Shingles vs. Rolled Roofing: Which to Choose?

Shingles vs. Rolled Roofing: Which to Choose?

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Does your roof need replacing? It’s so important to choose the right material for a roof, as a properly installed roof can be the difference between a warm, dry, cozy home and a disaster. In this article, we’ll discuss shingles and rolled roofing, which are two very common types of roofing materials.

So keep on reading to find out all you need to know about these two roofing options.

What Are Shingles?

Shingles are one of the most popular roofing options in North America, as they are durable, cost-effective, and installed relatively easily.

Roof shingles protect a building from the wind, rain, and sun. A shingle is a rectangular material made from layers of felt or fiberglass, asphalt, and a top layer of UV-protecting granules. The design mimics the appearance of more expensive roofing materials, such as tiles. Depending on the type used, they can look very similar to tiles, or they can quite clearly be a different roofing material.

Shingles come in many different styles and types. For example, asphalt shingles are extremely common in the USA, as are fiberglass shingles and architectural shingles. In this article, when the term ‘shingles’ is used, it’s referring to the asphalt variety.

What Is Rolled Roofing?

Rolled roofing, also called MSR, is another very common roofing material in North America, largely because it is inexpensive and installation is comparatively easy.

This material is usually made from asphalt with a felt or fiberglass base. The product comes in thin rolls that cover roughly 100 square feet of roof. The standard dimensions of an unrolled strip are 36’x36’ wide. However, there is some variation between manufacturers.

Shingles vs. Rolled Roofing: What Are the Differences?

Shingles and rolled roofing share a lot of the same materials. Despite this, there are key differences that must be understood when choosing what product to use on your roof. In this section, we’ll break down the differences between the two across some key factors, including durability, cost, appearance, and installation.


The roof material’s main function is to protect a building from the weather. Because of this, it must withstand tough environmental conditions. If it can’t, the roof will need to constantly be repaired, which can be a difficult and expensive job.

Compared to each other, shingles are more durable than rolled roofing. Firstly, shingles tend to be thicker. But one of the main factors that make shingles more durable is that a roof of shingles is made up of multiple moving elements. A building will move and change shape with the seasons and temperature, and shingles can adapt to this better than the larger sections of rolled roof.

In terms of longevity, a rolled roof is expected to last between 5-8 years. Asphalt shingles will last a minimum of 10 years in poor conditions but can go up to 25 years. Fiberglass and architectural shingles will last many more years than that as well.


Shingles cost more than rolled roofing. This is because they require more input when being manufactured. They must be cut into smaller components and they are also made from thicker material.


The general consensus is that rolled roofing is less aesthetically appealing than shingles. In some areas, homeowner associations and local councils won’t allow residential properties to have rolled roofing.

MSR generally comes in black and, when installed, looks like multiple large blocks of material and color. On the other hand, shingles come in a range of shapes, colors, and styles. Depending on the type of shingle you purchase, they will have a varying number of tile-like ‘tabs’ on each shingle. Most commonly, a shingle will have three tabs. However, two and four-tab shingles are also available.

More expensive architectural shingles are designed to mimic the appearance of tiled and slated roofs. High-quality shingles look extremely similar to the tiles they mimic. However, lower-quality ones are distinctly different.


Installation of rolled roofing is quick and much easier than shingles. However, this leads a lot of people to assume they can DIY it without proper research. If roofing is installed incorrectly, it can cause serious damage to a structure. Rolled roofing requires an adhesive to cover the roof, which the roll is then unfurled over. Additionally, as the roll is moving over the surface, some products require heating or nailing.

Generally, rolled roofing is not installed on residential buildings, but that’s not always the case. Frequently sheds, workshops, and garages have rolled roofing. The product is ideally used on roofs with a low pitch. However, it shouldn’t be installed on flat roofs. Consider a rainfall of 2” every 12 weeks as a minimum requirement. If MSR is installed on a flat roof, water can puddle and the chance of leaks greatly increases.

Shingles need to be laid from the bottom edge of the roof in horizontal courses, overlapping as they move upwards towards the roof ridgeline. The bottom long edge of a shingle has a strip of adhesive glue. This glue activates under heat from the sun after the shingles have been installed. The sun heats the shingles up, the glue activates, and it becomes sticky, which binds the loose edge to the shingle it overlaps. This feature stops the wind from getting underneath and causing damage.

The ridge of a shingle roof is then covered with a capping piece or a similar material. This process means that water from the top of the roof runs down the shingles and into the gutter without penetrating into the structure beneath. Installing shingles takes longer than rolled roofing because there are more components involved in the process.

Shingles vs. Rolled Roofing: Which One Should You Use?

The choice to use either shingles or rolled roofing really comes down to what structure they will be covering. A lot of residential areas won’t allow rolled roofing on homes. However, garages and outbuildings might be able to use it. Shingles are more expensive than rolled roofing, but they will last significantly longer and generally look better.


Shingles and rolled roofing are both extremely popular, offering a cheap and accessible roofing option. However, there are clear differences between what each product can do. Choosing the right roofing material is so important for the longevity and safety of a building. Without the correct material, a roof will degrade quickly, allowing the elements in and heat out.