Weather extremes put special stresses on roofing shingles. The same cold that cracks engine blocks can shatter and destroy shingles in cold areas. Thermal shock – the strain from large temperature swings – can wreak havoc on residential roofs. If you live in an area where winter frostbite warnings are common, it’s important to choose roofing materials designed and formulated for frigid climates.

Fiberglass is fine for Corvettes, but not ideal for Arctic conditions. Although some fiberglass shingles can withstand cold temperatures, they are generally lighter and more brittle than organic asphalt shingles. As the mercury falls, shingles contract. This can stress the adhesive bond that protects your roof from wind damage. In general, heavier shingles are better suited to withstand blizzard conditions.

How can you choose shingles for extreme cold?

Consider weight, warranty, design, and price:

  • Weight: Shingles typically weigh between 200 and 400 pounds per 100 square feet. As weight increases, cost and durability tend to follow. This leads to…
  • Warranty: Consumers like simple facts. Modern shingles are now classified by the length of the manufacturer’s warranty – ranging from 20 years to over 40, even 50 years. This is an indicator, not a “drop dead” time-line for installed roofing materials. Many so-called 20-year roofs, for example, begin to fail early in their second decade. It’s best to also consider…
  • Design: We all know what “3-tab” shingles look like; they’re on millions of American homes. More contemporary designs use layers, cuts, and color-shading to mimic classic slate and shake roof tiles. These laminated shingles are heavier, more weather-resistant, and (of course) more expensive than early post-War products. Factor in…
  • Price: Do you get what you pay for? Most of the time – yes. The shingle industry is regionalized (because of high shipping costs) and extremely competitive. Higher product weight, longer manufacturer’s warranty, and complicated designs using multiple layers and granule color-placement all combine to drive shingle prices up.
  • Other considerations for extreme cold areas:

    • Color: White reflects, and darker colors absorb heat. Dark roofs transform available sunlight into heat; but this can lead to potential ice-damming problems – caused by cycles of melting and freezing. Choose mid-tone color blends for colder regions.
    • Installation: Roofers make it look easy, but roof deck preparation and careful nailing impact the life of your new roof. Proper ventilation for residential roof structures helps mitigate the damage done by seasonal extremes.
    • Architectural design: Steep slopes shed heavy snow loads before they cause problems. Intricate roof layouts with intersecting ridge-lines can provide stronger underlying structural elements and reduce the effects of high winds.
    • Alternative products: Asphalt and fiberglass shingles comprise about 80% of residential roofs in the United States. When your budget allows, however, you can consider using slate, metal or clay tile roofing systems. Each has its own pros and cons, but their much-higher costs are the key factor.
    • Supplier recommendations: Ask a local expert what works in your region. What would a top-notch roofer suggest for your home? The advice you receive from an experienced roofing contractor can be invaluable.

    When the cold wind blows, you’ll want to be indoors – secure in the knowledge that your roof can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at it. The right roof can withstand snow, sleet, ice and blizzard winds year after year. Choose wisely without breaking your budget, and you’ll sleep snug in your bed on those cold winters’ nights.