For homeowners interested in purchasing traditional shingles for their home, it typically comes down to asphalt shingles or composites. Specialty roofing like metal or tile have their place as well, but the classic shingle style is a top seller across the board.
If you need a new roof for your home or are considering alternatives, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we're going to break down the pros and cons of composite compared to its asphalt counterpart. We will also cover some key areas with composites including a price range, styles, and brands.
Table of Contents
- What Are Asphalt Shingles?
- What Are Composite Shingles?
- What Are Their Pros and Cons?
- Asphalt vs. Composite Roof Shingles
- Price Comparison and Availability
- Types of Composite Roof Shingles
- Composite Roofing Manufacturers
What Are Asphalt Shingles?
Asphalt roofing shingles are the most affordable type of roofing for residential use. While all contain a measure of asphalt, there are some key differences between styles as you can see from our 3-tab vs. architectural shingle guide.
Asphalt shingles consist of multiple layers of material, with a top layer of granules that provide the shingle with color while protecting the waterproof underlayer from UV rays and fire. Beneath the top layer is an asphalt-coated fiberglass mat that gives strength and durability.
The main thing to keep in mind with asphalt shingles is that they are affordable and easy to acquire in all 50 states. They are easier to work with as well and can last homeowners 30 years on average. Keep in mind, that's if you use high-quality shingles as the mileage varies in the budget-friendly class.
What Are Composite Shingles?
Whenever you hear the term composite, it refers to something that is made from several different materials or elements. Composite roofing consists of multiple roofing materials - recycled plastics, rubber, and paper products, asphalt, and fiberglass (among others). Due to the eco-friendly composition, many people refer to composite shingles as plastic roof shingles.
In the roofing world, the word composite shingles covers roofing materials that are made from synthetics, similar to what you see with composite deck manufacturers. These shingles come in a variety of styles and colors with the ability to mimic roofing like slate or clay tile. As with asphalt shingles, the top products can last for decades, and while there are also composite asphalt shingles, they are in an entirely different category due to their structure.
Impact rating and fire resistance are high with composite roofing shingles, and they don't require as much maintenance. Many companies use recycled products in their shingles and tiles as well, which makes it one of the greener roofing materials available to homeowners today.
Pro Tip: Be aware that composition shingles are not the same thing as composite materials. Composite materials consist of plastic and other recycled materials. Composition is asphalt shingles with multiple layers. Internet search results often display both types when searching for composite, so it's crucial to pay attention to the spelling to ensure you're viewing the proper shingles.
What Are Their Pros and Cons?
Pros of Composite Shingles
Besides being eco-friendly, composite shingles have excellent performance. This type of shingle is impervious to water and is fire resistant. Most composite shingles have a Class F to H wind rating, allowing for resistance against wind gusts between 110 and 190 mph, making them ideal for locations with significant weather (tornadoes, hurricanes).
Depending on the brand you choose, composite shingles may have algae protection and won't peel, crack, warp, or split. Many lines also have extended warranties that exceed warranties of asphalt shingles.
- Variety Choices
You can find composite shingles in various colors and styles, with some lines resembling wood shakes, tile, or natural slate. And because composite shingles are lighter in weight, they're more versatile to use on homes that can't handle the excessive weight of asphalt shingles.
Once you install your roof, you could be worry-free for 30 to 50 years. Since the construction is a single layer with no granules, there's less risk of damage to common enemies of asphalt shingles - hail, sun, and wind.
- Regulates Internal Heat
Composite shingles are also better for regulating the internal temperature of your home when compared to asphalt shingles. Plastic shingles have a higher UV resistance, with some lines reflecting solar heat, allowing the inside to stay at a comfortable temperature.
Cons of Composite Shingles
The biggest downside of composite roofing is the higher upfront costs. You can expect to pay 2 to 3 times more for composite shingles compared to installing asphalt shingles. And it has a lower ROI during reselling compared to using architectural asphalt shingles - best ROI.
- No Enhanced Wind Resistance
A great thing about asphalt shingles is you can use enhanced installation techniques to increase the wind resistance. However, with composite shingles, you do not have this option.
Pros of Asphalt Shingles
- Versatile Use
The most significant advantage of asphalt shingles is their ability to work on any roof style, even with odd angles and shapes. If you have a roof with a steep pitch or a low slope, asphalt shingles will work excellent.
- Huge Selection
No matter whether you want a unique color to match your home's palette or you prefer shingles that look like natural elements - slate or wood, there's an asphalt shingles line that fits your needs.
- 3-Tier Organization
This type of shingle comes in three varieties - 3-tab, architectural, or designer. The best shingle for those on a budget or who don't want to invest in a more expensive roof is a 3-tab shingle. This style is the most popular and is the traditional flat look people think of for shingles. If you need a light shingle with moderate performance and wind ratings up to 90 mph, 3-tab is your go-to.
