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All About Roofing Shingles

Table of Contents

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What Are Roof Shingles?

Roof shingles are used for covering pitched roofs. They have a distinct overlapping layout that distinguishes them from other types of roofing. Each strip or shingle overlaps the next one and is installed upward from the bottom edge to the top of the roof.

What Are the Different Shapes of Shingles?

Roofing shingles are flat and available in horizontal, square, or rectangular shapes. Different materials are used to manufacture shingles. These include bitumen, asphalt, wood, metal, plastic, slate, and others. The most commonly used shingles are asphalt and bitumen. As they greatly influence the exterior appearance of a house, they are available in numerous colours and shades.

Asphalt Shingles

Two varieties of asphalt shingles are commonly used around the world. Fibreglass or organic-based asphalt shingles. Both are manufactured similarly by covering asphalt-saturated strips with modified asphalt. The upper surface that faces the sun is treated with ceramic granules, stone, vitrified brick, quarts, or slate, while the underside is treated with mica, talc, or sand to prevent the shingles from sticking to each other during packing. The top surface is treated to block UV rays which can quickly deteriorate asphalt shingles. Both lighter and darker shades are available. The former is preferred in areas where the weather remains mostly sunny, while the latter is preferred in cooler regions.

Self-sealing strips are attached to the underside of the shingles to provide resistance to detachment in high winds. These strips are usually manufactured from polymer-modified bitumen, resins, or limestone.

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Organic Asphalt Shingles

In organic shingles, the base mat is prepared from organic materials such as wood fibre, cellulose, waste paper, and others. These are saturated with asphalt for waterproofing and further strengthened by adding a top coat of adhesive asphalt. Organic shingles have 40 per cent more asphalt than asphalt fibreglass shingles. They have, however, low fire resistance and are relatively more brittle than fibreglass shingles, especially in cold weather. The production of organic shingles ceased in the late 2000s due to regulations against the usage of asbestos and because of low resistance to extreme weather.

Fiberglass Asphalt Shingles

Fibreglass asphalt shingles began as a replacement for asbestos-backed shingles. The fibreglass base layer of these shingles is by bonding glass fibres with a resin such as urea-formaldehyde. The mat layer then receives an asphalt coating with mineral fillers for waterproofing. These shingles have a high resistance to fire better, much higher than organic mats, and they usually have a class A rating. Fibreglass-backed asphalt shingles are widely accepted and considered one of the most affordable roofing options. They are long-lasting and tough. The fibreglass treatment makes them highly flexible and, therefore, resistant to high winds. They are readily available in standard sizes and have an easy installation process. They are available in a wide variety of colours and styles, making them a preferred choice for enhancing the aesthetics of your home. They are eco-friendly and can be recycled easily to manufacture other products. They are resistant to mould, algae, and moss.

Types of Asphalt Shingles

There are primarily three types of asphalt shingles which are commonly used. These include:

  • Three-Tab Shingles

These are the most affordable variety of asphalt shingles. They are lightweight and have a simple installation process. Their design consists of three tabs which give them their name. They provide a simple and classic look to the roof structure.

  • Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles have a dimensional and textured look. They are thicker than other types of shingles and impart a distinctive appearance to your roof. These are relatively more expensive than the three-tab shingles but also last longer. They can last for more than 50 years.

  • Luxury Shingles

These high-end shingles mimic expensive roofing such as clay tiles, slate, and wood. Natural and synthetic fibres, asphalt and other raw materials are used to manufacture luxury shingles. The final look is highly textured and close to the material they imitate. As several materials are used in their manufacturing process, these shingles are thick because of the multiple layers they have. This characteristic also makes them more resistant to extreme weather and hazards. They have different names in the market, such as speciality shingles, designer shingles, or premium shingles. They are more expensive than three-tab and architectural shingles but offer higher durability and aesthetic value.

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Pros and Cons

Every roofing material has its pros and cons, and asphalt is no different.


  • Affordability: They are a cost-effective and affordable solution compared to other roofing materials.

  • Durability: They are durable and robust. They can tolerate rain and heavy winds.

  • Easy Installation: Experienced DIYers can install asphalt shingles easily, but we would still recommend professionals. The overall installation process is pretty simple.

  • Variety: They are available in a variety of styles and colours. They can be integrated easily with the overall design of your home and enhance its aesthetic value.

  • Low Maintenance: Asphalt shingles do not require any unique treatments or cleaning.


  • They Can Get Damaged: Asphalt shingles are vulnerable to severe weather and can get damaged by hazards.

  • Reduced Lifespan in Extreme Temperatures: Consistent UV exposure in hot and arid climates will reduce the lifespan of shingles. Extremely cold climates may curl the shingles.

  • Limited to Pitched Roofs: Asphalt shingles are suited to slope/pitched roofs.

Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

Asphalt shingles require little maintenance, but cleaning them occasionally will keep your roof neat and clean.

  • Clear Debris: Clear out branches, leaves and other debris from your roof. They can promote the growth of algae or moss and damage your shingles.

  • Trim Overhanging Branches: Overhanging tree branches can damage the shingles and promote water penetration in the underlayment.

  • Replace Damaged and Missing Shingles: Inspect your roof and replace damaged and missing shingles.

  • Cleaning the Downspouts and Gutters: Clogged downspouts and gutters will accumulate water and damage your shingles.

  • Get your roof inspected by a professional.

Other Types of Roof Shingles

While most of the houses you come across will have asphalt shingles installed on their pitched roofs, other types of shingles are also used.

  • Tile Shingles

Tile shingles is a broad term and may refer to different materials and styles, but two of the most common materials are concrete and clay. Concrete is a highly affordable and durable raw material, but concrete shingles can get heavy and may only be suitable for some homes. Like concrete, clay tiles are also heavy but highly aesthetic, and they impart a classic and traditional look to your roof.

  • Wood Shingles

Wood shingles are often used to create a classic cottage appearance. Before you go for wood shingles, check with your insurance provider to see if the policy prevents using wood shingles. Contrary to popular belief, wood shingles can last long but can be expensive. They are, however, highly flammable and are affected by weather conditions.

  • Slate Shingles

Slate shingles are a type of tiles prepared from natural stone, giving them their unique appearance and classic feel. They are expensive and heavy but last much longer than other materials. They are also eco-friendly and highly resistant to fire. They are suitable for homes with solid structures and high structural integrity.

  • Metal Shingles and Roofs

Metal roofs are not so common but have several advantages. They are more durable than almost every other roofing material and can be treated to resist weather conditions. They are available in several varieties. They are lightweight and have a long life span. They are more expensive than other roofing options. Various metals and alloys can be used in combination to offer high resistance to rust.

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