Rolled Roofing VS. Asphalt Shingles: Pros and Cons

Are you considering roll roofing vs. asphalt shingles? Maybe the low cost of roll roofing caught your attention, but you’re not sure about it?

Roll roofing, asphalt shingles, and modified bitumen are the most common roofing materials for residential roofing projects. Before you head to your local home improvement store, you’ll need to know which is the best choice for you.

Roll Roofing

While roll roofing is often confused with modified bitumen roofing, it has more in common with asphalt shingles. Like asphalt shingles, roll roofing is an oil-based asphalt product reinforced with fiberglass and covered with minerals.

However, it’s thinner, cheaper, and less durable than asphalt shingles. Plus, it’s sold in 100 square feet rolls instead of bundles of shingles.

Roll roofing’s technical name is mineral surfaced rolled roofing (MSR roofing), also called rolled roofing.

Roll Roofing Applications

Homeowners rarely install asphalt roll roofing on their houses. Instead, roll roofing is more appropriate for sheds, treehouses, barns, workshops, or other uninhabited outbuildings. However, in a pinch or faced with a limited budget, roll roofing on a house will protect it from the elements.

Roll Roofing Cost

When considering roll roofing vs. asphalt shingles, the price of roll roofing makes it appealing compared to asphalt shingles.

Rolled roofing is one of the most affordable roofing types on the market. Specifically, expect to pay between $1.50 and $2.50 per square foot for installing a new roof. However, removing an existing roof raises the cost to around $2.50-$4.50 per square foot. 

Roll Roofing Lifespan

Roll roofing has a shorter lifespan than other roofing types. Most roofing contractors estimate that it lasts around 5-10 years. That’s why it’s only recommended for unoccupied structures.

Roll Roofing Pros and Cons


  • Low Cost: Rolled roofing is one of the cheapest roofing material options available. You can buy rolled roofing material for about $50 a square and install it yourself. Otherwise, professional installation costs about $2.50-$5.00 a square foot. Plus, there is much less waste since you can cut it to the exact size.

  • Easy installation: Rolled roofing is the ultimate DIY roofing material. The installation process is simple and many applications don’t require nails. However, remember you cannot install it on a pitch of less than 2:12.

  • Short-term solution: Rolled roofing is suitable for those needing a temporary fix or a quick turnaround on a project.


  • Limited lifespan: Rolled roofing generally lasts around 5-8 years, which is significantly shorter than other options.

  • Not Durable: Roll roofing is susceptible to wind, hail, and extreme weather conditions.

Asphalt Shingles

Next, there are the classic and ever-popular asphalt shingles. They consist of a fiberglass base, a coating of asphalt, and a coating of ceramic granules. There are two types of asphalt shingles: three-tab shingles and architectural shingles.

Asphalt Shingle Application

Asphalt shingle roofs are very versatile. They’re great for most roof shapes, slopes, and climates. The main limitation is their inability to be installed on low slope roofs.

Asphalt Shingle Costs

Asphalt shingles are available in low-end, mid-range, and high-end varieties. On the low-end, three-tab shingles cost around $3-$4 per square foot. Next, architectural shingles cost around $4-$8 per square foot. And the highest-grade shingles run around $6-$12 per square foot.

Asphalt Shingle Lifespan

Likewise, asphalt shingles have varying lifespans. Three-table shingles last 15-20 years, architectural shingles last 20-30 years, and premium architectural shingles last 30-50 years.

When it comes to roll roofing vs. asphalt shingles, lifespan is the most notable difference.

Asphalt Shingle Pros and Cons


Affordability: Compared to other types of roofs, such as metal roofing, wood roofs, or slate roofs, asphalt shingles are an inexpensive roofing material.

Customizable: With a variety of styles and colors available, you can easily find the perfect look for your home.

Relatively long lifespan: Asphalt shingles typically last between 20-30 years, depending on quality and maintenance. Plus, some shingles last 50 years.

Ease of Installation: Although not as simple as roll roofing, asphalt shingles are easy to install. They are light, and no special tools are required. With a bit of help from Google and some friends, most homeowners can install an asphalt shingle roof.

Ease of Maintenance: Asphalt shingle roofs are easily repairable with basic hand tools and a little know-how. Damaged individual shingles are easily removed and replaced.


Regular Maintenance Required: Asphalt shingle roofs require more maintenance than many other roofing types. They are susceptible to algae and moss, which must be cleaned off. Plus, extreme weather can blow off individual shingles or cause other damage.

Environmental concerns: Asphalt shingles contribute to landfill waste, as they are not easily recyclable.

Vulnerable to weather: Extreme temperature fluctuations, high winds, and hail can damage asphalt shingles over time. For example, roofs with poor attic ventilation cause blisters and cracks.

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen (mod bit or MBR) is a type of roofing material that combines asphalt and rubber or plastic polymers for added durability and flexibility. These characteristics give it a much longer lifespan than roll roofing. Although it’s available with a mineral coating, giving it an appearance similar to roll roofing, it’s also available with no mineral coating.

We included it in this comparison since its often confused with rolled roofing.

Modified Bitumen Application

The most common application of modified bitumen is low-sloped roofs of commercial buildings.

However, mod bit is gaining popularity in residential homes. It’s typically installed on additions, porches, and sunrooms with low-slope roofs.

Modified Bitumen Cost

On a new building, an MBR costs around $3-$5 per square foot. However, expect to pay around $4-$8 per square foot when you need to remove an existing roof first.

Modified Bitumen Lifespan

Thanks to their tough, weather-resistant properties, modified bitumen roofs have a lifespan of about 20 years.

Modified Bitumen Pros and Cons


1. Affordability: At $4-$8 per square foot, it’s one of the market’s most affordable flat roofing materials.

2. Aesthetics: Most single-ply roof membranes are only available in limited colors, such as white and black. On the other hand, mod bit is available in just about any color of asphalt shingles. This makes them one of the best aesthetic choices, and you can buy them to match existing shingles.

3. Flexibility: Modified bitumen stays flexible even in freezing temperatures. This prevents it from shrinking, getting brittle, cracking, and leaking.

4. Thickness: Modified bitumen is one of the thickest low-slope roofing materials. For example, EPDM is around 60-80mil, while modified bitumen is around 240mil. This makes mod bit the best option for high foot traffic areas.


1. Fire risk: Most roofers seal the seams with a heavy-duty torch. Since most homes are usually made of wood and combustible materials, mod bit roofs are much risker to install.

2. Vulnerable to ponding: Ponding is common on flat roofs, especially in older homes with poor drainage slopes. However, most membrane roofing systems hold up well to ponding. For example, EPDM is a common choice for koi pond liners. On the other hand, modified bitumen roofs are more likely to leak when exposed to ponding.

3. Life expectancy: At 20 years of max life, mod bit roofs have one of the lowest life spans.