Asphalt Shingles 101

Learn everything you need to know about asphalt shingles—their type, style, color choices, cost and durability.

Asphalt Shingles

GAF Timerbline® ArniorShield Asphalt Shingles Colors. Photo: GAF

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 (NRCA), “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.”

Slideshow: Asphalt Shingles: A Showcase of Styles, Colors, and Options

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.