How to Select the Best Roof Shingle Material for Your Home

Selecting the right roof shingle material for your home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a homeowner. The roof is crucial for protecting your home from the elements, so choosing a durable, long-lasting roofing material is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about selecting the best roof shingles for your specific needs.

Assessing Your Roof Type and Pitch

The first step is to identify the type of roof you have and its pitch. Roof pitch refers to the degree of slope, measured by the rise over the run.

  • Low-slope roofs have a pitch of 3:12 or less. These roofs require specialized low-slope shingles.
  • Steep-slope roofs have a pitch greater than 3:12. Traditional asphalt shingles are suitable for steep roofs.
  • Complex roofs with multiple slopes and pitches may need a combination of low-slope and steep-slope shingles.

Inspect your roof carefully and identify all slopes and angles. This will guide your shingle selection moving forward.

Evaluating Climate and Weather Conditions

The climate you live in is a major factor in choosing roof shingles. Consider the following weather conditions in your area:

Temperature Extremes

Shingles need to withstand expansion and contraction from temperature swings. Areas with high heat require shingles resistant to thermal cracking. Cold climates need flexibility to avoid brittle failure.

Rain and Snow

Precipitation causes wear and tear on shingles. Select durable, water-shedding materials if you live in rainy regions. Opt for heavyweight shingles with weathering surface granules to handle heavy snow loads.


Strong winds can lift and tear shingles. Look for shingles rated for high wind resistance and durability. Special installation methods like double nailing also help.

Sun Exposure

Intense UV radiation degrades and fades shingles. Seek UV-resistant materials if your roof gets a lot of direct sunlight.


Hail can dent and crack shingles, allowing leaks. In hail-prone areas, Class 4 impact-resistant shingles are recommended.

Salt Air

Coastal climates with salt spray have corrosive effects. Use salt-resistant shingle membranes in these conditions.

Evaluating Your Budget

Roof shingle costs vary widely based on type, quality, and warranty duration. On average, expect to spend $350-1000 per square (100 square feet) installed.

  • Low-end: $60-150 per square for basic 3-tab asphalt shingles with shorter warranties.
  • Mid-range: $200-300 per square for architectural and laminated asphalt shingles with 20-25 year warranties.
  • High-end: $500-1000+ per square for premium materials like natural slate, synthetic polymer, metal, or clay tiles.

Get contractor quotes to determine realistic costs. Find the best combination of durability, lifespan, and aesthetic appeal within your budget.

Comparing Roof Shingle Types

There are several roof shingle materials to evaluate, each with pros and cons:

Asphalt Shingles

By far the most common residential roofing material. Made from a fiberglass mat coated with asphalt and mineral granules. Two types:

  • 3-Tab shingles: Simple, multi-layer construction. Low cost but shorter lifespan of 15-20 years.
  • Architectural shingles: Dimensional, layered design. More durable and decorative but pricier. Lifespan of 30-50 years.

Pros: Affordable, versatile, easy installation. Good wind/impact resistance when warranted. Wide color/style options.

Cons: Vulnerable to extreme heat/cold. Limited lifespan compared to other materials.

Natural Slate

Roofing slate quarried from natural stone. Extremely durable but heavy and expensive. Lifespan of 70-150 years.

Pros: Outstanding longevity, fire/wind/impact resistant. Classy, unique look.

Cons: Very heavy, professional installation required. Very expensive. Limited supply.

Synthetic Slate/Shingles

Molded from recycled plastic resins to mimic natural slate. Lightweight and affordable but shorter lifespan of 35-50 years.

Pros: Lightweight, Class A fire rating. Mimics look of natural slate. Good impact resistance.

Cons: Mixed durability and heat resistance. Loses color over time.

Wood Shakes/Shingles

Roofing made from cedar, redwood, or other woods. Naturally rustic looking but high maintenance. Lifespan of 20-30 years.

Pros: Natural curb appeal. Good wind/rain resistance when properly installed.

Cons: Flammable, high upkeep, short lifespan. Vulnerable to mold, algae, and rot over time.

Clay/Concrete Tiles

Tiles made from clay, slate, or concrete. Extremely durable and decorative but very heavy. Lifespan of 50-100 years.

Pros: Outstanding longevity and wind/fire resistance. Vintage, Mediterranean look.

Cons: Very heavy, professional installation required. Brittle in cold climates. Higher cost.

Metal Roofing

Corrosion-resistant metal like steel, copper, aluminum. Very durable but noisy in rain. Lifespan of 40-70+ years.

Pros: Excellent longevity, lightweight, recyclable/sustainable. Good fire/wind resistance.

Cons: Noisy rain, special tools needed to install. Prone to dents and scratches.

Solar Shingles/Tiles

Shingles with embedded solar PV cells to produce electricity. Very expensive but energy efficient.

Pros: Generate clean electricity. Enhanced energy efficiency. Modern appeal.

Cons: Much higher cost. Heavier. Electrical know-how needed. Newer technology.

Prioritizing Key Factors

Consider the following factors as you narrow down the best shingle options:

  • Budget – How much can you afford to invest in a long-lasting roof?
  • Lifespan – Do you want shingles that last decades vs. needing frequent replacement?
  • Appearance – Seek shingles matching your home’s style – traditional, modern, etc.
  • Weather Resistance – Pick robust shingles rated for your particular climate.
  • Weight – Light vs. heavy shingles based on your roof structure and pitch.
  • Eco-Friendliness – Opt for green, recycled, or solar-powered materials if sustainability matters.
  • Installation – Factor in additional needs like professional installation for heavy materials.

Your top priorities among these factors will guide you to the ideal shingle solutions for your roof and circumstances.

