What Are the Different Types of Roof Shingles? (2024)

By Rachel Newcomb Updated July 24, 2023

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A roof is one of the most important structural elements of any house. It keeps the weather out, strengthens walls, and helps define the home’s architectural style. But depending on what you’re looking for—durability, affordability, eco-friendliness—the material and cost of roof shingles can vary greatly.  

We’ve compiled the most popular roof shingle types and compared their life spans, costs, benefits and drawbacks to help you choose the best material for your home.



Types of Roof Shingles

There are numerous types of roof shingles to choose from. Here’s an overview of the most common types and their average life spans.

Shingle TypeLife Span*

Three-tab asphalt shingles

15–20 years

Architectural asphalt shingles

20–30 years

Clay tiles

50–100 years

Concrete tiles

40–80 years

Copper shingles

70+ years

Plastic shingles

20–50 years

Slate tiles

50–100 years

Steel shingles

40–70 years

Solar shingles

20–25 years

Wood shakes

15–40 years

*Roof shingle data sourced from Angi, Fixr, HudUser.gov, Nachi.org, and Samcar.org.

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Three-Tab Asphalt Shingles

Three-tab roof shingles are an economical option for homeowners who want to keep costs to a minimum. They provide a classic, straight, and uniform appearance common in many homes. Three-tab asphalt shingles consist of several layers of fiberglass felt coated with asphalt and granules. They’re waterproof and fire-resistant, though these qualities vary depending on the specific roofing shingle you choose.

Most three-tab shingles last between 15 and 20 years. Extreme weather, such as high winds, hail, and frequent freeze/thaw cycles, can reduce this period. These shingles need regular maintenance and inspection to keep them looking great. They can take hundreds of years to degrade after removal, so environmentally conscious homeowners may want to consider other, greener options.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Three-Tab Asphalt Shingles



Not the best choice for climates with frequent, extreme weather events

Available in many colors

Not environmentally friendly

Complements many architectural styles

Requires more frequent maintenance and replacement than other types of roof shingles



Architectural Asphalt Shingles

Architectural or dimensional shingles provide a more polished appearance than three-tab shingles but have many of the same qualities. They’re relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the natural materials their appearance sometimes mimics. Similar to other asphalt shingle roof types, they come in various colors and designs to complement most home styles.

Architectural shingles are thicker than three-tab shingles and typically last between 20 and 30 years. Some manufacturers offer special coatings and treatments, such as mold inhibitors, that may extend the shingles’ life span.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Architectural Asphalt Shingles


More sophisticated appearance than three-tab shingles

May break down in extreme climates

Straightforward installation and repairs

Only specially rated shingles are suitable for high-wind areas

Available in various colors and styles, some with protective finishes

Require maintenance and regular inspections to achieve maximum life span



Clay Tiles

Clay tiles come in several popular styles, including barrel-shaped, flat, and scalloped. They add an elegant look to the Spanish- and Mediterranean-style homes commonly found in the Southwest.

Natural clay tiles resist fire, insects, and rot and have an expected life span of at least 50 years. They add insulation to homes and help regulate inside temperatures. They’re also environmentally friendly, thanks to their natural composition of clay and water and no added pollutants. However, clay tiles are some of the most expensive shingle types available. They’re also very heavy, so your home must have adequate structural integrity to support them.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Clay Tiles


Attractive natural appearance

Need extra structural support due to heavy weight

Environmentally friendly

Installation requires a highly skilled roofing contractor

High durability and resistant to rot, insects, and fire

One of the most costly types of roof shingles available



Concrete Tiles

Concrete is a popular building material that’s being used increasingly for residential roofs. Concrete tiles are typically formed and tinted to look like more expensive materials, such as clay or slate, but cost significantly less. They provide superior insulation and reflectivity and resist fire, rot, and insect damage.

Concrete does fall short compared to its natural counterparts in some areas. For example, it’s heavier than natural clay, so you must have your home inspected and possibly reinforced before installation. Additionally, it’s slightly less waterproof than natural stone. Expect a concrete tile roof to last for at least 40 years with little to no maintenance.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Concrete Tiles


Long life span of at least 40 years

Requires an experienced professional installer

Attractive appearance similar to more expensive natural materials

Very heavy material that requires substantial structural support

Requires virtually no maintenance

Not as environmentally friendly as clay or slate roof shingles



Copper Shingles

Copper roof shingles are attractive, lightweight, and durable. Copper does not corrode or rust, but it does gradually acquire a blueish patina over time.

Cooper shingles are significantly more expensive than other metal roofing materials, but they last 70 or more years and require minimal maintenance. Homeowners often use copper on accent roofs and a complementary material on the rest of the house.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Copper Shingles


Has timeless beauty and develops an attractive patina

Is the most expensive metal roofing material

Requires minimal maintenance

Only available in natural copper color

Matches most architectural styles

Requires special care for proper installation



Plastic Shingles

Unlike many other plastic products, synthetic roofing materials consist of advanced plastic polymers that can withstand harsh outdoor conditions. In ideal climates, these shingles can last for up to 50 years. Plastic polymer roofing requires little to no maintenance. Some manufacturers use recycled materials, making them more eco-friendly.

