Roof shingle

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A shingle roof in Zakopane, Poland. With an area of 6000 m, it was one of the largest wooden shingle roofs in Europe. Zakopane-schronisko-2.jpg
A shingle roof in Zakopane, Poland. With an area of 6000 m, it was one of the largest wooden shingle roofs in Europe.

Roof shingles are a roof covering consisting of individual overlapping elements. These elements are typically flat, rectangular shapes laid in courses from the bottom edge of the roof up, with each successive course overlapping the joints below. Shingles are held by the roof rafters and are made of various materials such as wood, slate, flagstone, metal, plastic, and composite materials such as fibre cement and asphalt shingles. Ceramic roof tiles, which still dominate in Europe and some parts of Asia, are still usually called tiles. Roof shingles may deteriorate faster and need to repel more water than wall shingles. They are a very common roofing material in the United States.


Etymology and nomenclature

Shingle is a corruption of German Schindel meaning a roofing slate. [1] Shingles historically were called tiles, and shingle was a term applied to wood shingles, [1] as is still mostly the case outside the US.

Shingles are laid in courses, usually with each shingle offset from its neighbors. The first course is the starter course and the last being a ridge course or ridge slates for a slate roof. The ridge is often covered with a ridge cap, board, piece, or roll, [2] sometimes with a special ridge vent material.


Roof shingles are almost always highly visible and so are an important aspect of a building's aesthetics in patterns, textures and colors. Roof shingles, like other building materials on vernacular buildings, are typically of a material locally available. The type of shingle is taken into account before construction because the material affects the roof pitch and construction method: Some shingles can be installed on lath where others need solid sheathing (sheeting) on the roof deck. All shingle roofs are installed from the bottom upward beginning with a starter course and the edge seams offset to avoid leaks. Many shingle installations benefit from being placed on top of an underlayment material such as asphalt felt paper to prevent leaks even from wind driven rain and snow and ice dams in cold climates. At the ridge the shingles on one side of the roof simply extend past the ridge or there is a ridge cap consisting of boards, copper, or lead sheeting. An asphalt shingle roof has flexible asphalt shingles as the ridge cap. Some roof shingles are non-combustible or have a better fire rating than others which influence their use, some building codes do not allow the use of shingles with less than a class-A fire rating to be used on some types of buildings. Due to increased fire hazard, wood shingles and organic-based asphalt shingles have become less common than fiberglass-based asphalt shingles. No shingles are water-tight so the minimum recommended roof pitch is 4:12 without additional underlayment materials. [3]

Asphalt shingles

Faster wear of asphalt shingles along eaves.JPG
Failure of asphalt shingles allowing roof leakage.JPG
Left: Example of faster asphalt shingle wear along eaves due to channeled water running down the roof. Right: Severe shrinkage resulting in tearing away of entire tabs. Note the exposed nail heads. Water running down the roof can seep around the nails into the interior space.

In the United States, fiberglass-based asphalt shingles are by far the most common roofing material used for residential roofing applications. In Europe, they are called bitumen roof shingles or tile strips, and are much less common. [4] They are easy to install, relatively affordable, last 20 to 60 years and are recyclable in some areas. Asphalt shingles come in numerous styles and colors.

The protective nature of paper and fiberglass asphalt shingles primarily comes from the long-chain petroleum hydrocarbons, while wood shingles are protected by natural oils in the cellulose structure. Over time in the hot sun, these oils soften and when rain falls the oils are gradually washed out of the shingles. During rain, more water is channeled along eaves and complex rooflines, and these are subsequently more prone to erosion than other areas.

Eventually the loss of the oils causes asphalt shingle fibers to shrink and wood shingles to rot, exposing the nail heads under the shingles. Once the nail heads are exposed, water running down the roof can seep into the building around the nail shank, resulting in rotting of underlying roof building materials and causing moisture damage to ceilings and paint inside.

Wood shingles

Heinola Rural Parish church, in Heinola, Finland. It was completed in 1755 and built most likely by August Sorsa. Close-up of the wooden shingle roof. The patterning is said to originate from Islamic architecture. Heinolan pitajankirkko 04 paanukatto.jpg
Heinola Rural Parish church, in Heinola, Finland. It was completed in 1755 and built most likely by August Sorsa. Close-up of the wooden shingle roof. The patterning is said to originate from Islamic architecture.

