Asphalt Shingles - What's the Difference? From bobvila.com
Economical to produce, relatively easy to install and widely available, asphalt shingles are today’s most popular roofing material—not only because they’re less costly than wood, wood shakes, tile, metal or slate, but also because their guaranteed life span pits them favorably against competitors. At least a dozen major U.S. and Canadian building-product manufacturers market asphalt shingles, including GAF, CertainTeed and Owens Corning.
THE BASICS Asphalt shingles come in two varieties: Fiberglass and organic.
Fiberglass shingles are made of a woven fiberglass base mat, covered with a waterproof asphalt coating, and topped with ceramic granules that shield the product from harmful UV rays. Because of the composition of the fiberglass mat, less asphalt is needed to give the shingles their durability and strength. The result is a lighter weight and thinner roofing material. Fiberglass shingles also have a higher fire rating than organic varieties and generally carry a longer warranty. Fiberglass shingles were developed in the 1980s, but have quickly become the roofing material of choice for most homeowners and contractors today.
The traditional organic mat-based shingles are made from a recycled layer of felt paper, asphalt-saturated for waterproofing, and coated with adhesive asphalt into which the ceramic granules are embedded. With 40 percent more asphalt than their fiberglass counterparts, the traditional organic mat-based shingles are heavier, thicker and more costly. While organic shingles are considered more rugged and more flexible, they are also more absorbent and can warp over time. The additional asphalt content also makes them less environmentally friendly.
SHINGLE TYPES Regardless of whether they are fiberglass- or organic-based, asphalt shingles generally measure 12 by 36 inches and are commonly manufactured in two different types:
Three-tab shingles are distinguished by cutouts—tabs—made along their long lower edge. The result, says Joan Crowe, a technical services director for the National Roofing Contractor’s Association (NRCA), is that “each shingle looks like three separate pieces when installed, but it’s only one.” Three-tab shingles have been around a long time and are still the most economical and most popular shingle today.
Architectural asphalt shingles contain no cutouts, but their lower portions are laminated with an additional asphalt layer. This creates the contoured, dimensional look that gives them their name. Asphalt sealant bonds the layers, reinforcing the shingles’ waterproof capability. Though durable, architectural shingles are not recommended for low-sloping roofs, which are more vulnerable to wind-driven rain.
STYLE AND COLOR Installed properly, asphalt shingles are no longer easy to identify. Why? Some are made to convincingly mimic the look of slate, wood shakes or even tile. And shingle shapes can be similarly varied; consider the scalloped-edge tabs that complement Victorian architecture or the square, slate-like shingles perfectly suited for Colonial homes.
Color choices are more varied than ever, depending on your taste and the style of your home. You’ll generally find tones ranging from pale gray, medium gray and dark gray to beige, reddish and medium brown to dark brown, plus shades of blue and blue green. There are also variegated looks achieved by mixing light and dark tones skillfully, plus weathered looks designed to make a new roof-look suit a vintage house. There are interactive tools online that can help you “try on” colors and styles to find the asphalt shingle best suited to your home.
In addition to color and style, today’s manufacturers are also adopting energy-saving, cool-roof technology to help reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the roof. CertainTeed's Landmark Solaris, for example, is a steep-slope, solar reflective asphalt roofing shingle that contains advanced colored granules that reflect the sun’s rays and can reduce a roof’s temperature by as much as 20% in the summer. Similar ENERGY STAR-rated technology is available with Owens Corning's Duration Premium Cool Shingles and GAF's Timberline Cool Series Energy-Saving Shingles.
DURABILITY AND COST Manufacturer warranties currently guarantee asphalt shingles a 15- to 30-year useful life. Why the wide span? Climate, weather and environmental factors. Homeowners in areas enduring long summers with high heat may need to replace roofing sooner than homeowners in cooler regions. Most damaging are sudden spiking temperatures—from 40 or 50 degrees at night to well over 100 by midday, for example. Similarly, in areas known for severe winters, ice dams formed as water freezes may aggravate tiny cracks and fissures that eventually necessitate repairs.
Roof pitch also affects shingle life. The steeper the slope, the likelier it is that water and ice can drain off quickly and not remain to become destructive. It is for this reason that architectural shingles, though durable, are not recommended for low-sloping roofs, which are more vulnerable to wind-driven rain and ice buildup.
Algae and fungus growth can also be potentially damaging for roofing in perennially damp or subtropical areas. Depending on where you live, you might want to consider algae-resistant shingles, some of whose ceramic granules are coated with leachable copper to prevent discoloration and long-term damage from algae and moss growth. Keep in mind that algae resistance could add 10 to 15 percent to your materials budget.
Asphalt shingle pricing is influenced somewhat by geography but mostly by regional differences in labor cost. According to Tom Bollnow, senior director of technical services at the National Roofing Contractors Association, “Labor-wise, asphalt shingles are still the least expensive to install on a roof.” This, he believes, may be one reason nearly 70 percent of domestic roofing installations are asphalt shingles. Even so, price swings are notable. Says Crowe, “We tell homeowners all the time to get three or four contractor estimates. In the same region it’s possible to get different numbers.”
