    • Hand-Split Shakes
    • Tapersawn Shakes
    • Tapersplit Shakes
    • Straight-Split Shakes

    Like wood shingles, wood shakes are most commonly made from red cedar due to red cedar's availability...MORE and natural resistance to rot, and other rot-resistant species including white cedar, redwood, and cypress (yellow cedar). Wood shakes usually come in 18" to 24" lengths and random widths. They are thicker than wood shingles, with varying butt thickness. A shake with a weather exposure of 7-1/2" to 10" can have a butt thickness range of 1/2" to 3/4".

    Proper installation of a wood shake roof includes using corrosion resistant box or casing nails such as stainless steel, aluminum, galvanized (hot-dipped) or brass. The same is true with Wood shingled roofs.

    Shake roofs also require a special protective layer between shakes for proper installation, getting a 2-layer roof installation with a 30# felt paper underlayment between every row of shakes. The felt paper underlayment helps ensure water runoff and should be installed with at least a 6" overlap on vertical joints and a 2" overlap on the horizontal runs and 4" of felt paper wrapped at all corners.

    Maintenance Required: more durable than wood shingles. Over time, they will also develop a patina of a soft grey. Wood shakes are easily replaced.

    Life Expectancy: Cedar shakes will last between 30 to 50 years if properly maintained and not located in damp wooded areas.

    Cost: Wood shakes cost more than wood shingles and can range from $400 to $500 per square (100 square feet of roof area) furnished and installed in 2016 dollars.


    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Two hands laying down clay tile roofing
    Clay tile roofing is beautiful, durable, expensive and heavy. Fotolia

    Clay roof tile is a beautiful, durable and fireproof roofing material used in residential and commercial applications. It comes in curved, fluted or flat shapes.

    Clay tiles are often red and barrel-shaped and are often referred to as 'Spanish tile.' A French Tile is a version of clay tile that has more of a fluted design. Clay tile roofing can also look like wood shakes, clean-edged contemporary shapes or European villa style roofing. Tile roofing requires additional roof structure to...MORE handle the weight of the clay tiles which can be 4 times that of asphalt shingles.

    Maintenance Required: Clay roof tiles are virtually maintenance free. They are resistant to fire damage and resistant to rot or insect damage. They stand up to rain, snow or freezing and thawing cycles without damage and tile roofing can also be recycled;

    Life Expectancy: 50 to 100 years

    Cost: Clay tile roof shingles cost more than wood shakes and can range from $500 to $780 per square (100 square feet of roof area) furnished and installed in 2016 dollars.



  • 06 of 06

    Concrete Tile Shingle Roof

    A close-up of interlocking concrete tiles
    silkfactory/Getty Images

    Concrete tile roofing is an extremely durable material that interlocks and is a more economical choice than clay roof tiles. Concrete tile roofs, just as with clay tile roofs, require a roof structure capable of handling the additional weight over asphalt shingles. The range of aesthetic pleasing concrete tile roofing options has improved over early versions due to advances in pigmenting technologies and manufacturing technologies. Concrete tiles can now look like wood shake, clay tiles, slate...MORE or stone and have a range of finish textures including being smooth or textured.

    Maintenance Required: Concrete tile roofs bring extreme durability and can last 50 to 100 years or more. Concrete tiles are fire resistant and carry a Class A fire rating, and unlike asphalt shingles, concrete tiles are also resistant to hail damage and strong winds. Tiled roofs are designed to meet hurricane-force winds when properly installed (up to 150 MPH).

    Life Expectancy: 50 to 100 years

    Cost: Concrete tile roof shingles often cost less than clay tile roofs and can range from $450 to $575 per square (100 square feet of roof area) furnished and installed in 2016 dollars.