Asphalt shingles: An Array of options

Just because you have decided on asphalt shingles for your new roof does not mean that the decision-making process is over. Deciding on which particular asphalt shingles to use on the roof of your home can be difficult when there are so many options to choose from.

All asphalt shingles fall into one of two main categories:

  • Organic, which have a felt base layer made of recycled paper and wood pulp, or
  • Fiberglass, which have a fiberglass base layer.

Fiberglass asphalt shingles are becoming more popular in Canada as they tend to be tougher, resisting damage from wind and storms. They also offer a higher fire safety rating, as the fiberglass base layer is more resistant to fire damage than is paper.

In addition, despite the “organic” name, organic shingles are not more environmentally friendly than fiberglass shingles. In fact, organic asphalt shingles need to contain more asphalt than fiberglass shingles in order to render them waterproof.

Whether organic or fiberglass, most asphalt shingles come in two main styles of shingle. Strip shingles are the most common type of asphalt shingle. Generally, the strip shingles used on residential roofs are three-tab cutouts. Each strip appears to be three shingles once it has been laid but it is really one long shingle with three tabs cut out of the bottom.

Laminated shingles, or architectural shingles do not have cutouts and the section of shingle that will show after installation is covered in an extra asphalt coating. This gives the shingles added thickness and depth. These shingles provide a more custom look for a roof, which has made them quite popular among homeowners.

No matter the type and style of shingle you choose, be sure to check the manufacturer’s warranty. Warranties typically range from 15-30 years, although 50 year and lifetime guarantees are available in some circumstances. You will want shingles with the highest warranty possible. Even if you are not planning to stay in your home long-term, potential buyers will be interested in knowing the likely remaining life of the roof. Asphalt shingles with a longer warranty period will add value to your home.

Read your warranties carefully. Some shingles have specific warranties for algae growth, which may be important to you depending on the climate where you live. Some warranties may be void if a professional does not install the shingles. Make sure that both you and your roofing contractor understand the warranty in order to ensure its validity.