The Difference in Shingles


Whether your home has suffered an insured loss that has resulted in your roof needing to be replaced or if it has just reached the end of its useful life and you’ve decided it’s time to make the investment in tearing it off and redoing it, one of the decisions you will need to make is whether it is worth it to spend the extra money to buy a better version of the shingles currently on your roof.

Until we meet with you, here is a brief outline of the various types available and the potential benefits and draw-backs of each. Our Field Supervisor can help you determine which one is right for you when going through the estimate process.

Dimensional Shingles (sometimes called ‘architectural shingles’ or ‘laminate shingles’; e.g. GAF Timberline, Owens Corning Oakridge & Duration, Certainteed Landmark): 

These are the main shingles in the roofing marketplace today for both new construction and re-roofing. Originally designed to mimic a cedar shake look, dimensional shingles today come in a wide variety of colors and styles. They consist of a rectangular shingle onto which additional pieces of shingle have been adhered in a somewhat random pattern which gives them additional thickness and the appearance of depth. There are no rain lines so the only pattern is formed by the horizontal rows of shingles.  Most installers will include a high-profile ridge cap in a matching color to compliment the dimensional shingle.

As I mentioned, these are the shingles with which almost everyone is replacing their 3-tabs (it’s what I replaced the 3-tabs on my roof with last year). The only thing I can really say against them would be if your roof has a very low pitch sometimes a thicker shingle can be something of a detriment because you are only really seeing the end of the shingle from the ground.

Luxury Shingles (sometimes called ‘designer shingles’; e.g. : GAF Grand Canyon, Camelot & Slateline, Owens Corning Berkshire & Woodcrest):  

Luxury shingles are usually some variation of dimensional shingles, but are noticeably thicker and often will have a very distinct profile and/or pattern. While the price difference between 3-tab shingles and regular laminates is nominal (maybe $12-15 per square, which is why so many people are upgrading from 3-tab) the price difference between regular laminates and even the least expensive luxury shingles is significant. 

If you live in a luxury home and the expectation in your neighborhood is that every house has premium exterior finishes, then luxury shingles may be a good choice for you. Or if you are looking for a very heavy duty shingle with a great selection of patterns and colors that are not available in other shingle styles, luxury shingles are a great fit. 

Plus they can give your home a very unique appearance!

Impact Resistant Shingles (e.g.: GAF Timberline ArmorShield II & Grand Sequoia IR, Owens Corning Duration Storm):  

Almost all of the major shingle manufacturers offer a line of impact resistant shingles. The notion of ‘impact resistant’ is derived from an industry standard test, UL2218 that uses steel ball bearings dropped from various heights to determine at what point shingle damage occurs. From this they rate the shingles from Class 1 (least resistant) to Class 4 (most resistant).  Interestingly, this is the only consumer ‘protection’ offered. I’m not aware of any shingle manufacturer that actually warrants their shingles (even their Class 4 products) against hail damage.

The main reason consumers appreciate impact resistant shingles is many insurance companies will offer a discount on homeowner’s insurance premiums if Class 4 shingles are installed on the home. Of course impact resistant shingles are more expensive, but if you plan to live in your home for a while you will experience the monetary benefit. 

Also, you may be able to get some mileage out of citing ‘impact resistant shingles’ in your listing if you’re selling your home.

Energy Star Rated Shingles (e.g. GAF Timberline Cool Series, Owens Corning Duration Premium Cool):  

Energy Star is a rating that the government gives to a variety of products that have been tested and have proved to help reduce overall energy consumption.  For roofing products it is based on a couple factors, the Initial Solar Reflectance rating and the Initial Emissivity rating.  While there are a few regular shingle lines with one color (usually white) that will meet the Energy Star qualifications generally, like the impact resistant shingles, you are going to be paying a premium for a shingle from a special Energy Star rated line like the ones cited above.  

There are two main reasons why people consider using Energy Star rated shingles.  

1. They are environmentally conscious and want to contribute in any way they can to reduce the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions.  If you are in this category then you may want to consider the Energy Star rated shingles.  

2. They want to try and save money. This is going to be pretty much exclusively through reducing cooling costs. There have been government rebate programs for the installation of Energy Star products in the past and there may be more again someday, but I believe any that were available for roof products have expired.  

We can check with your local utility company to see if they are offering any incentives to use Energy Star products.  And further calculate the value versus the cost. The amount of predicted cooling energy savings that is bandied about by the manufacturers is usually in the neighborhood of 10%, but of course, a number of factors about your house, the climate in which your house is located and the weather patterns in your area will always affect the actual savings you might realize.

3-Tab Shingles (sometimes called ‘strip shingles’;  e.g.: GAF 

Royal Sovereign, Owens Corning Supreme Certainteed XT-25): These are your most basic asphalt shingles. They are three feet long with three one foot ‘tabs’ on the bottom.  On the roof they look like a series of little rectangles. They tend to be the lightest shingles and they will come with the shortest warranty of any of these products, usually 25 years. They will also generally be the least expensive shingle of any on this list.  

While all of the major manufacturers still produce a three tab shingle, the sense is that they are falling out of favor in the marketplace.  Unless you live in an old neighborhood where everyone still has old roofs most homeowners will now look around and see that most of their neighbors have replaced their old 3-tab roof with dimensional shingles.  That is certainly the case on my street; when I moved there 12 years ago everyone, including me had  a 3-tab roof.  Now every house on my block (except the one rental property) has a dimensional shingle roof.  3-tab shingles are not as common anymore because the cost of installation is high given the time to line up the vertical rows as well as the horizontal, so the lines between the tabs are the same on every other row of shingles.  Even builders who notoriously go for the least expensive product available will now often opt for a low-end dimensional over a 3-tab just because of the perceived value and curb appeal.