Asphalt Roof Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most common type of roofing material used today, found on about 75% of homes.  They are widely installed throughout the United States, and have been for more than 100 years.  Their popularity is due to the strengths they offer:

They are affordable, attractive, easy to install on almost any roof, suitable for any style home, and they last a reasonably long time.

Asphalt Shingle Description

Asphalt shingles are also known as composition shingles because they are composed of several layers of material.  The base layer is either an organic felt material usually made from paper, or fiber glass.  The base is saturated with asphalt to make it waterproof and then ceramic granules are embedded in the asphalt for two reasons.  The granules protect the asphalt layer from the damaging effects of the sun on the roof.  Secondly, the granules can be tinted to produce a wide array of roofing colors.

Fiberglass asphalt shingles: The base layer is made of glass fiber mesh which reinforces the shingle.  Fiberglass shingles are lighter than organic asphalt shingles and some may tear more easily, especially when hot.  They cost less and are now much more commonly used by roofers than organic shingles.

Organic asphalt shingles: The base layer is a paper felt composition.  They are able to absorb 40% more asphalt than fiberglass shingles and so they are much heavier, giving them better resistance to wind.  They cost more and are more difficult to find, but a roofing contractor should be able to locate a supplier.

Styles of Asphalt Shingles

The most common styles of asphalt shingles are the traditional three-tab shingles and architectural shingles, a.k.a. dimensional shingles.  Architectural shingles are slightly layered and provide a more textured look to the roof.  They are slightly more expensive than three-tab roofing shingles but they also contain more asphalt.

Cost of Asphalt Shingles

Homeowners looking for relatively inexpensive roof costs appreciate the affordability of asphalt shingles.  They are typically bundled in “squares” which contain 100 square feet of roofing material.  The costs of the material vary substantially with the least expensive three-tab shingles costing $60-$75 per square and the most expensive dimensional shingles costing over $150 per square.

Asphalt Shingle Longevity

The lifespan of asphalt shingles varies from about 15 years to over 30 years.  They tend to last longer in northern, cooler climates because it is sun and heat that do the most damage to asphalt shingles, causing cupping and curling that makes them ineffective as well as unattractive.  The manufacturer warranties typically provide either 20-year or 30-year coverage.  For the warranty to be in effect, the roof must be installed by licensed roofers.  The warranty does not cover damage done by roofers, such as setting their air gun too high which may drive nail heads through the shingle.  The warranties don’t typically cover the labor to have the new roof installed, and they often pro-rate the warranty.  If you have a 20-year shingle and it lasts 15, they’ll cover 5 years worth of the cost, or 25%.

It should also be noted that in most cases, a second layer of asphalt shingles can be installed on top of the original layer, but after that, the roof will need to be entirely cleared of shingles for a new layer to be applied. This is often referred to as a “tear off.”  The “overlay” roof will likely have a shorter duration than the original.

Where are Asphalt Shingles Used?

As the most common type of roofing material, asphalt shingles are used throughout the United States.  They account for 75% of all roof material, but are used somewhat less frequently in the south and southwest where high heat and more sunny days reduce their longevity.

 

Asphalt Roof Shingles Articles and Guides

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