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How to Tell the Difference Between Asphalt and Fiberglass Shingles

Close-up of asphalt shingles on roof with attic skylight

If you’re shopping for a new roof in America, there’s a very good chance you’re thinking about asphalt shingles. They’re affordable, long-lasting, available in a variety of colors, and readily available. But you might also have your eye on fiberglass shingles, which are sometimes called composite shingles. After all, fiberglass shingles are a type of asphalt shingle. They provide a host of benefits and, in many cases, look virtually identical to asphalt. So, let’s explore these two great options. Scroll down to learn how to tell the difference between asphalt and fiberglass shingles.

Asphalt vs. Fiberglass Shingles

First, it’s important to note that asphalt and fiberglass shingles are quite similar. They’re both composed of a base material, which is coated with asphalt and topped with ceramic-coated granules. That mineral coating adds color, durability, and UV protection. The difference lies in the base layer. While asphalt shingles use an organic mat base, typically a wood product like cellulose or paper, fiberglass shingles employ a base of woven fiberglass strands bonded together by resins. In addition, asphalt shingles use about 40 percent more asphalt than fiberglass shingles, making them thicker and heavier. Once they’re installed, you won’t be able to spot the base layer or thickness.

So, if you’re wondering how to tell the difference between asphalt and fiberglass shingles, you may be disappointed if you were hoping for visually distinguishing features. They look virtually identical. The differences lie in the shingles’ base layers and their performance. Let’s explore how these materials differ from one another.


Asphalt shingles have been around for longer, dating back to 1903. Fiberglass is a more modern option; it was introduced in 1960 but didn’t gain popularity right away. Once manufacturers had ironed out a few of their early wrinkles, fiberglass shinkles became more popular in the 1980s.


Due to their thicker profile, asphalt shingles are more durable when it comes to harsh weather conditions (storms, wind, rain, hail, etc.). They won’t easily be blown off the road or otherwise damaged. While the thin profile of fiberglass shingles has its benefits, it may not fair well if your area experiences frequent harsh weather. Fiberglass shingles also may become brittle and crack in cold weather, and they provide less insulation.

Fiberglass shingles work well in milder climates, while asphalt shingles work well in varying weather conditions, including extreme cold and heavy wind. That said, fiberglass shingles do have a longer lifespan (about 25-50 years) than asphalt shingles (about 15-30 years).

Installation & Weight

Fiberglass shingles are easier to install because they’re thin and lightweight. Asphalt requires a bit more work. In addition, asphalt shingles put more pressure on a roof’s structure due to their weight.


Asphalt shingles are not as eco-friendly because they require more asphalt. Fiberglass uses less material. In addition, fiberglass shingles are more easily recycled and better at reflecting UV rays.

Fire Resistance & Moisture

As you might have guessed, asphalt shingles are more vulnerable to fire due to their organic paper base. They typically have a lower fire class rating. Some manufacturers do offer options with more heat resistance, however. In addition, you can purchase special underlayments to improve the fire retardance of both asphalt and fiberglass roofs. With a fiberglass roof, it’s less likely you’ll need this boost, as fibershingless shingles typically have a class A fire rating.

Due to their organic paper base, asphalt shingles are also more prone to warping. They’re susceptible to algae, fungus, and mold growth as well. If you live in a relatively wet climate, you may wish to look for shingles that limit organic growth.


Now that you know how to tell the difference between asphalt and fiberglass shingles, you’re ready to shop with confidence. Discuss your preferences and concerns with a roofing professional to find the best option for your needs.

Do you need a new roof? If you live in southwest Missouri, contact Taylor-Made Roofing for all your roofing needs. Our experts can help you explore new roofing options, maintain an older roof, perform emergency repairs, complete tear-offs and recovers, and perform remodeling services. Our family-owned business offers quality services, a reassuring warranty, and free estimates. For more information regarding roofing options, ice dam prevention, and more, please give us a call at 417-326-8778 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!

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