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Asphalt Shingles: Everything You Need to Know

Joe Roberts

Published on October 22, 2020


Asphalt Shingles: Everything You Need to Know

Asphalt shingles are popular roofing materials, but they aren’t all the same. Read our guide for help choosing and installing your roof’s new shingles.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

Read about our editorial process here. Want to use our cost data? Click here.

Asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing materials in North America, and most homeowners use them when they replace old roofing or build entirely new roofs. The durability and affordability of asphalt shingles make them a no-brainer for anyone who wants lasting protection for a relatively low price. 

Not all asphalt shingles are made the same, though, so you have several options to choose from. Each offers unique benefits and drawbacks in terms of longevity, curb appeal, and price—and they all differ in terms of installation.

If it’s time to replace your old roof and you want to get asphalt shingles, keep reading. We’ll walk you through the costs and benefits of your various options and teach you how pros install them.

Hire a roofing contractor to install, repair, or replace your shingles for you

How much do asphalt shingles cost?

It usually costs between $7,975 and $16,351 to outfit a roof with new asphalt shingles. This range is so wide because many factors can affect your actual price. These include the size of your roof, the angle of the roof’s pitch, what type of shingles you get, and what the roof system—or decking—below the shingles is made of.

While you may have some sticker shock from the price, know that asphalt shingles are one of the most affordable roofing options. Alternatives like wood shakes, natural slate, clay tiles, and metal roofing all cost much more. In fact, the low end of the price range for some of these options is higher than the high end for asphalt shingles. 

This low price is part of the reason—though not the sole reason—asphalt shingles are the most popular residential roofing option in the United States

How to find a more individualized price range

For example, if the entire surface area of your roof measures 1,500 square feet, multiply 1,500 by 3 to find the low end of your price range. To find the high end, multiply 1,500 by 15. Finally, to find the average, multiply 1,500 by $6.50. The price range for a roof of this size is $4,500–$22,500, while the average is $9,750. Use the formulas below to find your own unique price range and average price: 

$3 X [your roof’s square footage] = The low end of your price range

$15 X [your roof’s square footage] = The high end of your price range

$6.50 X [your roof’s square footage] = The average price for your roof size

That said, whatever number you get will still be a pretty broad range, and you’ll likely pay an amount somewhere between the two numbers. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact price until you meet with a representative from a roofing company. Don’t bank on a specific price until a roofer has come out to look at your roof and given you a written estimate. 

What are asphalt shingles made of?

As you can probably guess from the name, asphalt shingles are crafted with asphalt to make them waterproof and durable, but this isn’t the only material in their construction.

Every asphalt shingle is made with three main layers:

  • Fiberglass matting is the bottommost material of any asphalt shingle and serves as the base for the other two layers. 
  • Asphalt sealant coats the matting to make the shingles water-resistant and adhere the top layer to the matting. The asphalt also bonds adjoining shingles together for a durable, weatherproof seal. 
  • Ceramic granules stick to the asphalt layer to protect the other layers from impacts and UV rays. The color of the granules determines the shingle color, and the granules also give asphalt shingles their signature texture. 

This is the basic construction of an asphalt shingle. However, deluxe options may come with extra layers of these or other materials—such as polymers or copper—for additional strength, insulation, algae resistance, or aesthetic appeal. 

This construction makes asphalt shingles impact-resistant, suitable for most climates, and lightweight enough for easy installation. All of these factors contribute to the popularity of asphalt shingles in the roofing industry. 

Organic shingles: an outdated alternative

Before 2008, you could choose between two types of asphalt shingles: those with organic mats and those with fiberglass mats. The matting in organic shingles is made from cellulose fibers, such as recycled wood and paper. Because of this construction, organic shingles are prone to warping and algae growth when exposed to moisture, so they need replacing often. 

The production of organic shingles ceased in 2008, so you can’t really get them anymore. Though many older roofs still have organic shingles, your roof may be one of them. If this is the case, you can’t replace your old shingles with something identical. You either have to switch to fiberglass shingles or opt for something else like metal, concrete, or clay tile roofing. 

Fiberglass shingles are more weather-resistant, easier to install, and typically cost less than organic shingles anyway, so making this switch will only benefit you. 

Different types of asphalt shingles

Now that you know about the basic construction and costs for asphalt shingles, let’s get into the nitty-gritty and discuss the various types. These roofing products typically come in three designs: 3-tab shingles, architectural shingles, and premium shingles.

3-tab asphalt shingles: the best option for roofing on a budget

3-tab shingles are the cheapest type of asphalt shingles, though they’re not as durable or stylish as high-end shingles. Image source: Lowes

Cost ranking



25 to 30 years 

Popular brands

CertainTeed XT25, GAF Royal Sovereign, Iko Marathon Plus AR

3-tab shingles, also called strip shingles, are the most basic type of asphalt shingles. They get their name because they’re designed a little differently than other models. Each piece is a long strip that’s cut to look like three side-by-side shingles when installed. 

This design makes them quicker and easier to install than other options, so they’re a good choice for DIY roof installation. 

3-tab shingles are the most affordable type of asphalt shingles. However, they have shorter warranties, are less durable, and look a little plain compared to more deluxe options.

Architectural asphalt shingles: a more stylish option with a longer lifespan

Architectural shingles are shaped to add dimensional depth to a roof’s surface, so they offer greater aesthetic appeal. Image source: CertainTeed

Cost ranking



30 to 40 years

Popular brands

Tamko Heritage Premium, CertainTeed Landmark, GAF Timberline HDZ

Architectural asphalt shingles—sometimes called dimensional or laminate shingles—are a popular option for high-end homes. They come in different shapes and sizes to give a roof a dimensional look, increasing curb appeal. There is also a greater variety of colors and styles among architectural shingles compared to 3-tab options. 

