Asphalt shingles are one of the great American innovations of the 20th century. Before there were shingles to cover roofs, people made do with wood beams or shakes, and only wealthy people could cover their houses with stylish slate or ceramic tiles. The problem with wood roofs, as well as the earliest types of shingles, was that they were highly flammable. Wood, slate and ceramic work equally well at keeping homes dry, but they're all much heavier than asphalt.
River Oaks roofing contractors usually specialize in building asphalt shingle roofs because this material has become the standard choice for most homes in the United States. It caught on quickly when it was introduced in 1907, and people in cities around the country began buying it through mail order catalogs.
Shingles made from asphalt allowed people to easily cover their roofs with fewer workers than were needed to lift heavy beams onto a house. They also made homes look much more attractive than they previously looked with log or plank roofs, and shingles cost much less than tiles to manufacture and install. Still, the first shingles were more hazardous in a fire than tiles because shingles were originally made from organic substrates such as wood pulp or cotton rag. Asphalt itself is flammable, but it can be mixed with adulterants to prevent it from catching fire.
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After all, people don't worry about roads paved with asphalt catching fire.
Perhaps the only improvement in fire safety made by the first shingles was that they burned out much sooner than wood. The felt substrate of a shingle is the inner layer of fabric over which a layer of asphalt is compressed. Because of this layered structure, asphalt shingles are also sometimes called composite shingles. Additionally, a polymer coating is added to laminated shingles, which come in tabbed and interlocking arrangements for added visual style and weather protection.
A shingle's outer asphalt layer is mixed with different types of gravel and rocky particles; over the years, many different substances have been tested to find the best combination. Some of the earliest experiments mixed substances like brick, clay, sand and crushed oyster shells with asphalt before compressing it over the substrate. Whatever materials were cheapest were sourced by manufacturers for fabrication.
Today, a sophisticated grading system allows engineers working for shingle manufacturers to accurately predict how long shingles will last. Scientific analysis of the raw materials and production process ensures that homeowners pay the correct price for shingles. It also allows shingle makers to offer comprehensive warranty coverage under most circumstances.