Architectural shingles - referred to as dimensional - give your roof more appeal by having multiple layers to create a 3D look. Designer shingles are ultra-definition architectural shingles. Both styles have better performance and durability than 3-tab, with wind ratings between 110 and 130 mph.
Both premium types resemble authentic materials - wood shake or slate. But due to construction, these shingles are heavier and won't work for all roofs.
Most premium shingles, and some 3-tab, have built-in algae protection, and some may have a Class 4 impact rating. All shingles from reputable brands have a Class A fire rating - the best possible.
Many people choose asphalt shingles due to their more affordable price compared to metal or composite roof shingles. We break down the costs in the pricing comparison below.
The most budget-friendly asphalt shingle is the 3-tab, with some brands costing less than $1 a square foot (12" x12"). Architectural and designer shingles cost more but have a longer lifespan, making money well spent.
You'll spend the least amount of money upfront for installing asphalt shingles, and you'll save money with little maintenance and repairs. Many shingles have extended warranties that will cover decades or even the lifespan of the roof.
Even if you need extra features like higher wind or impact resistance, all three shingle tiers have lines that include these benefits for minimal additional costs.
Cons of Asphalt Shingles
- Granule loss
The biggest downside of asphalt shingles is granule loss. As the granules degrade with exposure to wind, hail, debris, and the sun, small pieces will start to fall away. Without the granules, the asphalt will become brittle and start cracking, resulting in failed performance. Most warranties do not cover granule loss or damage.
- Wind Resistance
Another issue with asphalt shingles is their wind resistance. This type of shingle is easy to tear during installation or once attached to your roof. Depending on the brand, asphalt shingles have a lower wind rating of Class D (90 mph winds), or F (110).
You may be able to increase the wind rating to 130 mph using different installation techniques. But few, if any, asphalt shingles will have as high of wind resistance as composite shingles (up to 190 mph).
- Heat Absorbing
Asphalt shingles tend to absorb more heat (unless they're Cool Color rated), which means you'll pay higher heating and cooling bills. If energy efficiency is crucial for you, you will do better installing a metal roof, which does the best job of blocking heat or choosing composite shingles.
- Roof Slope
Plus, some roofs may not be able to use asphalt shingles due to the roof's slope. Your roof needs to have a minimal 2:12 (rise/run) pitch to install asphalt shingles. If your roof slope is lower or non-existent, you wouldn't be able to use asphalt shingles.
Asphalt vs. Composite Roof Shingles
Both asphalt and composite shingles can last for up to 50 years depending on the style and quality. That said, synthetic composite roofing often comes with a longer guarantee. Like most composite materials, these shingles and tiles are considered incredibly durable with excellent weather resistance.
Composite roofing has an advantage with durability, but not with pricing. Asphalt shingles can be more than half the price of composite shingles, although the gap narrows somewhat on the premium end. They are lighter, which makes them easier to install as well, which can result in savings from your roofing contractor.
Style is another important factor when choosing shingles for your home. While you can buy asphalt shingles in over a dozen shades, composite shingles have an edge as they encompass more than one style of shingle. You can find dozens of shades in composite wood shake and tile. The selection of composite slate tiles isn't as vast, however.
If durability is important, and you are interested in more styles than a traditional or dimensional shingle can provide, composite shingles are the ideal choice for your home. They will increase the value of your house compared to asphalt, and can drastically alter the appearance of your home in some cases.
While the cost of installation and material should be taken into account, the upgrade to a composite roof shingle is well worth it for your family's forever home. Shingles and slate that use a high amount of recycled content can also qualify for LEEDS points.
Price Comparison and Availability
As we mentioned, one of the only drawbacks of purchasing composite roofing shingles is the price. To install composite asphalt roofing, you can expect to pay between $7.75 and $14.50 a square foot, including the installation price, with an average range of $8.85 to $10.50 per square foot.
Installation can be slightly more costly if you don't have a qualified installer in your area, but for most homeowners, the cost of the product itself is the determining factor. Composite roofing comes in a bundle with 22 to 28 pieces per bundle. You'll need 6 to 8 bundles to equal one roofing square (100 square feet).
Whereas asphalt shingles cost between $1.50 and $5.50 a square foot, averaging about $150 to $550 per roofing square. Prices are cheaper for 3-tab (basic) shingles ($0.90 sq ft) than architectural ($4.50 sq ft). Asphalt shingles also come in bundles, although how many bundles cover one roofing square varies by brand.
