Asphalt shingles have been a popular roofing choice since the early 1900s, but innovations in roofing materials, including composite roof shingles, have emerged. Despite being pricey, composite shingles are a great alternative to asphalt and provide homeowners with benefits such as longevity and environmental friendliness. 

    Below, I’ll discuss some of the key upsides of composite shingles that I’ve learned about in my experience as a roofing professional.

    What Are Composite Shingles?

    Composite roof shingles, also referred to as composition roof shingles, contain diverse materials, including asphalt, slate, laminate, tar paper, wood fibers, and fiberglass. This blend creates a synthetic shingle that can outperform single-material options.

    Manufacturers also use recycled materials in composite shingles and may add coatings to improve durability and longevity. As with asphalt, composite roofing is cost-effective and simple to install, but it offers advantages shingles made with traditional materials don’t.

    Pros & Cons of Composite Shingles

    The tabs below provide a high-level overview of the pros and cons of composite roofing shingles. Then, the sections below dive deeper into each factor.

    Durable and long-lasting for up to 50 years
    Come in a wide range of colors and styles
    Offer excellent impact and weather resistance
    Often made using recycled materials and other eco-friendly manufacturing processes
    Lightweight structure doesn’t require roof reinforcement
    Cost-effective investment
    Have higher up-front costs than asphalt shingles
    Susceptible to heat and UV damage
    Require more ventilation than asphalt and wood shingles

    Benefits of Composite Roofing

    The dropdown sections below dive into the key benefits of composite roof shingles.

    Quality composite shingles last 30 to 50 years or more and resist damage from splitting, cracking, deterioration, and fading. In contrast, asphalt shingles typically last only 15 to 20 years before needing replacement.

    Composite shingles come in colors and styles to match a wide variety of preferences. Choices include wood tones, gray, black, earth tones, and more. 

    These shingles generally have a Class 4 impact rating, meaning they can withstand high winds, heavy rain, hailstorms, and weather hazards. Manufacturers engineer them to resist moisture, fire, and pests.

    Some composite shingles use recycled and sustainable materials, giving them a benefit over traditional roof shingles. Most varieties of composite shingles can also be recycled at the end of their service life.

    Composite shingles weigh about the same as asphalt shingles. They don’t require roof reinforcement. Light weight makes them easy to transport and install.

    Composite shingles cost more up-front than asphalt, but their long life and low maintenance needs make them cost-effective over the long term. 

    Drawbacks of Composite Roofing

    While composite shingles have many advantages, they have some drawbacks.

    Composite shingles cost at least 50% more than asphalt shingles, which comprise much more of the current market. As composite shingles gain popularity, costs may decline.

    Composite shingles retain heat. Without ventilation, heat and UV rays degrade them faster than roofing made of natural materials. Ventilation is key for best performance.

    Some composites need more attic ventilation than asphalt or wood shingles do. Ventilation helps heat escape rather than slowly baking the roof. Synthetic slate and shake roofs have the highest ventilation needs.

    Choosing Composite Shingles

    Composite roof shingles work well in most situations where asphalt shingles do. Their longevity and environmental friendliness make them a great option for homeowners, even if they cost more up-front. 

    Research thoroughly before deciding and check reviews. Choose a reputable local company for quality shingle installation.

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    So, Are Composite Shingles a Smart Choice?

    For most needing a new roof, composite shingles offer benefits worth considering:

    • Good durability and weather and impact resistance add decades of life compared to asphalt roof shingles
    • Varied color and style options provide design flexibility
    • Less environmental impact and recycled options
    • Long-term cost-effectiveness

    The higher initial cost of composite shingles has meant limited adoption of these shingles so far. But they’re an innovative option with excellent performance for homeowners taking a long view.

    Frequently Asked QuestionsFAQs About Composite Roof Shingles

    How much more do composite shingles cost than asphalt?

    Composite shingles typically cost about two to three times the cost of asphalt shingles per square installed — $400 to $450 versus $100 to $150.

    Do composite shingles last longer than asphalt ones?

    Yes, much longer in most cases. Composites last 30 to 50 years before needing replacement. Asphalt lasts 15 to 20 years on average.

    What are the best composite roof shingles?

    CertainTeed’s Landmark and GAF’s Timberline HDZ rate well. Both offer excellent durability, wind resistance, and overall protection.

    Do composite shingles need extra ventilation?

    Some composites require more attic ventilation than asphalt to prevent heat damage.

    Can composite shingles install over existing shingles?

    Yes, composite shingles are often installed over existing asphalt shingles, avoiding tear-off costs. Ensure the roof structure supports the weight. Be aware — some manufacturers prohibit overlaid installs in their warranties.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Doug Sluga

    Doug Sluga

    Doug Sluga is a professional roofer and carpenter with ten years of experience in residential and commercial construction. His expertise spans the breadth of the roofing trade from minor repairs to laying shingles to framing trusses. These days he spends most of his time writing about roofing and the roofing industry.

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    photo of Lee Ann Merrill

    Lee Ann Merrill

    Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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