Many homeowners don’t give roofing shingles much thought. However, when it comes time to replace or repair a roof, they’ll quickly realize how many types of roof shingles there are. Despite appearing like a simple building material, there are different styles, compositions, colors, and much more. But, aside from roof contractors, most folks don’t know the difference. 

This guide aims to remedy the lack of awareness some homeowners have for their roof systems. 

What Are Roof Shingles?

At their simplest, roof shingles are a category of building materials that protects a home’s roof from the elements. These systems consist of individual overlapping tabs or shingles, and they provide a surface for water and snow to run off of, as well as a barrier from the sun and wind. This layer of materials lays on top of the roof sheathing and framing.

Roofing shingles are incredibly important for keeping a home safe for long periods of time. Since the individual rows (also known as courses) overlap each other, water runs down one shingle, onto the next, and so on until it ends up running off the eave and into a gutter. This keeps the plywood sheathing from getting wet and rotting, which in turn prevents the framing lumber. Shingled roofs also protect the home’s structure against impacts, the sun’s damaging rays, and even wind. This keeps the home safer and more comfortable, and also prolongs the life of the home. 

As such an important building layer, there are several types of roofing shingles, including variations in material and styles. Knowing which type to choose requires a bit of research into the different types of roof shingles.

8 Types of Roof Shingles

Roof shingles come in many varieties, and each variety has its pros and cons. The following are some of the most common types of roof shingles that a homeowner might have to choose from. 

1. Three-Tab Asphalt Shingles

Three-tab shingles are made of asphalt, and, as the name suggests, feature three tabs per shingle. Each of the tabs are equal in size, giving roofs covered in this material a clean, flat, symmetrical look.

Three-tab shingles are one of the most affordable roofing materials to choose from, and they’re also light and relatively easy to install. However, since these shingles have such a symmetrical flare, they are limited to fewer architectural details.

2. Architectural Asphalt Shingles

Architectural shingles (also known as dimensional shingles) are also made of asphalt, but they feature more irregular designs for architectural interest. These shingles feature multiple layers of laminated shingles, giving them a thicker, tougher design than three-tab shingles. They’re available in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses, as well. 

Architectural shingles are a bit more expensive than three-tab, but not so much that they’re unaffordable. In fact, in areas prone to wind or hail, these thicker, more durable shingles resist the elements well and can last around 20 years, possibly saving homeowners money over a three-tab roof.

3. Metal Shingles

Metal roofs are a favorite among homeowners who don’t want to worry about too much maintenance. These shingles come in a few varieties of their own, including standing seam or overlapping courses of metal shingles.

Metal roofs are resistant to rain, snow, wind, fire, and a number of other elements. They can even be coated with a rubberized material to extend the life of the roof. However, these roofs can dent in hail storms, and those dents can lead to rust (depending on the type of metal the roof is made of). If taken care of, they can last more than 50 years. 

4. Slate Tile Shingles

When it comes to classic good looks, it’s hard to beat the charm of a home with slate tiles. These shingles are made from actual stone, and roofers install them one tile at a time.

Slate shingles give a home a rustic touch. The material itself is extremely durable, lasting up to 100 years if installed correctly. However, these tiles are expensive and very heavy, often requiring the homeowner to boost their roof’s internal structure to carry the load. It’s also hard to find qualified installers to lay a slate roof on a home.

5. Clay and Concrete Shingles

For some homes, particularly in warm climates, clay and concrete shingles are the way to go as they are heat resistant. Manufacturers mold these heavy, durable tiles into series of half-cylinder-shaped shingles, giving these roofs a texture and look like no other. These tiles are non-combustible and offer solar reflective properties for improved energy efficiency over other shingle types. 

Concrete and clay tiles are more expensive than asphalt shingles, and they’re also very heavy. Because they’re so hefty, many homes’ internal framing might not be strong enough to handle the weight. These tiles generally require professional installation. However, any cracks that do occur are usually homeowner-friendly repairs, as they simply require a bit of roofing cement and paint. 

6. Wood Shingles

There might not be a more rustic and charming roofing material than wood shingles. Manufacturers cut these shingles from cedar, redwood, spruce, and other rot-resistant species. They come in both even, set widths and varying widths, allowing homeowners to choose their preferred look.

Wood shingles are durable and can last up to 25 years, and they’re relatively easy to maintain. They’re also on the more affordable end of roofing materials. However, since these shingles are combustible, fire codes in some jurisdictions may prohibit homeowners from using them. 

7. Composite Shingles

While old-school materials like wood and slate are still in use, modern advancements brought the roofing industry composite shingles. These shingles consist of recycled materials like fiberglass, asphalt, and even recycled paper. They come in designs and shapes similar to architectural shingles, slate, wood, and other materials, allowing their use on homes of any sort.

There is a lot to like about composite shingles. First, these shingles are among the most durable choices for roofing systems. They’re impact resistant, fade resistant, mold and algae resistant, and even fire retardant. They’re also capable of withstanding extreme winds. However, all this flexibility comes at a cost as they can be expensive. 

8. Solar Shingles

For folks looking to take advantage of the sun’s energy without installing large, eye-catching panels on their roof, solar shingles are worth checking out. These shingles look similar to standard asphalt shingles, except that their faces contain photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight. 

Solar shingles are a newer technology. They’re also expensive, and there aren’t many companies specializing in their installation yet. 

How to Choose a Shingle Type

It might seem tempting to grab the first bundle of shingles off the home center shelf, but there should be more that goes into choosing a shingle type. The home’s look, design, and structure are important, and the homeowner’s budget and desired level of maintenance should play a part.


Some home designs lend themselves better to one type of roofing shingle than others. For instance, a slate roof would look out of place on a modern farmhouse, where metal might check the boxes. Likewise, solar shingles would make a rustic cabin look strange, while wood shingles could top the design off nicely.

Also, the home’s framing matters. Some framing materials and details aren’t strong enough to handle heavy materials like clay, concrete, or slate. In these cases, asphalt, composite, or metal roof shingles are probably best. 


If there’s a bad time to run out of money, it’s when replacing a roof. Homeowners need to be sure they can afford the material they decide on. Asphalt might cost around $100 to $130 a square (100 square feet in roofing terms), while slate could cost more than $15 per square foot. 

Also, note that shingle installation costs for asphalt and metal roofing is considerably less than slate, clay, concrete, or solar shingles.


Shingles vary considerably when it comes to the level of maintenance. Metal and slate roofing shingles can last for years without a second thought, while wood and asphalt roofing shingles roofs might require an occasional repair or cleaning to keep them in top shape. 

MT Copeland offers video-based online classes that give you a foundation in construction fundamentals with real-world applications, like installing windows and doors . Classes include professionally produced videos taught by practicing craftspeople, and supplementary downloads like quizzes, blueprints, and other materials to help you master the skills.

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