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Asphalt Shingles vs. Composite (Synthetic) Shingles: Which is Better?

January 12th, 2022 | 7 min. read

Asphalt Shingles vs. Composite (Synthetic) Shingles: Which is Better?

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Choosing between asphalt shingles or composite shingles for your replacement is an important decision. Because it’s so important, you need to be sure you’re making the right choice. 

But how can you be sure you’re making the best decision for yourself? That comes down to comparing asphalt shingles and composite shingles on key factors. To make it easier for you, we put all these comparisons in one place. 

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners find the perfect roofing material for their roof replacement. Now we want to help you determine if an asphalt shingle roof or a composite shingle roof is right for you. 

I’ll start this article by giving you a quick overview of asphalt shingles and composite shingles (with pictures). After that, I’ll get right into comparing them on curb appeal, lifespan, warranties, and, most importantly, cost. 

What are asphalt shingles?

An asphalt shingle roof is the most common type of roof you see on homes today. The asphalt shingles themselves consist of fiberglass, tar, and granules put on a fiberglass mat. 

types of asphalt shingles(Left to right: 3-tab, architectural, and luxury)

There are three different types of asphalt shingles: 3-tab, architectural (aka dimensional), and luxury. 3-tab asphalt shingles lay flat and get their name from the 3 tabs on each shingle strip.

Architectural (dimensional) asphalt shingles give you a good-looking random pattern or simulate the look of a wood shake roof. Luxury or premium asphalt shingles are larger than the other asphalt shingles and look like slate.

3-tab used to dominate the roofing industry, but architectural shingles are now the most common type of asphalt shingle and roofing material in general installed on roofs today. Luxury style shingles are just as heavily marketed as architectural but are almost double the price. 

Because it's the most popular roofing material used, we’ll be using an architectural asphalt shingle roof as an example for the rest of this article.  

What are composite (synthetic) shingles?

Composite (aka synthetic) shingles are made of a synthetic polymer or recycled materials and designed to look exactly like a slate or cedar shake roof.

real slate roof vs. composite shingle roof(Natural slate tiles and composite slate shingles)

The manufacturers of composite shingles use molds of real slate tiles and cedar shakes to give them a truly authentic look. If you work in the roofing industry, you might be able to tell the difference between the synthetic shingles and the roofing material it mimics. 

CedarShakeSyntheticvsNatural(Natural cedar shakes and composite cedar shingles)

But I guarantee your neighbors or anyone walking by won’t be able to tell the difference. Be aware; some homeowners confuse composite shingles with composition shingles, but this is just another roofing industry term for asphalt shingles. 

Asphalt shingles vs. composite (synthetic) shingles: the 4 main comparisons

Now that you have a quick overview of both types of roofing materials, you’re ready to compare them on key factors. The 4 factors are the biggest considerations every homeowner needs to keep in mind when trying to find the right roof for them. 

Let’s compare asphalt shingles to composite shingles on curb appeal, lifespan, warranties, and cost. Remember, we’ll be comparing architectural asphalt shingles specifically to composite shingles for this article. 

1. The curb appeal of asphalt shingles compared to composite (synthetic) shingles

Curb appeal is defined as the visual attractiveness of a home from the street. No matter which type you choose, both roofing materials boost your home’s curb appeal after they’re installed. 

55-1(Architectural asphalt shingle roof's curb appeal)

However, a composite roof boosts your home’s curb appeal much more than an architectural asphalt shingle roof. This comes down to the simple fact that composite shingles look exactly like real slate and cedar shakes. 

Before and After 5-11-210-1(Composite slate roof's curb appeal)

Because a slate roof and a cedar shake roof are two of the best-looking roof systems, a material that mimics their look will always have a higher curb appeal than architectural asphalt shingles. But remember, luxury asphalt shingles also give you a slate look. 

They won’t look as close to the real thing as composite shingles, but luxury shingles still make a roof stand out and have high curb appeal. 

2. The lifespan of asphalt shingles vs. composite (synthetic) shingles

A roof’s lifespan is how many years you can expect to get out of it. Both types of roofing materials have specific lifespans from the manufacturer of the shingles. 

An architectural asphalt shingle roof has a manufacturer-specified lifespan of around 30 years. In reality, you should get around 80-85% of the life span out of an architectural asphalt shingle roof, so around 25-28 years. 

On the other hand, you can expect to get around 40-50 years of life out of composite shingles. The reason composite shingles are durable and long-lasting comes down to their impact rating.

The lifespans above are all dependent on proper roof installation, adequate attic ventilation, and getting regular roof maintenance. So, as long as you hire a great roofing contractor, you should get pretty close to the specified lifespans. 

3. Material warranty options for asphalt shingles and composite (synthetic) shingles

A material warranty is in place to protect your roof from any future problems with the materials themselves. This means if there’s ever a problem with your architectural asphalt shingles or composite shingles, the manufacturer will pay to take care of the problem.  

Architectural asphalt shingles automatically come out of the package with a 30-year prorated warranty. But, if you use all of one specific manufacturer’s roofing components instead of mixing and matching from other companies, you can qualify to get the 50-year non-prorated enhanced warranty. 

This 50-year non-prorated enhanced warranty means the manufacturer covers the architectural shingles and the rest of the roof system’s components for the life of the material themselves. Just know, improper roof installation and/or poor attic ventilation will void the warranty. 

On the other hand, a composite shingle roof usually comes with a limited lifetime material warranty that will prorate after a certain number of years. But the actual length of the material warranty depends on each specific manufacturer of composite shingles. 

If you’re looking for the best material warranty available, it doesn’t get better than an enhanced warranty on an architectural asphalt shingle roof. 

4. The cost of asphalt shingles vs. composite (synthetic) shingles

No matter which type of roofing material you choose, a new roof will always be an investment. However, the cost difference between an architectural asphalt shingle roof and a composite shingle roof is drastic. 

With that in mind, you can expect to pay around 3 to 4 times more for a composite shingle roof than an architectural asphalt shingle roof. 

For example: 

You can expect to pay around $4.76 per square foot for an architectural asphalt shingle roof on a two-story house, with a little roof complexity, and good accessibility. 

A composite slate shingle roof can be around $12.00 per square foot and has the potential to get up to $20.00 per square foot. On the other hand, a composite cedar shake roof will cost around $14.00-$18.00 per square foot.

Keep in mind; it’s impossible to give you an exact price for a new roof due to all the cost factors. The numbers above are just to help you understand the price difference and the budget you’ll need for both roof systems. 

Use this buyer’s guide to make the right roofing material decision

Now you know how an asphalt shingle roof and composite shingle roof compare to each other on important factors. After reading this article, you should know which one is right for you. 

But what if you want to learn more about the other roofing material options and how they match up on the factors we covered in this article? 

If you answered yes to this question, we have just the thing you and other homeowners need. The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof includes all information you need about the most popular residential roofing materials to ensure you truly make the right purchasing decision. 

It also includes more crucial information you need to know about your roof replacement. Get your free buyer’s guide to become the most informed homeowner in the roofing industry. 

Since 1990, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided high-quality roofing services to residents in Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, and other surrounding Middle Tennessee areas. We’ve guided thousands of homeowners on choosing the right roofing material and through the entire replacement process, and we know we can do the same for you. 

Here’s Your Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof to make all the right decisions and to learn what you need to know about your upcoming roof replacement.

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