Rolled Roofing Vs. Shingles: Which One Is Better?

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

When it’s time to replace or repair your roof, you shouldn’t delay. Of all major home repairs, the roof is as vital as it gets. Before deciding on the type of roof you want, research each option to make the best choice.

Rolled roofing is a mineral-surfaced roofing material that comes in rolls equaling 100 square feet or 100 individual shingles. However, shingles are roofing materials that come in several types of material, measuring one square foot each. Both choices have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their cost, lifespan, and maintenance.

In this article, we will talk about the differences and similarities between rolled roofing and shingles so that you can better understand which will work for your situation. Let’s get started!

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Rolled Roofing

Rolled roofing is a mineral-surfaced roofing material that comes in rolls and is thinner, less-durable, and cheaper than asphalt shingles.

Rolled roofing is one of the easiest and inexpensive roofing materials available for purchase. It’s also one of the few types of roofs that homeowners can install themselves.

The Basics Of Rolled Roofing

Rolled roofing, or MSR, comes in rolls of 100 square feet and is easily obtained in most home improvement stores.

Once rolled out completely, a roll is typically 36 feet long by 36 inches wide. In terms of quantity, a roofing roll is the same size as one shingle square or 100 square feet.

Where Do You Use Rolled Roofing?

Rolled roofing is not the best choice for all roofs. People rarely use it for residential properties. However, it does work well for utility structures like sheds, workshops, barns, garages, and children’s treehouses.

Rolled roofing material is also often used for low-sloped roofs. If your roof pitch declines up to one inch vertically for every 12 inches horizontally, rolled roofing is a good option.

The safest minimum pitch for rolled roofing is two inches of decline per 12 inches of the horizontal direction.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Rolled Roofing

While rolled roofing is cheap and easy to install for most do-it-yourselfers, its resale value is low. This is especially true when you install it on occupied structures.

Before you head to your home improvement store to pick up a roll, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Of Rolled Roofing

Rolled roofing is the least expensive roofing material; even the nails are inexpensive. This is also the best product to use when covering low-incline roofs. However, you shouldn’t use it on flat roofs; installing it on a flat roof can lead to leaks.

Quick Application

When it comes to installation, rolled roofing can be applied quickly. Unlike traditional shingles that have to be applied individually, you can roll a square onto the roof within minutes. It’s adaptable and can be cut into 12-inch by 36-inch strips for ridges or nine-inch strips for eaves.


Another bonus is that this type of roofing is easy to transport and lightweight. It comes in 75-pound units and is tightly rolled and sealed. You don’t need any machinery to move the rolls to the roof, whether you’re by yourself or with a partner.

Applicable Over Existing Roofing

If you’re struggling to reroof your house because of removing your current shingles, rolled roofing is an option. You can usually apply rolled roofing over existing roofing. Be sure to remove any slag, gravel, or debris from the existing roof to avoid puncturing the rolled roof.

Disadvantages Of Rolled Roofing

If you want your roofing color to be something other than black, you may be out of luck. Black rolled roofing is the most common color, but you can find tan, gray, or green on rare occasions.

Not As Durable

Rolled roofing is also less durable than traditional shingles. Shingles work well because they are loosely interlocked and can expand and contract without stressing other shingles.

However, rolled roofing is like having one large shingle that can’t respond to changes in the building structure without tearing.

Not Very Attractive

If you’re concerned with your roof’s aesthetic appeal, rolled roofing is usually considered an unattractive roofing material. Plus, homeowners associations do not always allow rolled roofing on any structure.

Shorter Lifespan

The lifespan of rolled roofing is short, typically lasting between five and eight years. This is much shorter than the 20 to 30-year lifespan of traditional shingles. Additionally, rolled roofing tends to lose grains after a few years of use.

Low Resale Value

The most important thing to remember when using rolled roofing is that it has a low resale value. Therefore, most homeowners consider rolled roofing to be a temporary solution when there are gaps.


Selecting the proper material for your roof is essential for a variety of reasons. Curb appeal, maintenance, and your budget are things you should keep in mind.

While there are many different types of shingles on the market, the most common types are asphalt, cedar, and metal. Of all these materials, the most popular, versatile, and cost-effective choice is an asphalt shingle roof.

The Basics Of Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles were first used in 1901 and are a popular roof material for American homes. Furthermore, asphalt shingles are durable, affordable, and come in a variety of textures and colors. There are organic base shingles and fiberglass base shingles.

Organic base shingles consist of roofing felt or paper saturated with asphalt, which makes them waterproof. Organic shingles are more durable but can be prone to fire. However, organic shingles are less environmentally friendly because more asphalt goes into them during manufacturing.

Fiberglass base shingles have glass and fiber with asphalt on top, making this type of shingle waterproof. They have a covering of mineral granules for a wear surface. Fiberglass shingles are a better asphalt shingle option if you’re concerned about fire.

