Shingle Choices Are Plentiful For Your New Roof


Several factors figure into your shingle choices for a new or replacement roof. The style of your Madison WI home is a top priority followed closely by an individual product’s durability and energy efficiency. All things considered, how your new roof will look usually dictates the final decision. Where you once had only a couple of colors to choose from and very few designs, modern shingles offer many quality options.

A historic property deserves a roof that fits the period. Modern shingle choices combine high-tech materials with classic looks and curb appeal.

Each shingle type comes with advantages and disadvantages.  In Wisconsin some roofing materials are impractical – either because they’re don’t perform well in northern climates or they are too costly. Slate and tile shingles are seldom seen in the Badger State.

Before you choose new shingles based on looks and price alone, look deeper. There are layers of protection that go into installation, not just the final shingle layer.

Most Popular Shingle Choices

The most popular and common choice for a new roof are asphalt shingles. As you evaluate your choices among the many asphalt offerings, consider these benefits:

  • Affordable roofing materials – asphalt shingles are economical to produce.
  • Light-weight – provide a protective layer without excessive stress on the roof structure.
  • Fire-resistant – among the best for their flame-retardant properties (an asset with insurance costs).
  • Reasonable lifespan – many come with 50-year warranty coverage.
  • Range of colors, styles – there are many colors, shapes and sizes ranging from standard grays and black to brown tones and bold red, green or blue. Easily modified to mimic the look of wood, slate and tile.
  • Energy-efficient – high-tech “cool roof” technology reduces heat absorption. Many shingles are Energy Star rated.
  • Low-maintenance – damaged shingles are inexpensive and easy to repair or replace.
  • Easy installation – requires less time to install, reducing labor costs.

Of course asphalt shingles are not perfect for every installation. Consider these negatives:

  • Weather damage – especially at risk from hail and high winds.
  • Not for flat surfaces – unless your roof slants, these shingles won’t wear as well as other choices (not a concern for most residential installations in Madison).

A Composite Shingle Alternative

When you’re looking to maintain a historic look or recreate the look of natural materials modern composite shingles are a wise choice. They offer a variety of positive attributes, including:

The right shingle choices cap the overall look of every home – these are a perfect fit for a Craftsman-style cottage.
  • Rugged design – made from polymer, rubber or plastic they are impact-, heat- and UV-resistant.
  • Artistic looks – available to mimic the look of wood, slate or tiles.
  • Long life – colors are blended into the shingle and they have a lifespan of 50-years or more.

Disadvantages include:

  • Susceptible to weather – unless you opt for the high-end versions they may absorb water so they can warp or crack in the winter.
  • Reduced insulation – composites provide less insulation than some of the materials they mimic so they are not a energy-efficient.
  • Installation costs – because they represent fairly new technology installation isn’t as easy as with others.

Final considerations must include whether or not getting the look of slate or cedar shakes is worth the trade-offs. Composites are cheaper, last longer and are light-weight. Composites that look like wood will last much longer and protect your roof better than the real thing. Definitely worth considering, right?

Wood Shingles And Shakes

For a really rustic or authentic English look there’s nothing like a roof of wood shakes or shingles. Wooden roofing pieces are machine cut and tapered for a unique appearance. Shakes are also machine cut to look hand-split. Neither is as practical or cost-efficient as the other options, but there’s no beating the one-of-a-kind looks. Cedar is the wood of choice for roofing. If you want the true, historically-correct roof for your vintage home, consider these positive features of cedar:

  • Great looks – real wood is beautiful, distinctive and has great curb appeal. No wonder so many manufacturers make shingles designed to look like wood!
  • Environmentally-friendly – cedar shingles are all natural, biodegradable and recyclable.
  • Light-weight – although thicker than other shingle, cedar is a light wood so weight isn’t concern.
  • Energy-efficient – cedar shakes and shingles have excellent insulating characteristics. In addition they allow an attic area to “breathe” by allowing air to circulate around each piece.

The list of disadvantages of wooden roofing is long as well:

  • Short-lived – cedar weathers and wears so wooden shingles have a life span of roughly 20 years (about half that of modern materials).
  • High maintenance – they need attention to remove algae and mildew. If damaged they are almost impossible to repair.
  • Flammable – natural wood burns.
  • Labor intensive installation – because they feature the hand-made, one-of-a-kind look they take the same painstaking installation efforts. Installation is slow and demanding.
  • Cost – cost per shingle isn’t prohibitive, it’s the time and talent required to install and maintain wooden shingles that puts them on the high-end of any budget.

Metal Shingles – Most Unusual

The concept of a metal roof for single family homes has gained acceptance in recent years. Especially since manufacturers developed shingles made of metal. When most people think of a metal roof they picture large panels like on the roof of a barn or machine shed. A metal roof isn’t likely to become the top choice any time soon, but it has advantages, like:

  • Durability – with proper installation a metal roof lasts at least 50 years.
  • Weather-resistant – resists cracking, splitting, warping and rotting.
  • Energy-efficient – reflects the sun’s rays reducing heating.
  • Environmentally-friendly – recyclable and can be installed over existing shingled roof.
  • Fire-resistant

Again the negative aspects tend to out-weigh the positives. Before getting too excited about metal shingles, consider:

  • Noise – rain creates much more noise on a metal roof and hail sounds like being inside a snare drum. Hail often leaves dents to deal with, too.
  • Expensive – classic-looking metal shingles are anything but cheap and are difficult to install.
  • Weight – metal shingles are heavy. Installing them on top of an old roof makes the stress on structures even greater.
  • Difficult to repair/replace – working on a metal roof is tricky and can be dangerous.

In most situations metal roofing of any sort is best suited to commercial buildings – unless you’re willing to include an additional layer of insulating and sound-deadening material beneath the underlayment and the metal.

No Matter Shingle Choices, Installation Is Key

There’s a lot more to getting a high-quality roof than picking the color of your shingles. It makes sense to protect you investment with the highest quality products installed by skilled, experienced crews, right?

The roofing specialists at Sims Exteriors & Remodeling have been installing high-end roofs in the Madison area for decades. Our roofing teams are dedicated to the art and science of protecting your home from the top down. Their experience is unmatched. Whether your need windows, siding or shingles,  you want to work with a team that’s up-to-date on the latest techniques and has all the tools to do the job right the first time, right? Call 608-825-4500, or email us when it’s time for a new roof or repairs. Our craftsmen are on call. Put our years in the southern Wisconsin area to work and make the best shingle choices for your Madison WI home.

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