Asphalt roofing shingles make up the lion's share of roofing materials used in residential roofing, and for good reason. They have a number of benefits for the homeowner, including relatively easy installation and low cost compared to other roofing types.
They're versatile too. Whereas wood shake roofs generally look the same you can get asphalt shingles in a range of colors and styles.
They can even be energy efficient, helping to keep your attic and the rest of your house cooler, provided you buy the right product that's rated as an ENERGY STAR roofing shingle.
There aren't too many drawbacks to asphalt shingles but if there's one that stands out, it's what to do with them once they're used up. It's one thing to consider if you're looking for "green" roofing choices.
And while you might think that all of these products look the same you might be surprised at what's available. Manufacturers are always working to develop the latest feature or innovation that'll set them apart, and there are a few that you'll want to know about before you choose your next asphalt shingle roof.
Asphalt shingles aren't complicated but it helps to know a few things about them so you can make informed decisions about whether it's the right roofing choice.
In it's simplest form an asphalt shingle consists of a mat or backing material made from either a cellulose material or fiberglass, the latter being the most prevalent. The backing material is what supports the next layer which is the asphalt mixture. Finally, this roofing sandwich is topped off with mineral granules which help protect the asphalt. Since asphalt degrades in sunlight there needs to be something there to protect it and the granules do that job.
The lower tier includes what's known as "3-tab" shingles. These are simple shingles with 3 tabs and have been the standard bearer of asphalt shingle styling for decades. They're usually very flat without much thickness and tend to have the shortest warranty duration.
Example Of Simple 3-Tab Asphalt Shingles
The "better" and "best" category includes shingles often referred to as architectural shingles, also known as dimensional shingles. They're thicker than the 3-tab variety, with some of the premium/luxury products having a thickness of three 'standard' shingles. They're offered in more shapes and their thickness gives them and the roof more visual texture. They're also usually warranted for a longer period of time than economy 3-tab shingles.
Example Of A Luxury Architectural Asphalt Shingle
Photo Courtesy Of CertainTeed Corporation
When you shop for asphalt roofing you'll see this tiered system of lower-priced economy products, mid-range products and the high-end premium shingles. Cost, durability and warranty longevity will grow accordingly as you move up from economy to premium shingles.
There are situations where a new layer of shingles can be installed over an old layer. However if you choose to go with these very heavy shingles you may need to consult with a roofing expert or a structural engineer to make sure your home's roof structure can withstand the load. This is compounded in snowbelt regions where the weight of the snow has to be factored in along with the weight of the shingles.
Just realize that these premium shingles can be significantly heavier than economy shingles. Don't assume all products are the same in this regard.
The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends using shingles that meet these specifications. Compliance with these specs is usually shown on the product packaging.
Building codes may prevent you from adding a new layer of shingles over an existing layer. This is true in the U.S. in areas that are exposed to moderate or severe hail risks according to the International Residential Building Code (Reference the International Residential Code for One and Two Family Dwellings-2009; Chapter 9, Section R908 - Reroofing). Your best bet is to check your local building codes to determine if it's acceptable to use new shingles over an existing asphalt roof covering where you live.
Other considerations to think about include costs, roof longevity and the environmental impact.
The advantages to tearing off the old roof include the ability to see your roof decking. You or your contractor will be able to see whether there are any problem areas like rotted decking and other spots that might eventually need repair. You'll also have access for the application of protective membranes that prevent ice dams from causing problems with your new roof.
The disadvantages include the impact of having to dispose of the old shingles. It also takes more time to strip them off which can lead to more labor cost if you've hired out your roofing project.
Don't confuse the warranty with how long your shingled roof will last. The two aren't necessarily one in the same.
This isn't to say that the manufacturers of roofing materials are deliberately trying to be deceptive. It's just that the warranty has become a pronounced feature of the manufacturers' marketing effort, which tends to blur the distinction between what a warranty really means and how it relates (or doesn't) to how long your roof will last.
To learn more about this, read this section of the roofing materials article. (When you're finished reading that article just click your browser's "back" button to get back to this article). It points out the details about what a roofing warranty really covers and what you should know so that you can move forward with clear expectations about your roofing choice.
Asphalt roofing has a proven track record which is why it's one of the most widely used, if not one of the most popular types of roofing materials available. But like any product there are some down-sides and points to consider.
Easy installation (along with asphalt roofing's prevalence) also brings with it a wider pool of available roofing contractors. Installation costs are generally lower because it's an easy roof to install, compared to other more complex or time-consuming roofing materials.
Now keep in mind that the granules that protect the asphalt can dislodge and come off from abrasion so you don't want to make walking on your roof a daily occurrence. But for those times when you do have to work on your roof, asphalt shingles are usually up to the task.
If there's a prevalent misconception about asphalt shingles it would probably be that they all look the same, save for perhaps a variation in color here and there. But in reality, there's more to them than meets they eye, at least the non-discerning eye.
Research a few products and you'll find some features among the various brands that are worth noting and by understanding what they are you'll be able to make more informed decisions.
CertainTeed Presidential Shake™
Photo Courtesy Of CertainTeed Corporation
Examples include CertainTeed's GrandManor™, Centennial Slate™ and Presidential Shake™ as well as GAF's Grand Canyon™ and Camelot® lines to name a few. They'll cost more than basic shingles and they're heavier but they can also provide a much more distinctive and textured look.