Two basic types of wood shingles are called shingles and shakes. Wood shakes are typically longer and thicker than wood shingles. The main difference is in how they are made, with shingles always being sawn and shakes normally being split, at least on one side. [5] A wood shake is often more textured, as it is split following the natural grain of the wood rather than sawn against it like the shingle. Untreated wood shingles and shakes have long been known as a fire hazard and have been banned in various places, particularly in urban areas where exterior, combustible building materials contribute to devastating fires known as conflagrations. Modern pressure-impregnated fire retardant treated wood shakes and shingles can achieve a Class B fire rating, and can achieve a Class A rating when used in conjunction with specially designed roof assemblies. [6]

The use of wooden roof shingles has existed in parts of the world with a long tradition of wooden buildings, especially Scandinavia, and Central and Eastern Europe. Nearly all the houses and buildings in colonial Chiloé were built with wood, and roof shingles were extensively employed in Chilota architecture.

Japanese roof with shingles partly laid and the nail box. JapanHomes064 ROOF WITH SHINGLES PARTLY LAID.jpg
Japanese roof with shingles partly laid and the nail box.

Stone shingles

Slate shingles are also called slate tiles, the usual name outside the US. Slate roof shingles are relatively expensive to install but can last 80 to 400 years depending on the quality of the slate used, and how well they are maintained. The material itself deteriorates only slowly, and may be recycled from one building to another.

The primary means of failure in a slate roof is when individual slates lose their peg attachment and begin to slide out of place. This can open up small gaps above each slate. A secondary mode of failure is when the slates themselves begin to break up. The lower parts of a slate may break loose, giving a gap below a slate. Commonly the small and stressed area above the nail hole may fail, allowing the slate to slip as before. In the worst cases, a slate may simply break in half and be lost altogether. A common repair to slate roofs is to apply 'torching', a mortar fillet underneath the slates, attaching them to the battens. This may apply as either a repair, to hold slipping slates, or pre-emptively on construction.

Where slates are particularly heavy, the roof may begin to split apart along the roofline. This usually follows rot developing and weakening the internal timbers, often as a result of poor ventilation within the roof space. An important aspect to slate roofs is the use of a metal flashing which will last as long as the slates. Slate shingles may be cut in a variety of decorative patterns and are available in several colors.

Flagstone shingles are a traditional roofing material. Some stone shingles are fastened in place but some simply are held by gravity, so the roof pitch cannot be too steep or the stones will slide off the roof. Sandstone has also been used to make shingles.

Fibre cement shingles

Fibre cement shingles are often known by their manufacturer's name such as Eternit or Transite. Sometimes the fiber in the cement material was asbestos, which has been banned for health reasons since the 1980s. Removal of asbestos shingles requires extra precautions and disposal methods.

Metal shingles

Metal shingles are extremely fire resistant, so are used in fire prone areas.

Metal shingles on St John's Church, Tzum, Netherlands 20307447 - RCE Exterieur ZINKEN LEIEN OP KERKDAK - Tzum - 20307447 - RCE.jpg
Metal shingles on St John's Church, Tzum, Netherlands 20307447 - RCE

Plastic shingles

Plastic has been used to produce imitation slate shingles. These are lightweight and durable, but combustible. Also, they are very lightweight and are one of the cheapest shingles to have installed. [7]

Cedar shingles

Cedar shingles are resistant to rot and commonly available in lengths of 18 and 24 inches (460 and 610 mm). These fade gradually from natural wood colored to a silver-like tone. Types include hand-split resawn shakes, tapersplit shakes or tapersawn shakes.

Composite shingles

Composite or synthetic shingles are a relatively new type of shingle material that are made from a blend of materials, including asphalt, fiberglass, and other polymers. These shingles are designed to mimic the look of natural materials such as wood, slate, or clay and aim to increase the durability, strength, and resistance to weather elements relative to these natural materials. Some examples of manufacturers of synthetic or composite roof shingles are DaVinci Roofscapes or Unified Steel. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roof</span> Top covering of a building

A roof is the top covering of a building, including all materials and constructions necessary to support it on the walls of the building or on uprights, providing protection against rain, snow, sunlight, extremes of temperature, and wind. A roof is part of the building envelope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slate</span> Metamorphic rock

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. It is the finest grained foliated metamorphic rock. Foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering, but instead is in planes perpendicular to the direction of metamorphic compression.

