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Best Roof Shingles: A Roofing Material Battle Royale

Roof Construction and Repair, Roofs and Exteriors

Need a new roof and don’t know what the best roof shingles are for your Charleston area home? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone in that. For many homeowners installing a new roof is a once or twice in a lifetime ordeal. While your tendency might be to look around your neighborhood and play a game of copycat we recommend doing a little bit of research first and making sure you’ve got the right roof over your head.

In this article, we are going to take some of the most common roofing materials and let them duke it out. We’ll walk you through several different factors so you can choose a roof that meets your family’s needs and budget.

Quick note: while some of the information here is pretty cut and dry, some of the factors we graded are subjective. That means this is just our professional opinion and not the law.

Sound good? Okay great then let’s get ready to…. Oh wait, that’s copywritten isn’t it? Right, well then I’ll guess let’s just get down to it.

Scoring system

To score this fight we are going to give each contestant a rating from 1 – 10 for each round. A rating of 10/10 means the roof material shines in that particular category while a rating of 1/10 means it’s a definite weakness. At the end of the six-round fight, the contestant with the highest total will be given the belt of the best roof shingles for the Charleston area.

Meet the Contestants: Roof Material Types

For our “roof off” we are going to throw the most common types of roof shingles into the ring and let them duke it out.  Even though each shingle type can be broken down into several sub-categories we’ve decided to keep things relatively simple. With the exception of asphalt shingles, we’ll be grouping the shingle types into more general groups and using the most common material for the comparison. Let’s meet the contestants:

Fiberglass asphalt shingle roofContestant #1: Fiberglass Asphalt Shingles

Look around your neighborhood and it’s likely that most of the roofs you see are covered in fiberglass asphalt shingles. These are far and away the most common shingles in the Charleston area and in most parts of the U.S. Both types of asphalt shingles (Contestants #1 and #2) come in either a 3-tab or architectural variation. For this contest, we’ll stick with the more common 3-tab.


Organic asphalt shinglesContestant #2: Organic Asphalt Shingles

No, the organic version of asphalt shingles isn’t the one with the purple labels in the Mount Pleasant Harris Teeter.  The “organic” here refers to the natural base of the shingles. And while this natural base is made from recycled material, the need for extra asphalt actually makes these shingles less environmentally friendly.


Tile shingle roof optionsContestant #3: Tile Shingles

Tile shingles are manufactured in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. The keyword here is manufactured. This is what makes them different from slate shingles (Contestant #6). Think of these as the equivalent of brick siding but for your roof. 


Metal roofContestant #4: Metal Roofing

If you’ve ever been under a metal roof during an April rainstorm then you know the dramatic drumroll that fills the space below. We’ve found that people either absolutely love it or hate it with not much in between. Either way, metal roofing has some unique attributes that could be a good fit for your house.


Wood shinglesContestant #5: Wood Shingles

I don’t know about you but when I hear wood shingles my mind immediately goes to a Japanese temple or a house in the English countryside. The truth is wood shingles while less common, are used in some places in the U.S.


Slate shingle roofContestant #6: Slate Shingles

At first glance, slate shingles seem a lot like tile shingles (Contestant #3) but remember when we made the manufactured distinction above? We made sure to point that out because we knew slate shingles had a few punches to throw.  Slate shingles are actually cut from natural rock which gives them some unique properties (like water resistance) that make them appealing.

Alright, now that you’ve met the contestants let’s ring that bell and get this fight for the best roof shingles crown underway.

Which shingles last the longest?

Round 1: Durability – Which shingles last the longest?

Good news: No matter what roofing material you choose you aren’t likely to have to replace your new roof for at absolute minimum another 15 years. That said, each of the different shingle types offers a different lifespan and maintenance expectation.

We’ll start with the asphalt shingles who both have lifespans between 15 and 25 years which you’ll see is much shorter than the rest. The organic asphalt tends to be a little less durable than the fiberglass shingles. The good news for both is that repairs and maintenance are cheap and infrequent. For this, we’ll give fiberglass asphalt and organic asphalt shingles scores of 5/10 and 4/10 respectively.

The rest of the shingle types have a much longer lifespan. Wood shingles (6/10) can last between 30 and 50 years but do require some maintenance. Metal roofing (7/10) can last up to 50 years with low maintenance. Tile roofing (9/10) and natural slate shingles (10/10) can last a lifetime with the natural rock lasting up to 100 years at times!

Okay, that’s Round 1 in the books. Let’s look at the scores for that round:

Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
5 4 9 7 6 10

 

Best roof shingles for energy savings

Round 2: Energy Efficiency – Which shingles are the most energy efficient?

The second round of this showdown is all about energy efficiency. Whether you care about your environmental impact or are just partial to your pocketbook, this round will be important when deciding on the best roof shingles for your home.

Note: The efficiency of your roof can be heavily impacted by the color you choose. The rule of thumb is the lighter colors are good for warm weather and darker colors for cold weather.

We’ll start with the most energy efficient choice which is tile roofing (8/10). The ability to adjust the color and the material to your local climate allows you to maximize the energy efficiency of your roof. Metal (7/10) and Wood (7/10) come next for their ability to reflect heat and insulate respectively.

Next up is slate (6/10) which does a great job of insulating your house but the lack of color variety – slate roofs are typically different shades of black/grey – knocks it down a peg. In a last-place tie for this round are the asphalt shingles (both 4/10) that don’t offer much in the way of insulation but do offer some flexibility in color for matching your local climate.

Here are the results from Round 2:

Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
4 4 8 7 7 6

 

Best looking roof shingles

Round 3: Style – Which shingles look the best?

