Composite Shingles vs. Asphalt: Comparing Roofing Materials

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 26, 2024

Shingles play a crucial role in protecting your home. Their overlapping rows shield your roof from the elements and keep the interior structure dry and protected. Many different roofing materials are available, and choosing the right shingles for your home may be determined by your budget, climate, and aesthetic preferences.

Two of the most popular shingles available are composite shingles and asphalt shingles. Which is suitable for your home? We’ll look at how these two roofing materials are made and compare their costs, life span, and curb appeal to help homeowners make an informed decision about their roofs.

Material Makeup of Composite and Asphalt Shingles

Understanding how composite and asphalt shingles are made can help you understand their strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance as a roofing material. Let’s look at how the material makeup of asphalt and composite shingles influences essential factors such as their durability and aesthetic appeal.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles have been a mainstay in roofing since they were first manufactured at the beginning of the 20th century. They are a durable, affordable roofing material and a popular choice for many homeowners.

Manufacturers create asphalt shingles by starting with a base. Traditional asphalt shingles begin with an organic base, typically made from paper. Newer asphalt shingles start with a fiberglass base, which results in a lighter, thinner roofing material. Hot asphalt is applied to the base, making it waterproof and flexible. A top layer of ceramic granules is applied to the shingles. These granules provide additional weather protection and add color to the shingle. 

Review the main features of asphalt shingles below:

Composite Shingles

Composite shingles were first developed in the 1960s but didn’t become a popular roofing material until the 1980s. Today, composite roofing is one of the most popular roofing types in the United States. Also known as synthetic shingles, composite shingles can mimic the look of slate tiles or cedar shake while maintaining the durability of asphalt shingles.

Manufacturers make composite shingles from various materials, including fiberglass, recycled plastics, and synthetic polymers. They add color and use a mold to make the composite shingles look like natural materials. Manufacturers may add coatings to the composite shingle to create a desired color or make it more weather-resistant. Review the distinct features of composite shingles below:

Cost Comparison: Composite vs. Asphalt Shingles

When it comes to a roof system, cost is a significant consideration for homeowners. Composite and asphalt shingles have distinct advantages, but their cost can vary significantly. Consider the initial installation costs as well as the cost of materials and maintenance.

Materials Costs

Asphalt shingles are the clear winner in terms of cost. You’ll spend anywhere from $80 to $100 per square on asphalt shingles.* A square is the amount of roofing material needed to cover 100 square feet of roof area. 

Composite costs between $100 and $1,500 per square. The look and durability you choose for your composite roof will influence the cost of your materials. Architectural-grade shingles are the highest-end option. 

Installation Costs

Roof installation labor costs typically account for 60% of the cost of your new roof. The larger or more complicated your roof, the more costly the installation. You can expect to pay around $2 per square foot for labor.

Asphalt roofing is easier to install, primarily due to its lighter weight. Composite shingles are slightly heavier than asphalt shingles, and some styles take longer to install. Because of these factors, you should expect to pay more for the installation work. 

Maintenance Costs

Asphalt shingles will require more maintenance over time, as they aren’t as durable and may be prone to mildew or algae growth in damp climates. Professional cleaning costs between $0.30 and $0.60 per square foot, and you’ll want to have it done every three to five years. 

Composite shingles need minimal maintenance. Clear debris from your roof, and inspect the roofing material for damage after periods of harsh weather. You should also keep gutters clean to prevent water damage to your roof. Many homeowners opt to do these tasks themselves, or you can hire a company to clear your gutters for you for between $75 and $400.

*All cost data in this section was sourced from Angi.

Life Span of Composite and Asphalt Shingles

The life span of residential roofing materials will impact your budget and peace of mind. 

Composite shingles have an impressive life span of up to 50 years with proper maintenance. However, the type of composite shingle you choose will impact its longevity. Basic composite shingles may not last as long as higher-end composite shingles, which are manufactured to be more weather-resistant and suitable for harsher weather conditions. Exposure to excessive UV rays can also impact composite shingles and fade them over time.

A well-maintained asphalt shingle roof will last about 20 years, depending on the shingle quality and climate. Thicker architectural shingles generally last longer than three-tab shingles, so it may be worth paying more for a longer life span. Homeowners in humid climates should watch for algae growth on their shingle roofs, as this could damage the shingles and shorten the life span of your roof.

Weather Resistance of Composite and Asphalt Shingles

Your roofing material must be able to withstand whatever weather conditions your home experiences. Weather resistance is a crucial factor when evaluating asphalt shingles versus composite shingles.

Curb Appeal: Composite vs. Asphalt Shingles

Your roof is one of the primary visual elements of your home’s exterior, so how it looks can significantly impact curb appeal. Your roofing material influences your home’s aesthetic, so you’ll want to choose the material that best suits your style goals.

Composite shingles are known for their curb appeal because they can mimic the look of natural materials such as slate tiles or cedar shake. They also come in a wide variety of colors. Asphalt shingles offer a more traditional appearance and are available in various colors and styles.

Color Options

Asphalt shingles come in various colors, but the options are generally more limited compared to composition roofs. Composition shingles come in many colors, from bold to neutral, so you can match the look of your roof to your desired aesthetic.

Style Options

Composite shingles are offered in more styles than asphalt shingles. Your roofing company can install composite shingles that look like slate roofs, wood shakes, or even classic asphalt shingles. Because of the manufacturing process, composite shingles can be designed in your desired style and color.

Asphalt shingles come in three main styles:

Our Recommendation

Both composite and asphalt shingles have benefits and drawbacks. The best choice for your home will depend on your needs. Asphalt shingles are a less costly option, while composite shingles can last decades longer and require minimal maintenance. Both offer good weather resistance, but composite shingles are better suited for climates that experience extreme weather. 

Both can also help enhance your home’s curb appeal. Composite roofing offers more color and style options than asphalt shingles, which are well-suited for homeowners who want to mimic the look of slate or cedar shake roofing.

Asphalt shingles could be the right choice for your home if cost is your primary concern. They offer considerable longevity and weather resistance for the price. If you live in harsh climates or want a roof that will last longer than asphalt, consider composite roofing. Your composite roof will provide decades of excellent weather protection and require little maintenance.

The best shingle choice will depend on your specific needs. Consider your budget, climate, desired life span of the roofing, and aesthetic preferences to make an informed decision about your home.

Composite Shingles vs. Asphalt FAQ

Which is better, composite or asphalt shingles?

Determining whether composite or asphalt shingles are better depends on your budget, the desired life span of your roofing, your climate, and your preferred look. If you want an affordable roofing option, you may choose asphalt shingles. If you want a roof that will last longer or withstand harsh weather conditions, you may want composite shingles.

What are three disadvantages of composite shingles?

Three disadvantages of composite shingles are a higher up-front cost, limited availability in some regions, and darker composite shingles being prone to absorbing heat, making it difficult to cool your home effectively.

Are asphalt shingles the same as composite shingles?

No, asphalt shingles are not the same as composite shingles. These two roofing options undergo different manufacturing processes, resulting in different roofing materials. Asphalt shingles are made with hot asphalt and a top layer of ceramic granules. Composite shingles are made with synthetic materials pressed into a mold to mimic the look of natural materials.

Are composite shingles worth it?

Composite shingles are worth it if you want a roofing option that offers curb appeal, can withstand extreme weather conditions, and will last up to 50 years with maintenance.

What are the life span differences between composite and asphalt shingles?

Asphalt shingles will last around 20 years, while composite shingles can last up to 50 years. Factors such as maintenance, climate, and material quality can impact the life span of composite and asphalt shingles.