How to Choose Roof Shingles?

For those people faced with replacing their sloped roofing system, the choices of products available on the market today are considerable. If you are a U.S. homeowner, you have an even greater range of choices from those of us that live in Canada.

Based on experience; few customers know much about roof shingles in terms of how they are manufactured, what quality levels exist, differences and similarities between manufacturer warranties, and the fact that one must think of installing shingles on a sloped roof assembly, as being one component of a complete system.

Of course, why would they know? Shingles are not a particularly sexy topic, but sooner or later; most homeowners will be faced with replacing their sloping roof, and factually it is a substantial investment.

For most people, their home represents likely one of their greatest assets. Somewhat surprisingly, a great number of people don’t spend much time to understand what they are buying in terms of completing due diligence on the products being used on their roof, and or the people responsible for installing such products.

Many consumers simply take a leap of faith when making a shingle roof investment. If they were purchasing a car or investments for retirement, almost guaranteed; more effort would be exercised in doing their research.

To note is that many experienced homeowners do their homework, likely because they have had the experience of dealing with the “good, the bad, and the ugly” when dealing with trades installers, in their long tenure as property owners.

The first thing to understand is that if one chooses a mediocre product and uses a good installer, the roof may not be a good result over the long haul in terms of longevity.

Using a great product and a poor installer will almost assuredly result in a poor result, and often will become evident in the short term.

Using a great product and great installer will result in a good outcome and will last longer, providing the best value over time. It will in fact prove to be more cost-effective.

The fact is you seldom if ever get good for cheap.

In terms of starting with a shingle product selection; the basics on the subject include the fact that fibreglass laminate shingles are the new standard for shingle manufacturers. While there are still organic asphalt shingles available in the market from some manufacturers; they have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Often such products can still be seen used on new subdivision projects as they represent the least expensive option.

Related Content: How to Shingle a Roof?

Organic asphalt shingles have been the mainstay product in the market for over sixty years in North America; but evidence of premature product failures such as excessive granule loss, cracking and fissuring in some paper asphalt shingles over the past twenty years; resulted in many manufacturers changing their product lines to fiiberglass in order to gain back market share from American brands that offered such products and were beginning to dominate the market for roof shingles.

Roof shingles made of fibreglass typically have a woven fibreglass matt as their core. Asphalt saturates the matt, and is responsible for the longevity of the shingle. The more asphalt used in the construction of the shingle, typically the longer it will last.

Fiberglass roof shingles are available in many different design and colour options. Tri-laminate roof shingles as an example are designed to provide a textured appearance designed to somewhat replicate the look of authentic slate or shake type products. Tri-laminate shingles being of heavier construction are proven to provide in excess of thirty years of reliable performance at a fraction of the cost of many natural roofing products such as slate or cedar.

When evaluating a roof shingle, it is important to consider the thickness of the matt. The thicker the matt, the more asphalt is required to be used in the manufacturing process. Shingles that are thicker generally will last longer. Therefore it is suggested to choose a heavier weight product for greater longevity.

Also important to consider in roof shingles, is their ability to withstand blow off from high winds.

During wind storm events, most commonly shingles will blow off from the windward eaves or rake edge.

That is where they will begin to dislodge. As wind pressure increases as it climbs up the surface of the roof, patches will then begin to blow off as a result of the initial shingles dislodging.

As a result; there are a few things to consider on this subject when choosing a roof shingle.

  • What is the wind tear-off speed rating of that specific roof shingle product, and does the manufacturer warranty the product to that wind speed.
  • Does the manufacturer cover product replacement only, and or do they cover labour and disposal also in their warranty coverage.
  • All manufacturers of roof shingles require a specific method and number of nails to be used in the application of their particular shingle products. It is important to verify that the installer has met those standards, or the manufacturer’s warranty will be voided.
  • Using starter type shingles at roof eaves areas, rake edges, and lining open valley systems is necessary to seal the field shingles in these vulnerable areas. Therefore it is important to verify that the installer is including such work in their proposal, and verifying it has been completed during the project. Manufacturers of roof shingles make starter shingles to be used in concert with their field shingles, which contain adhesives designed for such purposes.
  • Incorporating the use of underlayment materials over the roof deck, in a shingle roof assembly is prudent in the event of a blow off or wind driven rain circumstances. This supplies extra protection but is not always required by some manufacturers particularly on steeper pitches. Virtually all manufacturers do recommend this step however. Make sure such products are included in your bid.

