Pros Cons Asphalt Shingles

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Shingles

Everyone can recognize an asphalt shingle roof — this roofing system has been popular for more than 100 years. Used on steep-slope roofs, asphalt shingle roofs dominate the residential market, including townhome and condo complexes. While asphalt shingles have always been an effective roofing system, new technologies make them even better now, including new recycling technologies for old shingles.

Fiberglass, asphalt, granules, and sealant

Asphalt shingles are composed of four layers, starting with a lightweight, fiberglass reinforced mat that resists tearing. The fiberglass is coated with hot asphalt, which is a petroleum-based material that resists moisture and stands up to wind and impact from debris. Then ceramic-coated mineral granules are embedded for aesthetics and UV protection. Property owners and managers have a wide variety of granule color choices. The final layer is made up of raw asphalt sealant strips. These are applied to the top part of each shingle to help hold the shingle in place and are covered by the next layer of shingles.

How an asphalt shingle roof is different from an asphalt commercial flat roof

The same layered concept applies to both asphalt shingles and asphalt commercial roofs. What’s different about the asphalt shingle design is it allows this system to be easily installed on steep-slope roofs. Shingles come in small pieces, similar to slate and tile shingles, so the material can be easily maneuvered. On the other hand, asphalt commercial flat roofs are installed in rolls and often assembled (built up) on-site.

Types of asphalt shingles

Townhome and condo complexes have a lot of options when choosing asphalt shingles.

  • 3-tab shingles: These shingles are the most basic and inexpensive option, with entry-level shingles rated for 60-80mph wind uplift. They are flat and light and get their name from the design that makes one continuous shingle look like three.  They come in a variety of colors. 
  • Architectural shingles: Architectural shingles are heavier than 3-tab shingles (made with thicker layers) and have varying patterns and tones that give them a 3D look. They stand up better to wind and hail and are sometimes more fire resistant. Most architectural shingles are rated for up to 110mph wind uplift or up to 130mph when six nails are used.
  • Premium shingles: Often referred to as designer shingles, premium shingles usually mimic natural roofing materials, like cedar shake or slate. Most are rated for a wind uplift of up to 110mph.
Owens Corning Supreme Desert Tan

3-tab: Owens Corning Supreme Shingles in Desert Tan

GAF Timberline HD Pewter Grey

Architectural: GAF Timberline HD in Pewter Grey

CertainTeed Carriage House Georgian Brick

Premium: CertainTeed Carriage House in Georgian Brick

The Pros

Asphalt shingles are very popular because they work — and they’re a good value. When installed properly, which includes spacing them correctly and nailing them at the right location and angle with the right amount of force (to withstand wind), asphalt shingles protect property by allowing water to easily flow off the roof. They are not waterproof but they don’t need to be.

Special attention needs to be paid to the underlayment as recommended by the National Roofing Contractors Association, and to the flashing and valleys to reduce the potential for leaks.

Other benefits include:

  • Most affordable roofing option
  • Easy to install, cut and fit into corners and tight spaces
  • Additional structural support or major prep work isn’t needed
  • Visually appealing with color and texture options, including some that look like cedar shake and slate
  • Many have high ratings for fire safety
  • Impact-resistant product options
  • Architectural shingles last a long time

While organic shingles didn’t perform up to expectations and are no longer manufactured, old asphalt shingles are being successfully recycled for use in hot-mix asphalt for paved roads, to fill potholes, as part of a gravel mix for gravel roads, and to make new asphalt shingles.

The Cons

Asphalt shingle roofs last an average of 12-17 years — again, the better the quality shingle and the better the installation, the longer it will last. Climate also makes a difference when it comes to asphalt shingle performance. Some drawbacks include:

  • Basic options are more susceptible to wind lifting
  • Can perform poorly in extreme heat and crack during extreme temperature fluctuations
  • Can become damaged if installed at below freezing temperatures
  • Colors may fade and darker tones reflect less light
  • Can be damaged by hail and UV rays
  • Can grow moss and algae in some climates
  • Doesn’t have a larger impact on resale value or ROI beyond the benefit of a new roof
  • When installed on low-slope roofs, architectural or premium shingles can be susceptible to wind uplift


Standard 3-tab shingle warranties range from 10-25 years and architectural shingle warranties range from 20-50 years with some larger manufacturers such as GAF, CertainTeed and Owens Corning offering lifetime warranties. For architectural shingles, lifetime warranties usually include a five-year labor warranty and a 40-year materials warranty. Premium shingles usually lifetime warranties.

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