Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most common type of
roofing material in North America. Also called fiberglass shingles and composition shingles, most of what people think of as "shingles" fall into these categories.

asphalt shingles


Asphalt shingles are typically available in architectural or 3-tab styles in a range of colors. Anyone considering this type of shingle should try to view an actual home (or at the very least, a picture) with the color chosen. The sample can look vastly different than the completed roof in the same color!

Since this is the most familiar type of roofing to many professionals, ease of installment and access to a wide range of products is likely.

This traditional type of shingle is installed with asphalt saturated felt, or what is known as an organic mat. The thicker the weight, the more durable the shingle.

This type of shingle stays more durable in frigid weather than does its cousin, the fiberglass shingle.

Fiberglass Shingles

Fiberglass shingles are actually a type of asphalt shingle with some variations. Instead of an organic mat, fiberglass shingles have a tougher saturated fiberglass matting. They are thinner, lighter in weight, and carry a better fire rating than regular asphalt shingles.

Fiberglass shingles are quite popular in mild to moderate climates. Their reputation is not as good in cold climates, because of the lack of flexibility in this type of weather.
They also may be more prone to blowing off in high wind.

Asphalt Shingle Cost Factors

Asphalt, or composition shingles, are popular precisely because of their competitive cost. There are many options available which can vary the price considerably.

Warranties range from 15-30 years and up (although lifespan may actually be more or less). The longer the warranty, the more expensive the shingles.

With regular asphalt roofing, the heavier the shingle, the longer they will last (and the more they cost). Wind ratings may also cause variations in cost.

Architectural shingles are recognized for their random patterns and shadings. They tend to be more expensive than the 3-tab shingle. Although the 3 tab is cheaper, it is more labor intensive to install correctly. The tabs must be lined up properly, or the roof will have a wavy look. The trade off for cheaper shingles with added intensity of installation may offset any savings gained by shunning the architectural style.

Lifespan Influences

Numerous factors influence lifespan. One of the most important of these is the color of the roofing shingles. Dark colors absorb heat, and will have a shorter life than light colored shingles.

Light colored shingles not only absorb less heat, but they also stay cooler and keep the attic space cooler as well, lowering cooling costs and lengthening the life of the shingles.

Thicker asphalt shingles, though more expensive, will outlast thinner ones of the same type.

Of course, the warranty listed on the shingles has a direct relation on the expected life span. These are not, however, always a precise indication of how long you can delay your replacement roofing job.



Roof slope has a lot to do with longevity, also.

Green Concerns

Given the popularity of asphalt shingles, it would be nice if they were environmentally friendly. Well, that is not exactly the case.

Although there is much one can do to completely separate the living space from the roofing material (for the sake of your health), the fact is that asphalt roofing IS a pollutant, and it does offgas into the atmosphere.


TIP: If your house plan has dormer windows, then the asphalt odors could easily enter the home through an open window.


If the living space is well-separated from the roofing, you are unlikely to smell much in the way of odors. Yet one thing to keep in mind is the replacement of those shingles in later years.

Chemically sensitive people will probably need to consider moving out while the work of roof replacement is being done.

Another consideration is what happens to those used shingles. Are they recycled or do they end up in a local landfill?

There are cost-effective green options available today that you may want to consider for your new roof.

Take the time to research and compare.

What you find may just surprise you.



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