In the bad old days, roofing contractors promoted 20-year shingles that lasted ten years for their unsuspecting customers. The roofers’ labor price was the same, so why should they care how long those new roofs lasted? Turns out, lots of customers cared, and they wanted better roof choices.

When asphalt-based shingles first took over the market, they replaced classic roofing materials that lasted MUCH longer. These four roofing materials were commonly used in different regions around the country:

  • Wood shakes and shingles: Beautiful, some maintenance required, very little color variation. Expected life, with care – over 50 years.
  • Slate: Snowy areas. Heavy, very expensive; narrow color choices. Lasted 50 to 500 years.
  • Clay and concrete tiles: Warm, wet locales. Heavy, fairly expensive, limited colors. Can survive more than 500 years.
  • Metal shingles, various materials: Used mostly for commercial roofing, moving slowly into residential markets. Too new to be sure, but over 100 years is likely.

Asphalt and asphalt-fiberglass shingles made roofing affordable for millions of newer homes. Homeowners who stayed in one place longer than a dozen years, however, were surprised to learn how quickly these roofs wore out. They weren’t pleased. They complained, and the roofing shingle industry listened. These days, 30-year warranties are common but still affordable. For demanding buyers, most manufacturers offer specialty products with even longer guarantees.

Modern shingles that far outlast those earlier products are heavier, more durable (because of new recipes), offer many style options, and come with the expected higher prices. Different companies use various labels like “premium designer” and “lifetime luxury” to differentiate them from the stock choices. Here’s an overview of what’s available (varies by region):

Note: All listed warranties are transferable. See manufacturers for specifics. All product names are trademarks of their companies.

Elk Shingles (Div., GAF): Prestique Plus High Definition – 50-year warranty

Part of the larger Prestique line, this group offers deep texture in 11 blended colors and comes with a 110-mph limited wind warranty. Class A fire-rated (all shingles of this level achieve that rating). Source: http://www.elkcorp.com/products/shingles_prestique_phd.cfm

GAF Shingles: Camelot Lifetime Designer – Limited Lifetime warranty

Designed to imitate slate, in 10 subtle color blends. (One of four such lines offered) Over 400 pounds per 100 square feet, and warranted up to 130 mph winds. Other styles, like Grand Canyon (wood shingle look) are also offered with the same spec’s. Their best warranty includes 10-year Smart Choice ™ Protection, which includes full product and labor coverage. Source: http://www.gaf.com/General/GafMain.asp?Silo=RES1&WS=GAF&App=ROOF&Force=shingle-lines.asp

CertainTeed Shingles: Carriage House, Grand Manor, and Centenial Slate – Limited Lifetime warranty

From the Luxury line, each of these three top-level laminated shingles offer 7 to 10 color-blend choices. Deep texture in assorted profiles provides 10-year SureStart ™ and 110-mph limited wind warranty, as well as 15-year streak-free protection. Source: http://www.certainteed.com/products/roofing/?f=57

Tamko Roofing: Heritage Vintage – 50-year limited warranty

Part of the 4-brand Heritage line, these shingles feature striking random-cut profiles in 7 shaded hues. Tamko includes 10 years of streak protection. Source: http://www.tamko.com/ProductDisplayPage/tabid/53/ControlType/productDisplay/itemid/2859/Default.aspx

Owens Corning Roofing: Berkshire Collection (and others) – Limited Lifetime warranty

OC carries seven more complete high-end roofing shingle lines with “Lifetime” warranties: Woodmore, Woodcrest (2), WeatherGuard, and Duration Premium (3). Color selections range from 4 to 11, with 7 or 8 hues typical. All include 10-year Tru PROtection ™. The Berkshire line in classic slate profiles offers the highest program coverage, with 15-year algae and 110-mph wind protection. The Duration lines specify 130-mph wind coverage. Source: http://roofing.owenscorning.com/homeowner/shingles/

IKO Shingles: Cambridge LT and Crowne Slate – Limited Lifetime warranty

These top-line laminated fiberglass-asphalt shingles imitate wood and slate, respectively. Cambridge has 8 color choices and Crowne offers 3 natural blends. Coverage for algae streaks and wind damage is included.Source: http://www.iko.com/products/residential/residential.asp

Overall, Owens Corning offers the largest selection of lifetime-level warrantied shingles. They lead the industry in residential roofing shingle production, and invented the glass fibers that now modify almost all premium shingles . Keep in mind, however, that selection for all manufacturers varies around the country.

Whichever premium shingle you choose, remember that these are “limited” warranties. Read the program details carefully. Top-of-the-line shingles include shorter-term coverage for ALL expenses involved in the rare event that full replacement is your only option. Each manufacturer defines different periods and conditions. All include specific requirements regarding installation and labor costs.

With so many choices and so many great warranties, roofing customers are the big winners in this competition.