Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing material, used on over 70% of structures. This article will look at everything you need to know about asphalt shingles.
Table of Contents
- What are Asphalt Shingles?
- How to Pick Asphalt Shingles?
- Asphalt Shingles 3 Types
- Asphalt Shingle Ratings
- Asphalt Shingle Styles
- Color Options
- Asphalt Shingle Brands
- Brand Weights
- Nail Zone
- Asphalt Shingle Costs
- DIY Asphalt Shingle Installation vs. Professional
What are Asphalt Shingles?
Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing found on residential roofs throughout North America. Homeowners love that these waterproof, budget-friendly shingles come in a wide range of colors and styles, designed to last decades with minimal upkeep.
How to Pick Asphalt Shingles?
Asphalt shingles come in a wide range of performances, styles, and tiers. Trying to decide on the right shingle can make you feel overwhelmed with so many options. Consider these factors to choose suitable shingles.
- Budget - asphalt shingles come at all price ranges from a basic budget-friendly style up to expensive options.
- Grade - shingles come in 3 different grades or tiers. The higher the grade, the more expensive the price.
- Location - your location will affect which color you should choose. Darker colors are better for colder regions, while lighter colors are better for hot climates. Because different colors reflect and absorb heat differently.
- Design - which design you prefer is also a key factor.
Asphalt Shingles 3 Types
Asphalt Shingles come in 3 categories: 3-Tab, Architectural and Designer, varying from low quality to high.
Based on the above pick factors, we divided them into a classification system of good, better, and best. Also, the higher the level, the more expensive it is.
3-tab shingle is the most traditional kind and typically what people think of when they hear roofing shingles. Three-tab shingles - sometimes called strip shingles - consist of a long shingle with 3 tabs, allowing for easier installation.
Three-tab shingles are the most affordable option, but many people move away from the style in exchange for more visually appealing shingles that have a longer lifespan than 20 to 30 years.
- Easy to install DIY
- Traditional shingle look
- Lower wind rating
- Easily damaged by impacts
- Shorter lifespan
Three-tab shingles are a value buy, costing only $1 a square foot or $100 for 100 square feet. And they're the easiest and quickest to install, DIY, or through a professional roofer. And because they're so common, it's not difficult to find an experienced contractor.
Architectural shingles - sometimes referred to as dimensional or laminate shingles - fall in the mid-price range, with a few options available for those on a budget. You can get this type in a wide range of profiles, styles, and colors with long-term warranties of 20 to 50 years.
- Various styles, colors, and designs
- Max ratings for wind and fire
- Low maintenance
- Heavier than 3-tab shingles
- Requires installation during the right time of year
Architectural shingles cost more per square foot than 3-tab, starting around $5 a square foot or $500 a roofing square. This type of shingle is the most popular choice for most homes, beating out 3-tab and designer shingles for popularity.
However, this style is more complex and time-consuming to install, making it more challenging for inexperienced DIY'ers. And because this style is still on the rise in popularity, it may be tricky to find an experienced installer in your area.
Designer shingles - possibly referred to as luxury, 3D dimensional, or premium - are the most expensive lines. This type of shingle has the best performance and durability, available in many colors, designs, and sizes.
This style of shingles resembles natural materials such as wood shake, tile, or slate shingles. Many people choose designer shingles for their forever homes, but installing this type on a home you plan to sell can cost you a loss on ROI (return on investment).
- Comes in a wide range of selections
- Best fire, impact, and wind ratings
- Resembles natural materials
- High price
- More difficult to install
Most designer shingles run at least $1,000 per square - 100 square feet - or $10 a square foot. Due to the degree of installation difficulty, most inexperienced installers will want to shy away from this option.
The price is far too expensive to want to attempt DIY, lest you end up wasting a bunch of materials or install the material improperly, resulting in damage to the shingles or having to make repairs or re-install. But depending on your location, you may have limited options for certified installers, which are often required to obtain a company's best warranties.
