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Guide to Asphalt/Composite Shingle Roofs

guide to asphalt/composite shingle roofs

Whether you’re building a home for the first time or re-roofing, without a doubt, asphalt is your most convenient option. Being among the easiest roofs to install, as well as one of the cheapest, it isn’t difficult to see why 75 percent of homes in North America have shingle roofs.

Here’s the breakdown on why asphalt shingles may be the best roof for Torontonians.

What are Asphalt Shingle Roofs?

Simply put, one of the newest roofs to be invented in the 20th century, also referred to as a “steep slope roof”, which consists of a material called shingles. The shingles use asphalt as a waterproofing coating on top of a base.

Click here to read about other roof varieties

Types of Asphalt/Composite Shingles

Organic Shingles: These are the traditional type of shingles, manufactured with sheets of organic material such as felt, paper, cellulose, or wood fibre and reinforced with an asphalt coating.

Fiberglass Shingles:

The most common type of shingle for homeowners today, they consist of: a fiberglass layer, asphalt, and sand-like, ceramic granules (to provide sunlight protection and add colour). They are a lighter, more sustainable, and longer-lasting alternative to organic shingles.

Strip or 3-Tab: Flat, uniform shingles with cutouts which give it a more slate-like appearance

Dimensional: Also referred to as Architectural or Laminated Shingles, these premium materials have a more 3D appearance, are more durable, thicker and can be made to mimic the look of wood or slate. A second layer of shingles is adhered to the first layer.

Choosing the Best Asphalt Roof for your Toronto Home

A roof makes up almost half of the visible exterior of your home. As such, there’s no doubt that it affects people’s first impression. Many persons go as far as considering the roof an element of their exterior decorating.

Colour and style should be your top concerns.

Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Will the colour compliment the exterior walls of my home? Hint: white walls are a blank slate which will go well with most colours
  • How steep or flat is the slope of my roof?
  • Is it too close a shade to the colour of the walls?
  • What kind of aesthetic, or statement am I trying to make?
  • Is the roof reflecting of my personality?
  • What is the psychological effect? (i.e. calming, stimulating, warm etc.)?
  • How will this style energy costs? Darker tints keep your home warmer while lighter colours are great for insulation in warmer climates.
  • Which hue does the natural sunlight cast in my climate? Is it a cooler or warmer tone?
  • Which types of building materials is my home made up of? For example, textured or “busy” looking exteriors go better with a more neutral roof
  • How will this style blend with the natural surroundings/landscaping?
  • How does it fit in with the other houses in my neighbourhood?
  • Is the rest of my home monotonous/neutral in tone?
  • How will this roof colour affect the resale value of my home?

How Do Asphalt Shingles Stand Up To Toronto Weather?

Shingles, while providing adequate shelter, aren’t known for being the most climate-resistant of materials – but perhaps a better way of describing them would be to say that they aren’t suited to extremes of weather, especially dramatic temperature changes.

They aren’t the best choice for windier locales, as they are easily torn and ripped off. Nor are you likely to find them on any “Best Roofs for Hot Climates” lists, as they are worn away over time by heat. Intense cold weather causes them to dry out and crack. Excessive moisture and rain in humid, damp regions of Toronto can be problematic as well: the eaves and seams allow moisture to get into the roof, if they aren’t sealed properly. Not to mention, shingles are susceptible to algae and mould.

However, it is worth noting that they are one of the most impact-resistant products, offering powerful protection against snow, rain, and hail and are better equipped for cooler areas.

Click here for more about the effects of weather/climate on roofs

Overall Pros & Cons of Asphalt Roofs – At a Glance

Advantages of Asphalt Roofs Disadvantages of Asphalt Roofs
Inexpensiveness Not as aesthetically attractive/prestigious as other roofs
Durability Prone to fading/discolouration
Fairly long lifespan (30 – 50 years) Weak against more extreme or fluctuating weather – better for consistent, mild weather
Ease of installation and removal Not the most environmentally friendly – especially fiberglass shingles
Easily obtainable Attract algae and mould
Recyclable One of the least energy efficient materials: absorb heat from the sun
Waterproof Not as long-lasting as many other roofs
Available in a broad variety of colours/styles High lifetime costs due to frequent maintenance and replacement
Fairly resistant to variations in heat and cold, can withstand fire, hail and wind Heaviness – especially organic shingles
Usually come with 20 – 50 year warrantees  
Can be re-roofed over an existing roof system
DIY installation is possible
Little structural support needed for installation
Textured appearance
Excellent Sound Insulation


How to Install Asphalt Shingles: Seven Simple Steps

Setting up this roof can be done as a DIY project or by hiring a contractor. In any case, knowing the proper steps is important as it will help you extend your roof’s shelf life and decrease lifetime costs.

  1. The first step is always having the length and width of your roof measured; this helps you to determine the measurements you’ll need to provide when ordering your new shingles. Shingles generally come in bundles.
  2. When the time comes to buy the roof material, doing research to look for a trusted local supplier is your best plan.
  3. Hire a reliable roofing contractor who has expertise and experience with shingle roofs.
  4. Determine how shingles will lie on your roof and measure them.
  5. Remove old roofing material, including nails, flashing and damaged/rotten boards and clean the deck area well, to make it as smooth and flat as possible.
  6. Set up underlayment and ice/water protection around the eaves. Install “caps” in appropriate places and cover joints and valleys.
  7. Start from the bottom up, setting overlapping layers of shingles into position.

Conclusion – More about Toronto Roof Alternatives

Asphalt shingles may not be ideal for all types of weather, nor the most long-lasting of roofs but their versatility of styles/textures and affordability, availability and convenience of installation and repair make up for that. Properly installing and maintaining shingles helps to minimize any drawbacks.

Would you like to learn more about the different roof options available to Toronto homeowners? Click here for more about roofing alternatives.

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