The Old Standard: Types and Uses of Asphalt Roofing Materials

Contractor uses a nail gun to fasten asphalt shingle to roof.

The vast majority of homes in the United States use asphalt as the basis for a watertight roofing system. Asphalt, also known as bitumen, is a petroleum product in a very thick or semi-solid form that is either from natural deposits or refined into a purer product. It's used in a wide range of roofing products, often offering a confusing array of options. Here's more information to help you choose the best option for your project.

Asphalt Shingles

Shingles can be easier to apply because they're in smaller pieces. This is especially true in windy conditions, where roll roofing can catch the wind and be difficult to handle. They're also easier to replace if you have storm damage.

Fiberglass Versus Organic Shingles

This refers to the mats that the asphalt is embedded into. Organic shingles use a rag mat that requires about 40% more asphalt to hold the shingle together, making them heavier. Fiberglass shingles, by comparison, have a higher fire rating and are the choice of most homeowners and roofers today.

Three-Tab Versus Architectural Shingles

Three tabbed shingled roof.

Three-tab shingles have three separate tabs on the bottom of each shingle. Because they're layered over half of the preceding row, the solid part on the top is not visible, making them look like individual pieces on the rooftop. By comparison, architectural shingles have a separate raised portion where an additional layer of asphalt creates a multi-dimensional appearance.

Style, Color and Durability

Asphalt shingles are available in a number of different styles that have highly varied appearance, a wide range of colors and a range of expected lifespans. From basic neutral tones with a short warranty period to strong styles in almost any color and with long warranties, asphalt shingles provide a wide range of products to meet the needs of almost any product.

Asphalt Roll Roofing

By comparison, roll roofing is in one continuous sheet and can be quickly laid down and fastened, providing a fast option to get your project done. It doesn't provide the versatility of asphalt shingles, but does have some different options available.

Single Versus Double Coverage

Lighter weight roll roofing requires a double layer to ensure it won't leak, while heavier weight roll roofing provides coverage in a single layer. Depending on your situation and the capabilities of your crew, you may find the lightweight double layer roofing easier to maneuver while the heavier single layer roofing gets the job done faster and with lower man-hours.

Type of Fiber

Much like asphalt shingles, roll roofing has different types of matting integrated into it that affects how long it will last. Rag matting has the lowest lifespan, while fiberglass has the highest lifespan, much like asphalt shingles. But roll roofing also has a mid-level matting that uses plastic as its base, which creates an economical option that provides a longer lifespan than cheaper options.

Natural Versus Modified Bitumen

Natural bitumen is less expensive and requires fewer inputs because it doesn't require refinement, but it gets stiff and hard in winter and doesn't hold up as well, cracking over time. By comparison, modified bitumen will deal better with a range of weather conditions and ages better, but typically has a higher up front cost.

Self-Adhesive, Uncoated or Torchable

The next area where roll roofing diverges is how it sticks to the roof. Uncoated roll roofing is the least expensive, but requires additional steps to fasten it down to your roofing deck. Self-adhesive roll roofing is much simpler to apply, typically by simply removing a backing paper and applying it to the roof decking, where it remains. Torchable roll roofing requires taking a torch to melt the sheet and allows it to stick to the roof decking, creating a strong bond.

With all these options available in asphalt roofing materials, you're sure to find something that will work perfectly for your project. If you're in need of more information before making a decision download our Roofing Comparison Guide below. It will help you determine what you need for your project.

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.