Asphalt shingles are by far the most popular residential roofing material. Nearly all asphalt shingles currently being manufactured have a fiberglass base and are referred to as fiberglass shingles. Fiberglass roof shingles are the most cost-effective and readily available roofing material nationwide. We’ll identify their benefits, drawbacks, and more to help you pick the best roofing option for your home.
What Are Fiberglass Shingles?
Fiberglass shingles are a type of asphalt shingle. The base of the shingle is a woven fiberglass mat coated with asphalt and ceramic granules to create a finished shingle. The asphalt provides durability and water resistance, and the granules protect the shingle from UV rays. Fiberglass is lightweight, fire-resistant, and not prone to warping, making it an excellent base for a roofing material.
The other main type is an organic asphalt shingle, which has a mat made of natural material, such as paper or cellulose, instead of fiberglass. These traditional asphalt shingles contain about 40% more asphalt than fiberglass varieties, making them heavier and more durable. Organic asphalt shingles provide better insulation in cold climates but are far less fire-resistant than synthetic alternatives. Most importantly, they’re very hard to come by nowadays, and it’s unclear whether they’re even being manufactured anymore.
Most asphalt shingles on the market have a fiberglass base, so “fiberglass shingle” is essentially synonymous with “asphalt shingle.” We’ll use the terms interchangeably from here on.
Benefits of Fiberglass Shingles
Here’s what a fiberglass asphalt shingle roof has to offer homeowners:
Because fiberglass shingles are so popular, they’re guaranteed to look right at home in nearly any neighborhood. While they don’t have the same luxurious curb appeal of higher-end roofing materials such as wood shakes or natural slate, they’re essentially the visual standard for residential buildings. Fiberglass shingles are available in many colors and styles, with more variety than most other roofing materials. Thicker architectural shingles can even be manufactured to look like wood or slate.
Fiberglass asphalt shingles have the lowest up-front costs of nearly any sloped roof material, though there is some variation in price based on brand and quality. We’ll give a more detailed breakdown of costs in a later section.
Ease of Installation
Fiberglass shingles are easy to handle, cut, and install. Because they’re so common, all licensed roofing contractors will have extensive experience working with them. It’s even possible for homeowners to install them, though we don’t recommend a do-it-yourself (DIY) installation for any roofing material type.
Fiberglass shingles have a Class A fire rating (the highest possible rating), so they’re suitable even in areas where wildfires are common. Many other materials, such as metal and slate, are also fire-resistant, but fiberglass shingles have a definite edge over organic asphalt and wood shakes and shingles.
Low Maintenance Needs
Once installed, fiberglass shingles require very little specific care. Unlike wooden shingles, they don’t need to be specially cleaned or periodically sealed to prevent water damage. They aren’t brittle like natural slate and certain tile types, so cleaners and roofers can walk on them without causing damage.
While fiberglass asphalt shingles aren’t the most durable roofing option, they suit various climates well. They prevent water damage to underlayment and decking when properly installed. Moreover, their availability and visual variety means they can fit nearly any aesthetic and preference.
Drawbacks of Fiberglass Shingles
Fiberglass shingles have some drawbacks compared to other materials, which we’ll go into more detail below.
To some extent, durability depends on shingle quality. Basic three-tab shingles will only last 10 to 15 years, but architectural shingles can last 25 to 30 years before they need to be replaced. Overall, fiberglass shingles have the lowest average roof material life span. Their lightweight and cost-effective construction means they’re prone to weathering, impact damage, granule loss, cracking, and tearing. The trade-off for their lower up-front cost is durability.
Although fiberglass shingles are slightly more environmentally friendly than traditional organic shingles since they require less asphalt, they still don’t provide the same green benefits as other roofing materials. They’re less durable and unrecyclable, ending up in landfills after just a decade or two. Additionally, while fiberglass shingle colors provide more energy efficiency than others, asphalt and fiberglass don’t offer the same insulation as rubber shingles or heat-reflecting properties as metal roofs.
While maintenance needs for fiberglass shingles are low, homeowners must take steps to keep them in good condition. The roof should be cleaned as needed, though cleaners shouldn’t use a pressure washer, which will damage shingles by removing granules. Algae and moss growth are possible, particularly in humid climates, but this can be prevented by installing a zinc strip near the roof peak. Additionally, gutters and downspouts should be kept clear to allow water to flow off the roof, which often means thoroughly cleaning them once or twice per year.
A professional should inspect your fiberglass shingle roof annually to catch any potential issues before they become serious. You should also perform visual inspections from the ground from time to time. Note the longevity of your chosen shingle type and style—when they reach the end of their life span, they’ll begin to visibly curl or warp. When this happens, they need replacing.
As already stated, asphalt roof pricing is far lower than wood, tile, slate, or metal roof costs. Basic three-tab shingles will be the least expensive, followed by architectural shingles. Most expensive are premium or luxury architectural shingles, which are often designed to resemble more luxurious materials. Here’s how these three types compare on costs.* Contractors typically charge by the square. One square equals 100 square feet.
|Shingle Type||Material Cost Per Square||Installed Cost Per Square|
*Cost data via HomeGuide.
The proper roofing techniques for installing or replacing fiberglass shingles are fairly standard. First, old shingles and other roofing materials will need to be removed. In some circumstances, a second layer of asphalt shingles can be installed atop the first to save on tear-off costs during a roof replacement, but this is rarely recommended. The underlayment will be replaced, and any necessary repairs to the roof decking or joists will be completed. Flashing will be installed or replaced along roof valleys and around any penetrations, such as chimneys, skylights, or vents.
Next, the roofer will measure for shingles to get an accurate cost estimate. Once the proper number of bundles is ordered, the roofer will begin laying shingles, row by row, from the edge of the roof and working up. Thus, gutters will need to be removed and drip edges replaced. When the roofer reaches the roof peak, they’ll cut asphalt shingles into ridge caps to properly cover the joint. Finally, any remaining gaps around roof penetrations will be sealed. This process is repeated on all roof faces.
While asphalt shingle installation doesn’t require specialized knowledge or tools, all roof work comes with a fall risk. Additionally, your roof plays a very important protective function to your home’s structural integrity and resale value. If you try to replace it yourself, you may open your home up to water damage and fail to reap the full return on investment (ROI) that comes with the cost of a new roof.
If you decide to take this project on yourself, invest in an OSHA-approved fall prevention kit and always follow proper roof safety precautions.
Fiberglass shingles are versatile and affordable roof shingles that look good on nearly any home. While there are some drawbacks—particularly if you live in a climate with extreme weather or prioritize eco-friendliness—you can almost always find a fiberglass shingle to suit your budget and taste. We recommend having a licensed roofing contractor install them, and you should get quotes from at least three local roofers before choosing.
Fiberglass Roof Shingles FAQ
How long do fiberglass shingles last?
Fiberglass shingles last anywhere from 10 years for basic three-tab shingles to 30 years for premium architectural shingles.
What type of climate is best for fiberglass shingles?
Fiberglass shingles work best in warm climates since they provide less insulation than some other roofing materials.
Do fiberglass shingles make noise when it rains?
No, fiberglass shingles on sloped roofs make no extra noise when it rains.
Can I install fiberglass shingles over my current roof?
In some cases, fiberglass asphalt shingles can be installed over a single layer of other asphalt shingles, but this is usually not recommended because of the weight and potential for water damage.