If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t give much thought to the roof over your head — until it’s time to replace it. When it comes time to purchase and have new shingles installed, you’re likely to be confronted with a number of questions, including the material your shingles are made of.
Asphalt shingles are the most common shingles used in the United States today. Why? Because they’re economical, durable and fire-resistant, and they have a long history of durability that outshines their competitors. Yes, there are other materials available, but they’re expensive and difficult to install. Asphalt shingles, on the other hand, are affordable and relatively easy to install — and produced in a variety of colors and styles that can make any home look great. They can also be built in organic or fiberglass varieties, with the fiberglass option providing more fire resistance as well as a longer warranty.
Although asphalt shingles are common, there’s much to understand when it comes to their installation and lifespan. There are several different varieties of asphalt shingles, which can get confusing when it comes to selecting a new roof. Working with a reputable, experienced roofing company is the best way to make the right choice when it comes to your roof. However, before moving forward with a roofing project, it’s important that you take a few minutes to educate yourself on America’s shingle of choice.
The Growth of Asphalt Shingles
In the United States today, 11 percent of all asphalt is used in the production of roofing products, which include roll roofing and shingles as well as built-up roofing systems, ply felt and saturated felt, which is used for underlayments for modified systems and shingles. It’s everywhere. And with good reason.
Asphalt-based products first made their debut in the roofing industry in 1893, when roll roofing appeared on the construction scene. They quickly rose as the predominant material for roofing materials thanks to ongoing product innovation and continued construction around the country. In 1953, builders welcomed the first self-sealing asphalt shingle into their work. Approximately 20 years later, laminated and fiberglass-based shingles appeared on the market. The popularity of asphalt shingles was sealed, and they’ve continued to rise in popularity ever since.
Today, four out of five homes in the United States are covered by an asphalt shingle roof. Thanks to these numbers, asphalt roofing has become a $12 billion industry.
Asphalt shingles have a long and respected history in the roofing industry for one simple reason — they get the job done. They’re economical, weather-resistant, fire-resistant and easy to install. They come in a variety of sizes and colors and, when installed properly, will last more than 20 years and require very little maintenance.
Types of Asphalt Shingles
While asphalt is the material of choice for manufacturing shingles, the term “asphalt shingle” refers to a spectrum of products. When you’re selecting a new roof, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose which type of asphalt shingle will work best on your roof.
1. Dimensional Asphalt Shingle
Also known as “architectural shingles,” these shingles are distinct because each one has a slightly different shape and size. The lower parts of them are laminated with an additional layer of asphalt, which is what gives them their dimensional look. These extra layers are bonded with an asphalt-based sealant, which reinforces their waterproof properties. This variation in each tab gives a roof with these shingles more of the look of a “shake roof,” which is popular with homeowners because it looks classy and unique.
Dimensional asphalt shingles are thicker than standard 3-tab shingles, and they weigh more. But because they’re thicker, they also last longer. In fact, roofs covered with dimensional asphalt shingles come with a 30-year warranty.
These shingles are beloved by homeowners for two reasons: They’re attractive, and they can add resale value to a home. While they do have to work with a slightly higher price tag than traditional 3-tab shingles with these products, their extended lifespan — as well as their ability to increase a home’s resale value — makes them a worthwhile investment.
A note of caution: While most homes will benefit from the installation of a dimensional asphalt roof, the one exception is homes that have a low-sloping roof. They’re not good candidates for this kind of shingle, as they’re more vulnerable to rain driven by wind.
2. 3-Tab Asphalt Shingle
3-tab shingles differ from dimensional shingles because they’re one size and shape, with no variation. Distinguished by cutouts — also called tabs — along their lower edge, these shingles are composed of only one layer of material. They’re also much thinner and lighter.