While obtaining pricing is challenging with composite roofing manufacturers, we were able to get details from a few brands. With EcoStar, you can expect to pay between $65.00 to $100 per bundle for composite slate shingles, with each bundle containing 25 pieces. That comes out to around $2.60 per shingle on the low end.
By comparison, Quarrix Double Roman Tiles are around $10 each, which would be $250 for that amount of tiles. DaVinci's larger Bellaforte shakes are roughly $33-$36 for one piece and priced at $350 for a 10 piece bundle. Keep in mind, coverage varies by the size of the roof tile whether it's a synthetic shake or shingle.
In regards to availability, all of the companies we've covered have a contact form on site. This will allow you to get a direct quote from businesses that deal directly with the public, although a contractor may be required for a quote in some cases.
Price per sq ft
Price per square
Types of Composite Roof Shingles
Advances in production techniques have allowed manufacturers to use composite materials in a variety of ways. While they haven't been able to make a worthwhile successor to every type of roofing shingle, they have managed to slate, shake, and barrel tile that looks just like the real thing.
Composite Shake Tile
Homeowners that want to stick with the traditional look of tile, have a number of options to choose from with composite roofing materials. These are shake-style roofing shingles that have plenty of character, and come in sizes ranging from anywhere from 4" to 12" wide.
The thickness, impact rating, and overall style of composite shake tiles vary from one company to the next. You can hand-split shingles as well from companies like DaVinci or special order custom color combinations depending on your needs.
Composite Slate Tile
Slate is a building material that's used in applications where longevity is key, and while it's ideal for roofing, it's also heavy and expensive. Composite slate roofing tiles solve both of those issues and allow homeowners to enjoy the beauty of natural slate without the issues that come along with it.
Composite slate comes in many formats from chisel point tiles to slate shingles with beveled edges. Multi-colored slate is also available through companies like Brava if you're looking for something truly unique. Composite slate roofing is durable, and one of the more realistic options is the composite roofing world.
Composite Barrel Tile
The Double Roman tile, otherwise known as a Spanish Barrel tile, has been used for centuries and is still going strong today. This distinctive roofing tile is expensive in its traditional format, but composite barrel tiles aren't quite as pricey and add a few unique benefits as well.
Terracotta barrel tiles are lovely, but can't take abuse like a composite Spanish barrel tile with a Class 4 impact rating. These tiles won't crack, are water-resistant, and have a lifespan that far exceeds traditional barrel tile roofs.
Class A or C
Class A or C
Class A or C
Class A or C
Composite Roofing Manufacturers
If you are still curious about composite shingles, in this part of our composite roof shingle review, we are going to discuss the styles available along with pricing from some of the top brands. It's also important to understand a bit more about the history behind these shingles, and that they are not the composite materials used by manufacturers decades ago.
Early types of shingles that fell under the composite banner included panels and shingles made from Transite. It's a combination of concrete and asbestos that was popular with manufacturers for decades before cancer concerns were brought to the forefront.
Other synthetic materials like plastic roof shingles have also been popular over the years. While safer and cheaper, none of these older composites are nearly durable as the materials used by manufacturers today.
Several manufacturers produce composite roofing. Most of these brands deal strictly with composites, although you can find some asphalt shingle manufacturers who also produce composite shingles, such as CertainTeed, the top asphalt shingle producer.
Popular composite roofing manufacturers we did not review but who make superior products includes:
- Quarrix (Double Roman tiles in 6 colors)
- CeDUR (one line of cedar shake in 3 colors)
- Brava (Slate - 14 colors, Shake - 9 colors, or Barrel - 20+ colors - tile)
- InSpire (3 lines - Classic Slate - 14 colors, Aledora Slate - 11 colors, Arcella Shake)
- Ply Gem - (Cedar Shake - 6 colors, Ply Gem Slate - 15 colors - 12 standards, 3 accents)
- Enviroshake - (Enviroshake, Enviroshingle, Enviroslate)
If you're interested in a top-tier composite roof for your home, DaVinci Roofscapes should be at the top of your list. The company currently carries 3 kinds of composite products with slate shingles, shake shingles and hand-split shake siding.
Slate was the first product DaVinci produced, and it is available in three options with single-width, multi-width, and Bellaforté. Their multi-width styles range from 6" to 12" wide and come in 12 different colors, while their single-width counterparts are listed in 9 hues.
The budget-friendly Bellaforté also has 9 colors with some slightly different shades. As for the company's composite shake shingles, they are engineered with deep grooves and grain patterns. This helps mimic the look of wooden shingles, but without problems that come along with them.
The company's composite shake shingles come in four styles with Single-width, Hand-split, Select, and Bellaforté. There are 8 colors available across those lines, including multi-tonal shades like Aged Cedar and Tahoe. DaVinci's composite roofing products are all listed as made in the USA.
