All About Fiberglass Shingles
Fiberglass shingles are a form of asphalt shingles and are one of the most popular roofing options in North America. They are durable, budget-friendly, lightweight, and can work well as a DIY project. Fiberglass is a great option for roofing because it is a tough and very resilient material that is non-porous, does not change shape, and won’t dry out. This makes fiberglass shingles less prone to shattering when exposed to extreme winds, cold weather, or when walked on during installation and regular maintenance. Fiberglass shingles also have a higher fire rating than organic-mat varieties and generally carry a longer warranty.
How are Fiberglass Shingles Made?
Fiberglass shingles are made of a woven fiberglass base mat, covered with a waterproof asphalt coating, and topped with ceramic granules that shield the shingles from harmful UV rays. Because of the composition of the fiberglass mat, less asphalt is needed to give the shingles their durability and strength, making them a lighter and more environmentally friendly option than traditional organic-mat shingles.
Fiberglass shingles are commonly manufactured in two different types:
- Three-tab shingles are distinguished by cutouts—tabs—made along their long lower edge. The result is that each shingle looks like three separate pieces when installed, but it’s only one.
- Architectural fiberglass shingles contain no cutouts, but their lower portions are laminated with an additional asphalt layer. This creates the contoured, dimensional look that gives them their name. Asphalt sealant bonds the layers, reinforcing the shingles’ waterproof capability.
Style and Color of Fiberglass Shingles
Fiberglass shingles come in a wide array of styles. Some are made to imitate the look of slate, cedar shakes, or even tile at a fraction of the cost. Color choices are also more varied than ever. You’ll generally find tones ranging from pale gray, medium gray and dark gray to beige, reddish and medium brown to dark brown, plus shades of blue and blue green. You can also create a weathered, polychromatic look by mixing light and dark tones.
Are Fiberglass Shingles Right for Your Climate?
Manufacturer warranties currently guarantee fiberglass shingles for 15-30 years. The large variance in those warranties are typically based on climate, weather, and other environmental factors. Homeowners in areas enduring long summers with high heat may need to replace roofing sooner than homeowners in cooler regions. In areas known for severe winters, ice may aggravate tiny cracks and fissures. Algae and fungus growth can also be potentially damaging for roofing in perennially damp or subtropical areas. Algae-resistant shingles are available. The ceramic granules on the shingles are simply coated with leachable copper to prevent discoloration and long-term damage from algae and moss growth. Keep in mind though, this protective treatment can add 10-15% to your materials budget.
Cost of Fiberglass Shingles
Fiberglass shingles are among the most cost-effective roofing products. Generally speaking, the average cost of fiberglass shingle roofing is $60-$120 per square (100 square feet), not including installation fees. Fiberglass shingles can be applied directly over old shingles, saving you the expense of removing and hauling away your old roof. It is important to note though, if there are already two or more shingle layers on your existing roof, it is HIGHLY advisable to remove the old layers before applying new shingles.
Eco-Friendly and Energy Efficient
Because fiberglass shingles contain less asphalt than organic mat-based shingles, and are easier to transport, they have a lower overall environmental impact. Fiberglass shingle manufacturers are also adopting energy-saving, cool-roof technology to help reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the roof. Look for shingles with Energy Star ratings and you can significantly reduce the cost of cooling your home.
Common Concerns with Fiberglass Shingles
Though your fiberglass shingle roof should last 15-30 years, it is not necessarily a great environmental choice. Traditional roofing products contribute an estimated 20 billion pounds of waste to U.S. landfills on an annual basis. Fiberglass shingles do offer the possibility of being reused with uses in hot mix asphalt, cold asphalt patching, and as a fuel in cement kilns, but asphalt naturally contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogenic and may put recycling workers at risk. If your existing roof has less than two layers of shingles on it, you can reduce the amount of waste generated by your upgrade (not to mention the demolition cost) by layering your new roof on top of the existing structure.