Asphalt comes in basic three-tab products, but higher-end, laminate shingles are also available.
Pros for Asphalt Shingles:
An accepted and proven material that builders know and trust. There’s a reason so many builders use the product, and it comes down to 100 years of service in the home building industry. Plus, home buyers are comfortable with it, which is extremely important.
Economical. The low cost of asphalt is probably its biggest selling point. A basic three-tab shingle roof might set you back about $100 to $200 per square (or a 10-foot-by-10-foot area), making it ideally suited to production housing or to entry-level housing.
Easy to work with and handle. Perhaps no other roofing product is as easy to install. In some cases, a house can be done in one day by professional contractors. Even serious DIYers have been known to tackle roofing projects, though it’s highly recommended that they don’t because of warranty issues.
Easy to repair. As easy as asphalt is to install, it’s equally easy to repair if it gets damaged.
Style options. Asphalt comes in basic offerings for the cost-conscious, but it can be ordered in fancy styles that mimic wood shakes or slate. Basic three-tab shingles dominate the category, but thicker, high-end laminates are available in many colors and with deep shadow lines.
Good performance record. Depending on the product line, asphalt shingles come with a 20- to 30-year warranty. Many are fire-rated (as high as Class A), and require minimal maintenance. Some manufacturers offer products that meet Energy Star requirements and qualify as a cool roof under federal standards, making them eligible for tax credits.
Cons for Asphalt Shingles:
Can be boring. Though snappy colors and styles are available, builders tend to select basic single-color products that have a tendency to look dull.
Susceptible to severe weather. In general, asphalt provides good uplift protection, but the product does not hold up well to severe weather such as hail. The NAHB Research Center says wind- and impact-resistant shingles are available, but they cost about 50 percent more than conventional products. Moreover, asphalt roofs that do not get adequate sunlight can be vulnerable to moss, mildew, and algae, which can shorten lifespan.
Longevity questions. Warranties on asphalt roofs are relatively high, but performance is closely tied to a well-ventilated roof deck and homeowner maintenance.
Can be heavy. While basic shingles weigh about 200 pounds per square, some laminated, textured, and higher-end architectural shingles can clock in at close to 500 pounds per square.
Nascent recycling. According to the Northeast Recycling Council, the U.S. manufactures and disposes of about 11 million tons of asphalt shingles per year. Most—about 10 million tons—is from installation scraps and tear-offs from re-roofing. Moreover, the group cites EPA studies that shingle waste makes up 8% of the total building-related waste stream. The asphalt recycling industry is still young, however, though manufacturers are developing ways to find uses for the material including pavement, new roofing, and road and ground cover, says the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.