All About Asphalt Roofs

Asphalt is one of the most common roofing materials used on homes throughout the United States. But it's hardly the only choice homeowners have today when it comes to roofing materials. Metal, clay, cement, and wood also some appealing qualities, but asphalt roofs can be just as beautiful and functional when properly installed and maintained. Here's what you need to know if you are considering an asphalt roof for your home.

What Is an Asphalt Roof?

One of the least expensive roofing materials, asphalt shingles are essentially a combination of paper or fiberglass soaked in asphalt. Ceramic granules are then added to create a solid surface. The granules also give asphalt roofs their color, which can range from basic black or white to various shades of gray, brown, blue, and red. These granules also reflect heat and provide protection against the sun's rays.

What Are the Types of Asphalt Shingles?

You'll literally have hundreds of options with colors, textures, and styles when it come to asphalt shingles. With an asphalt roof, however, there are three basics types of shingles that can used:

  • Three-tab organic shingles: So-named because they come in 3-foot strips with three tabs, these shingles consist of a thin fiber sheet that can be foam paper or wood composite that's soaked in asphalt cement and pressed through a roller before being coated and rolled again. A ceramic granule coating is then applied to the shingles while it's still hot. An epoxy solution provides added protection against water backup and wind uplift. Note: These commonly used shingles typically come with warranty coverage that ranges from 20-30 years.
  • Three-tab fiberglass shingles: Instead of paper, a fiberglass matt is used to make three-tab fiberglass shingles. Because less asphalt is used during the pressing and rolling process, these shingles are lighter than their organic counterparts, which makes them easier to install. While these shingles are less likely to tear off, they are more susceptible to high wind damage.
  • Architectural shingles: Known for their dynamic appearance and high quality, architectural shingles have two layers, so they’re heavier and more resistant to wind gusts up to 90 mph. If aesthetics is the top trait you prefer in a shingle, you'll appreciate the fact that architectural shingles can affordably resemble wood or slate shingles.

How Are Asphalt Roofs Installed?

Asphalt shingles need to be installed on a flat, clean roof deck or sheathing. With a re-roof, all nails must be removed from the sheathing. A metal or vinyl strip (drip strip) is installed to extend the roofline to allow for efficient water runoff.

If the freeze-thaw cycle is a concern, an ice-water membrane can be installed on the roof's drip edges to prevent water from damaging the shingles. Tar paper placed over the ice-water shield can provide an extra layer of protection against moisture.

Pieces of metal called flashing are installed in the roof's valleys. Flashing for chimneys and dormers is installed at the appropriate point during roof installation or replacement. The asphalt shingles are installed after careful measurements are taken. Shingling begins after a starter strip is nailed to the drip edge to cover the slots on the first row of applied shingles.

A snapped chalk line serves as a guide for the other shingles, which are staggered at each course. Measurements are periodically taken to maintain alignment. Cuts are made to the shingles on the edges. Additional work with ridges, valleys, and dormers is done.

On average, traditional three-tab organic shingles last about 20 years. You could enjoy a longer lifespan with top-quality architectural shingles. Overall, the longevity of asphalt roofing varies based on the manufacturer and the specific type of asphalt shingles used. Finally, keep in mind that replacing older or worn shingles with new ones also gives you an opportunity to explore different colors, styles, and designs, which could give you a nice boost in home value and curb appeal.