This company offers 7 lines of polymer composite roofing shingles. All have a Class 4 impact resistance and 110 mph wind rating. The Bellaforté slate and Select Shake are the value lines.
If you prefer the look of slate, DaVinci offers a multi-width slate (12 colors, 4"-9"), single-width slate (9 colors, 9" or 12"), or Bellaforté slate (9 colors, including EcoBlend Cool Roof, certified colors).
- Wood shake
For a wood shake design, there's the multi-width (4"-9" in 9 colors), single-width (9" in 8 colors), Bellaforté (12" in 8 colors), or the Select Shake (8" or 10" in 8 colors).
BRAVA Roof Tile
Brava roof tile is another company that specializes in composite roofing materials which range from shake and tile to slate. Their synthetic cedar shake roofing varies in thickness to give it a split texture and comes in three widths with a solid 50-year limited warranty for residential use.
That's the same guarantee you'll get from Brava Old World Slate as well. This composite slate is designed to look like natural quarried slate roofing. It doesn’t require any special substructure due to its lightweight nature and is sturdy enough to allow you to walk across your roof without fear of breakage.
While both of those styles can be found through other manufacturers, their Barrel Tile stands apart. They are easier to install than clay tile and can be screwed down or attached with a nail gun as well. Their shingles, slate, and Spanish barrel tiles are only available in one style but come in almost any color combination you can imagine.
For more than 20 years, EcoStar has produced sustainable roofing for homeowners across the United States. Their products are largely made from a combination of recycled rubber and plastic with up to 80% post-recycled material. The company also has three Energy Star-rated colors in their arsenal as well including the vivid Saratoga Sunset slate.
That color is from the company's slate lineup which includes four lines. Empire and Majestic slate are similar although Empire is available in 14 colors and custom shades while Majestic keeps things simple with its synthetic slate. Empire Niagara and Majestic Niagara share plenty of similarities as well, but with a slightly different color range and price points.
If you prefer wood-like shake shingles to composite slate, EcoStar has that covered and Empire Niagara Shake is one of their more affordable options. Majestic is the next step up and comprised of 80% post-industrial recycled content like Seneca Shake. The company has matching hip & ridge joints for all their collections as well.
EcoStar is another top composite roofing manufacturer of shingles specifically formulated for steep roofs. All shingles come with 50-year Gold Star Warranty/50-year Limited Material Warranty and Class 4 impact rating. These shingles are made with recycled plastics and rubbers to give superior flexibility and durability.
EcoStar offers Majestic Slate (11 colors), Empire Slate (14 colors), Empire Niagara Slate (14 colors), or Majestic Niagara Slate (11 colors). The Majestic Niagara Slate comes in a thicker, larger tile, whereas the Empire Niagara Slate has deep shadow lines and a larger profile (⅝" thick, 12" or 14" W). Both the Majestic Slate and Empire Slate (12" W) have smaller tiles.
For a wood shake look, check out the Seneca Shake (6", 9", or 12" W, 11 colors), Empire Shake(6", 9" 12" W, 14 colors), Majestic Niagara Shake (11 colors), or the Empire Niagara Shake (14 colors). Both the Majestic and the Empire Niagara lines have a larger profile with thicker construction (¾" thick, 22" L, 7"-10" W).
Other Composite Roof Manufacturers
The brands we've touched on are some of the more popular names in this space, but far from the only options available for homeowners. Quarrix is an example of that, and while they only have one style of composite shingle, their Double Roman tiles are noteworthy.
These through-color tiles are available in 6 colors with a Class 4 impact rating and a 50-year warranty. If you prefer shingle shakes to barrel tile, CeDUR may be a better alternative. They produce synthetic shakes with realistic texturing, which come in 4 colors and are sized at 5", 7", or 12" wide. While both of those companies produce tough synthetics, they don't hold a candle to DECRA roofing.
DECRA is actually a metal roofing manufacturer, but unique as their products are a composite of stone-coated steel. From their Villa Tile collection to the DECRA Shingle and Shake lineups, they provide homeowners with a range of luxury composite roofing materials. Their roofing also has a slightly higher wind rating than other manufacturers and sports a limited lifetime warranty.
Composite roof shingles are fantastic eco-friendly options for locations with heavy storms, frequent debris, and significantly high winds such as coastlines, tornado-prone climates, or northern states with heavy ice. These shingles have superior performance, longevity, and aesthetics compared to traditional asphalt shingles. However, they have a higher cost, despite often being made from recycled materials.
While some styles can be considerably more expensive than a traditional asphalt shingle, you can clearly see the advantages that composite roof tiles bring to the table. The fact that most manufacturers use post-recycled content is a benefit many homeowners aren't aware of, and one that may pay off in the form of LEED credits.