On the Roof: Materials, Design and Construction

Choosing the right shingles; you may not admire a roofline as much as, say, granite countertops, but that’s no reason to overlook the aesthetics of shingles.

Traditional asphalt shingles, the three-tab type, are made of a fiberglass or organic base, an asphalt coating and ceramic granules. Fiberglass reduces the shingles’ weight while increasing durability. Architectural, or laminated dimensional, shingles also contain fiberglass and asphalt yet weigh more — up to 200 pounds more per square.

3 tab shingles

Three-tab shingles are an affordable choice, though not as capable of withstanding strong winds as architectural shingles.

When installed, one three-tab shingle looks like three flat, rectangular pieces. By contrast, architectural shingles are not cut into tabs but are a solid piece overlayered by more material, which creates a dimensional appearance. This layering also makes them heavier.

Architectural shingles

Architectural shingles are stacked, which makes them heavier and more durable than 3-tab shingles.

Architectural shingles rate high on durability and lend a more visually interesting look to a roofline as compared to conventional three-tabs. And while both types of shingles contain asphalt, architectural shingles contain nearly twice the amount and withstand double the wind intensity, up to around 120 mph.

Builders and DIY-ers like dimensional types partly because they’re less fuss. The natural 3D textured look builds in a fudge factor that can hide crooked lines and minor flaws. And the shingles make a great choice for roofs with turrets, gables and other special features.

House with Architectural Shingles

House with Architectural Shingles

On the downside, architectural shingles cost more and are not a good choice for low-sloped roofs. More affordable three-tab models remain popular with many homeowners.

Quick Tip

Measuring basics

Shingle bundle In roofing, a square refers to 100 square feet of roof. Three-tab and architectural laminated shingles are sold by the bundle, and three or four bundles usually will cover a square of roof space. The exception tends to be very high end architectural shingles, which can require five bundles per square.

Spotting Worn Shingles

Architectural shingles typically last up to 40 years but may carry a limited lifetime warranty. Traditional shingles can be expected to last about 20 years. No matter the type of shingles on a structure, it’s a good idea to keep a lookout for signs of deterioration and for conditions that can lead to damage:

Worn shingles

Problematic shingles may not look this obvious. Look for more subtle warning signals before more severe damage is done.

  • Weakened shingles with small cracks or curling at their edges.
  • Trapped water that can weaken shingles or the roof structure.
  • Algae and moss growth, both possible indicators of excess moisture.
  • “Bald” spots that appear worn and smooth due to loss of granules.
  • Divots and pitting, the hallmarks of hail damage.
  • Blistering shingles, which can be the result of trapped moisture or due to a defect that might be covered by warranty.

Bonus Article!

Let the Light Shine In

Once you decide which shingles work for you, perhaps it’s time to splurge on a skylight!

Check out our bonus article, Simple Tips on Choosing the Perfect Skylight. to add some brightness to your home.

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