Asking the Right Questions of Contractors

When soliciting contractor bids, ask these key questions:

  • What shingle brands/product lines do you recommend for my roof? Why?
  • How do you handle shingle warranties and manufacturer defects?
  • Do you follow all required building codes and manufacturer specifications?
  • Will you provide documentation of licenses, insurance, credentials?
  • Can you provide references from past shingle installation jobs?
  • Do you offer any manufacturer rebates or discounts on these shingles?
  • What is your timeline for completing the shingle installation?
  • Will you provide a detailed invoice breaking down material/labor costs?
  • Do you offer any warranties or guarantees on your roofing work?

Vet contractors thoroughly. Verify they are properly certified, insured, and willing to stand behind their work.

Inspecting Your Roof Deck

Before shingle installation, examine your roof deck – the underlying sheathing or boards. Look for:

  • Rotting, cracking, or buckling deck boards. These must be replaced.
  • Nail pops, dry rot, and excess debris. Clear these away.
  • Insufficient deck thickness for heavy shingles. May require deck reinforcement.
  • Leaks, moisture, and inadequate ventilation causing deck damage. Must be remedied first.

A weak, damaged, or deteriorating roof deck will undermine the performance of new shingles. Repair issues promptly.

Utilizing Leak Barriers and Underlayment

For optimal leak protection:

  • Install self-adhering peel-and-stick leak barrier in vulnerable areas like eaves, valleys, dormers, and skylights.
  • Cover the entire roof deck with high-quality underlayment like 30lb felt paper or synthetic underlayment. This protects against wind-driven rain.
  • Use plastic or metal drip edge along eaves and overhangs to direct water away from the roof. Important for preventing leaks and rot.

Take these critical steps before the shingles go on to safeguard from underlying water damage.

Choosing the Best Method of Installation

Shingle installation methods impact durability. The optimal technique depends on roof type and pitch:

Low-Slope Roofs

  • Fully seal down each shingle using adhesive or sealant strips across the entire shingle. Critical to prevent wind uplift and leaks.

Steep-Slope Roofs

  • Double nail on each shingle, with one nail in the concealed sealant strip and one ~1″ above. This provides excellent wind resistance.
  • Six-nail pattern offers even greater uplift resistance for hurricane zones – place two nails 1″ above each sealant strip and two in the shingle body.
  • Stagger nail placement for adjacent shingles. Follow all manufacturer specifications.

Proper nailing is crucial to keep shingles secured in extreme weather. Don’t cut corners here.

Maintaining Adequate Ventilation

Good attic ventilation extends the lifespan of your shingles by preventing heat and moisture buildup.

  • Install ridge vents along the roof peak to allow rising hot air to escape.
  • Use soffit vents or gable end vents to encourage continuous airflow from eave to ridge.
  • Consider power vents if natural ventilation is insufficient for your attic space.
  • Remedy all gaps where exterior air and moisture can penetrate into the attic.

Ventilation provides vital cooling and protection from condensation that can warp shingles and rot roof boards.

Inspecting and Maintaining Your Roof Over Time

To maximize your shingle lifespan:

  • Inspect shingles each year and after major storms. Look for wind damage, cracks, curling. Identify problems early.
  • Have a professional roofer inspect every 3-5 years. They can spot issues you might miss.
  • Remove leaves/debris from the roof and ensure proper drainage. Clogged drains/gutters cause costly damage.
  • Trim overhanging branches to avoid abrasion, leaves filling gutters, and excess shade/moisture.
  • Schedule professional roof cleaning every few years to remove algae/mold growth.

Take a proactive approach to roof maintenance. Minor upkeep prevents major headaches down the road!

Knowing When It’s Time for Roof Replacement

Typical reasons to replace worn roof shingles:

  • Age/Appearance: Granule loss exposes vulnerable asphalt. Shingles become cracked, cupped, or misshapen.
  • Leaks: Persistent leaks appear despite repairs. Signs of interior water damage.
  • Bare Spots: Large sections of shingles missing, torn off by wind or improper installation.
  • Insurance Claims: After a major weather event, insurance adjuster deems roof requires full replacement.
  • Changes in Building Code: For example, updated wind resistance standards or fire codes.

Don’t wait until it’s an emergency situation. If your roof is approaching or beyond its typical lifespan, be proactive about replacement.

Disposing of Old Shingles Properly

When removing old roof shingles:

  • Take care not to damage the roof deck underneath. Use pry bars carefully.
  • Minimize debris fallout into the yard using tarps or dumpsters.
  • Consider environmental factors of disposal. Asphalt shingles are not hazardous but do not degrade quickly.
  • Recycling centers may accept old shingles for processing and reuse. This prevents waste but often has a fee.
  • Haul to a construction landfill if no recycling options exist in your area. Most accept asphalt shingles.
  • Do not burn or bury old shingles, as toxic emissions and runoff can result.

Dispose of old roofing responsibly. This protects the environment and avoids messy, hazardous leftovers around your property.

Key Takeaways on Selecting the Best Roof Shingles

  • Evaluate your specific climate conditions and roof style/pitch to narrow suitable shingle choices.
  • Architectural or laminated asphalt shingles offer the best cost/durability balance for most homeowners.
  • Seek Class 3 or 4 impact rating for hail-prone regions; Class A fire rating for fire safety.
  • Higher quality shingles with longer warranties are worthwhile investments for extended roof lifespan.
  • Proper installation using leak barriers, underlayment, ventilation, and correct nailing are just as crucial as the shingles themselves.
  • Ongoing inspection and maintenance maximizes the lifespan of any new shingle installation.

With research and planning, you can make an informed, cost-effective decision about the ideal roofing material for protecting your most valuable asset – your home. Trust our tips to select shingles that check all the boxes for budget, durability, and performance. Your roof will provide lasting defense against the elements for decades to come!