Rolled Roofing vs Shingles

If you want to build a home that is not only good looking but also comfortable and able to last for a life time, there are various things that you need to consider. We have discussed various flooring options as well as cement siding vs vinyl. This time, we are going to take a look at the options for roofing. When you want to install the roofing part of your home, you are going to be presented with two options: rolled roofing or shingles. Of course, both rolled roofing and shingles are actually made from asphalt, but they have various distinctive characteristics that make them suitable for different needs and purposes.

What is Rolled Roofing?

Rolled roofing usually comes in large rolls. It is made by covering a layer of felt (or other backing material) with asphalt. It is then rolled, sold in large quantities. It may come in various sizes, but the most common size is 36 inches by 33 feet. It is thin and lightweight, and is often used on buildings with a low sloped roof pitch. Its use is restricted to roofs with a pitch of under 2:12. When installed, the upper end of the roll can be nailed (because the part will be covered by the next roll), whereas the bottom end that is exposed should be glued using an adhesive or lap cement rather than by nailing.

What are Roof Shingles?

Roof shingles are roofing that consists of individual overlapping elements. Roof shingles are typically rectangular, laid in courses from the bottom edge of the roof to the peak. Roof shingles can be made from various materials, such as asphalt, cement, metal, plastic, wood, slate, flagstone, fiber cement, or ceramic. However, wood and organic-based asphalt roof shingles are no longer common because those are prone to fire. Roof shingles are always very visible, and therefore an important aspect of a building’s aesthetic quality. The minimum roof pitch for roof shingles is 4:12. Roof shingles are not used on flat roofs because water may leak into the overlaps. Some installations use roof shingles on top of an underlayment material, such as an asphalt felt paper, to prevent leaks from wind driven rains and ice dams.

Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles: Cost and Installation

Rolled roofing is generally more affordable and budget-friendly than roof shingles. Of course, the production costs for rolled roofing is significantly lower because it requires less effort to put asphalt on a large roll than making individual roof shingles. Not to mention that the prices of roof shingles may vary based on the material. Roof shingles made from higher quality materials such as ceramic will certainly cost even more expensive.

The installation of rolled roofing is generally easier and simpler compared to roof shingles. You can spread a roll to quickly cover a straight line from end to end, though you will probably need to do some measurement and cutting to adjust the size of the roll with your particular roof. Installing rolled roofing by yourself is possible, if you want to cut down labor costs. But make sure that you don’t nail on an exposed part because the hole will allow water to penetrate. On the other hand, installing roof shingles is more difficult and time-consuming because you will need to put down the individual shingles one by one. You may need some professional help in order to install roof shingles properly in order to avoid leaks.

Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles: Type of Roof

Before you go to buy either asphalt rolls or roof shingles, you need to know whether your particular type of roof is suitable for rolled roofing or roof shingles. If your roof is relatively flat with a pitch of under 2:12, you should choose rolled roofing. It can be used on a somewhat flat roof. Roof shingles can’t be used on such roof because water will easily enter the gaps on the overlaps. However, if your roof is quite steep with a pitch of above 2:12, you should choose roof shingles – rolled roofing is strictly restricted for a roof pitch of under 2:12. Well, the minimum pitch level for roof shingles is actually 4:12, thus you may need to install an underlayment if you worry about possible water leaks. Water is unlikely to enter the overlaps if the roof is quite steep.

Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles: Appearance

One of the reasons why roof shingles are still very popular is because you can’t really imitate the elegant three-dimensional look. Some rolled roofing products have been designed with surface patterns that make them appear like shingles, but they don’t really look similar to the real thing. In addition, it is uncommon to use asphalt rolls of different colors. On the other hand, you can clearly see the overlapping structure of roof shingles. Roof shingles appear much more elegant and classy, especially those made from premium materials. Besides, rolled roofing products typically have limited color options, whereas roof shingles are available in a wide range of colors. You can even use two or more different colors, if you need to.

Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles: Durability

Roof shingles are indeed much more durable, though the durability may vary depending on the material. But they are generally less likely to crack even after they are exposed to rain and sunlight. Indeed, they can break if get knocked heavily. Roof shingles can last for a very long time; the average lifespan is 20 years.

Rolled roofing may expand or contract due to temperature changes, and the effect can be more significant the longer the roll is. Rolled roofing does not last long, usually about 5 – 8 years at most.


If you are concerned about costs and expenses, you can choose rolled roofing, but keep in mind that it is only suitable for a roof pitch under 2:12. In addition, it only lasts for 5 – 8 years, and you will need to replace afterward. If your roof pitch is greater than that, you should choose roof shingles, probably with an underlayment. Though more expensive and more difficult to install, roof shingles look much better and can last significantly longer, about 20 years.