Once reserved for replacement jobs and new upscale dwellings, laminated asphalt shingles are muscling their way into the production home market.

According to Russell Snyder, executive vice president of the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, laminates, which have a strong foothold in remodels, are gaining ground in new construction.

“Three-tab shingles often are used in tract housing, but some production builders are starting to use laminates because they are selling them as an upgrade,” Snyder says.

SURE-FIRE SHINGLES Available in three-tab and laminated shingle profiles, asphalt is the most widely used residential roofing material, accounting for more than 80 percent of all new and replacement applications.

Made from individual layers of fiberglass that are dipped in asphalt and then coated with fire-resistant granules, traditional three-tab shingles meet general roofing needs, with costs ranging from $15 to $25 a square (uninstalled). Plus, most manufacturers offer lengthy warranties ranging from 20 to 50 years.

On the other hand, laminates, which are made from a couple of layers of fiberglass, offer greater depth and dimension in their appearance than three-tabs, although they're more expensive ($30 to $60 a square uninstalled), says Rick Brinton, director of strategic marketing for CertainTeed.

However, laminates are easier and faster to install, says one contractor. “They're fun to put on; you don't have to line up slots like you do on regular three-tabs,” says Aaron Beiler, president of B&E Roofing in Gap, Pa.

Unlike three-tabs, laminated products don't have cutouts, a feature that allows for random, forgiving rooflines, claims Bert Elliott, Owens Corning's product manager for roofing shingles.

CertainTeed's Landmark shingles have a wider 1½-inch area for nailing; other manufacturers, including Owens Corning and Elk, also offer products with wider nailing areas.

“In the past you had to nail in a very small area [on three tabs] and you could misfire with your pneumatic air gun,” claims Jeffrey Fick of Fick Bros. Roofing in Baltimore. “The wider the area you have to work with, the easier it makes it.”

LAYERED LOOKS Besides being simple to install, laminates also allow builders, remodelers, and replacement contractors the ability to offer their clients a variety of looks.

“Roof pitches are higher than they used to be so the roof has become much more of a focal point and laminates offer many design benefits,” comments Mike McLintock, director of marketing for Elk.

Laminates can replicate slate or wood shakes and have more color variation and texture than their three-tab and natural counterparts. They also have a Class A fire rating, making them safe for use in all types of environments.

What's more, multiple layers improve durability, according to manufacturers and installers. “Asphalt can last even longer than slate [depending on the grade of slate] because it has more to it,” Fick says.

While there's no limit to how long laminated shingles can last, product warranties are pretty good guidelines for the roof's life. “Ventilation, orientation [of the home], and area of the country dictate the life of asphalt,” Elliott notes.

Finally, for projects where regular laminates won't do, multi-layer super laminates, which are bigger, thicker, and offer more design options and greater warranties—at a higher cost, of course—are attractive alternatives.

Although three-tab asphalt shingles will never completely die out, industry experts predict the laminate category will continue to flourish.

“There always are new styles, sizes, and colors of laminates available,” and we can expect to see even more, Snyder predicts.

Elk. Prestique Grande laminated shingles feature an 8¼-inch exposure and a random-cut design for increased dimensionality, claims the maker. The Prestique Grande line also has a 1¼-inch nailing area and a 40-year limited warranty. It is available in several colors: barkwood, weatheredwood, sablewood, and antique slate. 800-650-0355. www.elkcorp.com.

GAF. Camelot Premium Designer shingles feature a double row of Dura Grip adhesive seals to securely lock each shingle down, claims the maker. The dual-layer asphalt shingles measure 17 inches by 34½ inches and are warranted to withstand winds up to 110 mph. The Camelot line comes in six colors. 973-628-3000. www.gaf.com.

Tamko. Heritage XL double-layered, laminated mat shingles have a random-cut, sawtooth pattern with oversized tabs approximately 10 inches wide—an average of 4 inches wider than standard shingle tabs, the maker claims. The shingles come in five blended color combinations: weathered stone, desert sunrise, black forest, slatestone gray, and canyon brown. 800-641-4691. www.tamko.com.

Owens Corning. Deep dimensional cuts, a layered design, and expanded 8¾-inch tab exposures give asphalt shingles in the Berkshire collection the look of natural slate, the firm says. The 12 variegated color palettes incorporate shadow accents for added depth. Matching hip and ridge shingles as well as an impact-resistant shingle line also are available. 800-438-7465. www.owenscorning.com.

RGM Products. Chancellor and Chancellor AR heavyweight asphalt shingles feature one-piece construction and a random, hand-hewn look, says the maker. The products meet UL 2218 requirements for impact resistance and UL 997 codes to withstand winds up to 110 mph, the maker says. Chancellor AR shingles are 3M Scotchgard certified. 888-743-4527. www.rgmproducts.com.

Iko. Designed to look like a shake, the Regency shingle is constructed from laminated, double-layered, fiberglass-based asphalt. Random-cut profiles with deep shadow lines and a textured surface mimic rough-sawn wood. Finishes include weatherwood, chalet wood, and mountain gray. The Regency line has a limited 50-year warranty. 800-433-2811. www.iko.com.

CertainTeed. Landmark 40 IR laminated shingles are UL 2218-compliant and meet Class 4 impact-resistance ratings. The product has a fiberglass scrim on the back surface that increases the shingle's durability against impact, claims the maker. Landmark 40 IR shingles also feature the firm's WideTrack QB 1½-inch nailing area. 800-233-8990. www.certainteed.com.

Anti-Growth Ugly black algae stains and streaks on rooftops are an eyesore to homeowners and their neighbors. To combat this aesthetic problem, 3M recently introduced the Scotchgard-brand Algae Resistant System with copper granules that the firm claims inhibits the growth of algae for 20-plus years.

Unsightly algae growth is caused by an airborne mineral and is prevalent on homes throughout most of the United States, especially in warm, humid climates.

Although 3M supplies algae inhibitors to much of the asphalt roofing industry, some shingle manufacturers combine their own copper granule technology with 3M's to create unique formulas.

“To resist algae you need 8 percent to 10 percent copper granules in your shingles and all roofing manufacturers differ their products' makeup,” says Rick Brinton, CertainTeed's director of strategic marketing.

According to roofer Jeffrey Fick of Baltimore, it's important to install a quality product that resists algae because homeowners appreciate a clean-looking roof that has curb appeal.

TOUGH GUY Spurred by hail damage in cities in Texas, Oklahoma, and other central states, the insurance industry has forced laminated asphalt shingle manufacturers to introduce residential products that meet UL 2218 impact-resistance standards.

Shingles from manufacturers including CertainTeed and Owens Corning feature special fiberglass scrim on the back that guards against fractures and allows the roofing to stand up to severe weather conditions.

However, some manufacturers are critical of the impact-resistance (IR) product testing. They claim that the test, which consists of dropping metal balls from a certain height onto the same spot on the roof, doesn't accurately reflect real-life conditions.

Nevertheless, IR roofing is a growing product category that manufacturers believe will become more prevalent as insurance companies hold roofing to higher standards.