Fiberglass Shingles vs. Asphalt: A Comprehensive Comparison

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 22, 2024

Two popular roofing material types are asphalt shingles and fiberglass shingles. At first glance, these two types of shingles seem virtually identical. They’re both manufactured using asphalt and come in many styles and colors, offering plenty of curb appeal and customization. However, homeowners will want to consider key differences, including their durability, weather resistance, and cost, when choosing between these two types of roofing.

Read our guide to discover the benefits and drawbacks of these two shingle types and how to choose the best roofing material for your home.


Understanding Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are one of the most popular roofing materials on the market, and most homes across the United States and worldwide have asphalt shingle roofs.

Asphalt shingles are made by covering natural materials with asphalt granules. The base of an asphalt shingle is often an organic cellulose material such as paper, but some shingles may start with a felt base. Once the asphalt is applied, ceramic granules are added for color and extra durability. The result is a thick, heavy shingle that’s durable in most climates.

Because asphalt shingles start with an organic base material, they’re sometimes called organic asphalt shingles. They may also be called traditional asphalt shingles, as the manufacturing process to create present-day shingles is similar to the one used to create the product in the early 1900s.

Benefits of Asphalt Shingles

Drawbacks of Asphalt Shingles


Understanding Fiberglass Shingles

Fiberglass shingles, also called composite shingles, are another type of asphalt shingle. These shingles start with a fiberglass base instead of a paper or felt base. The fiberglass mat base is coated with a thin layer of asphalt granules and topped with ceramic granules, just like traditional asphalt shingles.

The resulting composite shingle looks like an organic asphalt shingle but is much thinner because it uses less asphalt during manufacturing. The fiberglass also makes the shingle more durable and gives it a longer life span.

Benefits of Fiberglass Shingles

Drawbacks of Fiberglass Shingles


Comparing Durability

When installing a new roof, choose a durable material so you’ll spend less time on roofing maintenance. Below, we’ll compare the durability of fiberglass and asphalt shingles to help you decide which is best for your home.

Longevity

Climate and installation quality will impact the longevity of both asphalt and fiberglass shingles. In general, a high-quality asphalt roof can last up to 20 years in mild climates, while fiberglass asphalt shingles can last up to 50 years. While you may initially pay more for fiberglass shingles, they could be the last roof you ever pay for in your home.

Wind Resistance

Wind is a significant concern regarding roofing materials, as it can damage your roof and leave it vulnerable to water damage. Asphalt shingles are the more wind-resistant roofing material due to their heavier weight. Traditional asphalt shingles contain higher amounts of asphalt granules, making them heavier and less susceptible to damage from heavy winds. Fiberglass roof shingles are easier for extreme winds to lift, which could expose your roof and interior structures to water damage.

Fire Resistance

Traditional asphalt shingles aren’t fire-resistant. The asphalt material and the organic cellulose base used to form the shingle can burn. However, like metal roofing, most fiberglass roof shingles have a Class A fire rating. This rating means the shingles are fire-resistant and can help prevent the spread of flames. Choose a glass fiber shingle if you live somewhere prone to fire, such as California.

Maintenance Needs

No matter what roofing material you choose, you should routinely inspect your roof for signs of damage. This is especially important after big storms or periods of extreme weather. If you have asphalt shingles and live in an area with extreme temperatures, you may need to perform these inspections more frequently. Asphalt shingles are more susceptible to cracking, warping, and becoming brittle in cold temperatures.


Cost Comparison

You should consider the initial cost of a roof installation and ongoing maintenance and repairs before choosing between fiberglass shingles and asphalt shingles.

Initial Installation Costs

Maintenance Costs

Maintenance is generally inexpensive for both asphalt and fiberglass roof shingles, and much of it is free if you do the work yourself. Remove debris from your roof, such as leaves and fallen branches, to prevent them from damaging your shingles. Additionally, inspect your roof regularly, particularly after storms, to ensure there are no missing or damaged shingles.

Your gutters are an essential part of your roof maintenance routine, too. Clean your gutters at least twice a year to prevent water damage to your roofing materials. If you pay a service to clean your gutters, you can expect to pay between $119 and $234, depending on how many gutters you have, the height of your home, and the condition of your gutters.