Plastic roofing shingles are lightweight, making them ideal for homes that cannot support heavier materials such as clay or cement. Additionally, they can mimic the look and feel of more expensive shingles.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Plastic Shingles


Impact- and rot-resistant roofing material

Limited availability in certain areas

Doesn’t require regular maintenance

Doesn’t break down over time, which can be environmentally damaging

Lightweight and doesn’t need extra structural support

Can be challenging to find a roofing contractor familiar with this installation



Slate Tiles

Slate shingles provide a timeless beauty that instantly improves curb appeal. They’re resistant  to most environmental hazards, such as fire, insects, and rot. They also add some insulation to your home. Slate is a natural stone, so you can only choose colors found in the stone. This is typically a palette of grays and blues, but some slate roofs incorporate tans and browns.

Though slate is one of the most expensive roofing materials we compared, it has an average life span of more than 100 years. Note that it’s incredibly heavy, so you’ll need to have a home inspection before considering it as a roofing option. You may need to include the cost of roof trusses in your budget.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Slate Tiles


Provides an elegant appearance that boosts curb appeal

Is incredibly heavy and requires extra support

Is durable and resists insects, rot, and extreme weather

Has limited color choices

Requires little to no maintenance

Is among the most costly roofing options available



Steel Shingles

Steel is a popular roofing material. It’s commonly found in standing seam panels but is also used for tiles and shingles. Steel roofing is incredibly durable, with an expected life span of up to 70 years. Additionally, it can withstand extreme climates without trouble, making it ideal for homes in areas prone to high winds, severe storms, and wildfires.

Metal shingles are moderately priced, falling between asphalt shingles and more expensive natural options. They’re lightweight and need minimal maintenance; you can remove debris and moss, but they don’t require sealing or painting. However, you’ll need to find an experienced roofing contractor to install these specialty shingles.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Steel Shingles


Attractive designs that complement many home styles

More complicated than some other materials to repair if damage occurs

Reflective finishes can help reduce summer cooling costs

Amplifies the sound of rain if not insulated

Incredible durability and long life span

May get damaged by large hail



Solar Shingles

Solar shingles protect your home from the elements while generating clean energy to keep it running. They’re generally less efficient than traditional solar panels, but they’re less noticeable on your roof, making them more appealing to many homeowners. Solar shingles typically only cover a portion of the total roof area, so you must also select another type of roof shingle for the remaining space.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Solar Shingles


Produce green energy to supplement grid-based electricity

Shorter life span than many other roofing types, particularly at this price point

More attractive than bulky solar panels

Some homeowners associations do not allow solar shingles on homes

Can resist fire and withstand high winds

Technology may become outdated in a short period



Wood Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes are typically made from cedar, pine, or oak. They’re environmentally friendly and moderately durable. Wood shingles hold up well to high winds and impacts but are not a good choice for homes in wildfire-prone areas. They require extra treatments and a composite roofing system to achieve the proper fire rating for these areas.

Wooden roofs’ life span varies depending on the material type, your climate, and maintenance schedules. You must seal or paint wood shingles every few years to preserve their weather-resistant qualities. Some wood shingles, such as cedar shakes, can last for up to 40 years, but 15 to 20 years is a more common estimate for most wooden roofs.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Wood Shakes


Attractive rustic appearance

Require regular maintenance


Don’t last as long as other high-end roofing materials

Resistant to high winds and impacts

Typically unsuitable for homes in wildfire-prone areas



Professional vs. DIY Roof Installation

Installing a new roof is a big project that requires a lot of time and resources. Though roof replacement costs are high, we recommend professional installation.

A do-it-yourself (DIY) installation may void the manufacturer’s warranty on your roofing materials. Additionally, you may find yourself in over your head if hidden damage emerges midproject. A professional has the knowledge and equipment to complete the job safely and efficiently. An experienced roofer will also help you navigate unexpected issues, such as the need to upgrade your soffits or add roof trusses to support heavy materials.

Follow the below steps to find a qualified roofing contractor for your project:



Our Recommendation

Roofing materials range in appearance from rustic to elegant and come in natural, synthetic, and recycled materials. Some options, such as solar shingles, can help reduce energy costs. Choose a roof shingle type that’s well-suited to your climate and accentuates your home’s appearance.

For rustic homes, we suggest wood or architectural shingles designed to look like wood. For Spanish-style homes, clay or concrete tiles will be complementary. Homeowners who want to keep costs low should consider three-tab asphalt shingles or a composite material.

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Types of Roof Shingles FAQ

What is reroofing?

Reroofing is when a roofer installs new u003ca href=u0022https://www.architecturaldigest.com/reviews/roofing/best-roof-shinglesu0022u003eroof shinglesu003c/au003e over existing ones. This eliminates the need to remove old shingles and drastically lowers the roof repair cost. However, reroofing is not an option for heavier materials or homes that already have more than one layer of u003ca href=u0022https://www.architecturaldigest.com/reviews/roofing/best-roof-shinglesu0022u003eroof shinglesu003c/au003e.

Should I buy extra shingles when I replace my roof?

A skilled roofer will order the appropriate number of shingles to replace your roof. However, you may want to keep extra shingles for future repairs to ensure a match for color and texture.

What is a roofing square?

One roofing square equals 100 square feet. This measurement is commonly used to determine the number of roofing shingles needed for a project. Contractors often provide estimates with measurements based on the number of squares in a roof, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with this term.