How to Pick Asphalt Shingles for Your Home

Asphalt shingle roofing

RichG -

Many types of shingles are used with a sloping roof including:

But of all these material types, the overwhelmingly most popular, versatile, simple to install and cost-effective choice is the asphalt shingle roof.

First used in 1901, asphalt shingles have been part of the American home landscape for over a century. These shingles are durable for the price, affordable and come in many different textures and colors. The most common styles of asphalt shingles are the "strip" shingle or the "laminated" shingle.

Although fairly durable, asphalt shingles are still subject to damage and your roof should be checked after major hail or wind storms. Additionally, you should always make sure that your roof is properly ventilated.

According to a 2007 study by IWCS, about 11 million tons of asphalt shingle waste is generated annually in the US. Shingle waste comes mostly from new or replacement roof installations which can cost several thousands of dollars according to HomeAdvisor.

OK, let's take a look at some basics related to asphalt shingles.

Types of Asphalt Shingle Construction

The most common type of asphalt shingle homeowners will have installed are either fiberglass shingles or organic mat-based shingles. The shingle will have either an asphalt saturated organic substrate made from cellulose fibers like wood or paper, or it can have a fiberglass based substrate or mat.

Fiberglass shingles can have these general characteristics:

  • High durability and strength
  • Lighter weight and thinner material
  • Higher fire rating than organic varieties
  • Longer warranties

Organic mat shingles can have 40 percent or more asphalt content than fiberglass which makes them heavier, thicker and more expensive. However, they are also rugged, flexible and able to absorb more damage over time.

The weathering side of the shingle is coated with a harder asphalt material and then embedded with special aggregate granules for a weathering surface. A heat-sensitive adhesive or "self-sealing strip" of mastic is then applied above the tabs, so the shingles adhere to each other once nailed in place in a staggered manner.

Design Options With Asphalt Shingles

Shingles come in different basic design styles including the old standby three-tab strip shingle and the more textural dimensional laminated architectural shingle.

  • The strip shingle is a basic shingle with a strip of material (usually 3 times the length to height in proportion) with cutouts or tabs. The most common strip shingle is the 3-tab strip shingle.
  • The laminated dimensional shingle is a premium shingle and has multiple layers of tabs to create a texture and dimension to the shingle. A variation of the dimensional shingle is the luxury shingle which is much thicker and has larger exposures than dimensional shingles. Luxury shingles can mimic the appearance of wood or slate shingles.

Three-tab shingles have cutouts or tabs that are lined along their lower edges. This means that each shingle looks like three different pieces, but they’re one large piece. This type of shingle design remains the most popular and economical means of covering a roof. The three-tab shingle, after all, covers a lot of ground.

In comparison, laminated dimensional shingles have no cutouts but rather portions that are laminated with more asphalt. The sealant of asphalt bonds their layers, which reinforces their ability to defend against impact damage, rain, and wind.

Asphalt shingles are designed for roof slopes of at least a 4:12 pitch (4-inch vertical rise over a 12-inch horizontal run). Between 2:12 and 4:12 some manufacturers may allow their product to be used if installed according to their special instructions. Never install asphalt shingles on roof slopes less than 2:12.

Asphalt Shingle Colors

Apart from the different asphalt shingle varieties and designs, there’s also no shortage of colors to choose from to put on your roof. The color choices have expanded since the inception of asphalt shingles, and your choices depend on what you want for your home and what matches its style.

Some of the tones will range from gray to red to brown, and you’ll find blue and green mixed in as well. You can also mix light and dark tones to create weathered or vintage shingles for older homes. Roofing professionals have access to new technology that allows you to experiment with colors on your home through an online tool before installing them on your home.

Energy Efficient Shingles

For those homeowners who want to move towards green and energy efficient homes, many manufacturers in the industry are starting to produce energy efficient asphalt shingles. Using cool-roof technology, asphalt shingles are now being designed to absorb less heat from the sun. This cuts down on how much your air conditioner has to turn on during those hot summer days.