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Homeowner's Guide to Choosing the Right Roof Shingle Type

Learn everything you need to make an informed shingle decision, from standard pricing to the available styles.

ByJon Behm| Last Updated:01/26/2024
A two-story home with the upper story's roof shingles removed.

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How to Pick the Best Shingles for Your Residential Roof

Whether your current roof needs replacing or you’re weighing design options as you build your dream home, choosing shingles is a big decision. There’s no shortage of options for roofing materials and styles, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

We spoke with Jaime Sessions, Communications Manager of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), for insight into what sets different materials apart and how to make an informed decision.

A person using a level to measure the pitch of a roof.

5 Factors That Impact the Type of Roof Shingle You Need

How much you’ll pay for various roof shingle materials and installation is only the tip of the iceberg. There are several key factors to consider when deciding on the best roofing material for your home.

NRCA logo.
Jamie Sessions, Communications Manager | NRCA

"There are a number of things to consider when selecting a new roof system. Of course, cost and durability head the list, but aesthetics and architectural style are important, too. The right roof system for your home or building is one that balances these considerations."

1. How Much Do Roof Shingles Cost?

Most homeowners pay between $5,700 and $16,000 for a new roof. When budgeting, keep in mind that the cost of installation and labor, as well as the cost of the material itself, will impact your bottom line. You’ll also need to account for the total square footage that your new shingles will cover. If you have a large roof area to cover, you might consider opting for cheaper materials.

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Shingle Estimation

For more tips on calculating the square footage of your roof, check out our guide on estimating roofing materials.

2. What Is the Slope and Pitch of Your Roof?

Slope refers to how steep the angle of your roof is, and is normally measured with two numbers representing the rise, or height of your roof, and the run, representing its length. As an example, a slope of 4:12 indicates that a roof rises four feet and runs 12 feet. Depending on how steep the slope of your roof is, it may not be well suited for heavier roof shingle types, such as slate or clay tiles.

3. What Are the Weight Limits of Your Structure?

The weights of shingle materials vary widely. That’s why it’s important to know how much weight your home’s structure can safely support before making a decision. Buildings are designated a “dead load” tolerance, or the weight of the roof structure. If the dead load is exceeded, the structure will not be able to support its own weight. The average home has a dead load of around 15 pounds per square foot.

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Roofing 101

Want to learn more roofing terminology? We’ll walk you through it in Roofing 101.

4. How Will Your Local Climate Affect the New Roof?

Think about the weather patterns in your area during the material selection process. Extreme winds can tear lighter shingles right off, while heavy snow can add dangerous weight to roofs already weighed down by heavy materials. Also, some roofing materials, such as metal, have sun-reflective or cooling properties that make them useful in hot climates. Slate and clay also stand up very well to heat and fire, and are used in some coastal areas for their resistance to high winds.

5. How Will You Choose a Roof Color?

No one wants their roof to clash with the rest of their house. When choosing shingles, take a look at the colors available for each material. Standard asphalt shingles and slate tiles tend to come in earthy and neutral blacks and grays, but metal can be painted in a wide variety of shades. As a general guideline, darker, more neutral shingles pair well with white and off-white siding as well as red brick. It may also be worth considering a new paint job for your home to match the new roof.

When browsing roof and siding colors, keep in mind that some homeowner’s associations have rules and regulations on acceptable colors. Check to see if any of these rules apply to your home before choosing a color scheme.

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Disposal Tip

Ready to start your project, but not sure what to do with the old shingles? Our comprehensive shingle disposal guide will give you the tips and tricks you need to know.

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Six types of shingles combined into one image.

7 Most Popular Roofing Materials for Residential Housing

There’s a large variety of types and materials that homeowners and property managers can choose from. To help narrow down your decision, start by deciding what qualities you’re looking for in your new roof. Perhaps saving money is your main concern. Maybe you want a classic look that’ll catch the eye. Or you could be looking for durability above all. Chances are there’s a shingle for you.

Let’s look into 7 popular residential roofing types, paying special attention to the cost per square (a 10x10 square-foot area of material) and the expected lifespan.

1. Asphalt or Architectural Shingles

One of the most popular roofing materials in the country, asphalt shingles are easy to install, versatile and budget-friendly. They come in several shapes and sizes, including the basic 3-tab shingle, which can be seen on the roofs of homes around the country and is often the most affordable shingle material available. Similar to the basic 3-tab shingles are the slightly more expensive architectural shingles and designer asphalt shingles, which can be crafted into a variety of different shapes and styles, from octagonal panels to overlapping square patterns.

  • Average cost: $80 to $250 per square
  • Average lifespan: 20 years
NRCA logo.
Jamie Sessions, Communications Manager | NRCA

"Asphalt shingles possess an overwhelming share of the U.S. steep-slope roofing market and can be reinforced with organic or fiberglass materials. Although asphalt shingles reinforced with organic felts have been around much longer, fiberglass-reinforced products now dominate the market."

2. Rubber or Plastic Shingles

Synthetic roofing materials imitate the look of heavier and more expensive shingles without the weight and cost. They are manufactured in a large variety of sizes and shapes, so there are plenty of options on the market. As you compare brands, make sure to look for a Class A fire rating. An added benefit of rubber and plastic shingles is that some types are highly recyclable.

