May 12, 2009 | Filed under: Roofing Issues

Missing shingles

In the United States, the number one residential roofing material by volume is asphalt shingles, by a very wide margin. They are cheap, easy to install with relatively low-skilled labor, and last longer than most people tend to stay in a home, on average (five years).

But when people have found a home that they intend to stay in longer, maybe even for the rest of their lives, they begin to look for something more permanent than asphalt shingles to put on the roof. What has happened to today’s asphalt shingles, causing this frustration and problems?

The simplest answer is in the mixture of materials that goes into making asphalt shingles. Their key ingredients are: 1) the fiberglass mat at the base of the shingles, 2) a mixture of asphalt and filler on top of that, and 3) the synthetic colored granules on top. Asphalt is the part of the mixture that keeps shingles soft and sealed togeher on the roof.

As oil prices have gone up over the years, shingle makers have reduced the amount of petroleum in their shingles and replaced it with limestone filler. This means that today’s shingles START their life more brittle and dry than ever before.

Most shingle roofs that we replace are 12-15 years old. We have replaced numerous roofs that were only 6-8 years old. On the rare occasion that we see a 20-year-old shingle roof, it’s remarkable how even cheap three-tab shingles from back then have more petroleum than the expensive dimensional shingles of today. They really were made better 20 years ago.

I’ll spend more time addressing these issues but the way the shingle makers have changed their mixture is one of the most significant factors in why homeowners are frustrated with asphalt shingles today and are looking for more permanent, more beautiful roofing for their homes–especially when they intend to stay there more than five years