Asphalt Shingles vs. Composite Shingles: Which to Choose?

Asphalt Shingles vs. Composite Shingles: Which to Choose?

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Shingles are a great traditional way to finish a roof or to use as a siding material for a house, but which is better, asphalt or composite shingles? There are good reasons for using either type of shingles, but it really comes down to what kind of work they are expected to do.

Here’s our guide to whether asphalt or composite shingles will be the better choice for your project.

What Are Asphalt Shingles?

Asphalt shingles have been in use for over a century as, among their other pros, they are an inexpensive and reliable way to weatherproof a roof. They are an uncomplicated product made with a bituminous granulated top layer over a paper or fiberglass mat base.

They come in three main iterations, the three-tab shingle lowest cost option, the dimensional shingle, which simulates a wood finish, and the premium shingle, designed to look like slate. The premium type is thicker and generally lasts longer but at a price.

What Are Composite Shingles?

Composite shingles are a much more modern product and as their name suggests, can be made up of a number of recycled materials, including plastics, polymers, wood fiber, and slate. Manufacturers make them with molds to mimic natural materials such as slate and cedar shingles.

Curbside, it is hard to tell the difference between these composite mimics and the real thing, however, the fact that they are repurposed materials makes them a positive green environmental choice.

Asphalt Shingles vs. Composite Shingles: What Are the Differences?

Both are lighter-weight options compared to actual slate or cedar shingles, so are easier to handle and transport, but after that the differences are quite clear.


Any refurb, renovation or new build is governed by the project budget whether you are a lottery winner or just starting out as a homeowner. Asphalt shingles will always come in with a lower bottom line than their composite cousins simply because the cost of materials and production is so much lower.

The standard three-tab asphalt shingle has the lowest sticker price, and with a fair wind can be expected to do a good job for up to 25 years, which is something to factor in when making your decision. Higher priced asphalt options do come with conditional warranties up to 50 years, making replacement beyond the thoughts of most homeowners.

Composite shingles do start with a higher price as they are a more complex product to make, but they are harder wearing and come in a wide range of colors and finishes.

Wind Resistance

Asphalt shingles are rated to withstand winds of up to 90 mph, Class D, which is perfectly adequate for most regions and climate zones in the US. In exposed, or maritime locations asphalt shingles might struggle to remain on a roof in exceptional weather events. Storm damage can shorten their lifespan if repeated high wind events occur.

Composite shingles, on the other hand are far more robust and their fixing system means that they are rated to withstand winds between 110 mph and 190mph, Class F-H, which, while rarer in occurrence, also means that there is a fair margin between what they can withstand and what they might actually be expected to be exposed to.


Warranties are a great starting point when it comes to making a decision of this sort. If you don’t want to have the worry of a replacement roof in the coming quarter century, then you will either have to opt for a premium asphalt shingle product or a regular composite shingle.

Composite shingles should last fifty years with ease, a similar timespan that is expected from a natural slate roof. Most composite shingle products will be warrantied for the entire fifty year expected lifespan.

Impact Resistance

Composite shingles are rated 4, which is the highest rating a material can get, making it highly resistant to wind-blown material, falling branches, or footfall. Despite being exposed to the extremes of seasonal change and ultraviolet light, composite shingles are expected to retain their robustness and not become brittle.

Asphalt shingles are somewhat less robust. In fact it is advised that they not be walked on during hot weather as the action of footfall could unseat them. Similarly, wind-blown debris is likely to damage them. It’s true to say that they are equally easy to replace, and inexpensive, but this is all an additional maintenance cost.

It is possible to source grade 4 rated asphalt shingles, however, the granulated gravel that provides this protection can be gradually eroded over time, increasing the vulnerability of the waterproofing layer.

Fire Resistance

Many composite shingles boast an A rating when it comes to fire resistance, which means that they will not contribute to a fire event for at least one hour, giving occupants of a building time to exit safely. Most composite shingles will melt before they burn, fusing together across the roof structure.

On the other hand, bitumen, which is a major material in the make-up of asphalt shingles, burns without let or hindrance and will very likely quickly contribute to a house fire. On hotter than average days it might even begin to melt in direct sunlight, although it is unlikely to spontaneously catch fire.

Insulation Effect

One key difference between the two products is that asphalt shingles tend to absorb heat through the course of a hot summer’s day and remain warm through the night, whereas a composite shingle roof will reflect the sun’s rays.

If you are in a particularly warm region and are considering what and how much insulation you should use in your attic then it is worthwhile taking into account how well a roof covering will work with your insulation in order to maintain good liveable conditions inside the house.

Asphalt Shingles vs. Composite Shingles: Which Should You Use?

There are a couple of situations where the advice really should be use composite instead of asphalt shingles. These are when your project is in:

  1. A maritime or mountain region where it will be exposed to high winds
  2. A region that may be in a tornado zone

With regard to using asphalt instead of composite shingles the best argument is price. A well looked-after asphalt roof can last just as long as a composite roof if you are prepared to take on the general maintenance, and will cost, on average, half as much to install.


So there we have it, asphalt shingles against composite shingles. While asphalt absolutely cannot be beaten on price, composite wins hands down on durability. Both products are treated to repel mold, and both are constantly being updated to improve looks, lifetime wear, and impact resistance.

If you are starting out and need to adjust a budget to ensure a project’s needs are met then it might be a sensible move to plan for an asphalt roof with one eye on upgrading at a later date to composite, say when the kids have grown up and left home.

On the other hand, you could be in a position where there is a risk that the next series of autumn storms could be the undoing of all your hard work. Let’s not forget that the roof is there to protect everything you hold dear, so weigh up the risk versus the benefits.

As a general rule, if you are in a high-risk area then it would be worth spending the extra money on a more expensive, but ultimately guaranteed composite shingle roofing system for the peace of mind it would bring.