Composition roofing shingles are by far the most common roofing product used in the US, but they are not all created equal. In most parts of the US you can pay as little as $ 50.00 a square (100 square feet) or more than $ 100 a square. What are you getting for your money?
This type of roofing is made of laminated organic material, usually cellulose (paper or wood) or fiberglass. They are usually both referred to as asphalt shingles, because these layers are impregnated with asphalt then covered with weather and UV resistant mineral granules.
Fiberglass composition shingles are made up of glass fibers of varying lengths formed into mats and then covered with a layer of asphalt and mineral granules. They are lighter than organic asphalt but are less resistant to tearing and according to some contractors more difficult to work with, but fiberglass has a better fire rating and heat and moisture resistance than the organic material.
You will find that professional roofers differ on which material is better. According to some, organic shingles are better for cold and windy climates, and fiberglass works better in hotter regions of the US.
The more expensive higher quality products in this material go by a number of names depending on the manufacturer. They are often described as Architectural, Designer or Premium Designer styles. The major difference is the more expensive materials have multiple laminated layers and heaver mineral coatings which provide a more distinctive look, sometimes called a shadow line, and a longer life expectancy.
If you do some research on this type of roofing material, you will find that some roofing contractors will tell you asphalt shingles have a very short life span and do not withstand high wind conditions. Most of the time you will find that these contractors specialize in metal roofing. Metal, properly installed, can give a longer life but the higher quality asphalt materials offer good warranty and wind resistance. The manufacturers' warranty information for asphalt shingles can give you the specifications on this material.
Here are a couple of major manufactures of this type of roofing material with their material specifications. I am only using these as a general example. There are many other brands available with the same quality and features.
GAF's Royal Sovereign 3 tab shingles, one of their Designer series, are rated for wind speeds up to 60 mph and have a limited warranty of 25 years. Their published specifications on this type of material are as follows:
- 25-Year Ltd. Transferable Warranty with a Smart Choice protection for the first 5 years (this proprietary limited warranty provides non-prorated coverage for the first 5 years of ownership with extended coverage and also covers any manufacturing defects)
- 60 mph Ltd. Wind Warranty (requires special installation procedures)
- Listed Class A Fire – UL 790 (Fire ratings are granted by UL and can be Class A, B or C with A being the highest rating for this material).
CertainTeed has an economical brand of shingles that is identified by the name C20. Their published specifications:
- UL Class A fire resistance
- 20-year, limited transferable warranty
- 3-year SureStart ™ warranty that covers 100% of replacement and labor costs due to manufacturing defects
- Some colors are available with a 10-year StreakFighter ™ warranty that protects against streaking and discoloration caused by airborne algae
- 5-year warranty against winds up to 60 mph
One of the GAF-ELK high end materials in the Premium Designer category is called the Grand Canyon. This material has multiple layers to give a dimensional appearance. According to their specifications this material has:
- StainGuard Protection
- Lifetime Ltd. Transferable Warranty
- 10 Yr. Smart Choice Protection
- 130 mph Ltd. Wind Warranty (requires special installation procedures)
- Listed Class A Fire – UL 790
- Passes 130 mph Wind Test
One of CertainTeed's top of the line roofing materials is called the Grand Manor. Due to the multiple layers and colors available, the manufacturer claims it has the authentic depth and dimension of natural slate. Here are the specifications:
- Lifetime, limited transferable warranty
- 10-year SureStart ™ warranty (100% replacement and labor costs due to manufacturing defects)
- 15-year StreakFighter ™ warranty against streaking and discoloration caused by airborne algae
- 10-year, 110-mph wind-resistance warranty
- UL Class A fire resistance
These types of composition shingles can cost as much as some metals, but they can offer similar type warranties. Most homeowners choose this type of material due the virtually unlimited colors and styles available.