Having a proper system of ventilation incorporated into the design of new roof shingle installation is a requirement of all shingle manufacturer warranties. This can be tricky to achieve on certain homes that have unique architectural design elements or have been modified from their original design as a result of renovations or interior insulation upgrades.

Related Content: Long Lasting Shingle Roofs

Most roofers are not engineers, and in some instances, it is wise to have a building envelope engineer evaluate and prescribe a particular methodology which is unique to the circumstances of a particular roof in relation to the specific home.

Roofers do not have x-ray vision, and so cannot readily identify issues like breaches in vapour barriers or retarders, lack of proper air sealing, spray foam insulation, etc. as the list goes on.

In general terms, roof ventilation for a conventional open attic should include fifty percent intake ventilation through the soffit (under-hang) of the roof, and fifty percent exhaust ventilation through the attic.

Homes that have interrupted attic spaces, cathedral or vaulted ceilings should employ ridge venting to permit air to pass between each and every rafter space.

Related Content: How to Measure a Roof for Shingles?

Checking the details of the shingle manufacturer’s warranties is very important. As an example, some manufacturers will not cover appearance issues on the roof like shading variations or granule loss, suggesting that unless it results in leaking, they do not cover such perils.

Transferability of warranty is also important in the event you sell your home.

What are the steps required and costs related to making a shingle warranty claim? By experience, it can be suggested that some do not make it easy, and in some instances it can be simply discouraging and disappointing. Having said this; there are shingle manufacturers that stand behind their products well, and homeowners will find themselves fortunate to have allied with such brands.

For most people, the appearance of the roof shingles, and how they compliment the architecture and design style of a home is an important consideration. On some homes, particularly those that have steeper pitches, and where the roof can account for a great deal of what one can see; choosing the right colour blends and complimentary metal flashing colours can be an important choice to make.

At one point in time, it was considered that darker colours made the attic hotter and did not last as long as a result. Today’s fibreglass shingle choices are not impacted in the same way as the older asphalt shingles, so there is even more freedom of colour design choice.

In general term, homes that have a solid brick or stucco colour, can be accentuated by using a patterned colour blended shingle. If a home has multi-coloured bricks, then a more solid shingle colour may be preferred.

It is always best to obtain actual shingle samples so one can observe them directly in comparison to the existing exterior finishes or future exterior finishes.

Trending today are shades of grey, and earth-tone colour blends. Always timeless is the black shingle which works with red bricks, grey, white, or yellowish stuccos. Pairing such exterior colours with designer type laminate shingles will result in a high end finished appearance.

Prices of roof shingles and accessory starter and capping shingles can vary based on the grade and style being selected. Between shingle manufacturers, there is no meaningful price discrepancy assuming that one is comparing an equivalent level of product line.

There will be a price difference between shingles that are manufactured in the U.S. versus those manufactured in Canada however. The difference will amount to the exchange rate between our dollars and the cost of transportation.

Currently certain of the U.S. brands of shingles enjoy a great reputation for quality and for their inclusive warranties. Conversely, Canadian made shingles sell well into the U.S. market due to their product demand requirements, and the fact that they offer a price advantage. This may suggest that there is equity in the roof shingle supply business. The conclusion perhaps being; that homeowners should consider best value over price, as being in their best long term interest when selecting a particular shingle brand.

One easy way for the consumer to evaluate which product may be best for them, is to read and compare each shingle manufacturer’s warranty documentation, and then investigate the procedure they must follow if ever having to make a claim for their shingles.

That exercise will illuminate the best vendors in today’s roof shingle supply market. The next step is to select a certified and credentialed contractor, who represents and is familiar with that product brand.

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