What Are The Different Asphalt Shingle Styles?

Asphalt shingles come in a variety of styles, such as three-tab strip singles or laminated dimensional shingles. A strip shingle is a basic shingle with a strip of material with cutouts or tabs. The laminated dimensional shingle is a premium shingle that has multiple layers or tabs.

  • Three-Tab Strip Shingle: The most common strip shingle is a three-tab strip shingle. The three-tab shingles’ tabs make it look like three different shingles, but it’s one large piece. This is the most popular shingle type and the most economical for covering a roof. 
  • Laminated Dimensional Shingles: On the other hand, laminated dimensional shingles have no cutouts but rather portions laminated with asphalt. This gives the shingle texture and dimension. There is also a luxury version of the dimensional shingle with larger exposures that mimics the look of wood or slate.

Asphalt shingles are for roof slopes of at least a four-inch vertical rise over a 12-inch horizontal run. Never install asphalt shingles on roof slopes with less than a two-inch vertical rise over a 12-inch horizontal run.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles have pros and cons, so it’s essential to consider them when making important decisions about your roof.

Advantages Of Asphalt Shingles

Being popular and affordable are big advantages of asphalt shingles. They are the most commonly used shingle type when considering price and ease of maintenance and installation. Asphalt shingles are also fire resistant, a big plus for those who live in fire-prone areas.

Long Lifespan

Asphalt shingles have a lifespan of about thirty years and an initial low cost. Because of this, they are considered the best bang for your buck. There are also protective treatments available that can make the shingles last even longer.

Plenty Of Variety

Asphalt shingles also come in several colors, styles, and sizes. You can also modify shingles to look like other kinds of shingles, such as wood, slate, or tile.

Environmentally Friendly

While people once considered asphalt shingles to be bad for the environment, they are now much more environmentally friendly.

They have much less of a negative impact because you can layer new shingles over the top of old ones. You can also recycle them.

Low Maintenance

The best part about asphalt shingles is that they are low maintenance and easy to install. Damaged shingles are inexpensive and easy to repair or replace.

Disadvantages Of Asphalt Shingles

There are not many disadvantages of asphalt shingles, but you still should consider these aspects.

Less Durable

Asphalt shingles are less durable than other shingle types. They are more prone to weather damage, which can affect their lifespan.

Not Ideal For Flat Roofs

Another disadvantage is that asphalt shingles aren’t a good choice for flat roofs. This is because they wear more quickly from weathering on a flat roof than they would on a sloped roof.

Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles: Which One Is Better?

When you’re ready to decide between rolled roofing or shingles, you need to compare several factors. Keep in mind cost, lifespan, and maintenance.

Cost Of Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles

Rolled roofing is the least expensive option when it comes to roofing material. For a 1,200 square foot home, rolled roofing can cost about $4,620 to $4,980. This is about $4 per square foot and includes materials and labor.

The materials and labor for an asphalt shingle roof for a home of the same size range between $4,100 and $6,000.

This is about $5 per square foot and includes materials and labor. Rolled roofing is less expensive per square foot, but shingles are a better product for a slightly higher cost.

Lifespan of Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles

Rolled roofing has a lifespan of five to eight years. Asphalt shingles have an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years with proper maintenance.

Maintenance Of Rolled Roofing vs. Shingles

Rolled roofing is less durable than traditional shingles. Asphalt shingles can hold up better because they can expand and contract. However, if rolled roofing gets damaged, it’s like one large shingle to fix instead of multiple small ones.

With either option, the maintenance is comparable. Basically, you can either fix multiple shingles or one large shingle.

Related Questions

What type of roofing lasts the longest?

When re-roofing your home, the type of roofing you choose has a direct correlation with how long your roof will last. Concrete, clay, or slate tiles last the longest, up to 100 years, outperforming wood-shakes, asphalt shingles, and most metal roofing. Although these materials have a good lifespan, they are not as durable. If you want your roof to last, choose more durable materials, but expect them to be more costly.

What color roof is best?

If you want to reduce your air conditioning bill, go with a lighter-colored roof. Light-colored shingles reflect more light and stay cooler in the sunlight. They also help to keep the attic temperature lower.While lighter-colored shingles can reduce temperatures, this doesn’t mean that they are better than darker-colored shingles. At the end of the day, the color shingle you choose should reflect your personal preference.

Do You Need Roofing Installation or Replacement?

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Our Final Take

Keeping all of these factors in mind, asphalt shingles are the better option. Asphalt shingles are more expensive but are more cost-efficient due to their lifespan and durability compared to rolled roofing.

If you need a quick fix, rolled roofing can work, but only temporarily. Investing in asphalt shingles early on will save you money over time.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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