Some asphalt shingles qualify as 'cool roofing' which helps keep your home cooler and ultimately more efficient than it would be otherwise.
Cool shingles are generally lighter in color but it doesn't mean you have to have a white roof. There are energy efficient products in some light brown and tan colors. You can learn more about this type of roofing at the Energy Efficient Roofing page.
being the most impact-resistant.
If you live in a hail-prone area buying shingles with a class 4 impact rating will provide additional protection against cracking and failure of the shingle that can lead to leaks in the roof. In fact you might even qualify for a home insurance discount by using these types of shingles.
For example, the Texas Department of Insurance provides discounts for hail-resistant roofing products, with the highest premium credit offered for Class 4 roofing. This link provides information from State Farm Insurance about the different U.S. states where they offer this type of program. Check with your own insurance carrier to determine if they provide this type of premium credit.
Since asphalt shingles are one of the most prevalent types of roofing materials it should be no surprise that they're also a large contributor to landfills once their useful life is over.
The up-side of this story is that there are efforts afoot to recycle used shingles. The most predominant use is in asphalt hot-mix for roadways and road repair. However there are still barriers that hinder wide-scale adoption ranging from the contaminants with removed shingles (like nails, bits of wood, etc.) to municipal policies that restrict the type or condition of products that can be used for these purposes.
Regardless of these barriers there are still asphalt shingle recycling opportunities; however you just might be limited based on where you live and the availability of facilities that accept shingles.
If you're doing your own asphalt roofing job and want to recycle your old shingles you can investigate whether there are any shingle recycling facilities in your area or waste companies that accept shingles for recycling (see the information below to locate these kinds of facilities). If you don't have any luck finding a recycler, your limited to having the shingles hauled to the landfill.
If you're going to have a new asphalt roof installed by professionals you can shop for a roofing firm that offers shingle recycling. You won't find this with every roofer but there are companies that do recycle and advertise this fact. Check the websites of various roofers in your local area to see if any of them offer shingle recycling. Or, simply ask the question as you search for a roofing contractor.
You can donate unused (surplus) shingles to local charities that support building needs or the Habitat For Humanity Restore if there's one in your area. The Habitat Restores accept gently used and unused building materials to re-sell to the general public. The proceeds go toward Habitat's community building efforts.
Here are several resources for finding shingle recyclers as well as more information about apshalt roofing shingle recycling:
(Note - these links below will open up in a new browser window)
ShingleRecycling.org - This is an online resource for information about shingle recycling and includes a locator for asphalt shingle recycling facilities.
Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA) - The CMRA is an organization that promotes the recycling of construction materials. This site also has a search function to find recyclers by U.S. state and Canadian province. Keep in mind that this includes all construction materials and not necessarily or exclusively asphalt shingles. You can check out the various facilities to determine if they accept asphalt shingles.
Asphalt shingles are made by a number of different manufacturers, some more well-known than others, so from a choice perspective it's a buyer's market.
For the most part all laminated composition shingles have the same type of construction and they're made from similar materials. The differences among the various brands lie with specific features that are incorporated into the design.
Some differentiating features include extra thickness and/or shaping to make the shingle look like a thicker wood shake. Others include algae protection or more color options and cool roofing technologies.
Here are the major players in the asphalt roofing game in alphabetical order:
|Malarkey Roofing Products|
|PABCO Roofing Products|
Choosing the right product starts with determining what expectations you have for your new roof and how long you plan to stay in the home.
If you have an existing home and it needs a new roof but you plan to sell it in the next couple of years you might make a different decision than if you're building a new home that you'll be staying in for some time.
Then it's a matter of blending your budget with your expectations on roof life. Obviously we all want our roofs to last forever but that won't happen so understand that for the most part, you get what you pay for. All things being equal a more robust shingle will typically cost more and most often outlast a basic economy shingle.
Once these steps are complete it's really a matter of browsing the products offered by the various manufacturers to see what's offered and find the colors and textures that appeal to you. The manufacturers' websites are a good place to view the various products.
Some manufacturers and roofing companies can/will provide the address of homes that use a particular roofing product so you can drive out to see how it looks on the home. If you're installing the roof yourself you can simply go out and buy the specific product you want from your local supplier.
If you're having your roof put on by a roofing company you can find out which products they supply from their sales material and/or website. If they don't supply a particular brand of shingles that you want ask them what they offer that's equivalent. There's enough "overlap" among the various brands whereby you should be able to find a comparable product.
One final note: don't choose the roofing company/contractor based on the brands they do or don't carry. If you find a company you're very comfortable with you're better off working with them to find a shingle brand that meets your needs, even if it's not the specific product you had your heart set on.
In many cases if you're having your roof installed by someone else they'll offer a range of asphalt roofing shingle brands that will be satisfactory to do the job.
If you'd like help finding qualified roofers in your local area who can provide you with a free price estimate for your roofing project use the contact form below. After you fill out and submit the form you'll be contacted at your convenience by local roofing sources. There's no obligation and it's an easy way to get the ball rolling on getting a new roof installed.
Cool Roofing - Roofing can actually be energy efficient -- if you choose the right materials. Learn how this kind of roof can save you money on your utility bills.
Imitation Slate Roofing - Real slate roofing is durable but it's also expensive. Find out what alternatives are out there that mimic the look of slate but give you some cost and labor benefits as well.