The tabs make each shingle look like three separate pieces. While they’re still incredibly common, these shingles are beginning to decrease in popularity after years of being the most commonly used style among builders. The reason is that they’re thinner, which means they don’t last as long as dimensional shingles. They also don’t have the attractive, varied look that dimensional shingles offer.
While they’re less popular than they were in the past, 3-tab asphalt shingles still have a strong market. They’re often used on rental properties or in cases where a homeowner simply isn’t able to afford dimensional shingles.
3. Luxury Asphalt Shingle
Similar to dimensional shingles, luxury shingles can also offer a varied, dimensional look. Sometimes referred to as “premium shingles,” they’re typically used on historic homes that have slate or cedar shake roofs because they can mimic the vintage look needed to maintain the appearance of such homes. While luxury shingles aren’t a good option for the average household, they’re a great option for a unique older home. Why? They cost 1/10 of what a new slate roof would cost — the material is less expensive and requires way less labor to install.
Because these shingles are made with extra layers, they’re incredibly heavy, with each piece weighing twice as much as a standard 3-tab shingle. While the extra weight means they aren’t necessarily a good choice for every house, it does provide extra protection from wind and weather, especially for homes in a region prone to high winds or severe storms.
Asphalt Shingles Pros and Cons
While asphalt has become an industry standard for roofers, you — the homeowner — still need to be confident and informed when it comes to selecting the best roof for your home. It’s important to understand what you’re facing, both in the installation of your new roof and with possible issues that may spring up down the road.
Advantages of Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles are the material of choice for roofers around the country for good reason. They offer a high-quality roof at an affordable price. When you select an asphalt-shingle roof, you’re selecting a product that provides the following.
1. A Variety of Choices
Asphalt shingles aren’t easy to identify anymore. Why? Because manufacturers today offer a wide array of colors and styles. Asphalt shingles can be designed to mimic the look of tile, wood shakes or slate. The shapes of the shingles can even be altered to fit in with a home’s architectural design, such as scalloped edges to complement a Victorian-style house.
Color choices are equally varied, with tones ranging from gray and black to beige, brown and blue-green. These colors can even be mixed to achieve a variegated look or give a vintage appearance to a roof on a historic home.
Asphalt shingles are the most affordable option on the market today because they can be mass produced. Of course, this price varies depending on the type of asphalt shingle being installed as well as labor costs in each region. However, when it comes to price, they outshine their competition every time.
3. Ease of Installation
Asphalt shingles are cheaper to manufacture, making them less expensive than other roofing materials, and they’re also easier to install. Their ease of installation means that homeowners can save significantly on labor costs. While labor costs may vary depending on location, costs associated with installing asphalt roofing materials are substantially lower than those for installing other types of roofing.
4. Low Maintenance
The lifespan of your roof will depend on the quality of the materials selected as well as the environment they’re exposed to. Rain, snow, wind and severe temperatures can all impact the lifespan of shingles and change their need for maintenance. However, in general, asphalt shingles require very little maintenance during their lifetime.
That being said, one particular threat to a roof’s condition comes from climates that tend to be damp. In these climates, algae and fungus can thrive on a roof. If you live in a damp area or your roof is shaded and has trouble drying out after a rainstorm, you may want to consider including algae-resistant shingles on your new roof. Algae-resistant shingles are coated with leachable copper, which helps the roof dry faster and prevents moss from taking hold.
Not only are asphalt shingles more affordable and aesthetically pleasing, but they also do a great job of protecting your home. They’re fire-resistant, wind-resistant and weather-resistant. In other words, they have a proven track record of protecting your home and the people inside.
6. Sound Dampening Capabilities
Asphalt shingles do a great job of filtering out the noises outside your house — traffic, airplanes and barking dogs included. They go a long way in keeping your home quiet and peaceful. After all, if you have kids or pets, you don’t need one more thing making your house noisy!
Drawbacks of Asphalt Shingles
These days, asphalt is the king of roofing materials because of its durable, affordable nature. It’s proven to be the best way to protect homes in all sorts of climates. However, it’s important to understand the challenges you may face with a roof full of asphalt shingles.
