A house is a significant investment, so you’re going to want to protect it with the best possible roof. Unfortunately, roofs are expensive, and there are many different materials out of which they can be made. Even if you eliminate metal roofs as options, you’re left with asphalt shingles, wood shingles or shakes, clay or cement tiles, and plastic or composite shingles to choose from.
All of the options for roofing shingles range in price from just a few dollars per square foot to 20+ dollars per square foot. Some options last for ten years, while others last for 50 or more, but not every choice is right for every roof. The environment in which you live has a significant effect on which roofing material will last the longest and be the most effective for you.
Knowing what the best roofing shingles for your environment and lifestyle are vital to the longevity of your roof and to keeping the elements out of your home. We want to help you understand your options and tell you about our favorites so that you can make an informed decision the next time you’re in the market for a new roof.
Let’s start by going over some of the questions you probably have about roofing shingles as you begin the process of choosing your new roof. There is a lot to learn about the various materials and styles of roofs on the market, so we’ll try to cover it all here before we tell you about our favorites.
What types of roofing shingles are available?
There are several types of roofing shingles you can get, including asphalt, wood, shakes, clay, cement, and synthetic composite slate. Although some of these shingles have similarities to one another, they each have fundamental differences that will make them better for some homes and not as useful for others.
- Asphalt: there are two types of asphalt shingles, and those are organic or fiberglass. Organic shingles have paper bases that are saturated with asphalt to make them waterproof and then coated with adhesive salt. Fiberglass shingles have a base layer of glass fiber to reinforce the mat and then coated with asphalt with mineral fillers.
Organic shingles are more durable than fiberglass overall, but they are also more flammable and less environmentally friendly because of their high oil-based asphalt content. Fiberglass shingles are much more common these days, but you can still find the organic shingles if you are on a budget.
- Wood Shingles and Shakes: Roofers have been using wooden shakes for hundreds of years, but with the advent of the sawmill a more uniform product could be made with the same wood material; these are called wooden shingles. Shakes and shingles are often made of California redwood, red cedar, cypress, spruce, and pine.
Wooden shingles and shakes can come with treatments that act as fire retardants, but overall are more flammable than all of the other shingles we’ll talk about today.
- Clay and Cement Tile: More common in warm climates like California, Nevada, and Arizona, clay and cement tiles are some of the oldest roofing materials known to man. Clay and cement tiles are the least flammable material of all the shingles we’ll talk about here. Unfortunately, these tiles are also the most expensive on our list.
- Slate Tiles and Synthetic Composite Tiles: Slate is the second most expensive type of shingle of those that we will discuss, and also one of the oldest and most beautiful styles. Fortunately, synthetic composite slate is a newer option that can mimic the beauty and durability of slate tiles for a much lower cost.
Composite tiles can look like either slate or wood, but regardless of the style, they are a long-lasting roofing material that is typically more environmentally friendly than other materials as well.
When is each type of shingle most practical?
Each one of the shingle types we discussed above is right for specific situations. You may not want to spend a considerable amount on a home you're not going to live in for much longer, for instance.
- Asphalt is exceptional for short-term home ownership or when you are flipping a house. These shingles are inexpensive, but they only last about 10-20 years maximum, although some of the higher quality asphalt shingles can last up to 30 years.
- Wood shingles and shakes are nice for a rustic look but need to be installed well to increase their durability. You won't be able to use either of these materials if you live in an area where fires are frequent, and you'll want to ensure your home gets plenty of sun if you choose wood materials.
- Clay and concrete tiles work best for certain styles of homes including the stucco homes most commonly found in warm climates like Arizona. Clay is the more costly of these two options, but it also lasts longer. Both options work well for areas where fires may be a concern.
- Slate or composite tiles are a perfect option for upscale homes, especially those made of brick. They are incredibly expensive, but the style is worth it if you plan to live in your home for a long time and has an upscale feel.
- How many layers of shingles can I put on my roof?
In most areas, building codes require shingles to be torn off down to the sheathing once two to three layers of shingles are already in place. Note that this is true for asphalt shingles and most composite types, but not for clay or cement tiles or wood shingles and shakes; these types can only have a single layer because of their weight and installation process.
If you are concerned about rot, water damage, or infestations of any kind, you may want to have all of your shingles torn off regardless of what style you have to determine whether or not you have a problem.
How We Reviewed
We decided to focus on asphalt shingles for our top shingles because they are the most commonly used shingles in the United States. There are so many options for colors, styles, and brands of asphalt shingles that we felt it would be unfair to compare these with the other roofing types that have fewer options and are vastly different regarding durability and cost.
