When it’s time to replace your roof, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to use rolled roofing or traditional shingles. Both offer useful benefits, but they also have key differences you must consider.
shingles. With the right information, you can determine which option is best for your roofing project.
Difference #1: Roof Slope and Pitch Requirements
The first major difference between rolled roofing and shingles is the roof slope or pitch they require:
- Rolled roofing is designed for low-slope roofs with a pitch of 1:12 or less. It can also be used on completely flat roofs.
- Shingles require a steeper minimum slope, usually at least 2:12 pitch. Some may require up to 4:12 pitch or more.
Why does slope matter? On low-pitched roofs, shingles are more likely to leak and suffer wind damage. The slight incline allows water and debris to accumulate. Rolled roofing’s flexible membranes are better suited for flat or nearly flat roofs.
On steeper sloped roofs, rolled roofing is tricky to install securely. Shingles’ sturdier materials and overlapping design provides better weather protection on pitches above 2:12.
To determine your roof’s slope or pitch, measure its vertical rise and horizontal run. For example, a roof that rises 5 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal run has a 5:12 pitch. Here are the pitch requirements:
- Rolled Roofing: 1:12 pitch or less. Under 2:12 pitch recommended.
- Asphalt Shingles: 2:12 pitch minimum. More durable shingles may require higher.
- Wood Shake or Shingle Shingles: 3:12 pitch minimum.
- Slate or Tile Shingles: 5:12 pitch minimum.
Ensure your roof meets the proper pitch before choosing a roofing material. There are exceptions, but these guidelines apply for most residential homes.
Difference #2: Installation Time and Labor
Rolled roofing and shingles also differ significantly in installation time and labor:
- Rolled roofing is faster to install, with simpler seams and fewer pieces.
- Shingles involve more intricate cutting, placement, and nailing, requiring more time.
For a basic 20 square rolled roofing installation, contractors estimate 1-2 days. The same size shingle roof may take 2-4 days to complete properly.
Rolled roofing’s large sheets cover wider areas. Installation involves roll alignment, sealing seams, and fastening at edges and seams.
Shingles require precise placement row-by-row with multiple layers. Each shingle must be cut and nailed down. High-quality installation is key for durability.
Here’s a simplified overview of installing each material:
Rolled Roofing Installation
- Install drip edge around full perimeter
- Roll out underlayment in overlapping rows
- Align rolls and seal seams with adhesive or torching
- Secure edges and seams with fasteners
- Install drip edge and underlayment
- Snap chalk lines for starter row
- Nail shingle starter row
- Install rows of shingles up the roof
- Cut shingles for ridges, hips, valleys, and edges
- Seal and flash around roof details
In summary, rolled roofing has faster application, while shingles are more complex but result in a more finished look.
Difference #3: Durability and Lifespan
Shingles are significantly more durable than rolled roofing. On average:
- Rolled roofing lasts 5-10 years.
- Shingles last 15-30 years or longer.
Why the discrepancy in lifespan? It comes down to the materials used and exposure to elements:
- Shingles use stronger materials like ceramic-coated mineral granules that deflect UV rays.
- Rolled roofing relies on thin asphalt or bitumen layers that deteriorate faster.
- Shingles overlap to shed water, while seams in rolled roofing are more vulnerable.
Regular maintenance can extend the lifetime of any roof. But shingle roofs are built to withstand decades of sun, rain, snow, and wind with less degradation over time.
You can maximize roof lifespan through proper installation and maintenance:
- Quality underlayment provides a waterproof barrier as the first line of defense.
- Proper fastening, sealing, and spacing during install prevents leaks.
- Regular inspections catch minor damage before it escalates.
- Clearing debris and repairing flashed prevents premature wear.
But even with ideal care, rolled roofing reaches the end of its functional life more quickly than rugged shingle roofs.
Difference #4: Roofing Costs Over Time
There is also a significant difference in roofing costs over time:
- Rolled roofing is cheaper upfront, but needs replacing sooner.
- Shingles cost more initially, but are a better long-term value.
For example, a basic 20 square rolled roof may cost $2,500 in materials. Shingles may run $4,000 or more for the same area.