1. Poor Ventilation
If an asphalt shingle roof is installed over a poorly ventilated attic, its lifespan can be compromised. An attic with poor ventilation can easily overheat in high temperatures. When these high temperatures combine with moisture in any way, it can ultimately damage the roof.
In the colder months, warm air from the house can rise into the attic, causing condensation on the cold rafter surfaces. If left undetected, this condensation can cause swelling and buckling, ultimately damaging the shingles. A roof is only as good as the structure underneath it. It’s important to maintain a good attic ventilation system to protect the quality and longevity of your roof.
2. Variations in Quality
The quality of asphalt shingles varies, depending on the type of shingle purchased. If you opt for the cheapest asphalt shingle on the market, it won’t have the longevity of one of the higher-quality products, such as dimensional asphalt shingles. Budget should certainly always be a consideration, but also consider the quality of the materials and their expected lifespan before opting for a lower-quality product.
3. Vulnerability to Severe Temperatures and Weather
Asphalt shingles are strong, durable roofing materials, but they do have some vulnerabilities to temperature and severe weather. Not only can extreme temperatures within your home damage them if combined with moisture (see #1), but some of the granules that cover the shingles can also become dislodged during severe storms. This risk is especially prevalent when the storms are accompanied by hail, which can compromise the shingles’ ability to perform effectively. The impact caused by falling hail or trees can also crack asphalt shingles.
The Recent Push Toward Shingle Sustainability
In the past, some homeowners have expressed concern about using asphalt shingles for the following two reasons.
1. Gas Emissions and Energy Waste From Manufacturing
In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted a number of rules and regulations regarding the emissions coming from asphalt roofing manufacturing facilities and asphalt processing facilities. Established as part of the EPA’s Clean Air Act, these regulations were designed to reduce toxic air emissions as well as hydrocarbon emissions by requiring processing facilities to upgrade older equipment or purchase new monitoring equipment. Processing facilities are also subject to more stringent emissions restrictions, which are playing an important role in reducing manufacturing waste and pollution.
2. The Space Asphalt Shingles Take up in Landfills
Although production emissions have been a concern in the past, a recent push toward asphalt shingle recycling has demonstrated the industry’s commitment to modifying its practices in order to decrease negative environmental impacts.
One of the biggest reasons for the push toward asphalt shingle recycling has been the amount of space old shingles take up in landfills. The average roof can generate up to 7,000 pounds of trash when it’s replaced. That amount can take up five cubic yards in a landfill — more space than you’d need to hold the trash from the average American family over the span of a year.
Shingle recycling is addressing these concerns by creating a successful shingle recycling program. Asphalt shingle recycling allows old shingles to be turned into pavement or other roofing products, lowering the cost of paving roads and reducing the amount of asphalt that needs to be mined to keep up with current demands. The industry has also been able to significantly reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills this way.
Combined with the regulations set in place by the Clean Air Act, the roofing industry has made great strides toward improving its environmental impact throughout the roofing process.
Brothers Aluminum: Roofing Experts on Your Side
Your roof is your home’s first line of defense from wind and weather of all kinds. It shields the people you care about and the belongings you value. Selecting the right materials is one of the best ways to make sure your roof is ready and able to protect the ones you love the most. Asphalt shingles have a long history of protecting homeowners and their families, making them a great choice for almost any home.
It’s important to select good materials for your roof, but it’s absolutely critical to select an experienced, trustworthy company to install those materials. Serving Long Island, Westchester County, the Five Boroughs and Connecticut for nearly 40 years, Brothers Aluminum is committed to providing you with the best in both materials and service. We stand behind our products and our people, treating your roof as if it were our own.
If you’re considering a new roof but aren’t sure where to start, we invite you to schedule a free in-home estimate today. Let us help you take the next step toward protecting what matters most.