Asphalt Shingles Provide Unparalleled Beauty, Affordability and Reliability When Compared with Alternative & Metal Roofing Systems

Maintenance Solutions

A roof is arguably the most visible, distinguished and important part of a home. And when it comes to curb appeal, homeowners want to be sure that their roofing system is not only aesthetically pleasing but that it provides reliability and sound, overall performance. It should come as no surprise then that four out of five homes in the U.S. rely on asphalt roofing shingles.

In a recent survey by the National Association of REALTORS®, 99% of respondents stated that a new roof contributes to the overall appeal of a home in the neighborhood and 83% stated that a home with a more "stylish" roof is easier  to  sell.  Realtors  aren’t  the  only  ones  who  recognize  the  impact  a  roof has on home values; property owners are choosing new aesthetic roofing designs to increase their property values and differentiate their homes.

Homeowners today have a number of options when it comes to the style, material and color of their roof. Alternative materials to asphalt shingles include metal, clay and concrete tile, slate and cedar shake roofing; so why do asphalt shingles continue to be the most widely used roofing material, year after year? There are a variety of reasons.

When shopping for a new roof, homeowners should consider the following: durability, versatility, sustainability, affordability as well as aesthetics. Asphalt roofing demonstrates all of these attributes while offering additional benefits that are often overlooked in the selection process.

"Durability and safety should be top priorities when selecting a new roof for your home,? said Reed Hitchcock,  executive vice  president for the  Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA). ?You want a material that’s not only going to last but will require little to no maintenance for the life of the system."

Many appreciate the aesthetics that clay and concrete tiles provide. Generally, they are available in a wide variety of style and colors; however, one downside is their weight. Many homes may not have been designed to bear the added load of a tile roof. Often, an architect or engineer will have to be consulted to determine the suitability of the structure when a tile roof is being considered.

In addition, tiles lack the sealing technology that helps assure the water-resistant performance of asphalt shingles. They rely on the roofing underlayment, which may be lacking or deteriorated after years of service, to avoid leaks and water infiltration from wind-driven rain.

Many tiles are handmade from molds which may result in the quality being inconsistent, and with color patterns that are hard to match and only work with limited architectural styles. Tile is also labor intensive and installation costs can be almost double that of asphalt shingles. Tile also absorbs moisture, providing a place for algae to grow, and has a colored surface which fades over time. Concrete tile, in particular, has poor freeze/thaw capabilities, tending to crack in cold weather.

While metal roofs may be considered long lasting and even environmentally friendly, they rank far lower in the affordability scale. Materials vary widely  and range dramatically in cost, but on average is more than twice the price of the more popular asphalt shingle. Adding to the price tag is the intricate installation details and the long-term maintenance costs. Over time, metal roof systems often require coating, making the selection less and less attractive to a typical residential property owner.

An asphalt shingle system also provides excellent fire and wind resistance. With asphalt shingles, one can avoid corrosion of incompatible materials, rapid thermal expansion and the condensation accumulation that may come with a metal roofing system. In recent years, metal panels have been made with granules to imitate the popular asphalt appearance. However, an asphalt shingle roof can avoid the rust and discoloration that other roofing materials can be susceptible to due to weather and wear and tear. Algae resistant asphalt shingles are the industry norm and available in virtually all color schemes.

"On warm days, metal shingles can make a house feel like an oven because the metal reflects attic heat back into the home," added Hitchcock. "There are aesthetic issues as well. Metal can dent from hail, is noisy during rainstorms, can corrode easily if not maintained properly and is subject to its paint color fading and cut edges."

In addition to the high cost and difficult installation, homeowners also need to think through the following when considering a metal roof:

  • Care must be taken on large roofs to provide for thermal expansion and movement.
  • Movement caused by differences in temperature may cause objectionable noises in some roofs; for example, curved roof surfaces are very susceptible to noisy expansion and contractions.
  • Condensation accumulation issues can arise, such as rust, discoloration and mold.
  • Care must be taken to avoid the use of incompatible materials, as dissimilar metals can cause unexpected and rapid corrosion.
  • Metal refining, production and transport of metal roof components can be energy-intensive and is typically a non-local activity.
  • A support structure for metal is required over older roofing systems (retrofit).
  • Absence of skilled contractors
  • Repair, matching and cut-lists – repair of metal roofing systems can require more product knowledge because of the different fastening and lapping methods than asphalt shingles. Often, matching colors on painted or coated metals is challenging due to fading of a single color. Asphalt shingles tend to have a more variegated color scheme and can be easily matched. Metal panels may require developing a layout of different length panels for various parts of the roof assembly, and are often cut to fit before installation. Making sure the correct panel is installed in the right location requires additional attention. Asphalt shingles can be easily trimmed on the roof.
  • Lead times – some metal panel roof systems are not stocked in local distribution centers, so the time it takes to obtain product could be longer than asphalt shingles.
  • Walkability – metal panels are typically produced from a sheet metal with smooth surfaces. Walking on unsupported metal can cause cosmetic as well as potential performance issues. A bent panel may not  "nest" properly at panel laps, which could allow penetration of wind-driven rain and ice.
  • Accessories like snow jacks – asphalt shingles allow for the easy installation of roof accessories due to the horizontal lapping commonly used. This method also provides greater margin of error for water shedding. Metal panels typically have vertical (perpendicular to the roof ridge) laps. Such laps could result in migration of incidental rainwater into the roof deck if not properly installed and maintained.
  • Roof coatings used for metal roof maintenance require detailed and thorough cleaning methods, so while recoating and rejuvenating a metal roof system may seem inexpensive, it is important to consider all of the costs.
  • Exposed fasteners — expansion and other movement of metal roof panels can cause elongation of fastener holes through metal roof panels. Because these fasteners are exposed to the elements, the elongation could result in water penetration. Many metal roof panel fasteners include integral washer-style gaskets that can deteriorate after long exposures to the weather. Failure of the gasket may lead to roof leaks.

One of the biggest advantages of asphalt roofing is that it is aesthetically versatile. Coming in a wide variety of colors and styles, designer shingle roofing can provide a more natural appearance or match the specific look of much more expensive materials such as metal, cedar and slate.

Metal panels have far fewer architectural choices and are typically much more expensive than even the high-end architectural, asphalt-based shingles.

The recycling of asphalt shingles is also becoming much more common making them a more sustainable choice. Additionally, many asphalt styles and colors meet reflectivity standards for "cool" roof systems, which can reduce cooling costs throughout the life of the roof. Careful selection of a roofing material can reduce long-term costs for you and the environment.

Typically, asphalt shingle production is more common than other roofing materials, strategically covering a wide geography, which results in less transportation being required. And since asphalt shingles are plentiful and less expensive, it is easier to find a supplier and qualified installers.

With aesthetics, versatility, reliability and affordability being the primary driving factors in roofing material choice, it is no wonder why asphalt shingles continue to outperform its competitors and remain the top pick by homeowners year in and year out.