What Is the Difference Between Asphalt & Composition Shingles?

Asphalt shingles have been a popular roofing choice for several years due to their cost and relatively simple installation. They are comprised of a paper or fiberglass mat coated with asphalt. Composition or composite shingles are a newer product gaining in popularity. A variety of materials goes into their manufacture. The combination of these materials allows for a stronger and more durable shingle.

Composite shingles are made from a variety of materials.


Asphalt shingles come in two forms: organic and fiberglass (also known as glass fiber). Organic asphalt shingles have a paper mat or backing with a layer of asphalt added on top. Fiberglass asphalt shingles contain a mat made of fiberglass with a layer of asphalt added on top.

Composition shingles are made from materials such as asphalt or asbestos, tar paper, slate, shake, laminate and wood. The combination of these ingredients improves the shingle's strength.

Time Frame

Asphalt shingles can carry warranties ranging from five to 20 years, depending on the shingle's strength rating. Composite shingles, however, are usually warranted for 30 to 50 years.


Asphalt shingles can be made with granules containing leachable copper. This helps to resist algae growth. Composite shingles have algae and moss inhibitors that prevent them from forming. The shingles can also be coated to protect against ultraviolet light. This reduces weathering from the sun that can cause the shingles to fade in color and crack. Composition shingles are also available in almost any color and size. They can include faux finishes such as slate and shake.


Organic asphalt shingles with a paper backing are considered less harmful to the environment. But fiberglass asphalt shingles have become more popular due to their durability. They, unfortunately, aren't as environmentally friendly. Composition shingles help the environment because recycled materials go into their manufacture. The use of post-industrial plastics, hemp fibers and used roofing materials help to reduce waste.


Asphalt shingles are considered inexpensive compared to other roofing types such as tile, ceramic and slate. They are also cheaper than composite shingles. But when the price of composition shingles is factored over their life expectancy and warranty period (30 to 50 years), they become more cost effective in the long run.