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Today, asphalt shingles is the most economical material, with an average cost of $6,400 for a 1,800 sq.ft. home. This is 30-60% less than you would pay for premium roofs made of metal, clay, or slate.

So, at a fraction of the cost, shingles can compliment a wide variety of architectural home styles, and offer good weather protection. However, like anything under the sun, they have particular PROS and CONS that you need to consider.

Pros & Cons of Asphalt Shingles

The chart below provides a quick summary of all the major advantages and disadvantages that an asphalt roof offers. Keep in mind, that these are generalizations, and specific products may be different. Moreover, shingles prices listed below are national averages, and may be lower or higher in your area.

PROS CONS
Economical: average cost is $3.4 / sq.ft. installed Short Service Life (10-12 years average)
Hundreds of Versatile Colors and Styles Low Resistance to Severe Weather Conditions
Designer Profiles: average cost is $5.5 /sq.ft. installed Susceptible to Rot and Mold
DIY Install Possible: average cost $2,000-2,500 total Poor Energy Efficiency
Easy & Cheap to Repair: average cost $300-400 to hire a pro Hazardous for the Environment
Low Maintenance

Advantages

Architectural Shingles on a Tudor Style Home

Let’s take a look at all the advantages asphalt shingles boast over other sloped roofing materials.

1. Budget-friendly

If you are on a tight budget, but don’t have time to save up for a premium roof, shingles, can save the day. You can get a new roof over your head for as little as $3.4/sq.ft. (all materials and labor included). So if you have a simple, 1,600 sq.ft. gable structure, you are looking to spend a total of $5,440.

You may wonder how can it be so cheap? The reason is simple: huge volume = low price. Shingles are mass produced: over 12.5 billion square feet of product are manufactured annually. This is enough to cover more than 5 million homes every year!

2. Numerous upgrade options available

Malarkey Highlander Shingles

In case you want a better looking, and longer lasting roof, there are many upscale products to consider. These are called architectural shingles. They are thicker, made with more weather-resistant materials, and replicate the nice looks of wood, slate and metal. For example, GAF has a line of Camelot Designer Shingles, that mimic the look and feel of slate. All other major manufacturers, such as CertainTeed, IKO, Owens Corning and Malarkey, also have their own designer lines.

While, they cost more than basic 3-tab shingles, they are still significantly cheaper than the premium materials. The average installation price for good quality architectural shingles is about $6-7/sq.ft installed.

3. DIY installation is possible

Its no secret that labor charges comprise about 65-75% of the total replacement cost. If you are pretty handy, you can save thousands of dollars by doing the install yourself. This is by far the most DIY friendly, easy to work with building product.

You don’t need any special tools, or training. Any local home improvement store, such as Home Depot, carries all the materials and tools you will need for the job. They even offer a number of different inexpensive shingle lines, so you would not even need to go to a different supplier.

Lets compare the cost of hiring a contractor vs. doing it yourself:

If you hire a pro and you have a 1600 sq. ft. (16 squares) roof on a one story ranch or cape home, the install will cost $4,000-6,500 or $250-400/square. This includes 1 layer tear-off and installation of standard laminated or 3-tab shingles.

If you do it yourself, you can expect to spend around $2,000-2,400. This will include the shingles and the complete roof system. Clearly, you can save at least 50-60% off the total cost.

Lastly, there are many DIY articles and videos on YouTube on how to do this right.

4. Versatile color and style options

Architectural Roof Shingles Slate Grey

Shingles are so popular because they look great on any sloped roof. There is a nearly endless number of colors, shapes, textures and styles to choose from. Even the least expensive, 3-tab varieties offer dozens of colors and profiles. Whether you have a classic Colonial, Cape, Tudor, Cabin, or modern style house, there is a product that will enhance your home’s curb appeal.

You can also virtually “try out” different color and design possibilities without even stepping out of the house. There are many online tools, that allow you to visualize what your house will look like with different shingles. For example, CertainTeed’s comprehensive Color View Tool allows you to upload the image of your house and play around with various product options. Alternatively, you can browse their extensive gallery of finished homes to get some ideas and inspiration.



5. Easy and cheap to repair

Another big advantage is that shingles can be quickly and easily repaired, without breaking your wallet. You always have the option to do the repair yourself, as it is not difficult. Depending on the situation, you are looking to spend $75-200 on a DIY repair. However, if your roof has a major leak, or other type of serious damage, we recommend leaving the job to the pros.

