Asphalt composition roofing (known as “comp” or “asphalt shingles”) represents over 90% of pitched roofs in the United States. These roofs have a large range of styles and life expectancies. There is a broad array of products in this family, ranging from more simple, affordable, shorter-life products, to products that are more costly, last longer, and preserve a certain architectural look or feel.
Asphalt composition shingles are made with a fabric mat, which is then overlaid with an asphalt blend. Once the asphalt and mat are manufactured, protective ceramic granules are embedded in the surface to offer attractive coloring, but most importantly, to protect against UV light. Differences in this process affect the life expectancy, look, and maintenance requirements of asphalt composition roofing.
Standard grade asphalt shingles are mainstream products designed to be inexpensive and last a moderate amount of time. Typically, they last between 17 and 22 years, although many carry a “limited lifetime” warranty. Modern standard grade products are more attractive than yesteryear’s products, but technology has allowed manufacturers to make them thinner and less durable in many instances. These products have the most premature wear in cases of moss and algae. Because these products are thinner, they do not have the depth for the maximal quantity of protective granules.
Homeowner Grade Asphalt Composition
Homeowner grade products are longer lasting, slightly thicker products designed for owners who plan on owning or living in a house for a longer period of time. Homeowner grade products often look similar to standard grade products, but sometimes have a slightly more architectural appearance. They are built better to handle roof maintenance efforts, such as cleaning and foot traffic.
Long-Life Homeowner Grade
Long-life homeowner grade products look very similar to normal homeowner grade products, but they are heavyweight, premium products. Although not fancy in most cases, these are the durable, solid, workhorses of the industry known for their integrity. They typically have heavy weight and durable construction, but they do not look much different from normal “homeowner grade” shingles.
Modified Asphalt Shingles (rubberized)
Modified asphalt is a special category of asphalt that lasts longer, has more durability, and in some cases even has more algae (and possibly moss) prevention built-into the product. Modified asphalt is made through the process of blending polymers, rubbers, modifiers and asphalt to make a sort of “super asphalt.” The “super asphalt” has ability to flex and move. It is known to better hold the granules that protect the roof surface from UV light.
Designer shingles are typically heavier shingles that carry a more “architectural” or designer look. They are among the most long-life products, but their primary feature is the appearance. These products cost more simply due to the thickness and “designer” element. They typically don’t last any longer than long-life homeowner grade products. This is because a roof wears out and fails, regardless of thickness, when the UV protective granules fall off. A shingle can only get so thick, as granules can only be embedded so deep. Once shingles get to a certain depth, greater thickness or a “blockier” appearance only becomes aesthetic. Many Homeowners Associations in Washington and Oregon require designer shingles to replace cedar roofs, as cedar offers such a thick, irregular look. Many designer products are made to replace these thicker, natural products.
Premium designer products are both very heavyweight and unique. We estimate that for every 15 designer projects, we install 1 premium designer project. Not all manufacturers even make premium designer products. These are the most exclusive, one-of-a-kind, heaviest, most beautiful products on the market. They are also the highest cost in the asphalt market, and they are made for clients who want the most premium appearance of their home.