Types of Roof Shingles: Which Is the Best?

Types of Roof Shingles: Which Is the Best?

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Choosing the right roofing shingle material for your home is a crucial decision that can impact the look, durability, and energy efficiency of your roof. With so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which material is the best fit for your needs.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of roofing shingle materials, their benefits and drawbacks, and the factors to consider when choosing the right shingle for your home.

A Quick Note: Not All Roofing Is Shingles

In order for roofing material to be considered a shingle, it must be made of flat, rectangular shapes that are laid out in an overlapping fashion from the bottom of the roof upwards. Often, they’re laid on top of a lining material such as felt paper to prevent leaks, and they are typically made from wood, asphalt, or fiberglass.

In some cases, ceramic and stone roof tiles are referred to as shingles. These materials are not true shingles because of their thickness, overall shape, and installation method.

The same can be said of solar shingles and metal panels. While they are the same size as shingles and are designed to lay flat on the roof, they are made from non-traditional materials and require a specialized installation method that differs greatly from standard shingles.

3 Types of Roof Shingles

Let’s discuss three types of roof shingles widely available on the market: asphalt, wood, and composite. You can find the benefits and disadvantages of each, what they’re best suited for, and how much they cost.


The traditional go-to roofing material in North America, asphalt shingles are readily available and can be very cost-effective. They are made from 12” x 36” fiberglass mats soaked in water-resistant asphalt and coated with a layer of rock granules, coated with UV-protected pigment (see how fiberglass shingles compare to traditional asphalt shingles).

The appearance of shingles varies greatly, as they are typically sold with the following shapes and qualities in mind:

  • Three-tabbed shingles are the most common type. The sheets are notched to give the appearance of three individual shingles per sheet.
  • Architectural shingles are made from a double-layered sheet that gives the appearance of overlapping rows. They are the best quality shingle design available.
  • Premium or luxury shingles are cut into custom shapes and sizes to mimic decorative or antique designs. These shingles can be scalloped, zigzagged, or diamond-shaped, amongst other designs.

Asphalt shingles are great for most climates, with the exception of extremely rainy or humid regions due to mold and algae growth. They’re quite durable, withstanding winds up to 150 miles per hour if properly rated. They are somewhat fire-resistant and offer some insulation. Life expectancy is typically between 15 – 30 years, but in some cases with architectural and luxury shingles, they can last up to 50 years.

The drawbacks of asphalt shingles are their shorter lifespans compared to other roofing materials. As mentioned above, they can be susceptible to mold and algae growth in wet conditions, and they can be damaged in extreme wind. They’re also quite susceptible to hail damage, which, if left untreated, can lead to further deterioration of the shingles, as well as leaks in your roof.

Shingles are typically priced by roofing square, which is 100 sqft. In 2023, three-tabbed shingles cost between $51 – $124 per roofing square and architectural or luxury shingles between $60 – $280 per roofing square.


Made of the heartwood of cedar trees, cedar shingles are a beautiful option for a natural appearance. Often confused with cedar shake, cedar shingles are true individual shingles smooth-sawn with a blade and are slightly wedge-shaped so that they lay flat across the roof. While not technically a shingle, cedar shake is often treated as such, though with a more rustic feel, and is made of thicker planks that are split by hand instead of sawn.

One of the main benefits of cedar shingles is their natural resistance to decay and insect damage due to the oils present in the wood. They are also impressively moisture-resistant and have a life expectancy of up to 50 years.

Over time, cedar patinas to a gorgeous silvery grey color, which is a large part of their appeal. They can withstand winds up to 173 mph and 90 lbs per sqft, with cedar shake resisting up to 245 mph and 180 lbs per sqft. They are quite resistant to hail damage, only requiring occasional replacements if a shingle is cracked from the impact.

They make for excellent insulation, and their light weight makes them a dream to install, though these types of shingles are not a suitable choice for dry regions where fire is an ongoing concern. Drawbacks of cedar shingles include a higher cost compared to asphalt shingles, some additional maintenance needed to prevent weathering (if a patina is not desired) and rotting, and potential fire hazards if not treated properly.

On average, cedar shingles can cost anywhere from $4 to $10 per sqft, including installation costs.


Made of a mixture of several materials, including but not limited to fiberglass, recycled paper, and asphalt, composite shingles are a great long-lasting “green” option. They have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years, with some manufacturers guaranteeing a lifetime warranty.

There are many benefits to composite materials. They’re designed to mimic the look of slate or cedar shake while being a more cost-effective alternative. They are moisture, mold, and algae-resistant, and are both fire and impact-resistant. These shingles can withstand wind from 110 – 190 miles per hour while still being very lightweight, making them easy to ship and install.

Composite roofing’s primary drawback is the higher price point when compared with other roofing materials. There are also some concerns regarding their impact on the environment, as they require more processing to create than other materials and take longer to break down in landfills.

Roofs made of composite are good for those that are looking for an elevated look at a friendlier price. Costs differ based on the desired look and feel. Cedar shake lookalike can cost around $14 – $18 per sqft, while composite slate runs between $10 and $12–sometimes even up to $20 per sqft.

In a separate article, we wrote more about how asphalt shingles compare with composite shingles.

What Type of Shingle Is the Best?

Not all shingles are created equal, and while one type of shingle may be best suited for a specific situation, it might not be for other types of installations. Here are some situations where one material may shine more than others.

Best for Your Budget

For the budget-conscious homeowner, it’s hard to find a roofing material that is less expensive than asphalt shingles while offering the same beautiful aesthetic. The best part about asphalt shingles is that there are so many brands and options available on the market, you are sure to find something that falls within your means.

Best for Dry Climates

From the materials on the list, the best type of shingle for dry climates is composite. Due to their resistance to UV rays and their ability to retain their color over time, they have an advantage over asphalt shingles, which tend to fade and deteriorate faster in harsh sunlight.

This is a huge advantage for homeowners that want the look of wood roofing without the increased risk of fire. In fact, CeDUR, one of the most popular composite brands, reached temperatures above 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit during fire testing without ignition.

Best for Wet Climates

Due to their resistance to mold and algae growth, composite shingles are also better suited for wet climates. The fiberglass and polymers in these roofs are less likely to warp, rot, or develop leaks over time, meaning you have less maintenance to worry about overall.

Cedar shingles come in second place for wet climates. The wood does absorb some moisture in rainy environments, though the slight swelling pushes the shingles closer together, actually decreasing the likelihood that water will make it into your home. Though in very humid or wet regions, rot and decay may become a concern that reduces the lifespan of a wood roof.

Most Verasatile Shingle

Overall, the most versatile shingle in terms of availability, color, design, and price is the asphalt shingle. They are a popular choice for homeowners who are looking for a roofing material that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. These shingles are lightweight and can be used in various climate conditions. They are relatively easy to install and maintain, which can be great for a homeowner on a budget or that loves DIY.

Being quite flexible in nature, asphalt shingles are also great for non-traditional roof shapes and steep slopes. For these reasons, they remain the most popular roofing material on the market.


So there you have it, a rundown of the different types of roofing shingles available. Each type of shingle has its pros and cons, so it’s worth doing your research and consulting with a professional roofer to make an informed decision. With the right choice, you can enjoy a durable, beautiful roof that provides protection and adds value to your home.

Before deciding, though, you might also want to read about how shingles compare with roof tiles, the other popular type of roofing.