By Matt Clawson, Houzz

Let’s just get this out of the way: Asphalt shingles are not exciting. Your friends will not drop their jaws in awe over this material, and if your home were a Broadway production, asphalt shingles would not be the star of the show.

But that’s OK. Asphalt shingles do not seek the limelight. They do their job quietly, protecting more homes across the United States than any other type of roof material. Today we review an efficient and affordable roofing option you may want to consider for your home.

Banta Builders LLC, original photo on Houzz

The Material

Asphalt shingles (alternatively called composition shingles) are a manufactured product consisting of a fiberglass base mat coated in composition asphalt material to provide waterproofing and additional strength.

Historically, the base layer was often made of organic material, but over time fiberglass has become the preferred choice for the base.


Though asphalt shingles can be considered a budget selection among roof materials, there are a variety of manufacturers and options, some of which can drive the cost up.

Roofers typically bid roofs by the “square.” One square represents a 10-foot-square section of roofing, so 100 square feet. Many asphalt shingle material selections will cost between $125 and $150 per square, but some selections use multiple layers for visual effect and better performance, which can substantially drive up the cost.

Keep in mind that due to roof slopes, the total square footage of your roof is likely to be more than the square footage of your home’s footprint. Depending on variables such as roof pitch, access, asphalt material selection and, in some cases, the existing roof’s removal, the likely cost to have a roofer complete the work will run $2 to $5 per square foot of roofing, which for a 2,000-square-foot, single-story home would total $5,000 to $12,500.

 Matt Clawson, original photo on Houzz


Asphalt roofing manufacturers offer designs attempting to replicate the look of real wood shakes or natural slate.

Truth be told, there is no true substitute for a real slate roof or wood shake roof, but asphalt roofs offer low-cost alternatives that generate the same visual feel for a fraction of the cost. The options include multiple layers, multiple colors and various shingle shapes. The more affordable options typically do not offer the same layered differentiation between shingles, so they don’t give the same feeling of depth.

Related: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Neighborhood Views With a Rocker or Two

Life Expectancy

Most standard asphalt roofs offer an expected life of 30 years, with some inexpensive varieties offering less and upgraded options offering 40- and 50-year spans with warranties. Some product lines even come with limited lifetime warranties.

 Traditional Exterior, original photo on Houzz

Asphalt, or composition, roofs offer many advantages that have led to their popularity, including:
●      Affordability
●      Ease of installation
●      Good fire rating
●      Good durability
●      Various options in color and style

There is a reason asphalt shingles are such a popular choice. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Still, you should be aware of the following cons before making a determination.

●      Asphalt roofs do not handle extreme temperature variations as well as some material types, such as metal-seam roofs.
●      Asphalt roofing is not considered a “green” material. It is a petroleum-based product, and it usually doesn’t provide much insulation value.
●      It is difficult to disguise the fact that asphalt roofs are the composition, manufactured product they are rather than a true natural material such as slate, wood or clay.

Taste Design Inc, original photo on Houzz

Spend Your Money Wisely

How often do you really think about your roof? In most cases, a home’s roof material is just not as critical as other exterior selections. The photo here shows a home with a relatively high-pitched roof slope, but with many homes, especially those with lower-pitched roofs, the material may not be visible at all, and using more expensive siding, windows and doors can be more important to the home’s exterior style.

Related: Update Your Outdoor Living Area With New Patio Furniture

Up Next

Asphalt is the most popular roof material in the United States, and though it’s difficult to get terribly excited about, it also rarely disappoints. If you merely want your roof to do its job and blend in with your home, this might be the choice for you.

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