Building & Renovation

Shingle Options

Text by Blair Korchinski

If you own a house, you will most likely face the matter of replacing the roof at some point. Shingles wear out over time and, if left too long, the roof will leak and cause more damage. A worn roof also reduces the resale value of your home and can make it hard to sell.

Hiring a professional roofing contractor to install your new roof is often the best option for the average homeowner. Professional roofers have the skill and equipment to do a quick, efficient job so there is less chance of weather damage while the shingles are stripped off. An experienced professional will know about the best and latest techniques and products not just for roofing, but for underlayment and flashing.

A professional is also an excellent option if you are using a newer roofing technology such as fiberglass shingles or a metal roofing system, since it is likely they have experience working with them. If you should choose one of the newer, longer-lasting products, you should also hire a professional familiar with that product.

Most shingles should be installed over an underlayment. If there is no underlayment, the wood of the roof deck will abrade the back of the shingles, causing them to wear out prematurely. The most common underlayment is felt building paper, and this material is adequate for most installations. Other products, such as FelTex, are lightweight and make for a cleaner, longer lasting installation.

If you live in a cold climate, it is best to have an ice and water shield installed in the valleys and any areas prone to ice damming. This product is installed before the shingles and will help to extend the life of the shingles and prevent leaks.

In North America asphalt shingles are the most common residential roofing material. They are easy to work with, relatively inexpensive, and usually last 15 to 25 years, depending on the grade of shingle, climate, and other variables.

Asphalt shingles are available in a variety of colors and grades. While the basic three-tab shingle is the most common, they are also available in Dimensional and T-Lock or Interlocking. You can also get shingles that mimic the look of slate and cedar shingles. Most of the style differences are simply a matter of appearance; interlocking shingles are most often used in extremely high wind areas.

A recent addition to the market place is the fiberglass shingle. Some styles are similar in appearance and installation to the traditional cedar or pine shingle while others look and install like a traditional asphalt shingle. Unlike wooden shingles, fiberglass presents less risk of fire and is an excellent option for homes with wood stoves or fireplaces. They do not absorb moisture and do not require maintenance. While the price of fiberglass shingles is relatively high, their long lifespan offsets that cost.

Another group of products new to the market place are aimed at the environmentally conscious homeowner. These are made from materials such as recycled tires combined with natural materials and vary in style and installation requirements, but the most common mimic the look of slate or cedar shingles. One of these is the Enviroshake, which looks like a cedar shingle and is installed in much the same way. Another product, made in Quebec and available through Rona retailers, is produced from recycled tires and hemp fiber, and can be installed over old shingles in some circumstances.

An option that has been around for a long time, but is now undergoing somewhat of a revival, is the steel roof. Steel roofing systems have some definite advantages. They are not prone to ice damming, last for 50 years or longer on most homes, require little or no maintenance, and can be installed over existing roofing materials. Steel roofs are relatively lightweight and come in a variety of styles and colors. They can also be re-painted should you desire a change to the color or wish to extend the life of the roof.

There are more traditional options as well. Cedar shakes and shingles, as well as wooden shingles made from pine and other softwoods, are long lasting and install easily. With a lifespan of 30 to 50 years and a proven track record, they remain popular among many homeowners. Clay and slate tiles are popular on many upscale homes.

Products that look like clay and slate tiles, made from concrete or a variety of plastics, are also available and, while they don’t last as long, they are less expensive.

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