Asphalt Shingle Ratings
The graph below explains some crucial safety ratings that pertain to asphalt shingles. When comparing products, refer to this chart to ensure the shingle you pick will have the best ratings.
Class A, B, C, or Unrated
A is the highest rating; best for wildfires
ASTM D7158 Class H (highest)
ASTM D7158 Class F (highest)
150 mph uplift resistance
Class 1 (low) - 4 (highest)
Class 4 is rated for hail
When comparing shingles, you'll see that they have Class ratings of A, B, C, or Unrated. Class A shingles are the highest fire ratings, meaning they are the safest and most fire-resistant. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, Class A shingles are a must.
Check with your local building code to see if there's a requirement for your rating. If you hire an experienced contractor, they will almost always recommend the highest rating.
Another crucial rating to consider is the shingle's wind rating, labeled as Class followed by a letter representing the wind speed. With wind rating, there's wind resistance - wind speeds the shingle can withstand - and uplift resistance - wind speed before the shingle uplifts.
For wind resistance, shingles can have a Class A (60 mph), D (90 mph), or F (110 mph) rating. Most 3-tab shingles have a minimal wind resistance of A or D. Architectural shingles are often Class F, although a few cheaper options may be Class D. Designer shingles are always F.
In terms of uplift resistance, asphalt shingles can have a rating of Class D (90 mph), G (120 mph), or H (150 mph). Class H is best for areas with significant periods of high winds.
These classifications are due to strict ASTM (Standard Test Method) regulations. ASTM D3161 tests the shingle's wind speed for steep slope roofing products. ASTM D7158 is the test for a sealed asphalt shingle's resistance to uplift force wind speeds.
Impact resistance (IR) is not a feature found in all shingles, but it's a valuable advantage if you live in an area where there are high winds, risks of debris, hail storms, or trees overhead.
The impact rating can range from Class 1 to 4. The higher the rating, the more resistant the shingle will be to damage from impacts. If your location experiences significant hail storms, you'll want a Class 3 to 4 Impact Resistant shingle.
Asphalt Shingle Styles
You have a lot more options for roofing today than you did a few decades ago. It's easier than ever to pick an asphalt shingle that matches your tastes and the architectural style of your house.
But just because there are unlimited options for a unique one-of-a-kind roof doesn't mean you should pick something that sticks out like a sore thumb. Your roof's design accounts for nearly 40% of your curb appeal.
If you have plans to resale one day in the future, you could be affecting your asking price by choosing a stand-out shingle.
Just as shingles come in a massive selection of colors (depending on brand and type), they also come in different styles. Three-tab shingles have a straight edge profile, as do some architectural shingles. There are also contoured shingles designed to look like natural stone or hand-made wood shakes. Designer shingles with scalloped edges look great for Victorian architecture.
No matter which tier of asphalt shingles you choose, there's guaranteed to be a decent range of colors. Three-tab shingles usually have the most color choices, while other styles are limited to natural-looking colors.
- White, gray, and black are great for traditional or minimalist roofs to have elegance or drama.
- Choosing lighter colors like dusty browns, pastels, or light grays is excellent for hot climates due to being more reflective. And glorious sunsets complement the tones.
- You can use earthy, warm tones for rustic, contemporary, or for your home to complement the colors of natural surroundings.
Your roof absorbs solar heat from the sun, which can filter down into your home, affecting the internal temperature. Choosing the proper roof color can help you lower your energy bills and keep your home more comfortable.
Light-colored roofs reflect the sun's heat, while darker colors will absorb it. A few colors classify as Energy Star, meaning they’re energy-efficient.
Asphalt shingles are a lot like blind dates - they don't always look like they do in their picture. It's best to view samples of the colors you're considering at different times of day and with different lighting to see how they look. Most roofing manufacturers offer sample squares for testing.
Pro Tip: Look for shingles with algae protection to avoid stains from blue-green algae, common for roofs that experience high periods of wetness (maritime or humid climates).
