Architectural asphalt shingles feature larger exposures, better algae- and weather-resistant properties, and a greater array of warranty options than ever before. That means more ways for pros to highlight increasingly steep roofs–and more opportunities for elevated profits.

Although priced 20 percent to 40 percent higher than standard three-tab shingles, homeowners covet these products. In Chicago, for example, roofing contractor Jaye Schwartz has seen architectural asphalt shingles grow to 70 percent of the market during the past seven years despite a Midwest economy that's "not the greatest."

The reason? "People are protecting their biggest investments, their homes," asserts Schwartz, owner of Avondale Roofing in Northbrook, Ill. "I think they'd rather spend a little more money...to get a better product."

The Look

Today's housing design–with its focus on steep roof planes, turrets, and gables–is partially driving the market for architectural asphalt shingles. The products' random colors and textures better accent these features, pros say, and some can be paired with complementary hip and ridge pieces to highlight a roof's many sections.

Some shingles mimic the look of slate or cedar shake without the weight and durability issues that normally accompany those materials. But new trends extend beyond mimicking the look of natural products. While tones like weathered wood and antique slate are top sellers for Elk, homeowners increasingly are turning to darker greens or terra-cotta tones, says the company's marketing director, Mike McLintock.

In response to requests from customers in temperate areas like Florida and Arizona, Elk launched the Cool Colors palette of light grays and browns in its Prestique shingle line, which provide reflectivity ratings beyond standard white shingles. Although the hues may not be right for every home, McLintock notes, they present greater variety for dwellings in warmer climates.

Such added choices are a plus for pros, says Harold Mullins of Alex Engardt Roofing & Siding in Sacramento, Calif. "At one time, everything was just what we would refer to as a three-tab shingle. It had no character to it, nothing," he muses. "Now you've got something that has some character to it."

The Elements

Besides offering a plethora of good looks, the latest shingle products combat a common aesthetic problem: black streaks caused by algae. Once primarily found in the Southeast, algae problems are spreading to northern and western regions due to recent warming trends. But consumers are better educated about the issue, prompting manufacturers to respond with algae-resistant solutions. "In the more northern areas, it's not mainstream quite yet, but it's getting there," says Michael Loughery, CertainTeed's communications manager.

Algae-resistant shingles are coated with copper or zinc granules, which leach over time, inhibiting algae growth. Such shingles are prevalent in steamy places like San Antonio, Texas, where "[homeowners] will point out a neighbor's house that has dark streaks on it and say, 'I don't want a roof that does that,'" says William Clarkson of Action Roofing & Remodeling.

Installing algae-resistant shingles is one way pros can differentiate their work from competitors. "We're bringing it to the attention of the owner more than the owner asking us," says Mike Adler, vice president of Adler Roofing & Sheet Metal in Joliet, Ill. "There's no additional cost, so it's worth it."

Wind- and impact-resistant shingles also are growing in popularity, mainly because of stricter building codes and insurance rebates for homeowners in hail-prone areas. But those products aren't always cost effective, says Clarkson. "If you're spending $1,000 to $1,500 more for shingles and you're only getting a 10 percent deduction, it may take you years to recoup that," he asserts.

Theory of Evolution

As rooftops have expanded, so have shingles. Once a standard 5-1/4 inches, some now have exposures of 8 to 11 inches. Pros and manufacturers alike predict this trend will only continue.

But these thicker, heavier beauties are negatively impacting installation costs. While pros once could cover a square with three shingle bundles, four or five now are needed, which can result in labor cost increases of 20 percent to 30 percent, Adler says. In response to concerns from pros, Owens Corning, for one, redesigned its Berkshire laminated shingle to deflate the weight. Still, lighter-weight products that can withstand hurricane-strength winds are likely to become in greater demand. extended warranties

Additionally, more manufacturers offer shingles that boast 30-, 40-, and even 50-year warranties, another trend many say is likely to continue. But Adler notes that when installing 50-year shingles, roofers often must use metal flashing on roof valleys to ensure that area of roof, which is more prone to wear, also can stand the test of time.

Other likely trends include specialized shingles to complement specific architectural styles and more color and weather-proofing innovations through the use of embedded granules. The rewards for homeowners are big, says Schwartz, adding, "If you're selling your home, it's definitely going to bring you more money."

But, as with most products, it's up to the pro to educate the homeowner. "Often people don't know they have all these choices," says Bert Elliott, product manager for residential roofing at Owens Corning. "There's really quite a different way that builders can approach roofing."

–BUILDING PRODUCTS

GAF

GAF. Capable of withstanding winds of up to 110 mph and offering a Class A fire rating, Grand Slate architectural asphalt shingles are kept in place with a double row of adhesive seals. The shingles, which meet Miami-Dade County, Fla., Product Control approval, feature a 7-1/2-inch exposure. Their 17-inch-by-40-inch size makes them easy to install, says the manufacturer. 800-766-3411. www.gaf.com.

Tamko

Tamko. The American Heritage series of architectural asphalt shingles, shown in weathered wood, replicates the appearance of shake. Made with a fiberglass mat and featuring a random-cut design, the product offers a 50-year limited warranty. It is available in both algae-resistant and non-algae-resistant formulations. www.tamko.com. 800-641-4691.

Owens Corning

Owens Corning. The Woodcrest, shown in mesquite, is intended to complement the low-slope roofs common in western regions of the country, says the manufacturer. It can resist winds of up to 90 mph. The architectural asphalt shingle is available in six other colors including carbon, chestnut, granite, red rock, sycamore, and timber. 800-438-7465. www.owenscorning.com.

Elk

Elk. The Domain Winslow architectural asphalt shingle offers a random-cut design and mimics the look of wood shake in five colors: cimmaron, browncastle, Ravenswood, shadow gray (shown), and Stonehenge. It features a wider exposure range of 5-5/8 to 11-1/4 inches. Complementary hip and ridge shingles also are available. 800-650-0355. www.elkcorp.com.

CertainTeed

CertainTeed. The Centennial Slate architectural asphalt shingle, shown in fieldstone, mimics the appearance of blended slate. It features an 8-inch exposure and is available in five additional colors including black granite, country slate, New England slate, Plymouth Rock, and smokey quartz. It is algae-resistant, can withstand winds of up to 110 mph, and features a Class A fire rating, according to the manufacturer. 800-233-8990. www.certainteed.com.