Architectural shingles are usually more expensive than 3-tab models, but their aesthetic value and longer warranties make them worth the cost for many homeowners. 

Additionally, they’re usually made with more layers than 3-tab shingles, so they’re more durable and wind-resistant. Their thickness can also increase your home's energy efficiency by adding more insulation to your roof.

Premium asphalt shingles: the most deluxe options

Premium shingles have a high price tag but look great and don’t need to be replaced as often as cheaper shingles. Image source: Owens Corning

Cost ranking



30 to 50 years

Popular brands

Owens Corning Berkshire, GAF Slateline

Ask your contractor about premium shingles if you want something even fancier than architectural shingles. These models are usually designed to look like traditional roofing materials like slate tiles or weathered wood, so they can give your home a more unique charm than shingles that actually look like shingles.

However, they still give your roof all the durability and longevity of asphalt. Some premium shingles are also designed to be exceptionally impact-resistant, inhospitable to algae, or energy efficient compared to standard architectural or 3-tab models, so you can choose premium shingles that perfectly match your priorities. 

Of course, luxury shingles like this will cost you more than standard models. 

How professionals replace asphalt shingles

Replacing your shingles yourself can save you a lot of money, but it also comes with significant risks. For one thing, climbing on your roof while handling construction tools and materials is pretty dangerous, even for home improvement veterans. 

For another thing, poorly installed shingles leak, blow away in the wind, and develop mold and algae, all of which require costly repairs. To make matters worse, installing shingles incorrectly can void their warranty, so you could end up eating all the costs of any mistakes you make.

Altogether, DIY installation's physical and financial risks make hiring professionals worth the extra money, and you shouldn’t try to reshingle your entire roof with your own two hands.

That said, this step-by-step guide can give you a rough idea of how professionals replace shingles so you know what to expect.

Step 1: Taking measurements, purchasing materials, and planning for weather

First, your contractor will take measurements and order all the shingles, ridge caps, and underlayment they’ll need for the project. Underlayment is a water-repellant layer of sheets that get installed beneath shingles. Ridge caps are long strips of weather-resistant material that sit on the crest where two roof surfaces meet, so your contractor will need one for every peak in your roof.  

Your contractor will then schedule the project to coincide with a long stretch of sunny weather. This is important because shingle replacement can take a few days, and once the old shingles are removed, your roof will be vulnerable to rain, snow, and hail.

If inclement weather strikes before your contractor has finished, they’ll cover every exposed surface of your decking with tarps to prevent damage.

Step 2: Removing old shingles and underlayment 

When project day arrives, your contractor’s crew will climb your roof and remove your old shingles. To detach each shingle, a roofer will slip a pry bar beneath it and gently pull up. This lifts the nails and breaks the asphalt sealant binding the shingle to the ones around it. With this done, they can simply pull on the shingle to slide it out from those above it.

Next, your contractor will remove your ridge caps and tear away all the underlayment by pulling up its nails and ripping it off.

If the crew notices any rotten or damaged wooden panels in your roof’s decking during this process, they may talk to you about replacing those pieces as well. This will add additional costs to the project, but it’s necessary for the longevity of your roof. 

If the decking under your shingles looks to be in good condition, though, the crew will then use push brooms to sweep all the granules, nails, torn pieces of underlayment, and other debris off your roof and into a dumpster below. Once the exposed decking is clean, they’ll move on to the next step. 

Step 3: Installing underlayment

Before they affix your new shingles, the crew has to place new underlayment. To install the underlayment, they’ll unroll a strip of the material over an exposed section of your roof, cut the strip from the roll with a utility knife, then nail it down. They’ll repeat this process until all of your decking is covered with the material. 

Step 4: Installing shingles

When all your underlayment is down, the crew will then install your shingles. They’ll begin by placing a shingle on one bottom corner of your roof, and then shoot or hammer nails through it. Then, on the edge that will be covered by the next shingle they install, they’ll place a few beads of asphalt sealant to adhere the shingles together. 

They’ll install subsequent shingles in the exact same way, placing each one so that it overlaps with the ones below it by a few inches. If the shingles have an alternating pattern, they’ll also stagger the placement of the shingles to capture the desired effect. 

Step 5: Installing new ridge caps and cleaning up

Once all your shingles are laid down, the crew will install a ridge cap on every crest in your roof. To install a ridge cap, a roofer will lay it across the roof's peak on top of the shingles that meet there, then nail it down so it’s completely secure. 

Then, they’ll install shingles along the top of the ridge cap to cover it up. This might mean they need to cut several individual tabs from your shingles if you opted for 3-tab models. 

After the crew has installed all your ridge caps and covered them with shingles, the roof is complete! To finish the job, they’ll sweep away all the construction debris and clean up any debris that fell into your yard throughout the project.

Shingling your roof with asphalt

Now that you know all there is to know about the construction and installation of asphalt shingles, it’s time to reshingle your roof. The first step is to get a quote from a local roofing company. Professional installation will never be cheap, but it’s the safest and most effective way to reshingle a roof. And who knows? Hiring professional roofers may cost less than you fear.

Find a local pro to reshingle your roof for you

Written by

Joe Roberts Content Specialist

Joe is a home improvement expert and content specialist for Fixr.com. He’s been writing home services content for over eight years, leveraging his research and composition skills to produce consumer-minded articles that demystify everything from moving to remodeling. His work has been sourced by various news sources and business journals, including Nasdaq.com and USA Today. When he isn’t writing about home improvement or climate issues, Joe can be found in bookstores and record shops.