Generally speaking, the average cost of asphalt shingle roofing is $.80 to $1.20 per square foot for the materials. According to CostOwl.com, for a medium-pitch roof, the average cost will be somewhere between $100 and $200 per square for the shingles alone. (A square in “roofing lingo” is equal to the size of a 10’ x 10’ area, or 100 square feet.) Making asphalt shingles even more desirable is the fact that they can be applied directly over old shingles, providing the roof deck is in good condition. If, however, there are already two or more shingle layers, or your existing roof is shake-shingled, it’s advisable to remove the old before applying the new.
No matter which type, style or color you select, you’ll want your asphalt-shingle purchase to include a long-life warranty. Be aware, however, that DIY-installed shingles may not be covered—and that warranty coverage can be nullified if the manufacturer determines its product was installed improperly. This is not to say that an experienced DIYer shouldn’t install roof shingles, only that choosing not to hire a licensed, certified and fully insured roofing contractor may involve more than just physical risk.
Warranties mainly cover defects—shingle cupping or curling, for example, plus granule loss and thermal splitting. Study the proffered warranty before making a purchase decision. Make sure you understand that your warranty may not include the cost of labor for shingle repair or replacement. Also, most warranties don’t cover the wrath of Mother Nature: earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe wind or hail storms. Note that if you sell your home during the warranty period, coverage will likely end.
How do I find a roofing contractor?
Traditionally, homeowners would refer to the telephone yellow pages. This could easily lead to trouble for you. Anyone can advertise in the yellow pages. So how do you know if they are competent and reliable? The very best way to find a good roofing contractor is to ask around. Ask your family, friends and coworkers if they have ever hired a roofing contractor and if they had a good experience (or not). Check with your local Better Business Bureau. Contact your insurance agent. Your insurance agent will likely know the names of the good roofing contractors in your community. Do your homework. Good roofing contractors are hard to find.
Do I need a new roof?
Adapted from a report by Bob Swartz of BIC Exterior Designs
Should you repair or replace your roof? The simple answer is that most homeowners aren't equipped to answer that question without having a professional inspect the roof.
However, if you are asking the repair-or-replace question about your roof, it’s most likely because of one of the following reasons:
-There is an obvious leak from the roof somewhere in the house. -There was a recent weather event that resulted in roof shingles either on the ground or missing from the roof. -The roof is 15 to 25 years old or older.
Even if you see damage to your roof there may be more damage that is harder to detect. For that reason, here are some tips to follow to help you make a roof repair or roof replacement decision:
1. Make sure you work with a reputable roofing contractor.
There are some roofing contractors who are “storm chasers” that use crews that specifically go into areas with recent weather events that have caused damage roofs. They typically do the roofing work and then leave town with no forwarding address. There are also some companies that take money for roofing work upfront and then leave without doing the work.
2. Get your roof inspected regularly. The best way to ensure that you don’t get an obvious leak at some point is to have your roof inspected annually or after a major weather event. Weather events can include hail storms, tornadoes and high winds – all of which can damage a roof.
A reputable roofing company will inspect your roof free of charge and give you a detailed report of their findings, including photos if damage is found. Not all damage is obvious and if the inspection is free, you have nothing to lose. Just don’t sign anything agreeing to any future work before the inspection.
3. Know your roof’s age. The age of your roof is a big factor in deciding to repair it or replace it. If it’s a new roof, getting repairs would be the first choice. A qualified inspector can tell whether the damage is due to poor workmanship, poor roofing material quality or by weather damage. In any of those cases, there should be either a warranty or insurance coverage to cover some or all of the cost of repairs.
If the roof is more than 15 years old, a detailed inspection by a qualified inspector is in order. With photos and sketches, the inspector can work with your insurance company to see what will and won’t be covered. The insurance adjuster will have the final say on whether repair or replacement will take place.
4. Know what kind of roof you have. Another important factor that will help you determine whether to repair or replace your roof is the type of roof or roofing material your current roof has. Here are the most common ones:
- Metal roof – These roofs feature long life spans and any repairs would most likely take place at the seams.
- Concrete roof tiles – Concrete roof tiles generally have a life of close to 50 years. However, a yearly inspection for broken tiles is very important. If a broken tile is not replaced, a leak can result, causing damage to a larger number of tiles and resulting in a larger repair.
- Asphalt shingles – There are many grades of asphalt shingles. Age and damage from weather and the elements will determine whether to repair or replace.
How can I tell I need a new roof?
Adapted from John Rogers of Rogers Roofing
Most people figure that they need a new roof after they spot a leak in their ceiling. This leak could be due to many different factors. But what determines whether a repair will solve the problem or you need a new roof?
Here are some tips to help you determine if you need a new roof:
1. Roof age - How old is your existing shingle roof? Most experts agree that a typical roof will last around 20 years for roofs that have only one layer of roofing and are properly vented. Roofs that are installed over another layer or layers of roofing or not vented will "burn up" quicker.
2. Curling and buckling of shingles - Shingles that are curled or buckling are another sign that you may need a new roof. By looking at the slopes of your home that have direct sunlight and you notice the shingles are curling and losing granules it could mean the shingles are past their life expectancy. There could also be a possibility that the roof is defective.
3. Valleys - If your shingles are falling apart or missing in this area, it is a definite sign you may need a new roof. Valleys are one of the most important areas of your roof. Rain flows through valleys and into gutters. If the valley is compromised leaks are likely to be severe.
4. Missing shingles – These are another sign your roof could be failing. Check to see if all of the “tabs” are intact.
5. Shingle granules in the gutters - Look in your gutters to see if they are loaded up with granules. Roofs tend to lose more granules toward the end of their life cycle.