Most people, when they think of roofing, think of the asphalt shingle. Affordable, durable, reliable, and very replaceable, the asphalt shingle is a standard for very good reasons! But before we travel further down the yellow brick road, let’s divide asphalt shingles into two general categories:
Fiberglass shingles, as their name implies, are made of a woven fiberglass base that is covered with an asphalt coating to make them waterproof. The asphalt coating is then topped with ceramic granules that provide both UV protection and color. Fiberglass shingles tend to be lighter in weight than their organic counterparts, since less asphalt is needed in the manufacturing process and that fiberglass mat provides a lot of strength and durability. Fiberglass shingles also tend to have a higher fire-proof rating and longer warranty than organic shingles. In the three decades since they were introduced to the market, fiberglass shingles have become the go-to choice for most contractors.
Organic shingles are made from a mat of recycled felt paper which is saturated with asphalt for waterproofing, then coated with an additional layer of asphalt and ceramic granules. Because organic shingles use more asphalt in their manufacturing process, they are thicker, heavier, and more expensive than fiberglass. Organic shingles are definitely rugged and flexible, but they are not a “green” option and tend to absorb more water than their fiberglass cousins.
Both fiberglass and organic asphalt shingles come in a standard size (12” x 36”) and are available in two different types:
Three-Tab Shingles have cutouts called tabs along their long lower edge. When installed, each shingle looks like three individual shingles due to the overlapping of the tabbed edges. Three-tab shingles are a good choice for longevity – 15 to 20 years on average – but don’t offer much by way of “designer” look and feel. If you’re looking for a basic roofing material, three-tab asphalt shingles are the way to go.
Architectural Shingles on the other hand, are a higher-end version of the fiberglass asphalt shingle. They don’t have a tab, which allows them to have a more contoured look. Architectural shingles come in a variety of colors and can create stunning effects – like slate or shake – at a fraction of the cost. Rugged and durable, architectural shingles last a bit longer than their three tab counterparts – at 25 to 30 years.