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Roofing Shingles 101 for Homeowners: The Basics and How to Select Shingles for Your Home

The most common roofing products installed on homes across the U.S. today are asphalt shingles. They’re widely available, with many style and color options, and they are less costly than tile, metal and slate roofing materials. Eight major U.S. and Canadian building-product manufacturers market asphalt shingles, including NTRCA members Atlas Roofing, CertainTeed, GAF, IKO, Malarkey Roofing Products, Owens Corning and Tamko. What are the basics that homeowners should know about shingles, and what should they consider when selecting shingles for their home’s roof?

The Benefits of Roofing Shingles Aside from affordability and widespread availability, today’s roofing shingles offer many benefits over other types of roofing materials, including:

  • They’re available in a variety of colors and styles, created by a variety of manufacturers

  • They’re easy to repair and maintain

  • They’re fire-resistant (most are categorized as Class A, the most fire-resistant)

  • Several impact-resistant Class IV rating options are available (and often qualify for insurance discounts)

  • They carry 20, 25, 30 or lifetime warranties

What Shingles Are Made of and How Today’s Shingles Have Improved vs. Older Products Most asphalt shingles you’ll see on homes today are made of fiberglass, constructed with a woven fiberglass base mat, covered with a waterproof asphalt coating and topped with ceramic granules that shield the product from harmful UV rays. They’re lighter than many products, most have Class A fire ratings, and they generally carry a longer warranty than shingles made in the past. Older, traditional shingles of the past used an organic mat-base, made from a recycled layer of felt paper, asphalt-saturated for waterproofing, and coated with adhesive asphalt into which the ceramic granules were embedded. These older shingles were heavier, thicker and more expensive, with Class C fire ratings. “Fiberglass technology and the continued improvement in this base provide better weather ability, strength and tear resistance,” says Rick McLaughlin, General Manager at Wholesale Roofing Supply. The sealants used today are also far superior to those in the past, says McLaughlin, allowing manufacturers to extend wind warranties almost twice as long as compared to the older products. Selecting a Shingle Style and Color Asphalt shingles come a wide variety of colors and are manufactured as either three-tab shingles or architectural shingles.

Three-tab shingles have cutouts – tabs – made along their long lower edge, making each shingle look like three separate pieces when installed. Architectural asphalt shingles (the most popular option today) are made by laminating two pieces together to give the look of a wood shingle. The upper portion has cut outs, and the lower portion is solid.

When selecting a shingle style and color, homeowners should take several things into consideration, including: the style of the home, the color of the home, style/color preferences, price and warranty.

Other Options – Reflective Coatings, Algae and Impact Resistance A significant improvement in fiberglass asphalt shingles in recent years, says McLaughlin, is the use of cool granules that give the product a reflective value, which reduces the amount of heat absorbed by the roof, saving homeowners money on their energy bills. This technology is especially helpful during the hot Texas summers. Algae is another issue which shows up in the North Texas market many times on the north side of some roofs, especially where there is a lot of shade and/or humidity. It often reveals itself with black streaks that can change the color and appearance of the roof. “Some manufacturers have added more copper granules in their mix of granules to extend the roof’s resistance to algae,” says McLaughlin. “These copper granules allow the manufacturer to further extend warranties against algae growth.” Finally, another option available is impact-resistant shingles. They’re more costly, but insurance discounts are often available, and they offer increased protection against storm damage.

Warranties Another consideration when selecting a shingle product is the manufacturers’ warranty. Warranties primarily cover defects—shingle cupping or curling, for example, plus granule loss and thermal splitting. Read any warranty before making a purchase decision to understand what is and isn’t covered, for how long and what may potentially void the warranty. “An experienced roofing contractor will have a relationship through his or her distributor with the product of choice he sells. He will be able to give you guidance related to the manufacturer, how the warranty works and offer options to further enhance the warranty,” said McLaughlin


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