But if the rolled roof lasts 10 years and shingles last 25 years, you would spend:
- Rolled roofing: $2,500 x 3 installs = $7,500 over 30 years
- Shingles: $4,000 x 1 install = $4,000 over 30 years
Factoring in labor costs amplifies the difference even further. Lifetime shingle costs can be 50% less than rolled roofing.
To determine true roof costs, consider:
- Upfront material and labor expenses
- Lifespan until replacement is needed
- Maintenance costs over time
- Energy efficiency impacts on utility bills
Shingles demand a larger initial investment, but pay off exponentially in the long run through durability and energy savings.
Difference #5: Style, Color, and Appearance
Shingles also offer big aesthetic advantages:
- Shingles come in a wide array of colors, shapes, and textures.
- Rolled roofing comes in basic black with fewer decorative options.
Why are shingles available in so many more styles? The granule coating process allows manufacturer to create customized colors and patterns. Options include:
- Solid colors like brown, grey, red, green, and blue
- Blended shades with color gradations
- Dimensional profiles like slate or cedar shakes
- Luxury styles with custom patterns and finishes
With rolled roofing, modifiers are added to the asphalt coating to produce basic black. Some synthetic rubbers offer a lighter gray finish.
For homes where roof aesthetics matter, shingles offer unlimited ways to complement your color scheme or architecture. Rolled roofing works best when appearance is not a priority.
Enhancing Curb Appeal
To maximize aesthetics with shingles:
- Select colors that complement siding or masonry
- Use multiple shades for dimension and contrast
- Accent with designer ridge caps
- Upgrade to premium styles like slate or shake profiles
The color palette and texture variations available with shingles creates a roof that enhances your home’s whole look.
When to Choose Rolled Roofing
Despite the benefits of shingles, there are situations where rolled roofing may still be the better option:
- For flat roofs or minimal slopes under 1:12 pitch
- As a low-cost temporary roof covering
- On sheds, garages, and auxiliary structures
- If on a very tight budget or limited timeframe
Rolled roofing provides an affordable, fast roof covering for basic buildings. The lower cost also makes rolled roofing useful for temporary fixes until more extensive roofing upgrades can be done.
Homeowners often use rolled roofing on porches, garages and sheds before selling homes to improve appearance without investing in shingles.
When to Use Caution
Exercise caution using rolled roofing when:
- Snowfall or rainfall is excessive
- Steeper pitches exceed recommended limits
- Structures have high wind exposure
- Energy efficiency and noise are concerns
In these situations, rolled roofing is more prone to leaks, blow-off, and failure. Shingles offer better protection.
When to Choose Shingles
Here are scenarios where traditional asphalt or other shingle materials are ideal:
- On pitched residential roofs above 2:12 slope
- When longevity and durability are top priorities
- For homes where aesthetics and curb appeal matter
- If energy efficiency is desired to reduce heating/cooling costs
Shingles stand up to weather extremes, add decorative flare, and help reduce energy bills. As a long-lasting roofing solution for sloped homes, shingles are the preferred choice.
Getting the Most from Shingles
To fully leverage the benefits of shingles:
- Have roof decking inspected to ensure solid nailing base
- Install quality underlayment and leak barriers
- Use experienced roofers for proper installation
- Select shingles rated for high winds if needed
- Maximize weather proofing around roof penetrations
Taking advantage of premium shingle features and professional installation provides decades of worry-free roof performance.
Rolled roofing and shingles both have their optimal applications. Keep these key differences in mind when selecting your roofing material:
- Rolled roofing for low slopes; shingles for steeper pitches
- Rolled roofing faster to install; shingles more complex
- Shingles substantially more durable and longer-lasting
- Rolled roofing cheaper upfront cost but pricier long term
- Shingles offer more aesthetics colors, textures, and styles
Analyze your specific roof, budget, and needs. In most cases, the advantages of traditional asphalt or other shingle materials makes them the superior choice for residential homes and structures where performance matters most.
If you use this comparison as your guide, you can decide if the extra years of protection and visual appeal are worth it. Plan accordingly, and your new roof will enhance and protect your home for decades to come.