How to Identify Types of Roof Shingles

Written by shane grey
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How to Identify Types of Roof Shingles
Roof tiles interlock in a wavy pattern. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The term shingles broadly refers to roof coverings made of various materials. The most common materials are asphalt, wood, tile and concrete. In addition to materials composition, types of roof shingles vary according to design and application. The easiest way to identify the type of shingle you have, is to closely inspect the roof's covering for characteristics unique to a specific type of shingle.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Extension ladder

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  1. 1

    Extend an extension ladder and set the ladder against the roof's eave. Climb the ladder to gain a closer look at the shingles.

    How to Identify Types of Roof Shingles
    Place an extension ladder's feet flat on the ground. (Ladder image by Towards Ithaca from
  2. 2

    Look at the size and shape of the shingles. Look for curved, half-circle shingles interlocked in a scalloped pattern; this design indicates tile roof shingles. Concrete shingles have a low, wavy profile and edges that snap together, like laminate flooring. If the shingles are thin, flat, about 3-feet wide and have a grainy surface, you are looking at asphalt shingles. Wood shingles are flat, slightly thicker than asphalt shingles and approximately 12 inches to 18 inches wide.

    How to Identify Types of Roof Shingles
    Wood shingles often show signs of natural wear, such as fading and splitting. (wood shingle pattern image by jimcox40 from
  3. 3

    Touch the surface of a shingle to determine the material's texture. Tile shingles have a hard, relatively smooth surface and the tile's glaze feels slightly slick. Concrete shingles feel slightly grainy, like an exterior concrete slab. Asphalt shingles feel like they're covered with coarse sandpaper. Natural wood grains run straight up and down the surface of wood shingles, the grains feel like thin ridges.

    How to Identify Types of Roof Shingles
    The surface of concrete shingles feels similiar to a patio paver. (Dachziegel image by pixelgarten from

Tips and warnings

  • Historical homes might have slate roof shingles. Slate shingles are similar in size to wood shingles, but hard, like tile shingles. Slate is a deep, natural grey, sometimes veined with white and orange.

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