Compare Roofing Shingles

    Shingles before installation

    There are many kinds of roofing shingles available for your home. What's the difference between them? Usually, the main factor when you compare roofing shingles is budget. Cost varies enormously from a 3-tab asphalt shingle to a slate shingle. Other considerations include weather resistance, compatibility with the architectural style of your home, and the environmental impact of the product.

    Here we compare roofing shingles in terms of appearance, performance, and eco-friendliness, from least expensive to most expensive.

    Asphalt Shingles

    Asphalt shingles, which are the most common kind of shingle, come in many styles and price points. Appropriate for any climate, they are wind-resistant and easy to maintain. The basic asphalt shingle is a 3-tab shingle; it’s available in many colors, but offers no textural interest.

    Architectural shingles are laminated asphalt, which brings depth of color and texture for a more natural appearance. You can compare roofing shingles that mimic natural elements such as stone and wood among the laminated asphalt types. Most homeowners choose an architectural shingle for its good looks at a cost not much higher than the 3-tab shingle.

    When you compare roofing shingles made of asphalt, you can differentiate between those reinforced with organic materials and those reinforced with fiberglass. Organic shingles consist of a felt base covered in asphalt and colored mineral granules. Fiberglass shingles are made up of a fiberglass mat between layers of asphalt and mineral granules and have a better fire rating. Consumers looking for eco-friendly choices can choose an asphalt shingle with reflective granules to reduce heat transfer from the roof to the attic. Some of these are made using recycled materials.

    Synthetic Shingles

    Synthetic shingles are pricier than asphalt shingles. They are made to look like other roofing materials such as slate, wood shakes, and tile; are available in many colors and styles; and are good for any climate. The durability of material and color is still being determined. Many synthetic shingles are produced with recycled materials and may, in turn, be recycled after use.

    Metal Shingles

    Metal roofs aren’t just for commercial buildings anymore. Panels or shingles are now marketed for residential applications. Metal shingles can be made to look like other materials, while panels offer clean lines which look equally appropriate on a farmhouse and on urban applications. Metal roofing offers durability and is ideal in harsh weather conditions. It is resistant to fire, hail, moisture and fungal growth and is low-maintenance. It’s also one of the more expensive roofing materials, which is worth noting in a roof shingle comparison. Metal roofing is fully recyclable and can be made of recycled materials.

    Wood Shingles

    Wood shingles are a choice for high-end applications, but a high-end budget is in order. They are certainly beautiful, but also high-maintenance, as they are susceptible to rot and to insect damage. Typically, the fire rating is poor, though this depends on how they have been pretreated. Plus, wood shingles are expensive. If after your roof shingle comparison you decide that nothing but a wood shingle or shake will do, look for one that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to guarantee that the wood is from a well-managed forest.

    Slate Shingles

    Slate is elegant, whether in a new home or a historic home. It’s durable, withstands just about any weather, lasts for a long time and is low-maintenance. If you are reroofing, chances are that you will have to reinforce your roof trusses to accommodate the weight of slate. Slate is expensive. It is a natural – though non-renewable – resource and can be recycled. However, it leaves a large environmental footprint when the energy expended to get it from quarry to roof is considered.

    Whichever roofing shingle you choose, hire a licensed, reliable local contractor to install your new roof.

    Updated July 19, 2018.

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