Alternatively, hiring a roofer will also not be too expensive, especially if you compare it to the cost of repairing other materials. A simple repair will cost about $150-200. On average, homeowners across the US report spending about $300-450 on a roof repair. A more complicated job will run about $600-750. Such low cost of repairs can translate to significant savings over the lifetime of a roof.

6. Low maintenance

Many homeowners love the fact that shingles don’t require a lot of maintenance. If your roof has been properly installed, all you need to do is periodically clean the debris. This includes: leaves, fallen branches, and other garbage that can collect on the roof and inside gutters over time.

If you really want to make your roof last, you can also inspect for moss and algae growth, check if the shingles and flashings are in good condition. Another option is to have a yearly professional inspection. This will cost about $200-300.

A timely inspection can discover any potential problem at an early stage, so it will not be expensive to fix it. This can lead to significant savings down the line, when the damage spreads and requires expensive repairs, or even total roof replacement.



Disadvantages

Let’s now consider a number of significant disadvantages that roof shingles have.

1. Poor resistance to adverse weather conditions

Damaged Shingles Roof

The reality is that shingles are not the “toughest” material out there. They don’t fair as well as more durable ones, such as metal, in harsh climates, and in regions with severe temperature fluctuations. They can become damaged by heat, especially if you live in an area with excessively high temperatures. They are also susceptible to wind damage, as strong wind can easily lift and tear them off (some more expensive shingles offer enhanced wind uplift resistance of up to 130 mph). Lastly, excessive rain and moisture can cause them to rot and creates mildew problems. In addition to roofing damage, this can be a potential health hazard for the inhabitants of the home.

2. Comparatively short service life

While shingles cost a lot less than premium materials, they also do not last as long. You can expect a service life of about 15-20 years with proper installation and regular upkeep. However, faulty installation can really shorten its service life. There are many instances when it needs to replaced only after 8-10 short years. An average quality roof lasts about 12-14 years. By comparison, more expensive materials, such as metal or clay tile last 50 years to a lifetime.

If you are planning to live in your house for many years, it may be a wise financial decision to invest into a premium, long lasting material. While you may spend more upfront, you will actually save money in the long run with a lifetime roof vs. shingles.

For example, while metal roofing costs about 50% more than asphalt, you only need to install it once. If you stay in your house for the next 25 years, you will need to replace an asphalt roof at least twice, and there will be repairs in between. So in the end, a metal roof will be less expensive, and you will be spared the headache of dealing with problems.

3. Low energy-efficiency

If you are looking to make your home more energy-efficient, shingles should NOT be your top choice. Most standard asphalt products will trap hot air inside your roof, which means that you will be paying higher air conditioning bills to cool your home.

Because of the rising demand for energy efficient building materials, major manufacturers have produced their own lines of energy efficient “cool” shingles, which are Energy Star Rated. For example, one popular product is ECOASIS by Malarkey.

The downside to these improved products is that most of them cost 30-40% more than standard ones. It is important for you to do research and find out exactly how much energy savings you can realize by installing such an expensive material. In this price range, it may be more wise to consider metal, which is one of the most energy efficient options.



4. Environmentally hazardous

Asphalt roofing is manufactured in a way that requires the use of a lot of energy, as well as petroleum. This causes air, water and land pollution, increases green house gas emissions and ultimately contributes to global warming. Moreover, they cannot be easily recycled. This means that most end up in our landfills.

The numbers are rather disturbing:

– An average residential roof tear-off generates about 1-3 tons of shingles. The exact amount depends on roof size and whether there was 1 or 2 layers of material.

– A total of about 10 million tons of shingles is torn-off every year in the US.

– Roughly 1 million tons of scrap is generated in the manufacturing process every year.

– It takes about 300 years for asphalt to decompose in the landfill.

Up until very recently, the standard practice accepted in the roofing industry (both commercial and residential) was to throw the old material into landfills. However, because this is becoming such a huge environmental issue, many states have started working on special recycling programs.

Today, in many areas it is actually possible to recycle the old material, and this was not the case even 3-4 years ago. You roofer needs to be educated on how to do it, as well as be willing to put in the extra effort. Most of these recycling programs are free or cost very little, so it comes down to your contractor’s care about this issue.

Still, if preserving our environment is a big personal concern for you, it may be wise to look for a more “green” roofing option.


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About Yelena G

Yelena G. has been working in the remodeling and construction industry for over 15 years. Her focus is on construction planning and design as well as project cost estimating. Yelena also has a personal interest in interior design, as well as in unique DIY remodeling projects. Read more about Yelena

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