Updated on January 11th, 2021
Asphalt shingles remain the most popular roofing material in America. While not the most durable option around, composition shingles aka fiberglass mat asphalt shingles are the most economical. They make for quick installation and continue to be improved upon.
Since the 1980’s, fiberglass shingles have effectively displaced the traditional organic asphalt shingle. The cost of materials and installation has stayed relative to the rate of inflation.
As roofers discuss everything in terms of squares (100 sq.ft.), let’s use those rates. On average, a square of fiberglass roofing shingles will run $400 to $750 per square fully installed.
Note: In high cost of living areas such as Washington DC, NYC, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, and LA, the cost can easily exceed $600-$800 per square installed.
If choosing to go with a warrantied professional installation, on average, you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $15,000 for a 20 square, or 2,000 sq.ft. roof. — This includes all materials and labor, tear off of the old roof and disposal, permitting, and 5-year warranty.
Cost of Materials vs. Other Alternatives:
The material cost, per square foot, for all other roofing options starts at about $3.50 per square foot and goes up to well over $10.00 per square foot from there; while fiberglass shingles are easily well under $2.00 per sq.ft for most asphalt roofing material options, except premium. You’d have to go with high-end, premium architectural shingles to have it rise to the low-end cost of other materials such as cedar shingles and metal.
Traditional asphalt shingles, often referenced as organic mat-base shingles, were heavier than the contemporary fiberglass version. This is a result of needing 40% more asphalt than the updated fiberglass version.
The fiberglass base mat along with the ceramic granules are truly the primary materials while the asphalt layer serves the important function of waterproofing the mat. The granules, both old and new, serve the purpose shielding the shingle/mat from harmful UV rays.
Less asphalt does make for less flexibility and initially less durability. Though organic mat-based are well known to absorb water which during changes from hot to freezing temps, lead to more cracking or warping of the shingle.
Being lighter weight, fiberglass shingles are easier to transport, thus more eco-friendly in terms of energy needed for transport. And less weight that will end up in landfills, which is overall a disadvantage of asphalt shingles compared to recyclable materials such as metal and ceramic tile.
Two different types of fiberglass shingles exist, with enormous number of sub-variations. Three-tab shingles are the less expensive version that delivers an overall flat looking roof.
The ’tabs’ are a part of the shingle that on a finished roof are not detectable as all shingle tabs look like individual pieces, when really, they are overlapping pieces of three-tabbed shingles.
Architectural grade is the second, more expensive version. Sometimes referenced as dimensional 3D or laminate shingles.
This type of fiberglass shingle provides extra depth and shape to what is the resulting shingle appearance. The contoured look gives off more of an impression slate tile or even wood shake.
Both types of fiberglass shingles can vary the color on a single roof, but three-tab is commonly a single color while the dimensional tiles have visible shade and hue difference among each piece.
All contemporary roofing materials have limitless color options and fiberglass shingles are no different. Green, red, brown, gray and black are all common for fiberglass shingles.
Additional Considerations and Features
A significant advantage architectural shingles has over 3-tab is the manufacturer’s warranty. Typically, the 3-tab or strip shingles will carry a warranty for anywhere from 15 to 30 years depending on manufacturer, climate, and regional environmental factors. Architectural grade starts with a minimum of 30 years.
The same roof mentioned in the Cost Basics section above, using laminate shingles, would be $10,500 to $15,500 with labor, for 20 squares.
For low sloped roofs, three-tab is the better option as the contours of a dimensional roof could hold or trap water more than the flatness of the three-tab version.
Some manufacturers use colored granules designed to reflect sun rays, thus delivering cool roof type technology on an asphalt shingle application.
While metal roofing is superior when it comes to actual cool roof benefits, you’ll want to check for Energy Star rated fiberglass shingles to achieve these sorts of benefits.
Similarly, contemporary fiberglass shingles have the option of being treated for algae resistance. If you go for these, plan to pay as much as 15 percent more for roofing material.
For homeowners in high humidity or increased precipitation, this may be of interest to you.
- ease of installation – almost all professional roofers will install this product, and many DIY’er types can handle this type of roofing project
- very budget friendly or for sure one of the most economical choices available for adding a new roof to your home
- great versatility with lots of styles and options to select from
- widely available
- unlike many other types of roof, fiberglass shingles can be walked on without need for special attention or fear of cracking/denting the material
- decent to good return on your investment. 3-tab shingle replacements generally amount to 70% ROI, while architectural grade can not only further improve curb appeal, but also fetch as much as 78%
- while more eco-friendly than organic version, they lag far behind other roofing materials
- far less durable than most other roofing options that can last 50 to 100 years, by the time one needs to replace a slate tile roof, the homeowner who stuck with fiberglass will have paid for 3 roofs that are subject to escalating costs over time
- due to shorter life span, the need for annual checkups is greater along with possibility of needed repairs from curled or cracked shingles. Especially a factor for three tab shingles in hotter climates