4 Types of Asphalt Shingles Perfect for Your Roof

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated March 7, 2022
woman looking at asphalt roof samples for house
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Asphalt roof shingles are the most common roofing material in the United States thanks to their low cost and durability. It's not out of the question to expect your new shingle roof to last for 40 years—if you get the right asphalt shingling installed by the right contractor. Of course, that means narrowing down what the right shingling is for your specific home.

Is Asphalt an Affordable Roofing Option?

While price varies by what type of asphalt roofing you choose, the average cost for asphalt shingles is $275 to $400 per 100 square feet of roof, also called a square. For perspective, homeowners looking at high-end options like slate and clay can pay between $800 and $1,600 per square.

One of the benefits of asphalt roofing is that you can actually select high-end tiles that recreate the look of custom, artisan roofing materials using the affordability, availability, and sturdiness of asphalt.

It's also very easy to find roofing contractors in your area offering a wide range of asphalt roofing options because this is the go-to roof choice across the country.

Types of Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Asphalt shingles may be the most common and inexpensive roofing material available, but that doesn’t mean they’re one-size-fits-all. Asphalt shingles come in a wide range of styles and compositions.

1. Fiberglass Asphalt Shingles

example of Asphalt Shingles for roof
Photo: eenevski / Getty Images

There's some confusion over whether or not fiberglass shingles are actually asphalt shingles. They are!

Fiberglass asphalt shingles feature a fiberglass base covered by a waterproof asphalt coating. A layer of ceramic granules is added to give your roof UV protection. Here are the benefits:

  • Lighter and thinner

  • High fire rating

  • Long warranty

  • Energy efficient

  • Many colors

  • Looks custom

Fiberglass asphalt is the top choice among many contractors due to the fact that it provides strength and durability with less bulk because the amount of asphalt needed is reduced thanks to a fiberglass mat.

2. Organic Asphalt

example of organic asphalt shingles for roof
Photo: Vitaliy Halenov / Getty Images

Considered the "old school" options for asphalt shingles, organic shingles are constructed from single layers of recycled paper or wood fiber. The paper is saturated in asphalt to make it waterproof before it’s coated with adhesive asphalt.

Like fiberglass asphalt, organic asphalt is topped off with ceramic granules. The difference is that it contains about 40% more actual asphalt than fiberglass. Here's a look a the benefits of organic asphalt:

  • Rugged

  • Flexible

  • Environmentally friendly

While you might be able to find organic asphalt on some roofs today, they are no longer produced. The reasons include:

  • Heavier than fiberglass

  • More absorbent

  • Can warp easier

  • More expensive

  • Not as durable as other types of shingles

3. Three-Tab Shingles

example of three tab shingles for roof
Photo: Edlits / Getty Images

Three-tab shingles get their name because each shingle actually looks like three different pieces on your roof.

Here's what you need to know about three-tab shingles:

  • Wind rating up to 60 miles per hour

  • 25-year warranties are common

  • Affordable

  • Thinner and have a flatter appearance

With three-tab shingles costing around $100 per square, homeowners are paying $30 per bundle. A typical bundle covers 32 square feet of roof, with about three bundles to a square. You’ll need to factor in installation costs as well. 

While three-tab is the most affordable option, homeowners should keep in mind that this option has a shorter lifespan than competing architectural shingles. Three-tab shingles last an average of 12 to 15 years in mild climates, but only 7 to 10 years when regularly exposed to rough weather. Architectural shingles, by comparison, have an average lifespan of 20 years or more, even under heavy weathering.

4. Architectural Shingles

example of Architectural Shingles for roof
Photo: JamesYetMingAu-Photography / Getty Images

Thick and durable, architectural shingles are considered premium products. Most architectural shingles are twice as thick as three-tab shingles. They are considered "designer" because they can be customized to look like high-end materials like cedar.

Architectural shingles don't contain the cutouts that you see with three-tab shingles. They are instead laminated with an asphalt layer.

Here's what you need to know about asphalt architectural shingles:

  • Lifespan of 20–50 years

  • Wind rating up to 130 miles per hour

  • Dimensional appearance

  • High waterproofing

  • Long warranties up to 50 years

  • Resistant to shingle curling

  • Hide roof imperfections

  • More expensive than three-tab

While the bonded layers of this style create strong waterproofing, architectural asphalt shingles aren't the best for low-sloping roofs because performance suffers in wind-driven storms and there’s a high potential for water intrusion.

Homeowners will pay roughly $32 per bundle for architectural shingles, plus installation.

Choosing the Right Type of Asphalt Shingle Roof

It's all about weighing cost, performance, and aesthetics when choosing the right asphalt shingles for your home once you're ready to get quotes from trusted roofing companies. Most contractors will recommend fiberglass asphalt shingles because they offer better performance.

Next, you can refine your choice even further by choosing between three-tab and architectural shingles.

If the focus is aesthetics because the homes in your neighborhood tend to have custom roofs, architectural shingles will give you more styles and colors to choose from.

If you need a budget option because your roof is on the verge of catastrophe, three-tab asphalt shingles are great for being able to afford a new roof now. Just keep in mind that you may need to replace your roof again in the future if this is your forever home. With architectural shingles, there's a good chance you'll never replace your roof again for as long as you live in your home.

man installing asphalt shingles on roof of home
Photo: brizmaker / Adobe Stock

When you get your roof installed by roofing pros, you get the benefits of:

  • Free consulations and recommendations

  • Expert installation according to manufacturer’s guidelines

  • Multiple color options for your home

  • Product and workmanship warranties 

Roofing pros also understand how to follow a manufacturer’s recommendations during installation. This can be tough for homeowners attempting DIY roofing because failing to follow the right guidelines during installation can create a faulty roof. A shoddy installation could even nullify a manufacturer’s roofing warranty. The last thing you want is to damage your home by letting in moisture and mold because of faulty or incomplete roof installation.

Knowing how to choose the right asphalt roof installed by the right contractor using the right professional tools is the secret to getting a beautiful roof that offers protection, ventilation, and value for decades to come.

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