Composite Shingles Stack Up Well

New recycled synthetic composites equal or outshine asphalt shingles, the industry leader, on every count except price.

Posted by Steve Graham | Jan 14, 2010
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New composite shingles, also known as recycled synthetics, are an attractive and eco-friendly alternative to conventional asphalt shingles, which make up about 80 percent of roofing replacements. Recycled synthetic shingles offer benefits beyond sustainability, and they compare favorably to standard asphalt shingles (which are also confusingly known as composition shingles).

The main drawback to composite shingles is cost. Here are a few factors to consider regarding composite shingles.

Materials

Asphalt shingles are cheap, light and easy to install. However, they are also hard on the environment. Asphalt is petroleum-based and energy-intensive to produce. The shingles cannot be recycled, and they add more than 1.3 billion pounds of waste to landfills annually, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

In comparison, the new composite shingles are made with recycled materials, and some types are easily recycled. Most composite shingles are a mix of plastics, sawdust, rubber and fiberglass. Some are primarily recycled tires or hoses. Re-New Wood and other companies make composite shingles with recycled wood and plastic. They are meant to resemble a cedar shake, but they are more environmentally sound because real cedar shakes are often made from endangered and old-growth wood.

Aesthetics

 Many users find recycled synthetic shingles more attractive than three-tab asphalt shingles. Some composite shingles have the contours and depth variations of slate shingles or clay tiles. Again, many brands mimic the look of cedar shakes.

Durability

Composite shingles are roughly as strong and durable as other roofing options, and they stand up to heavy winds and rain. Some composite shingles have additional ingredients to make them fire-resistant and to reduce fading in sunlight.

Installation

Composite shingles are a little heavier than standard asphalt shingles, but they are about the same weight as dimensional, or laminated, asphalt shingles. That means they can be installed on most homes without the additional reinforcement that is needed for slate shingles or clay tiles. Though all re-roofing projects are quite time-consuming, you can install many brands of composite shingles just as quickly and easily as standard asphalt shingles.

Cost

 Price is the main drawback of new eco-friendly composite shingles. A bundle of standard asphalt shingles (a bundle covers about 35 square feet) costs about $24 at Home Depot. This compares with at least $75 per bundle at www.greenbuildingsupply.com for EcoStar shingles that look like cedar shakes. Composite shakes with Class A fire ratings cost at least $180 per bundle. The Class A-rated shingle is more comparable to the standard asphalt shingle from Home Depot.

Composite, or recycled synthetic shingles compare well with the more popular asphalt shingles on aesthetics, durability and ease of installation. They even measure up solidly against luxury roofing products such as slate shingles and cedar shakes. Recycled synthetic shingles are also probably the most eco-friendly roofing option available. However, cost is a major drawback as the price is closer to the luxury options than the standard asphalt.

Photo credit: EcoStar

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