Making the Most of Asphalt Roof Shingles

Reader Contribution by Staff
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 About 75% of the roofs in North America are covered with some kind of asphalt shingles. That’s a testament to the fact that asphalt offers a good compromise between attractive appearance, ease of installation and economy. That said, I’ve never heard any arguments that show how asphalt roofs are particularly green. Truth be told, most of them are not. Made in part with crude oil, and difficult or impossible to recycle when they’re old, if the prospect of using asphalt shingles again at your place has you feeling guilty, I may be able to help. One big and positive thing you can do is make your next shingling job last as long as possible. Every year that a new roof keeps on shedding water reliably is one more year to spread around the ecological cost of materials and energy used in manufacturing. If the cost of more environmentally sound roofing choices like slate, metal and synthetic shingles from recycled feedstocks just aren’t in your budget, paying a little more for a shingling job that’ll last a lot longer is a worthwhile contribution. And it’s surprising how a few small, key features can translate into a roof that lasts much longer. Breathable underlays, fiberglass shingles, extra ventilation, anti-moss zinc strips and shingle choice all contribute to a greener roof. To learn more, check out my free technical bulletin on roofing at

The photo above shows how to install asphalt shingles without harming them under foot. It’s possible and surprisingly easy to measure and mark down an amount equal to 7 or 8 courses of shingles, then install shingles upwards from there while standing on bare roof deck. Move down the roof, measure down again, then install another bunch of shingles so the top row tucks underneath the bottom row of the group you installed earlier. Shingling from “top down” like this gives you a better roof because the shingles never get walked on and scuffed. This is an especially good technique when you’re shingling in hot weather, when shingles are soft and vulnerable.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on .