Composition roof shingles simplified. All about composition shingle roofing and what's right for you.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 by Ernie Smith

Composition shingles dominate the residential roofing market (and the landscape) in America. Composition shingles are “composed” of asphalt and fiberglass. If you drive through most neighborhoods, that’s what you’ll see - roof after roof with composition shingles.

Composition shingles are relatively cheap, easy to install, and fire-resistant. Though not as durable as some of the other higher priced roofing products, they’re a great bargain. We’ve sold them by the truck load, literally, for almost thirty years.

If you’re getting a new roof, chances are good it’ll be composition shingles. So where do you start? And just as important, who can you trust? Call and get a bid from our family business! We’ll be completely upfront about what’s right for you – and what’s not. We’ve been doing it a long time.

Maybe you already know what you want. In fact, maybe you’d like to move up to a “lifetime” roof, like metal or tile – or nowadays, even lifetime composition! (That’s great! We can help with that too.)  

For most people, getting a new roof is a one-time experience. (Except maybe here on the stormy Gulf Coast.) And, for most people, it’s usually going to be 30 or 40 year composition laminate shingles. (Check with your sales rep for current shingle warranty information.)

Composition shingles yesterday and today. Years ago, shingles and roofing weren’t the big fuss they are today. The builders decided things. Cedar wood shingles were prominent, as was pure asphalt shingles (no fiberglass) that came with a 20 year warranty. The chief role of roofing shingles was keeping you dry.

But then pitches on roofs became steeper and fancier. And roofs became a big factor in what realtors call “curb appeal.” A new style of shingles appeared on the scene to showcase these new and bigger roof lines.

The rise of the laminate 30 year warranty shingle, or, the “Timberline” look. To get a fancier product, two layers of asphalt shingles were “laminated” together, to mimic the look of real cedar shingles. Simultaneously, shingle warranties were increased to 25 years, 30, and even 40. (Shingles aren’t distinguished in terms of weight so much as by warranty these days.) Fiberglass was added for a lighter weight, fire resistance and durability. (Please check with your roofing sales rep for up to date warranty information.)

“Timberline,” from the GAF Corporation, was the name of one of the first of these new laminate shingles. Timberline was popular and the name became generic for all laminates in general. When someone wanted a laminate, they simply said “Timberline.” To complicate matters, Elk Corporation followed up with a popular copy-cat laminate by the name of “Prestique.” So, in some parts of the country “Prestique” became the generic name of choice for a laminate shingle. (The Elk Corporation has now been absorbed by GAF.)

30 and 40 year warranty composition laminates remain the most desirable and recognizable shingle on the market today. 20 year warranty composition shingles, or “three-tabs,” are economical and are still big sellers. But customers like the look of the textured, high-profile laminates. (They’re also called “dimensional,” and “architectural.”) Other advantages of laminates: they hold better in wind, they’re easier to install (making them a favorite with crews and inspectors), and they’re stain-resistant.

Other major laminate composition shingle manufacturers include Owens Corning, Tamko, and Certainteed. (Keep in mind, regardless of manufacturer, generally, the stronger the warranty, the thicker and more wind resistant the shingle will be. Once again, check with your sales rep for current warranty info.)

We have a few favorite brands. To a lot of people all the brands look the same – including brand colors. So whatever particular product happens to be on sale may be all that you’ll see when your roofer comes calling. To the other extreme, you may be awash in brochures (representing several different brands), and become slightly confused. It’s nothing to fret over.

For a really unique and heavy-duty look, call us about the newer, dramatic “designer” composition shingles. We’ll show you some samples. Extremely thick, they’re beautiful and storm resistant – with exceptionally long life and fantastic wind warranties.

Composition shingle colors tips and tricks. Deciding on a color in five minutes or less. When it comes to composition shingles,prices are the same whatever the color.Some houses today are nearly 40% roof! For this reason shingle colors have become pretty important.

Keep in mind that the shingle color you have up on your house now may be just what you need. (Your roofer will be able to determine what the original shingle color is even if the roof has become quite stained.) To us, over the years, picking roof colors has become second nature. We’ll have a few choices in mind as we’re pulling in the driveway!

In some neighborhoods, choosing a color is as simple as deed restrictions! You can pick any anything you want – as long as it’s what all the neighbors have! Don’t worry, we can help. We’ve had plenty of experience with homeowner’s associations, and we know every neighborhood from the Island to the Woodlands.

Most shingle colors are known as “earth-tones,” especially composition laminates. There’s about five or six. (On the water though you’ll see blues and greens, even white.) Earth-tones are grays and browns, rustic reds and charcoal. They’re easy on the eyes – and the neighborhood.

The point of earth-tones is to compliment the brick or the siding. A new 30 or 40 year composition shingle roof can dramatically change the look of a house - even if it’s the same color you had up there before! And they’re a big plus if you’re trying to sell. Lighter earth-tones, like Weatherwood (see below), can make your whole house look a little bigger, and sometimes “cheerier.” Dark colors, like rustic reds, are more conservative and less conspicuous looking. Both are beautiful!

All brands make the same colors, basically, and even the names sound the same, more or less. There are subtle differences in “shadow lines” and hues amongst some shingle brands, in an attempt to distinguish themselves. Some work well - others are distracting. When you call us for a bid, we’ll bring actual shingles, not just brochures.

Picking a color tip # one: Find a house in the neighborhood with a shingle you like, and give your roofer the address. They’ll match the same thing. Easy!

Picking a color tip # two: “Weatherwood” is the star color amongst composition shingles, regardless of warranty. This is the color that was created to match cedar. (Also called Weathered Gray, etc.) Builders are partial to Weatherwood because it’s neutral, and works well with any color scheme. Humongous subdivisions and developments are covered with 30 and 40 year laminate Weatherwood composition shingles. Weatherwood is perfect if you change paint colors in the future.

Summary, or, the least you need to know about composition shingles. When you’re ready to re-roof (don’t wait for a storm if your roof is defunct), take a look at the roofs in your neighborhood. Try to blend in. Don’t fight with the homeowner’s associations. 30 and 40 year warranty composition Weatherwood is very common, and is almost always a sure thing. In low-income neighborhoods you’ll see lots of 20 year composition with various colors. (Remember, though cheaper, 20 year compositions are thin and don’t look like laminates.) If you’re out in the country you can probably do what you want.

If you live near the coast, choose a high warranty composition shingle, if at all possible. They’re definitely worth it - regardless of the debate about how long shingles actually last (which varies by region and exposure to the sun). During Hurricane Ike, the heavier the shingle, the better they held. The difference was remarkable.

In a high-wind area, avoid roofers who downplay Texas State Windstorm Insurance inspections, even if you live inland.

Your roof should be hand-nailed, if at all possible. Inspectors dislike nail-guns because of quality control problems.

Finally, in a high-wind (meaning hurricane) area, consider investing in one of the “life-time” roofs. (Nowadays you can get a virtually indestructible metal roof – even one that looks exactly like a laminate, colors and all.) Or consider lifetime synthetic, or even lifetime composition. But whatever your budget, we’re here to help!

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Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
19422B Hwy 6
Manvel, TX 77578

Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
2904 Trimmier Road Suite A2
Killeen, TX 76542

Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
235 South 70th Street Suite 105
Lincoln, NE 68510

Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
5660 Bayshore Rd #45
North Fort Myers, FL 33917
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