Although roofing shingles are also available in wood or metal, the most common type is a composition that starts with a mat that is immersed in hot asphalt. It’s then covered with ceramic-coated granules. The granules provide protection from the sun and create a wide range of colors.
Although not as old as other types of roofing, asphalt roofing shingles have been around long enough to get the bugs out. They have an 80% share of the residential roofing market in the USA.
Although, there is a wide assortment of brands, sizes and colors, there are just four major types…
Asphalt Roofing Shingles – The Organic Type. These are created with a paper mat. They were the original type and are still available in some areas. However, they curl and become brittle as they age. The condition is greatly accelerated in the tropics, where the sun can burn up the 20-year organic type in ten years. You also see this condition on the southern exposure of northern roofs.
Some roofers in northern climates prefer to install this type in the winter time. The reason for that is they are less brittle than fiberglass ones when frozen. I recommend installing a temporary repair on your leaks in winter and wait until it’s warm for a new roof.
Asphalt Roofing Shingles – The Fiberglass Type. This type is made with a fiberglass mat rather than a paper one. They continue to lay flat, even when they are old and have lost most of their granules. I got 22 years out of the 20-year fiberglass type on my home in Southwest Florida.
Due to the porous nature of the fiberglass mat, less asphalt is required to produce a superior product. The asphalt is saturated all the way through the mat, not just coated on top of the paper. So the fiberglass ones are lighter than their organic counterparts, yet perform better.
They also have a Class-A Fire Rating, rather than the Class-B rating the organic kind has.
Asphalt Roofing Shingles – The “Three-tab” Type. Both organic and fiberglass types are available in either the “three-tab” or the “architectural” variety.
The three-tab type are less expensive than the architectural type, but they are more difficult to install. This is due to the fussy vertical alignment required when they are laid properly.
As the three-tab kind age, they are also vulnerable at the gap where the tabs come together. This is the only area that doesn’t have double-coverage. I’ve seen the gaps deteriorated all the way through to bare wood.
Asphalt Roofing Shingles – The “Architectural” Type. This type is also called “laminated” or “dimensional”. They have become the most popular choice in roofing shingles today. Here are five reasons why:
1. They have a longer life expectancy than the three-tab variety. Warranties of 30 or 40 years are common.
2. The deep shadow lines create a more desirable rustic appearance. That also helps to mask slight imperfections in the roof deck.
3. They are larger than three-tab variety, which means faster installation.
4. With no fussy vertical alignment to contend with, the architectural type is a good choice for both pros and do-it-yourselfers.
5. They also don’t have the gaps like the three-tab type. They butt up against each other, greatly reducing any solar degradation.
So, if you’re thinking about installing asphalt roofing shingles, a good choice is the fiberglass-mat architectural type. Also, be sure to get the fungus-resistant variety if you live in a hot and humid climate where roof fungus is a problem.