The life cycle of an asphalt shingle lasts anywhere from a handful of years to over 30 years. Usually on the higher end when roofing experts do the installation. While the type of shingle, climate, and other site factors influence this duration, it all depends on how the state-of-the-art asphalt shingle technology is applied during manufacturing and application. This technology has evolved over the past hundred years and research has helped provide for the technology to produce high-quality, serviceable asphalt shingles. However, it is up to asphalt shingle manufacturers to incorporate this technology in their selection of raw materials and in the manufacturing processes to produce quality products for consumers. Only then will the designer and applicator have a significant impact on the product’s performance.

Asphalt shingles are the roofing material of choice for residential dwelling owners in the United States. They are on homes across the country, from the mountains to the beach. NRCA’s Annual Market Survey reveals that contracts for the application of asphalt shingles totaled $2.73 billion or 64 percent of the 4.26 billion total in the 1991 residential roofing market. The market share for fiberglass-based shingles accounted for 87 percent (of the 64 percent) of those applied. There is clearly a huge market for these shingles and they are clearly in high demand. There are several reasons for this. They have high availability, they are fairly attractive, they have a great cost-to-performance ratio, and they have a history of great performance.

The forerunner of asphalt shingles was asphalt prepared roofing. It was first marketed in the United States in 1893, over 100 years ago. The material consisted of a felt base that was impregnated and coated with asphalt. Four years later, in 1897 mineral surfacing was applied for additional weather protection. This idea paved the way for the traditional asphalt shingles we have grown to know and love. The first asphalt shingles appeared in 1901. Slate granules were used as surface protection. Asphalt shingles did not come into general use until about 1911, nearly 10 years later. During the ensuing years, these products continued to grow in quality, use, and popularity, and by 1939, 32 manufacturers produced over 11 million squares of shingles, enough to cover about 45 percent of U.S. residential homes. This boom in the asphalt shingle industry has contributed to this product’s long-standing history and reliability.

Asphalt is a very complex chemical compound and is one of the most important component of the shingle. Kind of crazy that a material that goes on our roads is also being used on our roofs! The quality of the shingle most variably depends on the quality of the asphalt going into it and there are multiple tests that can help determine the durability of the shingle. Asphalt durability can be determined by various ultraviolet radiation sources, moisture and temperature effects, preparation techniques, and the shingle’s unique exposure conditions.