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What is an Asphalt Shingle?

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Chances are, your home has an asphalt shingle roof. In fact, asphalt shingles are on about 80% of homes in North America. 

The reason? They’re economical, easy to install, and conform to the traditional look of most neighborhoods.

So, let me guess… the last time you were walking around your yard, you looked up at your roof and wondered “What’s an asphalt shingle?” 

Okay, probably not.

The top items on a home improvement list tend to include a kitchen remodel or a new master bath. For most, roofing falls a little further down the list. However, just because a new roof may be more of a “need” than a “want” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to it.

Your roof comprises over 40% of your home’s exterior, has a huge impact on curb appeal, and certainly isn’t a cheap investment. All that to say, you should probably know a little about the components that make up your roof, and shingles are the best place to start. Let’s get into it.

Asphalt Shingle Components

With a name like “asphalt shingle,” you’d think they must be made of asphalt, right?

While that’s true, there are actually three core materials that are used in the asphalt shingle manufacturing process:

  • Fiberglass mat
  • Asphalt layer
  • Granules

Let’s break this down a little further to understand the importance of each layer. 

Apshalt Shingle Layers

Sealant – A sealant layer is the bottom layer of the single, creating a waterproof membrane. The sealant provides a base for the layers above and ensures the inner layers of the shingle are protected.

Asphalt Base – Above the sealant and below the fiberglass mat is a base layer of asphalt.

Fiberglass Mat – The high-strength mat serves as the foundation.  As the base layer, it acts as the frame, holding the other layers together. It provides structure for the other layers.

Asphalt Coating – Asphalt is again applied to the top of the fiberglass mat and acts as a water-shedding agent to help prevent moisture penetration. 

Granules – Ceramic-coated granules made from crushed rock create the gritty topcoat and are essential to the longevity of an asphalt shingle. They provide color, UV protection, mold prevention, and are engineered to reflect heat.  

The Three Types of Asphalt Shingles

There are three primary types of asphalt shingles: three-tab, architectural, and luxury. 

3-Tab (or Builder-Grade Shingles)

Also called “strip shingles”, these are distinguished by 3 notches along the lower edge to give the appearance of 3 separate shingles.  This is the most basic asphalt shingle, composed of a single asphalt layer that lays flat when installed on the roof. 

3-Tab Shingles


Architectural (or Dimensional Shingles)

Commonly referred to as “high definition” or “dimensional” shingles, these are very popular due to their distinct textural appearance.  Multiple layers of asphalt create a staggered, three-dimensional pattern when installed. They are most often crafted to resemble cedar shakes or slate.

Architectural Shingles


Luxury Shingles

Sometimes referred to as “designer” shingles, these are the heaviest and most expensive asphalt shingles. They use deep shadow lines, random tabs, and unique cuts to give your roof an authentic depth and appearance.Luxury Shingles


Ready to Learn More?  

Asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing material in North America, and for good reason. However, they don’t work for every roof. In order to make the right choice for your home, you should reach out to a professional roofing company.

With over 30 years of experience, we are equipped to help you choose the best shingles for your roof. If you’re local to Raleigh, feel free to contact us today to get a free estimate and ask us all of your asphalt shingle-related questions. We’ll be happy to help. 

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