How Long Does An Asphalt Roof Last? The Pros And Cons of Asphalt Roofing

If you’re currently building a house or are considering investing in some home improvements, you may well be wondering: how long does an asphalt roof last?

Most people will reasonably expect to see their asphalt roof last anywhere between fifteen and forty years, depending on the type of asphalt shingles used in the installation.

Commonly used throughout the United States, asphalt shingles have many pros and a few cons, which we introduce to you a little later on in this article.

But let’s begin by looking at what an asphalt roof actually is, and ascertain some of the factors that may affect the longevity and durability of your asphalt shingles.

What is an Asphalt Roof?


An asphalt roof comprises asphalt shingles and is the most common roofing material used in the United States. The primary reason for this is that asphalt is affordable, durable, and relatively long-lasting (with most carrying warranties for between twenty and twenty-five years).

The base material of an asphalt shingle is often fiberglass, which is then coated in an asphalt sealing. The shingles are then treated with coarse granules that protect the shingle from the weather and also add color to the roof.

Builders hoping to keep the cost of construction low usually opt for 3-tab shingles, which are the cheapest option and readily available. But should your budget allow, you could upgrade to either architectural or premium shingles, which are longer lasting and more resistant to the elements, as we introduce below.

How long does an Asphalt Roof last?


If you’re wondering how long an asphalt roof lasts, it largely depends on the type of asphalt shingle that you install on your roof. 3-tab shingles usually last between fifteen and twenty years and are the least durable of the shingle options.

Architectural (often known as dimensional) shingles are more resistant and will last for between twenty and thirty years if installed correctly. And premium shingles, which are the most durable and expensive shingle option, can last anywhere between twenty-five and forty years.

While this should be treated as a rough guide when considering how long an asphalt roof will last, there are several factors that are likely to influence the durability and structural soundness of your roof, which you need to consider before installing asphalt shingles.

Factors Affecting the Durability of an Asphalt Roof


You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there are several factors that can potentially affect how long your asphalt roof will last. If you’re currently in the process of building your dream property, or if you’re looking to upgrade the roof of your current home, you should consider the applicability of the following factors before installing an asphalt roof:

  • Weather conditions: Your roof is your ultimate protection against the elements. If you live in (or are moving to) an area that experiences extreme or adverse weather conditions, be it tropical storms, heavy snow, or searing heat, the lifespan of your asphalt roof is likely to be affected, and it may not last as long as you would hope.
  • Quality of installation: You can’t understate the importance of hiring a competent and highly skilled roofing contractor to install your asphalt roof. Errors by workers are amongst the most common causes of premature roof failure and will almost certainly lead to costly repairs or the early replacement of your asphalt roof.
  • Quality of materials: Suppose you’re happy to go with an asphalt roof for your property. If that’s the case, investing in the highest quality asphalt shingles will ensure your roof lasts much longer (10-15 years) than if you use the cheapest materials available to you. While it’s cheaper upfront to buy 3-tab shingles, the cost of repairs and then installing a new roof in the future will be much higher than investing in a higher quality roof from the word go.
  • Ventilation and insulation: During the summer months, ventilation is crucial to keep your roof cool, while insulation is vital in the winter months to keep your roof warm. Correctly ventilating and insulating your property will protect the heat level of your shingles and reduce the impact of any damage caused to your roof.
  • Ongoing maintenance: Once your roof is installed, you must regularly check it for any cracks or surface damage, particularly after a storm. Maintaining and repairing your roof regularly will increase its lifespan, while leaving cracks and other damage will weaken the overall structure of the roof and may force you to replace it sooner than you expected.

How do you Know if you Need to Replace your Asphalt Roof?


While it’s always a good idea to hire a roofing contractor to check the condition of the roof before you purchase a property, there are several signs you can see for yourself that indicate that an asphalt roof may need to be replaced. These include:

  1. 1
    List Curled or damaged shingle edges.
  2. 2
    Cracks or depressions in the shingles.
  3. 3
    Bald spots where granules should provide a rough surface.
  4. 4
    Moss or other growth is appearing on the surface of the roof.

As we’ve seen, an asphalt roof will typically last anywhere between fifteen and forty years, depending on the shingles that have been used. So, if you’re moving into an older property, it’s vital to inspect the roof prior to relocating, as you don’t want to be surprised by a huge bill to replace the roof right after settling in to your new family home.

The Pros and Cons of Asphalt Roofing


Now that we’ve explored how long an asphalt roof lasts, as well as the various factors that can influence the durability of your shingles, it’s time to provide a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of asphalt roofing, so you can definitively decide whether asphalt shingles are the ideal material for the roof on your new or current home. Let’s begin with the pros:

Pros


  • Asphalt shingles are affordable and readily available throughout the United States, making them an economical choice for roofing your home.
  • With a lifespan of between fifteen and forty years, depending on the quality of shingles you opt for, an asphalt roof represents decent value for money compared to other options.
  • Asphalt roofs are relatively easy to install for qualified contractors, and the work can usually be done in a fraction of the time of other roofing materials. This keeps labor costs low during the process of building or renovating your home.
  • You can select from a huge range of colors, designs, and styles of asphalt shingles, which is an excellent way of adding a unique design to your roof.
  • If a portion of your roof is damaged, it’s easy to replace the affected asphalt shingles without working on the whole roof. Again, this keeps labor costs low if you need to replace or fix your roof at any time.
  • While asphalt isn’t the most resistant material on the market, it provides sufficient protection against UV rays, heat, and cold weather.
  • Asphalt shingles are fire-resistant.

Cons


  • If you live in an area of the country that is exposed to adverse or extreme weather regularly, asphalt shingles are probably not the best option for you. While they offer some resistance, high winds can get under the shingles, and hail or falling debris can cause damage to the surface of your roof.
  • Asphalt shingles should only really be used on steep, sloped roofs. When used on flat roofs, they will wear out from weathering.
  • When moisture permeates underneath the shingles, it can cause moss to grow and will lead to curling edges of the shingles. Not only does this ruin the aesthetics of the roof, but it will also weaken its durability.

Conclusion


In direct answer to the question ‘how long does an asphalt roof last,’ you can reasonably expect a well-installed asphalt roof to remain in sit for anywhere between fifteen and forty years, depending on the type of asphalt shingles used.

If your budget allows, it’s best to opt for architectural or premium shingles, as they tend to offer guarantees in excess of twenty years. As you can see from the pros and cons introduced above, while asphalt is relatively inexpensive and durable, it’s not the best choice if you live in an area of the country that is prone to adverse or extreme weather. (Related: The Truth About Roofs: Are Metal Shingles Cheaper Than Asphalt Shingles?)

But overall, if you’re looking to install an aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and durable roof for your new property, high-quality asphalt shingles are certainly a great option to consider.

Kenneth Wilson
September 1, 2021
Exterior, Roofing

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.