How to Choose the Right Asphalt Roofing Shingles

Multistory home with asphalt shingle roof in New Jersey

One of the first decisions you make after deciding it is time for a new roof is determining the material you are going to use. If you are like 80% of Americans, asphalt roofing shingles will be your number one choice thanks to their affordability. However, there are many additional factors you need to consider when choosing the right asphalt roofing shingles for your home.

We detail everything you need to know about choosing the right asphalt roofing shingles, including styles, durability, style, energy efficiency, maintenance needs, and more.  

In this article, we’ll cover:

Photo credit: Shadowmeld Photography / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

What is Asphalt Shingle Roofing?

Dating back to 1901, 80% of homes have roofs constructed of asphalt shingles, making it the most popular roofing material in the U.S. The budget-friendly material is easy to install and low maintenance

Asphalt shingles comprise fiberglass or cellulose mat, asphalt, and mineral granules. Each shingle is a small, flexible, rectangular piece of material installed in overlapping rows to protect you, your family, and your belongings from the elements.

There are three dominant styles of asphalt shingles – 3-tab, architectural, and designer — all offering distinct characteristics.

Photo credit: TriviaKing at English Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

3-Tab Shingles

3-tab shingles look like traditional shingles and have a uniform flat appearance. They are the cheapest asphalt shingle roofing option comprising an outer layer of asphalt, adhesives, and granules with a fiberglass backing. 

3-tab shingles offer high fire resistance but have a short lifespan compared to other asphalt roofing options, lasting between 7 to 15 years. These economical shingles are prone to weather damage and can only withstand winds up to 60 mph. 

Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles are a more visually interesting roofing product than other options. These shingles create a layered, textured aesthetic and are thicker and more substantial than 3-tab shingles.   

Architectural shingles last between 18 to 20 years, come in a variety of colors, and can withstand strong winds up to 120 mph. 

Designer Shingles 

It is easy to see why designer shingles, also known as luxury shingles, are the best asphalt roofing shingles on the market. These shingles are the largest of the three options and imitate the appearance of luxury roofing materials like clay or slate tiles.

Designer shingles cost double the price of 3-tab shingles and are the most expensive asphalt variety, however, they are more weather-resistant and last up to 30 years

What to Look for When Choosing the Right Asphalt Shingles

Depending on the material you choose, labor accounts for approximately 60% of the cost of your new roof, and choosing better quality, more expensive material or a variety of asphalt shingles will not double the cost of your new roof. 

While budget plays a large role in your material choice, there are several other factors to consider before making your decision. 


Different roofing materials have different lifespans. Some materials will only require replacement once in your lifetime, while other, more budget-friendly options will need to be replaced in just over a decade. 

Shingle VarietyAverage Lifespan
3-tab Shingles7-15 years
Architectural Shingles20 years
Designer Shingles30 years


One of the first factors you need to consider is application. For new construction, roofing contractors can build roof systems to support any material. However, when replacing an existing roof, some materials like cement, clay, and slate tiles require additional support for their weight. 

It is almost always better to replace your roof instead of taking the shortcut and re-roofing. However, re-roofing is beneficial if you have budget constraints and need repairs. However, you can only use 3-tab shingles when re-roofing. 


On average, a new roof adds $15,000 to the sale price of your home, providing a 100% return on your investment. When selecting the best materials for your new roof, carefully consider your budget. Compare the price of materials and the square footage of your home while keeping in mind that labor accounts for 60% of the cost of your new roof

Shingle roofs are a cost-effective roofing option suitable for most budgets. Asphalt roofing shingles cost an average of $128 to $190 per 100 square feet. 

Cost of Materials Per Square FootNational Average With Labor
Asphalt Shingles$1 to $8$9,056
3-Tab Shingles$1 to $3$7,500
Architectural Shingles$4 to $7$13,000
Designer ShinglesStart at $8$20,000

Weather Conditions

Your roof withstands the elements, protecting you from the weather daily. It is important to consider your overall climate when selecting a roofing material. 

Asphalt shingles are a great all-weather residential roofing material. Warm regions, like the Southwest and tropical climates like Florida, benefit from the reflective outer layer that keeps your home cooler. Specially treated algae-resistant varieties are also available for subtropical areas.  

The popular roofing material is also a superb choice for colder regions. Asphalt shingles allow snow and ice to slide off your roof’s surface, preventing ice dams.

Wind Rating

Extreme climates affect many regions of the U.S. As a homeowner, you want a roofing material that can stand up to storms, especially if you live in a hurricane-prone area. When choosing the right asphalt roofing shingles for your home, consider the overall wind rating.

Traditional shingles are susceptible to damage from high winds. All asphalt shingles carry a wind resistance classification from the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, and different shingle varieties can withstand strong winds. 

3-tab shingles are prone to damage and can only withstand winds up to 60 mph. Architectural and designer shingles are more weather-resistant and can withstand extremely high winds up to 150 mph, depending on their classification.

Asphalt Shingle Wind Resistance ClassificationMax Wind Gust Rating
A60 mph
D90 mph
F110 mph
G120 mph
H150 mph

Impact Resistance

Another important climatic factor to consider is impact resistance. Impact resistance measures how well the shingle’s fiberglass or composite mat will hold up to hail or falling debris.