To make sure we were fair in our determinations of the best roofing shingles we took cost, maintenance, styles and colors, and warranty into consideration. Not every brand will offer all of the styles and colors available, and not every brand and style will last as long as the next, so we felt like it was essential to distinguish between the various brands in this way.
Overall Price Range of Asphalt Shingles
The cost of asphalt shingles can vary based on style, color, size, and geography. Unfortunately, some areas of the country have much higher labor costs than others, and that can significantly change the price of an installed roof, despite asphalt shingles being the cheapest roofing material to install overall.
The general cost of asphalt shingle roofing is between $.80 and $1.20 per square foot of materials. If your roof is an average pitch rather than an extreme slope you should expect to pay somewhere around $100 to $200 per square, which is considered a 10’ x 10’ space in roofing lingo.
Theoretically, you could avoid labor costs beyond the costs mentioned here by installing shingles yourself, but you might be sacrificing quality and longevity by doing so, so we don’t typically recommend doing that if you are inexperienced in the process.
Top Brands of Asphalt Roofing Shingles
Now that you know how we came up with our ratings and have had your basic questions about roofing shingles answered, we want to give you an in-depth look at our three favorite brands. We know that there many brands on the market, but these three are particularly advanced in their durability, effectiveness at keeping out the elements, warranties, and options.
1. IKO Asphalt Roofing Shingles
IKO makes shingles that shouldn't concern you if you live in a climate where inclement weather is a regular occurrence. They are thick shingles with dimensional profiles, various color blends, and extra-large exposures. You can buy IKO shingles that mimic the look of slate or wood shake, and for a lower cost, you can still have a high-quality, simple asphalt look.
Fire resistance is a priority with IKO, as many of their shingles have a Class A fire resistance rating. They also come with built-in algae resistance and up to 130mph wind resistance. The Cambridge IR and Dynasty styles both come with limited warranties for wind resistance as well, so you can have added peace of mind when you choose those styles.
Cambridge Cool Colors shingles by IKO can help to lower your carbon footprint and reduce energy bills. As a bonus, many of IKOs shingle styles are also impact-resistant, which can help to lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums.
2. Owens Corning Duration Shingles
Owens Corning is a popular brand name that many of you have probably heard of at some point. This brand is known for superior protection of your roof by creating shingles that are more difficult to loosen individually, and therefore, they are less likely to blow off during high winds. Owens Corning also offers a high-end appearance with an affordable price.
Owens Corning Duration shingles come with a limited lifetime warranty and additional protection for up to 130mph winds. They are also algae resistant and come with a separate warranty for that feature to give you added peace of mind in your purchase. The only bummer with these warranties is that you will have to pay for labor costs since they only cover materials.
The cost per unit of the 33.3 square foot three-tab shingles is around $22-23. The price per unit of the laminated-architectural shingle that comes in at a smaller 32.8 square feet is a bit higher at approximately $25. The higher cost is due to the higher-end look that comes with the architectural style.
The highest end Owens Corning Duration shingles are the TruDefinition Duration shingles. These laminated architectural shingles can cost as much as $50 depending on the color you choose. The lowest price for this type of shingle is $35, so still significantly more than the other types within this brand.
3. GAF Timberline Shingles
GAF Timberline shingles come with the GAF Golden Pledge Warranty. This warranty covers your whole roof including installation of new shingles, removal of old shingles, and disposal costs. That’s much better than most of the warranties we’ve seen with other brands. There is a catch, though, as you have to buy five GAF accessories to qualify, which will cost you more in the end.
GAF Timberline shingles are upscale, and the price proves it. They start around $32 per unit and can go as high as around $43 per unit depending on the style and color you choose. Most of the Timberline shingles are laminated architectural shingles, but you can get other styles if you don't like that look or if it doesn't match the style of your home.
GAF Timberline is our third pick out of three because of the limited style and color availability and the higher price tag on this product as compared to the other two on our list. We like their warranties, but since they have the catch of having to buy add-ons, we couldn’t put them higher in good conscious.
How it compared
Now that you know the basics of our three favorite asphalt shingle brands, we want to compare them for you side-by-side to help you see the differences and also the similarities between the three. Below you’ll find several key features, cost comparisons, warranty comparisons, and more to help you decide which you like best.
Although we understand that deciding which are the best roofing shingles can be subjective based on where you live and the style of your home when it comes to asphalt shingles we think we have the three best in the business on our list. We love the warranties these companies offer, and we also love the diverse color and style options they have available.
The brand that you choose will come down to your budget and the color and style you want to have. We firmly believe that IKO, GAF, and Owens Corning are all excellent brands that come with top-notch protections to help give you peace of mind for many years to come.