  • Average cost: $425 to $825 per square, depending on material
  • Average lifespan: 22 years

3. Metal Roof Panels

Shingles made of metal are a smart consideration if you live in a fire-prone area. Plus, these materials are built to last, surpassing wood and asphalt in terms of lifespan. Metal can also be cut in a flat, panel form or smaller, shingle-like shapes. On the other hand, you’ll likely need to pay extra for this especially durable material.

  • Average cost: $100 to $800 per square
  • Average lifespan: 55 years
NRCA logo.
Jamie Sessions, Communications Manager | NRCA

"Metal shingles typically are intended to simulate traditional roof coverings, such as wood shakes, shingles and tile. Apart from metal roofing's longevity, metal shingles are relatively lightweight, have a greater resistance to adverse weather and can be aesthetically pleasing. Some have Class A fire ratings."

4. Wood Shingles and Shakes

If you’re going for a natural look, wooden roofing materials are an attractive option. Although they are made of similar materials, shakes are normally hand-cut and have a rougher, more rustic appearance than shingles. Wood shingles and shakes are usually treated to resist water damage and rot, but often don’t last as long as other materials and can present a fire hazard if not properly maintained.

  • Average cost: $300 to $700 per square
  • Average lifespan: 27 years
NRCA logo.
Jamie Sessions, Communications Manager | NRCA

"Wood shingles are machine-sawn. Shakes are handmade, and their surfaces are rough. Some local building codes limit the use of wood shingles and shakes because of concerns about fire resistance. Many wood shingles and shakes only have Class C fire ratings or no ratings at all. However, Class A fire ratings are available for certain wood shingle products that incorporate a factory-applied, fire-resistant treatment."

5. Solar Tiles

A forward-thinking and trendy roofing option, solar (or photo-voltaic) tiles function as miniature solar panels that double as shingles. Similar in appearance to traditional asphalt materials, solar tiles can be used to generate electricity while also keeping the elements out of your home. Though somewhat higher on the price scale than some options, the cost of solar tiles can be offset by the money you save on your power bill in a more energy-efficient home. Some homeowners may also qualify for a Solar Investment Tax Credit by installing solar energy panels on their houses.

Keep in mind that you can get the benefits of solar power without constructing a roof entirely out of solar tiles. External solar panels can also be installed on top of a roof made from less expensive materials.

  • Average cost: $1,000 to $2,500 per square
  • Average lifespan: 27 years
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Disposal Tip

Working on more than one home with solar panels? Installing an entire solar farm? We provide solar waste dumpsters for projects large and small.

6. Stone and Slate Tiles

The classic and timeless look of flat stone shingles can bring a sense of elegance and strength to any home. They have the added bonuses of durability and fire resistance. The downside is that slate shingles tend to be pricey and heavy. They also usually require installation by a specialist to be fitted properly. In addition to material costs, it may be difficult to find a qualified installation company depending on your location. Careful upkeep is important for slate roofs, including routine gutter cleaning and replacement of any damaged tiles.

  • Average cost: $600 to $1,600 per square
  • Average lifespan: 125 years
NRCA logo.
Jamie Sessions, Communications Manager | NRCA

"Slate is quarried in the United States in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is available in different colors and grades, depending on its origin. Considered virtually indestructible, it is, however, more expensive than other roofing materials. In addition, its application requires special skill and experience. Many old homes, especially in the Northeast, are still protected by this long-lasting roofing material."

7. Clay and Terracotta Tiles

A classic and distinctive roof design, terracotta tiles also boast a considerable lifespan. As a breathable material, they have the added benefits of heat dispersion and energy efficiency. However, clay tiles tend to be expensive and heavy. Though the tiles themselves are sturdy and last a long time, the roofing underlayment beneath them may need to be replaced more frequently due to their weight.

  • Average cost:$300 - $2,500 per square
  • Average lifespan: 65 years
NRCA logo.
Jamie Sessions, Communications Manager | NRCA

"Tile — clay or concrete — is a durable roofing material. Mission and Spanish-style round-topped tiles are used widely in the Southwest and Florida, and flat styles also are available to create French and English looks. Tile is available in a variety of colors and finishes. Tile is heavy. If you are replacing another type of roof system with tile, you will need to verify that the structure can support the load."

Which Singles Are Right for Your Roof?

You should now have what you need to choose your shingles, estimate their material and installation costs and start planning a whole new look for your home. A trained, professional roofing contractor can help you put this plan into action.

Keep the right tools on hand for your upcoming roofing project. A roll off roofing dumpster, combined with our expertise in the roofing industry, can help you get rid of old shingles quickly and easily.

Expert Contributors

NRCA logo.

Jaime Sessions

Jamie is the Communications Manager for the National Roofing Contractors Association. Headquartered outside of Chicago, the NRCA is a highly respected trade association in the construction industry and the leading authority in the roofing industry for information, education, technology and advocacy.

Other Sources

How Much Does a Roof Replacement Cost? (n.d.). Retrieved from homeguide.com
Sabo, R. (2023, August 17). Rubber Roofing. Retrieved from Modernize.com
Load Limits on the Roof of a Building. (2021, February 25). Retrieved from Weekand.com

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