ASPHALT SHINGLES: Designs, Performance and Popular Brands
In our last article we looked at 6 different materials used for roofing shingles, but asphalt is by far the most common choice and what we will focus on here. This popularity comes from lower costs, but with manufacturing improvements its expected life has grown to 30, 50, or 75 years, with some lines even featuring lifetime warranties.
In the beginning, the shingles used wood fiber or felt to hold and shape the asphalt waterproofing material. The shingles were designed with 3 “tabs” which imitated a slate look. Later, fiberglass was substituted with dramatic performance improvements in weatherproofing, longevity and fire-resistance.
The 3-tab shingle is just a single layer, but manufacturers began to add additional layers giving the shingle more thickness which produced a better finished appearance. This design goes by several names: dimensional, laminate, or architectural.
Due to severe hail storms during the mid-1990’s, testing was developed to rate the impact resistance of asphalt shingles. The test (UL 2218) designates a class rating of 1 to 4 with 1 being the least resistant. Attaining a class 4 rating means the shingle has a 2-inch steel ball dropped multiple times on it from a height of 20 feet without any cracks produced that would allow moisture through. A tough test to pass! This does not test the shingle’s resistance to high wind speeds. That requires a different test.
Embedded in asphalt shingles are small particles looking like small rocks. These granules are critically important to its weather resistance and they also create the color and visual appearance of the finished roof. These granules typically have a natural mineral core which is coated with a colored ceramic giving the shingle its color. Many shingles now utilize different color granules placed on shingle in such a way to create a “shadow line”. The shadow line gives visual depth and contrast to the finished roof mimicking a slate or wood appearance.
The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association lists more than a dozen manufacturers so you have many lines and qualities from which to select. Here are three of the best-selling manufacturers: GAF, CertainTeed, and Owens Corning.
GAF was founded in the late 1880’s and is the largest roofing manufacturer in North America with many outlets and a large network of factory-certified contractors. In 2011 GAF, first to do so, offered a Lifetime limited warranty on all of its laminated shingles. GAF’s line of shingles called Timberline® HDZ™ are eligible for a wind warranty without a wind-speed limitation. GAF offers StrikeZone™, a strip in the nailing area designed to produce accurate nail placement and Dura Grip™, which bonds the shingle rows together locking out moisture and resisting the force of winds.
CertainTeed began in 1904 and is a major manufacturer of building products with more than 60 manufacturing facilities. Their Presidential line of asphalt shingles feature a dual-layered construction and are certified to meet UL performance standards. These carry a lifetime-limited warranty and offer the heaviest weight and widest color selection. A ten-year warranty, StreakFighter®, is given against algae stains.
Owens Corning, established in 1938, is a building materials manufacturer operating in 33 countries. They offer a line called Duration which comes with a limited lifetime warranty. To increase its gripping power, strength and durability they imbed a fabric strip in the shingle’s nail zone called SureNail® warrantied to withstand winds to 130 mph. StreakGuard™ is their warranty against growth and stains from blue-green algae. They claim that their granules are manufactured to withstand particular regional weather differences.
We don’t have space here to include details about more shingle options produced by other quality roofing manufacturers. Today there are more asphalt shingle options with superior performance and longer warranties than ever. We hope this short review helps you better understand the technology and benefits in what appears to be “just” a simple asphalt shingle.
Unless you are planning a DIY installation, we suggest you find a good local roofing contractor and have a conversation with them about the products they install. Some contractors are factory-certified to install particular brands. Some may prefer certain brands or shingle lines and some may install any brand you select.
The most important decision we believe though, is selecting the right contractor to work with on your roofing project. You can get some tips on how to select a local roofing contractor from our previous article. Choosing the best asphalt shingle with a lifetime warranty installed by the right contractor may only be a one-time decision for your home, so inform yourself well and make the right choice.