The Difference in Shingles


Whether your home has suffered an insured loss from recent hail storms or if it has just reached the end of its useful life you will need to know what type of roofing system is best for durability and your budget.

Until you meet with an expert in home exteriors here is a brief outline of the various types of roofing systems.

Dimensional Shingles (sometimes called ‘architectural shingles’ or ‘laminate shingles’)

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.

The dimensional shingle is the one most everyone is replacing their 3-tabs with which were most common twenty years ago.

Luxury Shingles (sometimes called ‘designer shingles’)

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 the price difference between regular laminates and even the least expensive luxury shingles can be 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

Almost all 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 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

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.  

2. They want to try and save money. This is going to be pretty much exclusively through reducing cooling costs. 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.

When meeting with a roofing contractor be sure to ask for an itemized estimate and explanation. Today, many contractors are able and willing to send an estimate via email. Although this may seem convenient for you and them, remember the investment is not just in your roof but your home. Taking the time to meet with an established, licensed company who is backed by all the major manufacturers through preferred contractor programs will allow you to ask questions important to you and address any of your concerns. Both of which will provide benefit for you in the future; as it will reduce the risk of surprises and frustrations with the contractor you selected to help you invest in your home.