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Types of Roof Shingles: Everything You Need to Know

Types of Roof Shingles: Everything You Need to Know

Your roof is one of the most important details of your house. It needs to keep the elements out and look great. The good news is that there are a ton of options for roofing materials. They can fit any style or budget imaginable.

In this article, we are going to be talking specifically about shingles. Shingles are one of the most versatile roofing options available, and they can be made to fit any sized roof. They are one of the most common roofing types in existence, and chances are that you have lived in a building that has a shingle roof.

What Are Shingles?

Before we talk about the different types of shingles, let’s talk about what a shingle actually is. At its most basic, a roof shingle is just a flat, rectangular piece of material. These pieces get layered and overlapped in such a way that they keep the rain out.

Shingles vs. Tiles

Modern tiles make it difficult to narrow the definition down more than that. A tile is usually a curved piece of clay or stone, but there are also shingles made from clay and stone. Slate, metal, and plastic tiles can be used as shingles or as tiles, and large sheets of composite tile are often called shingles.

Since the line between tile and shingle can get blurry, it’s usually only suppliers and roofers that need to make the harder distinctions. No one will ever fault you if you get caught calling a roof “tile” when it’s actually “shake.”

Shingles vs. Other Roofing Types

There are a handful of roofing types that don’t use shingles or tiles. Roll-on roofing comes in very large rolls made of TPO or rubber, and it lays down just like saran wrapping your roof. Hot mop roofing uses molten tar to seal the roof, and torch down is kind of like asphalt shingle roofing, except it comes in a big roll that you melt onto the roof.

Shingles are the most versatile roofing available, though. The only real requirement for a shingle roof is that it can’t be flat. The roof can be almost any shape or size because the individual shingles can conform to any contour. To improve the waterproofing, you simply add more of them.

They also tend to look a lot better than other options. Outside of Europe, where the terracotta tile is still supreme, almost anywhere you go, you’ll find stylish shingle patterns accenting neighborhoods and making individual houses unique. The following types are the most common types on the market.

Asphalt Shingles

standard dimensional asphalt shingle roof

Asphalt shingles are the most common type of shingle. They are the least expensive, are very easy to install, and can be found at any supply store. They come in three main flavors.


Three-tab shingles are among the cheapest roofing options that you can buy. They are flat sheets with three flaps and are staggered so that the seams overlap like brickwork. A standard shingle roof lasts 15 years if properly installed, but they are prone to being ripped off by the wind.


Architectural shingles, sometimes called dimensional or laminated shingles, feature layers of shingles that are cut into patterns and pressed together. They are much stronger than three-tab shingles and can last 30 years if properly installed.

Many people also find them to be better looking than three-tab, and they have become the most popular type of shingle available on the market despite their higher price.


Luxury or custom-shaped asphalt shingles are meant to look like other styles of roofing. If you have an older house and want to keep the classic shake roof but don’t want to pay the high price to install shake, luxury shingles are a good option.

They are, however, more expensive than architectural shingles, and they don’t provide any strength or waterproofing benefits.


wood shake roof in the sun

Wood is one of the oldest roofing technologies available, and it is still popular for its unique look and versatility. The most common type of wood roofing is made of cedar, but some other woods like redwood are not unheard of.

Wood shingles must be treated so that they remain waterproof. How long they last varies greatly depending on the climate where they are installed. Perhaps the biggest drawback to wood roofing is that it’s flammable. That can make it difficult to insure and is a big worry if you live in an area prone to fires.


Wood shingles are uniform cut planks that overlap just like asphalt shingles. They can be made of engineered woods like plywood to give you the rustic look of a wooden roof but save money compared to larger solid wood planks.

Wood shingles tend to be very light, which makes them a good option for older houses. Generally, it does not cost much more to install wood shingles than installing luxury asphalt shingles.


The biggest difference between wood shakes and wood shingles is that shakes can be all sorts of different widths and lengths. In fact, the thing that gives shake its unique look is the lack of uniformity between tiles, which is why hand-cut shakes are still desirable.

Shake roofs are much more difficult to install than wood shingle roofs. That means the quality of material and labor tends to be higher, making shakes last longer than wood shingles. They are considerably more expensive than asphalt shingle roofs, though.

Stone Shingles

slate shingle roof with dormers

Stone shingles blur the line between tile roofing and shingle roofing. Slate and clay roofing are very heavy and strong, meaning they hold up well in extreme climates. That durability also makes these shingles some of the longest-lasting that you can buy.


Slate shingles are very thin pieces of uniform cut rock. You don’t get a very big selection of colors or styles, but the unique look that the natural stone provides is still very desirable. Slate shingles last the longest out of any material since natural stone is very difficult to damage. It is one of the most expensive roofing options, though.


Clay shingles further blur the line between tile and shingle. Unlike interlocking Roman tiles or Spanish tiles, clay shingles are staggered and layered on top of each other much like a wood shake roof.

Clay tiles will last almost as long as slate will and offer the extra benefit of being made from recyclable materials. They are also one of the best options for dealing with extreme heat.

Metal Shingles

copper shingles on a large building

When people think of metal roofs, they often think of large standing seam or corrugated panels. However, metal shingles are gaining in popularity for their ability to mimic the look of other roof materials while retaining the incredible durability that metal offers.


Aluminum roof shingles are very lightweight and can come in almost any color or shape. They can easily last 50+ years and are less expensive than wood or stone shingles. Depending on the shape, they can even interlock and be entirely resistant to wind. They can be very noisy when it rains, though.


Copper roof shingles offer a truly unique look that is impossible to replicate. They are very expensive, require special installation, and need a lot of maintenance. For that reason, they are often used to accent other types of roofs.

Zinc or Galvanized

Treated steel roof shingles are the most common metal shingles available. They are only slightly heavier than aluminum shingles but offer added strength against the elements.

Steel shingles are the cheapest metal shingles you can buy, and installation prices are similar to wood or architectural asphalt shingles. It is the noisiest roof option, though, and they require special inspections that some areas may not offer.

Specialty Shingles

solar shingles being installed

There are a handful of shingle options that don’t fall into any one category, and more are being developed every day. Here are three common alternatives to the major shingle styles.


Solar shingles are large shingles that are also solar panels. Instead of installing large panels above the roof, you can install these shingles as the roof material. They look great and offer you a unique way to add solar panels to a building without ruining the design. They are very expensive, though, and require highly skilled professionals to install them.


Plastic is one of the newest roofing options on the market. There are two forms of plastic shingles.

The first is composite shingles, which look like asphalt shingles from a distance. They are made from a composite of recycled plastics, woods, and fiberglass. They are a little more expensive than traditional asphalt shingles but last longer and are better for the ecology.

Molded plastic shingles, meanwhile, can be made to mimic the shape of other roofing types. They are very inexpensive; some simple plastic tiles can even be cheaper per square foot than asphalt. They will not last as long as any other materials, though, and are prone to fading and cracking over time.


Rubber shingles require the least maintenance out of any roofing type and are often very easy to install. They also usually don’t cost that much more than asphalt and can be made in some very unique patterns to let your house stand out in your neighborhood. They last less than 30 years, though, which can turn many people away.

Keep the Water out and the Good In

There are a ton of different styles and materials that you can choose from when it comes to shingle roofing. No matter what your lifestyle is, there’s a shingle for you. The hardest part will be finding the balance between looks and price.

We hope this guide can help start you on your journey or at least get you thinking about the stuff above your head.