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How Has the Roofing Industry Changed in the Last 30 Years?

Some things never change, right? Like roofing shingles. After all, they’re still made with asphalt and surfaced with granules just as they have been for many decades. Installers still overlap them and nail them to a wooden roof deck.

Like all businesses, the manufacture of asphalt roofing shingles evolves and changes over time. Companies introduce new roofing products to keep up with ever-changing roofing market trends. Evolutionary – and sometimes revolutionary – improvements are often made. This is certainly the case with asphalt shingles.

Let’s look at how some key trends in the roofing industry and changes in the manufacture of asphalt shingles over the past thirty years or so may inform your decisions in choosing the right shingle for your new roof.

We usually associate the term “technology” with the computer or telecommunication industries but, over the last few decades, roofing shingle manufacturers have developed and adopted some pretty amazing technologies into their process.

In the “old days,” multi-layer laminated shingles had to be made offline, by hand. But in order to meet homeowners’ ever-growing demands, manufacturers had to engineer processes to produce laminated roofing products inline.

The result? Laminated shingles are now available in much more elaborate designs and high-definition profiles or shapes, all with enhanced color blends. You can even give your new roof the upscale look of natural slate tiles or genuine cedar shakes, without their worries or expense.

The introduction of computer-controlled systems in shingle manufacturing plants has greatly improved product uniformity in terms of raw material use, shingle weight, product dimensional control and appearance.

Thanks to similar controls on the granule application system, manufacturers can now make their shingle color blends not only more varied, but also more repeatable, resulting in greater consistency that helps reduce roof appearance issues.

All these improvements to the shingle manufacturing process have, over time, resulted in greatly increased speed and efficiency as well as better product at more affordable costs. It’s a big win/win for manufacturers and homeowners.

Out With the Old, In With The New

Asphalt shingles were originally manufactured on a base material made from cotton rags. Eventually, this rag base gave way to cellulosic reinforcements made with recycled paper, cardboard and wood fibers.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, roofing shingles began to be made on fiberglass mat reinforcement. Interlocking shingle designs faded from the market in favor of the newer, easier-to-install laminated shingles.

At that time, manufacturers also introduced asphalt shingles with enhanced features such as granules containing algae-resistant additives. These specially designed granules were an important innovation as they helped inhibit the blue-green algae growth that can cause harmless, but unsightly, black streaks and stains.

Nowadays, most asphalt shingles are manufactured with these algae-resistant granules. Look for “AR” or the phrase “algae-resistant” on the brand you’re considering, if this is an important feature for a new roof in your area. Special UV stabilizers were also developed and added over the years to make the granules more color-fast to keep looking – and performing – great for longer.

In response to roofing installer demand, manufacturers developed laminated shingles with wider nailing zones. This made installation much faster and easier. It also made nail placement more accurate, to help resist wind blow-off better while at the same time requiring fewer nails to be used.

Some asphalt shingle manufacturers also started making their roofing shingles in a larger size. This not only speeds up installation, the larger exposure can also enhance a home’s curb appeal.