What Are Roof Shingles Made Of? A Comprehensive Guide 2023

by Jul 27, 2023

Have you ever wondered, “what are roof shingles made of?” and what makes a roof so resilient against the elements? The answer lies in the small, overlapping pieces called roof shingles. With numerous types and materials available, it’s essential to understand the differences and choose the right shingles for your home. After all, they play a crucial role in protecting your home from water, wind, and other hazards.

So, let’s embark on a journey to uncover the various materials and compositions of roof shingles, explore alternative shingle options, and delve into the factors that determine the best choice for your home. Are you ready to become a shingle-savvy homeowner?

Short Summary

  • Explore materials and understand pros & cons to find the perfect roof shingles for your home.

  • Consider budget, aesthetic preferences, and desired durability when making an informed decision.

  • Regularly inspect and maintain roof shingles or consult a professional if needed for repairs.

The Composition of Roof Shingles

It’s no secret that asphalt shingles are the most common type of roofing material, but do you know what makes them so versatile and popular? Asphalt shingles consist of a combination of elements that work together to create a protective barrier. These components include:

  • Fiberglass mat

  • Asphalt coating

  • Granule surfacing

  • Adhesives

  • Sealants

  • Protective release film (added during the manufacturing process)

Understanding the purpose and function of these components is vital for any homeowner. It not only helps you make informed decisions about roofing materials, but also enables you to identify potential issues with your roof and take appropriate action.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these components and see how they contribute to the overall performance of your roof shingles.

Fiberglass Mat

The fiberglass mat is the foundation of asphalt shingles, made from asphalt shingle fibers bound together with stable resins and binders. This mat provides reinforcement to the shingle, making it stronger and more durable.

Fiberglass asphalt shingles primarily offer a lightweight nature, which contributes to the flexible asphalt shingles, allowing them to conform to various roof shapes and structures with ease.

Asphalt Coating

Asphalt coating, a form of roofing asphalt, is the main ingredient in shingles, providing the much needed toughness and weather resistance. But how does it achieve this? The secret lies in the oxidization process, where hot asphalt is mixed with air, resulting in increased viscosity.

To further enhance the shingle’s durability and resistance to weather and fire, fine mineral powder is added to the asphalt. This mineral-fortified asphalt coating is then applied to the fiberglass mat, creating the shingle layers that protect your home from the elements.

Granule Surfacing

Stone granule surfacing is the final touch that gives asphalt shingles their distinct appearance. Made from crushed hard rock, these granules provide color, texture, and additional weather resistance to the asphalt shingle. Granule colors can range from subtle earth tones to vibrant hues, allowing homeowners to customize their roof’s aesthetic.

Innovative granule technologies also add practical benefits, such as reflective granules that increase the shingle’s ability to reflect the sun’s heat energy, and algae-resistant granules that prevent blue-green algae growth and discoloration.

Adhesives and Sealants

Adhesives and sealants play a crucial role in holding roof shingles together, ensuring optimal strength and durability. These materials bond the shingles together on the roof, creating a strong and resilient barrier against harsh weather conditions. By keeping the shingles tightly bound, adhesives and sealants help maintain the integrity of your roof and prolong its lifespan.

Not only do these materials protect your roof from the elements, but they also help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Protective Release Film

During the manufacturing process, a protective release film is applied to asphalt shingles to prevent premature activation of the asphalt sealant during storage. This thin, flexible film safeguards the shingles from damage during transportation and installation.

Once the shingles are ready to be installed, the protective release film is removed, allowing the asphalt sealant to bond the shingles together and create a strong, durable roofing system.

Alternative Roof Shingle Materials

While asphalt shingles are a popular choice for many homeowners, there are several alternative roofing materials available, each with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. These alternative materials include:

  • Metal

  • Clay tile

  • Wood

  • Slate

  • Composite shingles

However, for those who prefer the classic look and affordability, asphalt roofing shingles remain a top choice.

Understanding the pros and cons of each material can help you make an informed decision when choosing the right roofing material for your home. Let’s explore each alternative in more detail, focusing on their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Metal Shingles

Metal shingles offer strength and durability unmatched by most other roofing materials. Available in various colors and designs, metal shingles can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your home while providing long-lasting protection. However, metal shingles can be more expensive than asphalt shingles and may be slippery when wet, posing a challenge for homeowners who need to access their roof for maintenance or repairs.

Despite their higher initial cost, metal shingles can be a wise investment due to their extended lifespan and increased resistance to fire and extreme weather conditions. It’s essential to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages when considering metal shingles for your home.

Clay Tile Shingles

Clay tile shingles are known for their durability, water resistance, and fireproofing, making them an excellent choice for homeowners seeking a long-lasting roofing solution. Their distinct appearance adds a touch of elegance to any home, setting them apart from other roofing materials.

However, clay tile shingles come with a few drawbacks. Here are some considerations:

  • Their heaviness requires additional structural support.

  • They can be more expensive than other roofing materials.

  • Walking on clay tile shingles can be difficult due to their fragile nature, making maintenance and repairs more challenging.

Wood Shingles

Wood shingles offer a charming, rustic appearance that many homeowners find appealing. With proper care and maintenance, wood shingles can last for decades, providing a unique and natural look for your home.

Nevertheless, wood shingles may not be suitable for all climates, particularly damp regions where moisture can lead to rot and mold. In addition, wood shingles can be more expensive than other roofing materials, making them a less budget-friendly option for some homeowners.

