Asphalt Shingles: How They Are made

The most popular choice of roofing material in Alberta for decades has been the Asphalt Shingle. They are versatile, easily installed and have less of an up-front cost than many other types of roofing. Generally speaking, shingles have been made the same way for a very long time.

For many years, asphalt shingles were made with an “organic” core. What this means is that when a manufacturer wanted to make a shingle, they would start with a “mat” made out of wood chips, paper and cardboard fibres. This mat is what gives the shingle its structure. Today, asphalt shingles are mostly made with a fibreglass mat, which has several benefits. These may include:

  • a lighter weight mat
  • a stronger mat
  • better resistance to water penetration and damage
  • better resistance to fire damage

The mat is then saturated on both sides with hot asphalt. This process gives the shingle mat a protective barrier from the elements, as well as driving out any possible moisture that may be in the mat.

Next, the saturated mat passes through coating rolls that coat the underside with fine mineral particles, and the top side with colored mineral granules. These granules give the shingle its desired color, as well as protect it from the harmful UV rays and weather elements.

Once the saturated, coated mat is cooled, it passes through a cutting machine where it is cut into a desired size and pattern, and then placed into wrapped bundles for distribution.

When most people think of the look or style of Asphalt shingles, the 3-tab design comes to mind. The design is made by taking a (roughly) 36” wide by 12” long shingle and making 2 cut-outs in the lower portion of the shingle, making it appear like it has 3 tabs. In the last couple of decades other styles and designs have become much more popular. The Laminate (sometimes referred to as Architectural) design has recently become the most popular type of shingle made, accounting for approximately 70% of the amount of shingles produced today. This design takes a similar sized shingle as the 3-tab, but instead of making 2 cut-outs in the shingle, a second piece of shingle is laminated (glued) to the main shingle, creating the desired look. Some of the benefits that the laminate shingle has over the 3-tab shingle are:

  • greater strength against weather elements like wind
  • a more random, dimensional wood shingle looking appearance
  • and in some cases, a more attractive color blending pattern

Several other Architectural designs have been making their way into the market recently. You can visit to browse many of these different styles for yourself.

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