There are four levels of impact resistance for asphalt shingle roofing, and hail- or wind-prone areas benefit from a higher rating. Specialty high-impact shingle varieties are available for roofs in these climates to minimize damage.

Impact RatingHail Size
11.25 inches in diameter, quarter-sized
21.5 inches in diameter, ping-pong ball-sized
31.75 inches in diameter, golf ball-sized
42 inches in diameter, approximately tennis-ball sized

Roof Pitch and Slope

The angle of your roof’s incline, also known as its pitch, affects the type of roofing material that will work on your roof, while slope refers to how steep the angle of your roof is. Steeper roofs cannot handle heavier roofing materials like slate, concrete, or clay tiles.  

Roof pitch and slope aren’t large concerns when choosing asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles work on many roof styles and are easy to install. However, a high pitch and slope make more of your roof visible from street level. 

The more visible your roof, the more your roof needs to complement and enhance your home’s curb appeal. Color and style choices become an even more important consideration with high-pitched roofs.  


First impressions are important. Your home’s architectural style plays a large role in your choice of roofing material. Asphalt shingles are versatile and work with almost any architectural design, including antique-style and Victorian homes. 

Depending on the architectural aesthetics of your home, many asphalt shingles can mimic high-end materials like wood shakes, wood shingles, or slate tiles, offering texture and dimension.  

While style is subjective and there is no right or wrong choice, it affects curb appeal. Asphalt shingle roofs come in a variety of shapes, textures, and colors, making them incredibly versatile, and the flexible materials can be mixed and matched easily. 


Not to introduce pressure or anything, but roof color is really important. It defines the look of your home. Your roof accounts for over 50% of your home’s exterior and 40% of its overall curb appeal.

Asphalt roof shingle colors range from gray to brown with red tones mixed in, and some varieties offer shades of green and blue. Many homeowners mix and match light and dark tones to create a vintage or dimensional look.

Color also plays a large role in how energy efficient your roof is. Warmer climates need lighter-colored asphalt shingles, while cooler climates benefit from the heat-absorbing properties of darker colors. 

Latitude and Light

The sun’s rays take on different hues at different latitudes. The blue hue of the Northern sky benefits from cooler colors while the further south you move, the more reddish the sky’s hue becomes, making warm-colored roofs a better option. Similarly, nature-forward areas like the Pacific Northwest benefit from browns and grays to fit in with the natural landscape. 

Energy Efficiency 

The right roofing material can save you money on your energy bills. A collection of roofing materials and upgrades like specialized asphalt shingles, metal panels, and roof paints are available as part of a cool roof initiative to help ease urban heat islands. 

Many asphalt shingles varieties have specialty coatings to increase solar reflectance and thermal emittance and reduce energy costs. However, asphalt roofing shingles aren’t the most energy-efficient option and require additional attic insulation. 


Many roofing materials on the market require very little maintenance, but it is still important to consider just how much annual maintenance you will commit to, as well as any additional costs maintenance may add. 

Asphalt shingle roofing is relatively low maintenance. The popular roofing option requires an annual inspection to check for broken or missing shingles and a cleaning. Most shingle varieties resist algae growth, and homeowners in moist climates like the Northwest can avoid shingle rot by regularly removing moss growth. 

Roofing shingles do not show dirt as readily as other roofing materials. However, shingles can fade with time and sun exposure, making it impossible to color-match replacement shingles


Your roof is a significant investment, so be sure to consider product and service warranties when making your material selection. Some companies and materials have better warranties than others. Consider:

  • How long is the warranty?
  • Does the warranty cover labor, materials, or both? 
  • Is it a manufacturer’s warranty? 
  • Is the warranty from a roofing company?
  • What maintenance do I need to perform to keep my warranty in good standing?

FAQ About Choosing the Right Asphalt Roofing Shingles

What are the signs I need a new roof?

Extreme weather, age, and poor maintenance habits can wreak havoc on your roof. Watch out for these signs it is time to replace your roof:

• Damaged, loose, curled, missing, or mossy shingles
• Damage or discoloration around vents, chimneys, or skylights 
• Sagging areas 
• Visible leaks or water damage
• Grit (flakes of asphalt shingles) in your gutters
• Your roof is over 20 years old
• Neighbors are having their roofs replaced 

Can you do a DIY roof installation?

DIY home improvement projects are fun and rewarding, but roofing is one DIY project you should never tackle on your own. Roofing requires expertise and a lot of hard work. Here are some reasons to leave roofing to the pros:

• Safety
• Warranties
• Tools
• Quality

Are ENERGY STAR roofs worth it?

ENERGY STAR-rated roofing materials can help lower your energy costs by up to 25%, and the average home saves up to $500 per year. Energy-efficient roofing pays for itself, and you can recover 100% of your investment when installing a new roof. 

Need Help Choosing the Right Asphalt Roofing Shingles?

The first asphalt shingles were black and made from asphalt-soaked cotton rags. Luckily, the shingle roofing industry has come a long way, offering many distinct colors and styles. While visual appeal is important, there are a lot of other factors to consider when choosing the right asphalt roofing shingles for your home. 

Skip the guesswork and contact a local roofing contractor to learn about shingle varieties and assess the factors you need to consider when making your decision.

Main photo credit: Tallguy0187 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Kimberly Magerl

Born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, Kimberly Magerl enjoys growing fruits and vegetables in her garden. When she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.