Shingle may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siding (construction)</span> Exterior cladding on building walls

Siding or wall cladding is the protective material attached to the exterior side of a wall of a house or other building. Along with the roof, it forms the first line of defense against the elements, most importantly sun, rain/snow, heat and cold, thus creating a stable, more comfortable environment on the interior side. The siding material and style also can enhance or detract from the building's beauty. There is a wide and expanding variety of materials to side with, both natural and artificial, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Masonry walls as such do not require siding, but any wall can be sided. Walls that are internally framed, whether with wood, or steel I-beams, however, must always be sided.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flagstone</span> Generic flat stone usually used for paving

Flagstone (flag) is a generic flat stone, sometimes cut in regular rectangular or square shape and usually used for paving slabs or walkways, patios, flooring, fences and roofing. It may be used for memorials, headstones, facades and other construction. The name derives from Middle English flagge meaning turf, perhaps from Old Norse flaga meaning slab or chip.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tar paper</span> Construction material

Tar paper is a heavy-duty paper used in construction. Tar paper is made by impregnating paper with tar, producing a waterproof material useful for roof construction. Tar paper is similar to roofing felt, historically a felt-like fabric made from recycled rags impregnated with melted asphalt, and today evolving into a more complex underlayment of synthetic mesh or fiberglass strands waterproofed by synthetically enhanced asphalt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flat roof</span> Type of roof

A flat roof is a roof which is almost level in contrast to the many types of sloped roofs. The slope of a roof is properly known as its pitch and flat roofs have up to approximately 10°. Flat roofs are an ancient form mostly used in arid climates and allow the roof space to be used as a living space or a living roof. Flat roofs, or "low-slope" roofs, are also commonly found on commercial buildings throughout the world. The National Roofing Contractors Association defines a low-slope roof as having a slope of 3 in 12 (1:4) or less.

Wood shingles are thin, tapered pieces of wood primarily used to cover roofs and walls of buildings to protect them from the weather. Historically shingles, also known as shakes, were split from straight grained, knot free bolts of wood. Today shingles are mostly made by being cut which distinguishes them from shakes, which are made by being split out of a bolt.

A metal roof is a roofing system featuring metal pieces or tiles exhibiting corrosion resistance, impermeability to water, and long life. It is a component of the building envelope. The metal pieces may be a covering on a structural, non-waterproof roof, or they could be self-supporting sheets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Domestic roof construction</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Housewrap</span> Material used to protect buildings

Housewrap, also known by the genericized trademark homewrap, generally denotes a modern synthetic material used to protect buildings. Housewrap functions as a weather-resistant barrier, preventing rain or other forms of moisture from getting into the wall assembly while allowing water vapor to pass to the exterior. If moisture from either direction is allowed to build up within stud or cavity walls, mold and rot can set in and fiberglass or cellulose insulation will lose its R-value due to heat-conducting moisture. House wrap may also serve as an air barrier if it is sealed carefully at seams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asphalt shingle</span> Type of shingle

An asphalt shingle is a type of wall or roof shingle that uses asphalt for waterproofing. It is one of the most widely used roofing covers in North America because it has a relatively inexpensive up-front cost and is fairly simple to install.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roofer</span> Profession specialising in building roof construction

A roofer, roof mechanic, or roofing contractor is a tradesperson who specializes in roof construction. Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings, using a variety of materials, including shingles, bitumen, and metal. Roofing work can be physically demanding because it involves heavy lifting, as well as climbing, bending, and kneeling, often in extreme weather conditions. Curled or rotten shingles, missing shingles, and blistering are all signs that roof needs attention.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar shingle</span> Type of solar panel

Solar shingles, also called photovoltaic shingles, are solar panels designed to look like and function as conventional roofing materials, such as asphalt shingle or slate, while also producing electricity. Solar shingles are a type of solar energy solution known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sarking</span>

Sarking is an English word with multiple meanings in roof construction:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bituminous waterproofing</span> Roll roofing and waterproofing material

Bituminous waterproofing systems are designed to protect residential and commercial buildings. Bitumen is a material made up of organic liquids that are highly sticky, viscous, and waterproof. Systems incorporating bituminous-based substrates are sometimes used to construct roofs, in the form of "roofing felt" or "roll roofing" products.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asphalt roll roofing</span>

Asphalt roll roofing or membrane is a roofing material commonly used for buildings that feature a low sloped roof pitch in North America. The material is based on the same materials used in asphalt shingles; an organic felt or fiberglass mat, saturated with asphalt, and faced with granular stone aggregate. The installation process, known as Torch On Roofing, is often used on commercial properties in North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roof tiles</span> Tile designed to keep out rain

Roof tiles are designed mainly to keep out rain, and are traditionally made from locally available materials such as terracotta or slate. Modern materials such as concrete, metal and plastic are also used and some clay tiles have a waterproof glaze.


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  2. Passmore, Augustine C.. Handbook of technical terms used in architecture and building and their allied trades and subjects,. London: Scott, Greenwood, and Co.;, 1904. Print.
  3. Kang, Kaffee, and Rob Thallon. Graphic guide to frame construction. Student ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998. 177. Print.
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  7. CME. "Roof Tiles". CME. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  8. "15 Types Of Roofing Shingles (2023 Guide) - Roof Replacement Basics".