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How to buy a long-lasting roof

I saw a notice recently about a class-action lawsuit against a shingle company. The problem was with their organic shingles not lasting as long as they should. A couple of companies have recently come under fire with this product.

I saw a notice recently about a class-action lawsuit against a shingle company. The problem was with their organic shingles not lasting as long as they should.

A couple of companies have recently come under fire with this product. What's the problem?

They're cracking, curling and even being torn off roofs within a few years.

Most shingles come with a 25-to 30-year guarantee. The ones involved in the lawsuit did too.

But many homeowners have had to replace the shingles within five to eight years. Who's to blame?

Homeowners say the product's no good. Manufacturers claim it's poor installation. What's the verdict? In some cases, the jury's still out. In others, settlements are being reached. But the truth is, settlement or not, homeowners just want a good product and a good roof. The hassle of re-roofing is a headache for everyone.

Booking a good roofing contractor is difficult - the best ones are booked months in advance. If you've already gone through the trouble once, and have to go through it again within a few years - plus pay additional labour costs - you feel justified in being angry.


There's some confusion around organic shingles. Some people think they're green, environmentally friendly or made from organic material. That's not the case - it's just clever marketing.

Organic shingles are just asphalt shingles - the same petroleum-based shingles that have been on the market for decades.

The reason why asphalt shingles are now being called organic is because there's a new kid on the block: fibreglass shingles.

Most organic shingles have a layer of non-synthetic materials underneath the asphalt and granules, usually recycled newspaper and cardboard. Fibreglass shingles have a layer of synthetic material - glass fibre.

Organic and fibreglass shingles look the same. They're both made from asphalt and granules.

They're installed the same way. But the layer of glass fibre makes fibreglass shingles absorb less moisture and be more resistant to heat, which increases their durability in warm climates.

Fibreglass shingles usually hold up better if a roof has poor ventilation. This can make some homeowners want to choose fibreglass - a kind of Band-Aid solution for a poorly vented roof. But I say fix the ventilation.


Proper ventilation means the temperature difference is minimized between the attic and air outside. This prolongs the life of your roof. It eliminates moisture that can get trapped inside the attic. If moisture stays there, it can lead to rot and mould.

Building code varies from city to city. But my roofing guys like one square foot of venting for every 300 square feet of roofing.


There are plenty of different shingle products. Most homeowners choose based on their budget. You get what you pay for.

Compared to other shingle materials, asphalt is inexpensive. That makes them popular. Most roofs have them - about four out of five homes in North America. But they're not as durable as other types of shingles.

Cedar shingles and shakes are among the most expensive roofing options. These are truly "organic" - they can be composted. Why are they expensive? Not only is the cedar - which looks and smells great - expensive, but so is the labour and installation.

Installation is slow because each cedar shingle is nailed to the roof, usually by hand. It's also high maintenance. It's best to keep a wood roof as dry as possible, even if it's cedar. And you might also need to add a fire deterrent. Time and weather will reduce its performance.

Some fibreglass shingles come with a 50-year warranty. They're also more fire-resistant than organic. Laminated or architectural shingles are thicker, making them more durable than regular asphalt shingles.

Then there is metal. Metal roofs are my favourite. They're easy to install, fire-resistant, and in terms of durability, there's nothing better - they last about 50 years.

Metal roofs aren't cheap. But they are definitely worth the investment. They last two to three times longer than asphalt roofs.

Plus metal roofs are recyclable. Some are even made from recycled metal. When you consider 10 million tonnes of asphalt waste ends up in landfills every year, metal roofs are the greener choice.

Whatever you choose, quality is key. And that goes for installation as well as the product. You can have the best quality shingle. But if it's installed improperly, it will not last. Do it right, do it once.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, premièring Oct. 16 on HGTV. For more information, visit For more information on home renovations, visit

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