The third round of this fight stands to be the most controversial of the whole six-round bout.  That’s because style is pretty subjective. As the saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That said, here’s our breakdown of the most stylish roofing materials:

There’s just something regal about a dark slate roof. It feels like gargoyles should be perched on the corners of the house and a bell should be swinging in the tower above. For that reason, we are giving slate roofs a 10/10 on the style scale. 

Coming in right behind slate on the style-o-meter are wood shingles (9/10). These can create a fairytale esthetic and just plain look cool. Tile (8/10) comes next for its ability to mock the look of slate while also offering some different style and color options. Also at an 8/10 is metal which can really make your home stand out with different materials and coatings. Last (and least) in the style department are both of the asphalt shingles which just kind of look like a normal, boring roof. There’s nothing really special about them so we’ve given them both a 3/10.

We’re  already halfway through the battle of the best roof shingles. Here’s the Round 3 scoring summary:

Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
3 3 8 8 9 10

Best roof shingles for safety

Round 4: Safety – Which shingles are the safest for your home?

Most roofing material is pretty safe to use. The key factors to consider are weight and fire resistance. The best of the bunch here are the humble asphalt shingles which both score 9/10 in the safety category. Tile, metal, and slate roofs all score a 7/10 for us because of their weight (tile and slate) and potential danger in a storm situation (metal). The most concerning type of roofing material when it comes to safety is the wood roof (3/10). A wood roof can be a fire concern and you also have to worry about termites which could potentially cause a cave-in.

Here are the scores from round four:

Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
9 9 7 7 3 7

Cheapest roof shingles

Round 5: Cost – Which shingles are the cheapest to buy and install?

Now we are getting serious. The fight is almost over and the most important question needs to be answered: how much does each roofing material cost? Even the best roof shingles in the world won’t make it onto your roof if they cost a small fortune to purchase and install.

We’ll start with the most expensive. Slate shingles (1/10) come in at the highest cost even though their cost per square ($250 – $650) is in line with some of the other materials. The installation cost for slate shingles is what really skyrockets the price. Installing slate shingles typically requires a specialized professional and takes more time (and therefore money).

Wood shingles (1/10) fall into the same category as slate having high material and installation costs. Tile shingles (2/10) aren’t much more affordable and still have a high installation cost as well.

Metal roofing (6/10) can be low cost and cheaper to install but be careful as some materials like copper can blow your budget quickly. The cheapest roof shingles are the asphalt varieties. Organic asphalt shingles (9/10) are slightly more expensive than fiberglass asphalt shingles (10/10) because of the additional asphalt added to the shingles. Both types though are cheap to purchase ($250 – $350 per square) and install.

Here’s a recap of round five in the battle for the best roof shingles:

Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
10 9 2 6 1 1

What are the best roof shingles for Charleston, SC?

Round 6: The y’all test – Which shingles are the best for  Charleston?

For the last round, we are going to put the roofing materials through what we call the y’all test. We want to figure out how well each of these materials holds up in Charleston. Does the y’all roll of their tongue or does it sound forced and stick out like a sore thumb?

The most obvious sore thumb here is the wood roof (1/10). The fire hazard coupled with Charleston being in hurricane country doesn’t bode well for a wood roof. Actually, we’d guess that you’ve never seen one in the area.

Slate roofing comes in at a 5/10 because it’s more suited for cold weather. Tile, on the other hand, is slightly more flexible with material and color so it comes in at 6/10. Organic asphalt shingles (7/10) are fairly common here in the Lowcountry but they don’t hold up as well in the rain and therefore have a shorter lifespan in our climate.

Drive around an area with a lot of construction going on (like Mt. Pleasant) and you are likely to see a whole lot of metal roofs (9/10) going up. There’s a good reason for that, they fit the style and climate of the Lowcountry perfectly.

That said, the most common roofing material in the area (and the entire Southeast) is without a doubt fiberglass asphalt shingles (10/10). They can stand up to all four Charleston seasons and hold up well in a hurricane.

Here’s a recap of round six:

Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
10 7 6 9 1 5

 

And the winner for best roof shingles is…

I’ve got to admit when I sat down to write this piece I had a guess as to what the best roof shingles would be for the Charleston area but I’m a little surprised by the results. Let’s take a  look at the winner’s podium and break down the top three choices:

Coming in third with a score of 40 out of a possible 60 are tile shingles. They scored major points for their durability, efficiency, and style but lost points for their relatively high cost to install. Still, a tile roof is a solid choice for a Lowcountry home.

In second place – in a minor upset – is the most common roof type in the Southeast. Fiberglass asphalt shingles came in with a score of 41 out of 60 scoring high for safety, cost, and the y’all test. Even with a shorter lifespan than and a bland style, a fiberglass asphalt shingle roof is a great option for your home.

That leaves us with one. Metal roofing scored a 44 out of 60 making them our choice for the best roof shingles for your Charleston-area home. With a solid showing in every round of this battle, the real attraction comes from the low cost and long life expectancy. If you can put up with a little noise in a rainstorm we think a metal roof would be a great choice for your home.

Let’s take a final look at the full scoring breakdown for our picks for the best roof shingles in the Lowcountry:

  Asphalt (Fiberglass) Asphalt (Organic) Tile Metal Wood Slate
Durability 5 4 9 7 6 10
Efficiency 4 4 8 7 7 6
Style 3 3 8 8 9 10
Safety 9 9 7 7 3 7
Cost 10 9 2 6 1 1
Y’all 10 7 6 9 1 5
Total 41 36 40 44 27 39

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