Slate Shingles

Slate shingles are highly regarded for their durability and natural strength. These shingles can last for over a century when properly maintained, making them an attractive option for homeowners seeking a long-lasting roofing solution.

However, slate shingles can be heavy and costly to install. In addition, walking on slate shingles can be difficult due to their slippery surface, posing a challenge for homeowners needing to access their roof for maintenance or repairs.

Composite Shingles

Composite shingles, also known as composite roof shingles, are made from synthetic materials, offering a cost-effective alternative to traditional roofing materials. These shingles can mimic various roofing styles, such as wood, slate, or clay, giving homeowners the desired appearance without the associated drawbacks.

Although composite shingles are generally more affordable than other roofing materials, they may not be as long-lasting. However, their relatively low cost, versatility, and ease of installation make them an attractive option for many homeowners seeking a budget-friendly roofing solution.

Choosing the Right Roof Shingles for Your Home

Selecting the perfect roof shingles for your home can be a daunting task, with various factors to consider. Your budget, aesthetic preferences, and the desired durability of your roof all play a role in determining the best choice for your home.

It is essential to weigh the pros and cons of each roofing material, taking into account the long-term costs and potential savings associated with different shingle types. For example, while asphalt shingles may be more affordable initially, investing in a more durable material like metal or slate could save you money on repairs and replacements in the long run.

By understanding the various roofing materials available and their unique benefits and drawbacks, you can make an informed decision, ensuring you choose the right roof shingles for your home and enjoy a long-lasting, beautiful roof that protects your home for years to come.

DIY vs. Professional Shingle Installation

For homeowners who possess the necessary knowledge and skills, DIY installation of asphalt shingles can be a rewarding and cost-effective project. However, it is essential to take safety precautions and understand the various challenges associated with installing your own roof shingles, such as the risk of falls, heat exhaustion, and overexertion.

While DIY installation may be possible for asphalt shingles, other asphalt roofing materials, such as an asphalt shingle roof, might require professional installation. These materials include:

  • slate

  • wood

  • metal

  • clay

Some projects in the roofing industry typically require specialized knowledge and expertise. In these cases, it is best to leave the installation to professional roofing contractors who have the experience and tools necessary to ensure a safe and effective installation.

Whether you choose to tackle your roof shingle installation yourself or hire a professional, it is crucial to understand the risks and challenges involved and make an informed decision based on your abilities and the specific requirements of your chosen roofing material.

Remember, your roof is an integral part of your home’s structure. Ensuring proper installation and maintenance will not only protect your investment, but also provide peace of mind knowing that your home is safe and secure.

Maintaining and Repairing Roof Shingles

Regular inspections and maintenance of your roof shingles can significantly prolong their lifespan and save you money on costly repairs and replacements. By keeping an eye out for potential issues, such as damage, moss growth, or lichen, you can take proactive measures to address these problems before they escalate.

One often overlooked aspect of roof shingle maintenance is the care of nearby trees. Regular tree trimming can prevent branches from falling on your roof, causing damage to your shingles and reducing their lifespan. By maintaining the trees around your home, you can minimize the risk of damage to your roof and ensure that your shingles remain in good condition for years to come.

In the event of damage or persistent issues with your roof shingles, it is essential to consult a professional roofing contractor for a thorough inspection and appropriate repairs. Timely intervention can prevent further damage to your roof and help maintain its integrity, protecting your home and your investment.

Conclusion: Finding the Perfect Roof Shingles for You

The journey to finding the perfect roof shingles for your home is one of careful consideration and informed decision-making. By exploring the various roofing materials available, including those called roof shingles, and understanding their unique benefits and drawbacks, you can make the best choice based on your budget, aesthetic preferences, and desired durability.

Remember, your home’s roof is more than just a protective barrier against the elements; it’s an investment in your future. By selecting the right roofing material and ensuring proper installation and maintenance of the underlying roof building materials, you can enjoy a beautiful, long-lasting roof that enhances the value and appeal of your home for years to come.


In conclusion, understanding the composition and materials of roof shingles is essential for making informed decisions about your home’s roofing needs. From the popular asphalt shingles to alternative materials like metal, clay, wood, slate, and composite shingles, each option presents its unique set of benefits and drawbacks.

By carefully considering your budget, aesthetic preferences, and desired durability, you can select the perfect roof shingles for your home. Whether you choose to install them yourself or hire a professional, regular maintenance and inspections will ensure a long-lasting, attractive roof that protects your home and your investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are roofing shingles made out of?

Roofing shingles are mainly made of asphalt, which is an end-product of oil refining that is processed to meet the performance requirements needed for roofing.

Additionally, some shingles are made of materials such as wood, slate, flagstone, metal, plastic, and composite materials like fibre cement.

Do roofing shingles contain asbestos?

Yes, roofing shingles used to contain asbestos fibers before the early 1980s.

However, asbestos has since been phased out and is no longer used in roofing materials.

Why are roof shingles made of asphalt?

Asphalt is used in roof shingles to provide weatherproofing and protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, as well as fire resistance. It is also a more highly processed end-product of oil refining than road asphalt, providing greater toughness needed for roofing performance.

What are some alternative roofing materials to asphalt shingles?

Alternative roofing materials to asphalt shingles include metal, clay tile, wood, slate, and composite shingles.

How do I choose the right roofing material for my home?

When choosing the right roofing material for your home, consider your budget, desired appearance, and service life. This will help you make the best decision.


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