Roof Shingle Choices

Choosing Roof Shingles -

Is it time to choose new roof shingles? Here is some advice that will help.   

When choosing your new roof shingles there are a few things to consider beforehanD

You may be building a new home or cottage or choosing a new roof for your existing home. Whatever the case, there is a wide range of roofing materials available, and all worthy of some consideration.

The most common type you will see today is asphalt. However, other examples that are worth considering include wood, composite, slate, concrete, clay and fiberglass, to name but a few. Style is an important factor but it’s not the only one. The product costs, material weight and installation requirements should all factor into your decision making.

Here are a few helpful nuggets of information that should help make the process a little easier. Also, when considering a project like this it is best to use free home improvement project software to organize and track your project. It is the best online home remodeling tool for all project type and sizes.

​Roofing Terminology

Roofing material measurements are typically discussed in the trade as a “Square”. This is a standard measurement among all the material types. The standard is used to refer to the quantities of product needed and well as the application costs.

Roof Shingles - Roof Terminology -

A basic “Square” is 100 square feet in area. So in the space of a typical 2000 square foot house with a gable roof will consist of less than 1500 square feet of roof area or 15 squares of material.

Keep in mind that roofing materials come in different  sizes and weights, so the number of packages per square of material can vary. This can be a bit confusing when comparing the price of one bundle of shingles to another.

If you are receiving quotes from roofing contractors or material suppliers, it’s helpful to understand the common terms used.

Many of the major shingle manufactures have online calculators to help you estimate you roofing needs. Some also include common terms and application standards.

​Cost Factors

There are a number of considerations that will have an effect on the cost of your new roof.

The price of the various material alternatives is one component, but the type of roof you are covering factors in to a great extent.

One major factor is the condition of an existing roof if you are resurfacing. Perhaps the old material needs to be stripped off and disposed of. If so, you need to evaluate whether the roof deck or supporting structure is in good condition.

Roof Shingles - Replacing Asphalt Shingles -

The overall shape of the roof is a significant factor in the cost. A simple gable roof, like you would find on most bungalow homes, is straight-forward enough. But when there are multiple roof lines and intersections called valleys, or chimneys, skylights, turrets, or dormers, these will all affect the overall material and labor cost of your new roofing project.

Roof Shingles - Material Choices -

​Material Choices

Not every roofing material can be used on every roof. A flat roof or one with a low slope may demand a surface different from one with a steeper pitch.

Materials like slate and tile are very heavy, so the structure of many homes is inadequate to carry the load.

Consider the following options, when talking with your roofing contractor or home builder.

Asphalt Shingles

This is the most commonly used of all roof materials. This is likely because they are quick and easy to install and the most inexpensive of all.

Roof Shingles - Asphalt -

These products can be made of a fiberglass or a paper felt- based medium that’s been impregnated with asphalt and then given a surface of colored rock granules. There are basically two types; the standard “three tab” type that may vary by thickness and then the laminated type.

The standard 3 tab type costs roughly half as much, but laminated shingles have an appealing textured appearance and typically last longer than the other. Manufactures will classify the different types usually by the life span or guarantee they offer.

Depending on the type and where you live, the cost of these will range upwards from $75 per square.


There are many types of metal roofs available today but most are made of Aluminum, Steel, Copper, or Lead. These products are all very durable roofing surfaces.

Roof Shingles - Metal -

Lead and Copper varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal. These materials all have various options for attaching them to the roof along with various integrated sealing components to form a water tight seal.

Roof Shingles - Copper -

These products normally require an assortment of specialized tools and handling equipment so they are usually professionally installed.

Tile and Cement

Tile roofing is common on Spanish Colonial and Mission style structures and is usually characterized by the reddish orange color of the clay from which it is made.

Roof Shingles - Tile-

Cement and some metal and fiberglass products imitate tile’s wavy effect. These products are all very durable and can last for a lifetime.

One significant consideration when it comes to using tile and cement shingles is the considerable weight of the product. Therefore, the roof structure must be designed to accommodate these products.


Slate is the most durable of all roofing materials.

Roof Shingles - Slate -

This product, like wood, has been is use for centuries. In most cases, slate will last for hundreds of years and in many cases outlasts the fasteners used to hold the tiles in place.

Because slate is mined in a quarry and then cut into tiles, it tends to be the most expensive of all the shingle alternatives. You need to be aware that there are differences in slate, depending on from where in the world the product comes from.

Roof Shingles - Slate 2 -
Roof Shingles - Slate 3 -

As is the case with tile, the weight of this product is a significant issue and your roof must be designed to carry the significant weight load of this product.

Installation Notes

After you have done your investigation and cost comparisons, whatever your choice of roofing surface, you will probably need flashing.

Flashing is a crucial part of all exterior work, both on the roof and siding. Flashing is metal (aluminum or copper, occasionally lead) or plastic film. It is applied in strips to areas where dissimilar materials adjoin, such as the intersection of the masonry chimney and the roofing shingles, where the siding abuts the window frames, and so on.

Roof Shingles - Installations -

Good flashing work is essential to keeping a structure watertight, as it is the most likely place for leakage to occur, and is the point where different materials meet.

Whatever the choice of roof materials, the coursing should be regular to the eye and parallel to roof edges.

From one course to the next, the joints should be staggered to prevent leakage. In some cases, you might have seen tar used to cover joints, be wary of this.

Roof Shingles - Installation 2 -

Tar does not need to be applied to shingle joints except on certain roofs where a membrane is used. Tar is usually an indication of cutting corners in place of a well-executed watertight application between the flashing and the roof membrane.

For most roofing, a material like building felt or tar-paper, as it is commonly called, is rolled on before the shingles are nailed in place.

Roof Shingles - Tar Paper -

With cedar, however, lengths of furring strips that are also called breather strips will be laid across the roof in order to allow the roof to have air circulate under the shingle and allow the roof to “breathe”. This application is also sometimes used with sheet metal roofs being applied over an existing shingle roof.

Roof Shingles - Creating Breathable Area -

If you live in an area that receives a significant amount of snow that will accumulate on the roof, applying ice and water-shield is a good idea. This is a self-adhering membrane that is applied to the edge of the roof, in the valleys and under flashings and around things like skylights.

Roof Shingles - Water Shield -

Final Considerations

In most cases, if you are replacing the existing roof of your house, this will determine your choice of roofing material. However, if you are considering other options, you’ll want to consider not only the cost, but the color, texture, weight, and durability of your alternative materials, as well as what traditionally has been used on houses like yours.

If you are using a roofing contractor, there are many resources available to you to get reputable companies to help you make a suitable choice.

Two alternatives to consider are: Roofing Canada and NRCA


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