Choosing The Right Shingles For Your Home

Posted on: 12 May 2015

If you're in the market for a new roof, you may feel nearly overwhelmed by your material options. You might have already narrowed down your choices to eliminate sheet metal (too loud) or slate or shale shingles (too fragile and heavy). However, when it comes to the battle between wood and asphalt shingles -- two of the most popular material choices -- how can you ensure you've made the right selection for your home? Read on to learn more about the differences in performance between asphalt and wooden shingles, as well as the specific choices available in each category.

Should you select asphalt or wooden shingles for your home?

Both asphalt and wooden shingles can provide you with years of hassle-free ownership. However, there are some fundamental differences between these two common roofing materials.

Wooden shingles tend to be higher cost and have a shorter warranty than asphalt shingles. Although most wood shingles are treated with chemicals to help repel bugs and moisture, these shingles do provide a more appetizing buffet to insects as compared to asphalt shingles. However, if you're prepping your home for resale, a new wooden roof may provide more value (or help your home sell more quickly) than a new asphalt roof, in part due to the higher cost of wood shingles.

Asphalt roofs are very durable and many are sold with a lengthy warranty -- from 20 years to "lifetime." This, combined with their lower cost, can provide a number of advantages. However, because these shingles are generally only available in dark tones, they can absorb a great deal of heat and may not be ideal for homes in very hot or sunny areas.

Once you've decided between asphalt and wood, you'll still have some more decisions to make when it comes to the shingles for your home.

Asphalt shingles

There are two primary types of asphalt shingles available. Both are composed of layers of fiberglass topped with small chunks of hard asphalt on a tarpaper base -- the difference lies in how these layers are assembled atop the shingle base.

  • 3-tab asphalt shingles are literally composed of three separate fiberglass-and-asphalt sheets side by side on a single tarpaper back. These shingles must be carefully placed and nailed so that they line up correctly, as improperly aligned shingles are more susceptible to wind shear and other damage. After installation, 3-tab asphalt shingles provide a completely uniform and attractive roof line. 
  • Architectural shingles are more "imperfect" than 3-tab shingles -- but may actually be the better choice, even for meticulous homeowners. These shingles also include several tabs, but the tabs are offset from one another rather than being side-by-side. This renders them thicker and more easily able to cover up minor imperfections made during production or installation. The use of architectural shingles can also lower your roofing costs by reducing the amount of waste generated by imperfect 3-tab shingles (or mistakes in the installation process).   

Wooden shingles

If you've decided to forgo asphalt for a more rustic look, you may be investigating wooden shingles. These shingles can provide a visually appealing look, and -- like the trees from which they're fashioned -- are durable enough to withstand just about anything levied by Mother Nature. 

Like asphalt shingles, most wooden shingles come in one of two types -- shingles or shakes.

  • Wooden shingles are generally fashioned from cedar, pine, or another coniferous wood. These types of trees create durable, weather-resistant boards and are also naturally resistant to carpenter bees and other potential pests. A wooden shingle is created from a single slab or board, and is cut to a sufficient thickness to allow it to be nailed to the roof without curling in humid weather. These shingles can be laid side-by-side or may be cut with a tongue and groove pattern, similar to some types of hardwood flooring. 
  • Shake shingles (or "shakes") are fashioned from the same type of wood as shingles, but through a different process. Instead of using a single slab of wood to create a single shingle, shake shingles are made from multiple pieces of wood layered upon each other until a sufficient thickness is reached. These shingles are generally less expensive than solid wooden shingles, and create a much more texturized appearance (especially from a distance).

Your decision will likely come down to two primary factors -- cost and appearance. Because there's no fundamental difference in performance or lifespan between shakes and shingles, either is a great option for the budget-conscious homeowner. However, shake shingles are almost always cheaper than solid shingles, as they can be made from recycled wood or scraps that are too small for use as solid shingles. Solid shingles offer a much more traditional appearance, while shakes may be a good fit for a rustic cabin or similar type of home.

Keeping this information in mind should help you make your decision on which shingles to use, but you can contact local roofing contractors if you need more help. 

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