How to Specify: Asphalt Shingles

When specifying asphalt shingles, consider the following criteria: project location, weather, roof size and structural capacity, solar reflecting, fire resistance and the shingle’s composition (organic or fiberglass), shape, texture, color and grade.

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This week, we look at a traditional roofing and cladding material that is increasingly being used in inventive ways for contemporary constructions: asphalt shingles.

Asphalt Shingles


Architizer: Building Products> Roof Systems > Asphalt Shingles
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Introduction + Tips

Asphalt shingles are a very common type of roofing material due to their low cost and ease of installation. They consist of a fiberglass or organic core of wood and paper fibers that are sandwiched between asphalt and ceramic granules. When ordering asphalt shingles, your most important considerations will be aesthetic: choosing the shape, texture and color that best matches the rest of your project. That said, you’ll also need to provide some information on the structural characteristics of your building to determine how much weight the roof can support.

When specifying through Source, the key is to provide as much information as you can. This will help the platform match you with ideal product manufacturers that offer exactly what you need. Use normal words to describe what you are after, and pictures to demonstrate what you’re interested in — the shingle supplier will do the rest!

MAD’s Clover House kindergarten in Okazaki, Japan, is an example of how asphalt shingles are now being implemented in unusual and innovative ways.


There are four types of asphalt shingle: strip, laminated, interlocking and individual.

  • Strip: The most common type, measuring 12 by 36 inches. They often come as “three-tab” shingles, in which two slits are cut to create the illusion of three individual, 12-inch-wide shingles.
  • Laminated: Also known as architectural shingles, these are premium grade and vary in size, number, spacing and thickness of the tabs.
  • Interlocking: Excellent for heavy-wind areas and designed to fasten to one another.
  • Individual: Generally used in specialty situations. Their shapes are normally hexagonal or rectangular, and they don’t come in tabs.


  • Location: Where is your project located, and what is the climate?
  • Quantity: What is the total area of roofing space that you need the shingles to cover?
  • Weight: Shingles vary in weight, ranging from 200 to 430 pounds per 100 square feet of roof area. State the minimum roofing load that your project is able to support.


  • Shape: There are a number of different options for the shape and tessellation of shingles:
    • Three-tab
    • Hexagonal
    • Jet
    • “Signature cut”
    • T-lock
    • Sawtooth/offset
  • Texture: Asphalt shingles can imitate the texture and visual interest of:
    • Wood
    • Tile
    • Slate
  • Color: Asphalt shingles come in a variety of colors. The most common are dark grays, blues and browns, but they can also be manufactured in lighter colors, as well as greens and reds. View CertainTeed’s tile color selection to get a better idea of your options.

Installing asphalt shingles; via Modernize


  • Composition/organic vs. fiberglass: Both types of shingle are soaked in asphalt. Composition shingles have a core of organic “felt” made from wood and paper fibers, while fiberglass shingles have a core of artificial fiberglass matting. The main advantage of fiberglass shingles is their resistance to heat — meaning they’ll last longer.
  • Grade/lifespan: There are generally three grades of asphalt shingles from which to choose, from “good” to “better” to “best.” The lowest tier includes most three-tab shingles, which are generally thin and tend to come with a warranty of 10 to 20 years. The “better” and “best” category includes architectural shingles, which are thicker and generally come with a warranty of 25 to 50 years. You may find this article on roofing material warranties to be helpful.
  • Solar reflecting: Shingles that help reduce air conditioning costs through their reflective surface.
  • Wind damage: Asphalt shingles vary in their resistance to wind damage. Those with the highest fastener pull-through resistance and seal-adhesive bond strength will resist wind damage the best. Extra precautions can be taken in high-wind areas to fasten a durable underlayment and/or seal the plywood seams in the event of high wind.
  • Hail damage: For projects in areas where hail is common, adhering to the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) impact resistance UL 2218 Class 4 code is ideal.
  • Fire resistance: Forest fires and other exterior fires risk roofs catching on fire. Fiberglass shingles have a better, class-A, flame-spread rating based on UL 790and ASTM E 108 testing. Organic shingles have a class-C rating on average.
  • Algae resistance: Algae is not believed to damage asphalt shingles, but may be aesthetically objectionable. Different treatment methods can be used to prevent discoloration from algae growth on the roof.

Visit Architizer’s Product Catalog to check out the latest asphalt shingle products.

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External Links

Consumer Reports Roofing Buying Guide
HomeTips Article on Buying Asphalt Roofing Shingles
ASTM D7158 – Testing for Wind Resistance

Looking for the ideal roofing materials for your next project? Find them on Source, the definitive network marketplace for building products. Click here to get started on the best all-in-one specification platform for architects.

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