Potential Repair Costs

Roof repairs are inevitable for homeowners. Eventually, your roof will require the attention of an experienced roofing contractor, whether to attend to a damaged shingle or to repair significant storm damage. In general, homeowners in the United States pay an average of $386 to $1,872 for roof repairs.

However, the type of roofing material you choose for your home can influence how often—and how much—you pay for these repairs.

Because fiberglass shingles are durable and wind-resistant, they’re less likely to require costly repairs over their life span. If they require repairs or replacement, the work may be more expensive than traditional asphalt shingles, as the material itself is more expensive. You can expect to pay between $1 and $2 per square foot of fiberglass shingle.

Organic asphalt shingles are more likely to need more frequent repairs over their lifetime due to their vulnerability to becoming brittle in cold weather. To avoid repairs, never walk on your asphalt shingles in freezing temperatures. Replacing asphalt tiles is inexpensive, as the shingles cost about $1 to $1.20 each.

*All cost data in this section is from Angi, Fixr, and HomeGuide.

Total Costs

Organic asphalt shingles are generally more affordable than fiberglass shingles, especially regarding their initial installation. However, because these shingles don’t last as long, you’ll pay for a roof replacement sooner than you would if you installed fiberglass roof shingles.


Environmental Impact

Both asphalt and fiberglass shingles have an environmental impact, from their energy efficiency to their recyclability at the end of their life span. Below, we’ll compare each roofing material’s manufacturing process, energy efficiency, and recyclability.

Manufacturing Process

Both types of shingles use asphalt, which is made from crushed gravel and bitumen. Bitumen is a sticky substance made by refining crude oil, which releases greenhouse gases and can pollute the air and water.

Traditional asphalt shingles contain more asphalt than composite shingles, but composite shingles contain glass fiber matting, which is made using an energy-intensive process. However, this process is generally considered more environmentally friendly than asphalt production.

Energy Efficiency

Traditional asphalt shingles aren’t very energy efficient because they tend to absorb heat, which is then transferred to your home and makes it harder to cool in hotter climates. Fiberglass shingles are generally better at reflecting UV rays and are a better option for most homes.

Recyclability

Both asphalt and fiberglass roof shingles are recyclable in most cases. However, glass fiber material is easier to recycle than asphalt, so recycling options for asphalt shingles may be more limited. There are programs at local landfills and recycling centers to reuse these old roofing materials, usually to create other building materials.


Our Recommendation

Asphalt and fiberglass shingles are both popular roofing materials. Which one you choose for your home will depend on a variety of factors, including your budget, energy efficiency preferences, and climate.

Traditional asphalt shingles are best for homeowners concerned about affordability, as these shingles will have the lowest initial cost for a new roof. Asphalt shingles are also suitable for homeowners who live in climates with extreme wind or cold, as the heavier shingles are less susceptible to damage.

Homeowners who want to maximize the durability and longevity of their roofs should consider fiberglass composite shingles. These shingles can last up to 50 years, but they’ll cost more up-front. Fiberglass shingles are also suitable for homes in mild weather conditions or warmer climates, as they offer good energy efficiency and heat resistance.


Fiberglass Shingles vs. Asphalt FAQ

Are fiberglass shingles better than asphalt shingles?

Fiberglass shingles are better than asphalt if you want a roofing material that will last a long time, be fire-resistant, and offer good energy efficiency. Traditional asphalt shingles are better for homeowners who want a more cost-effective option or live in cold climates.

What are the downsides of fiberglass shingles?

The downsides of fiberglass shingles include their high cost and vulnerability to wind. These shingles have a higher initial material and installation cost than asphalt shingles, and they’re also lighter and more susceptible to wind damage.

How long do fiberglass shingles last?

How long fiberglass shingles last will depend on the climate, installation work, and quality of the materials. In general, expect them to last around 30 years.

Is a fiberglass roof worth it?

A fiberglass roof is worth it if you want to maximize the longevity of your roofing material or want your roof to be especially fire- and heat-resistant.

Can asphalt shingles be recycled?

In most cases, asphalt shingles can be recycled. Many local recycling programs accept old asphalt shingles and reuse them to make construction materials. Your roofing contractor can help you find a local program for recycling your old asphalt shingles.