Starting in the 1950s, it was discovered that the organic felt being used in the manufacture of the shingles was not as fire retardant as other possible materials. In addition, the shingles would weigh more as the organic felt would absorb far more asphalt than other products. For a time, asbestos was used until the health risks were revealed. Fiberglass has been the material of choice in composition roofing shingles since the 1970s.
Composition roofing covers approximately 80% of the homes in the United States. The reason for the popularity in this roofing type is the ease in installation, low cost, and longevity. In addition, they are lightweight, so getting them to the roof is easier.
There are several types of composition shingles available. The shingles have cutouts on one edge that form tabs. When installed, these tabs simulate individual shingles. There is the 3 tab shingle, which is the standard, age old shingle. The next option would be the laminated shingle, which has an additional layer of tabs, giving it a more three dimensional look. Shingles can simulate the look of cedar wood shakes. The premium shingle will have the most attractive look, but will also add to the cost. Most recently, synthetic slate shingles have come on the market. This product simulates the look, texture, and contours of natural slate but without the need to prepare the roof as you would need to if applying actual slate. Synthetic slate shingles are made from polymer composite and do not carry the weight issue of regular slate.
In addition, due to the thickness of the synthetic slate and the laminated shingle, they weigh considerably more than the traditional shingle. The upside is that they also carry longer warranties – some offer lifetime warranties. The slate and laminated shingle also have a much higher wind resistance as well as a higher fire resistance. All positive attributes of the more premium shingle which should be considered when making a purchase.