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What are Architectural Shingles?

By T. L. Childree
Updated May 16, 2024
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Architectural shingles are a high-quality roofing material composed of asphalt and fiberglass with a surface layer of ceramic-coated granules. These shingles typically feature a heavy base mat with an attractive, three-dimensional, surface design. Architectural shingles offer excellent temperature, weather, and fire resistance and are generally engineered to last up to fifty years. The surface of this roofing material is often coated with zinc or copper to inhibit dark streaking caused by algae growth.

Architectural shingles are sometimes referred to as laminated or dimensional shingles and are typically more expensive than traditional asphalt roofing materials. They are usually constructed of fiberglass and asphalt base material. The base material is then covered with ceramic-coated, colored granules that form some type of design. Architectural shingles are considered to be one of the highest-quality roofing materials available. These shingles are usually installed in the same way as traditional asphalt materials, but some also feature an interlocking design for added wind and temperature resistance.

These shingles typically weigh a good bit more than traditional materials, but additional roof support is seldom needed. The shingle surface usually features an attractive design that is particularly eye-catching on a steeply pitched roof. This special topcoat design often gives the roof a three-dimensional appearance. Some manufacturers offer architectural shingles that give the appearance of cedar-shake materials. Other designs provide the look of slate or terracotta without the additional roof support that heavier, natural materials require.

Architectural shingles are well known for their superior durability during temperature and weather extremes. They are highly resistant to freeze-thaw cycles and long periods of direct sunlight. These shingles also offer excellent resistance to heavy rain and hail. Some interlocking architectural shingles are rated to endure winds up to 120 miles per hour (193 km/h). These shingles are engineered to last from thirty to fifty years, and certain manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty.

These durable shingles are also designed to be fire-resistant as well. The heavy asphalt and fiberglass content makes the shingles less prone to fire than traditional roofing. Certain manufacturers also include a rubberized asphalt base to provide better fire resistance. Other manufacturers apply a heavier granulated topcoat to make the shingle more flame-resistant. This heavy topcoat design generally receives the highest fire-safety rating.

Architectural shingles are also designed to prevent streaking caused by algae. The surface of these shingles is typically coated with a thin layer of zinc or copper to inhibit algae growth. A metallic surface coating also helps to restrict the growth of mold and mildew. This coating does not eliminate the need for periodic removal of wet leaves and other debris, however.

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