Asphalt Roofing Shingles: Costs, Pros & Cons – The Ultimate Guide

Asphalt shingles still dominate the US roofing industry, accounting for more than 70% of all residential, sloped roofs including new construction and replacements. That’s probably why you’re here – asphalt shingles are on the short list of materials you’re considering for your home, garage, or business.

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GAF Timberline HD Birchwood Architectural Asphalt Shingles on a Cross-Cable Roof with two dormers
Source: GAF

However, not all asphalt shingle roofing products are created equal. This guide will help you:

  • Understand the main types of asphalt shingles
  • Compare top products and brands from most popular manufacturers
  • Ultimately choose the best asphalt shingle type and style for your home

What are Asphalt Shingles?

There are many reasons for the popularity of asphalt shingles, and we’ll cover them in the pros and cons section, but the main reasons are low cost and ease of installation – the combination of low cost and fairly decent durability and longevity.

Did you know? The longevity of any asphalt shingle product is determined by the shingle thickness and quality of construction. More on that below:

Composition of a modern asphalt shingle:

  1. Fiberglass mat: The core of today’s durable asphalt shingles is fiberglass mat. This material is chosen because it is lightweight, resists tearing, and holds asphalt very well.
  2. Asphalt: The fiberglass mat is run through a saturator tank where the glass fibers are thoroughly coated with hot asphalt, a petroleum-based material used for its strong resistance to moisture. The weight and toughness of the asphalt is useful for wind and impact resistance.
  3. Mineral granules: The part of the asphalt shingle that will be exposed to the elements is coated with mineral granules that are available in a wide range of colors.

    Shingles can be given a single color to produce a solid-color shingle or a blend of colored granules for a more nuanced look.

    The ceramic-coated granules also reflect the UV rays of the sun – the single worst threat to shingles.

  4. Sealant strips: Continuous or intermittent lines of raw asphalt are applied to the top part of each shingle that will be covered by the next layer installed. The sealant strip bonds the shingles together once they heat up in sun and warmth.

Note: If you come across a discussion of organic shingles in your research, the information is likely quite old or encyclopedic. Organic shingles didn’t perform up to expectations, so most manufacturers stopped making them in 2008.

Did you know? The sunnier a climate is, the shorter the lifespan of the average shingle will be. One of the ways to extend the lifespan of an asphalt roof in a sunny climate such as Florida, Arizona, Texas, is to opt for a solar-reflective, light colored shingles designed to reflect solar radiant heat and UV radiation.

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

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Pros & Cons of GAF Shingles – Costs – Unbiased GAF Roofing Reviews

GAF is at or near the top of the best-selling asphalt shingles list. Is GAF’s enviable market share the result of consistent quality and performance, or is it driven by a large marketing budget that helps cover its flaws? Let’s explore.

GAF Woodland_Shingles Roof
via GAF

There are obvious things to like about GAF – the wide selection of asphalt shingle styles and colors are sold nationally, and if you need more of the same shingles five or ten years later, they will likely be available.

On the downside, it is well documented that GAF, like most other shingle manufacturers, sometimes denies warranty claims that seem legitimate. The company settled a major class action lawsuit over warranty claims on defective shingles manufactured from 1998 to 2009, primarily at one plant. Let’s dig deeper.

Are GAF Shingles the Right Choice for Your Home?

This investigative look at GAF shingles is for homeowners who are considering GAF products and want to do their due diligence before making the roofing material decision.

This gives you the perspective of contractors that have installed GAF for decades, home inspectors that have inspected hundreds of GAF-covered homes and homeowners that live with GAF shingles on their roof every day.

Pros

Let’s look at GAF shingle pros from the three perspectives mentioned: Installers, inspectors and homeowners.

Why roofing contractors like GAF shingles: There are a couple reasons that most roofers are happy to install GAF products, and some swear by them.

  • The GAF complete roofing system: When you purchase mechanical systems, an HVAC system for example, it’s important that the components such as the condensing unit, indoor coil, gas furnace and the thermostat control are designed to work together. The result is optimized performance.
    Components of GAF asphalt roofing system
    GAF – The Lifetime Roofing System

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