Asphalt Shingle Brands
As with many products, there's many options but only a handful of top contenders for the best manufacturers of asphalt shingles. You may have limits on what brands are available in your area and by contractors.
Tamko offers stiff competition to second-best brands like Owens Corning and Atlas, but it falls short of being as great as GAF or CertainTeed.
Tamko's signature architectural line is the Heritage (the equivalent of other architectural lines from competing brands), which comes in four variations. Find more about Tamko's lineup here.
Owens Corning falls into the second-best section of shingle manufacturers, producing shingles in all three grades, with a total of nine product lines. Shingles vary by wind resistance and price, but all designer and architectural shingles have a limited lifetime warranty. Three-tab shingles do not.
The most popular line is the mid-priced Duration architectural shingle, which has several lines. There's only one 3-tab option, the Supreme. Learn more about Owens Corning in our in-depth review.
CertainTeed holds the first place title as the best asphalt shingle. But it also costs the most. GAF's budget-friendly architectural shingle - competitor to OC's Duration and GAF's Timberline - is the Landmark, which comes in four subtypes.
CT also offers two lines of 3-tab shingles - XT 25 (25-year warranty) or XT 30 IR, which is Class 4 Impact rated. See how CertainTeed measures up to its biggest competitor - GAF - here.
GAF is the world's largest manufacturer of asphalt shingles and accounts for over 25% of the shingles on homes throughout North America. The most popular line is the Timberline (comparable to OC's Duration line), which also has multiple variations (HDZ, AS II, CS, AH, UHD, NS).
All of GAF's shingles have a Class-A fire rating and a minimum of 130 mph wind rating. GAF also only has one 3-tab line and multiple designer shingles. Find out more about GAF here.
A shingle's weight can affect its quality. Heavier weights are often preferred due to better weather resistance. Lighter-weight shingles save manufacturers money on shipping costs and production. The graph below displays the weight per shingle of some popular brands.
Owens Corning Duration
GAF Timberline HDZ
The nail zone of the shingle is the spot where the nail secures onto the roof. If you're DIYing your roof, you'll want shingles with a prominent nail zone that's easier to strike.
Asphalt Shingle Costs
Asphalt shingles range from $5,378 up to $11,050. The majority of the costs (70%) will go to labor, so if you DIY the job, you'll save a lot of money. Shingles can range from $80 to $550 per 100 square feet (1 square) or between $3.50 and $5.50 per square foot.
Three-tab shingles are cheaper than architectural, ranging from $270 to $340 per square. While architectural and dimensional shingles can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 or higher
Price per square
Owens Corning Supreme (3-tab)
Owens Corning Duration (Architectural)
Owens Corning Designer Lines
GAF Royal Sovereign (3-tab)
GAF Timberline (Architectural)
GAF Designer Lines
Tamko Elite Glass-Seal (3-tab)
Tamko Heritage (Architectural)
Tamko Designer Lines
CertainTeed XT-25 (3-tab)
CertainTeed Landmark (Architectural)
CertainTeed Designer Lines
DIY Asphalt Shingle Installation vs. Professional
When it's time to install a new roof, you'll have to ask whether you want to do the job yourself or leave the task to a professional.
If you're inexperienced at roofing, the easiest option to install yourself is a three-tab. Architectural and designer shingles are more challenging for beginners.
Hiring a professional can also ensure that you have warranty protection in case of damages or defects to your shingles. Some brands may require a licensed professional contractor to install your roof to get the best protection.
Q: How big is an asphalt shingle?
A: Asphalt shingles range in size and shape, with a standard size of 12” x 36” (1-foot x 3 feet). Dimensional shingles can be 13” x 19” up to 37” x 41”.
Q: Are fiberglass or asphalt shingles better?
A: Asphalt and fiberglass shingles are the same things, despite the different names. These shingles have a fiberglass base covered with layers of asphalt.
Q: What's better - metal or asphalt roofing?
A: Metal is a more expensive material, but it lasts fifty years or longer, whereas even designer shingles only have 30 years. Check out this guide comparing metal to asphalt roofing.