When Raising the Roof Raises Questions

In the roofing industry, there’s usually not much heated discussion about materials and maintenance, but there is an intriguing exception. Both residential builders and homeowners alike have chronically engaged in spirited debate about a single issue: For a longer-lasting roof, should you install light or dark-colored shingles?

Even though the disparity regarding lifespan and roof color may seem like a simple question to answer, the truth of the matter is you will get a different answer based upon who you ask. In this article from Express Roofing, we’ll tackle the pros and cons of each roofing type, and once the details have been “shingled” out, you can decide which variety is right for you and your home!

For more information on shingle roofing services, or to get a free quote on your property, please contact Express Roofing in Phoenix today!

Light Shingles vs Dark Shingles

It might seem illogical to associate the performance of a roof with the color of its materials, but there is notable merit to the idea that light shingles behave differently than their darker-hued counterparts.

Roof Degradation Based on Color

The fundamentals of thermodynamic theory state that molecular activity increases when temperatures rise. This is especially true for darker colors, since they are able to absorb more heat from the sun’s emitted light energy. In other words, a dark shingle is going to heat up more easily than a comparatively “cool” light-colored variety. Heat causes asphalt-based roofing materials to degrade, warp, and even melt, thereby giving black and charcoal gray shingles shorter lifespan compared to lighter colors.

Some studies have found that white or light-toned shingles are at least 23% cooler than dark ones. However, other research suggests that heat and temperature may not be the real culprit; studies have indicated that UV rays contribute more significantly to roof degradation in virtually all materials that aren’t equipped with reflectivity-enhancing properties. 

Does the Shingle Color Increase the Temperature of a House?

Another shingle-related debate is whether or not dark shingles make a house hotter. It is a fact that black shingles can increase the temperature of your Paradise Valley roof by 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, an increase in roof temperature does not typically affect the temperature of a home if the attic has proper ventilation and lower levels have optimized insulation. 

Both dark and light roofs absorb and transfer heat in the same way: downward. The difference is black shingles, compared to lighter-colored options, have a tendency to transfer heat sooner in the morning, and transfer heat longer and later into the afternoon. If a home doesn’t have an energy efficient design or a properly ventilated upper level, internal temperatures may rise by 10 or even up to 20 degrees. 

Concerned about your energy consumption this summer in Arizona? Check out Sustainable Roofing 101, our guide to eco-friendly roof and home design.

What about Shingles that are not White or Black?

What about Neutral-Colored Shingles?

This article has largely focused on light versus dark shingles, the extremes of which may be respectively viewed as white and black. But what about everything in between, such as gray, beige, and brown? Where do neutral tones fall in the context of the great roofing debate?

To answer this very question, in 1995, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted a study. Using a sophisticated simulator, they built a computer-generated “community” of homes, designing each with a plywood underlayment and a specific variety of roofing material. The simulation placed the homes side by side, as they might be laid out in one of our local Phoenix suburbs. 

The results of the USDA study showed that black shingles were 10 degrees warmer than a standard white shingle roof on the same hot days. However, they found that roof shingles of various color variations – brown and gray, had the same temperature variations as white shingles.

Before you panic about the dark shingles on your roof or those on your neighbor’s house, keep in mind that this study was conducted more than 25 years ago, when asphalt shingles were much more commonly used. So this data may not reflect the performance of modern shingles, especially those containing modified bitumen and energy-efficient components. 

Final Thoughts: Shingle Performance Is Not Always Black and White 

Based upon the data, evidence demonstrates that lighter materials reflect more light and do not heat up the internal roof structure as much as darker hues. However, there is not enough data to determine if black and jetty materials degrade quicker compared to whites and light neutrals.

Shingle selection, despite the way the debate might frame it, is really not a black-and-white issue. Architects and homebuilders in Phoenix don’t recommend that home buyers select a shingle color based on temperature variations, whether it’s a property in Paradise Valley, Mesa, or Gilbert. If a roof has sufficient attic fans, soffit, and functional roof vents, then homebuyers can feel comfortable selecting a shingle color that complements their home. A shingle roof is a 30+ year investment, so it’s important to be happy with your design in the long run, both aesthetically and functionally.

Are you in need of more answers about the types of shingle roofing for your Maricopa County home? Don’t wait! Contact us today at (480) 226-4245 to get Express Roofing LLC on the job. Our other services include tile roofing, flat roofing, and foam restoration roofing for residential or commercial properties. Our experienced team of professional roofers will be happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have.