Asphalt shingles are a longstanding material used by local roofers in the US since the late 1800s. Technology has changed over time, but the foundational concepts remain the same. This video gives a brief outline of the history of asphalt shingle roofing.
Asphalt shingling makes up about 70% of roofs in Canada and the US. They last about 10 to 20 years and are disposed of in landfills when they are worn out. In fact, they make up 5-10% of total landfill waste. There are more sustainable materials, so why is asphalt still so widely used?
Asphalt shingles used to have longer lifespans. It was incredibly cheap to make asphalt before gasoline production was as refined as it is today. Asphalt was a waste product of older methods of petroleum refinery, and as these methods became more efficient, asphalt production as a consequence of waste decreased. That meant asphalt needed to be manufactured, and the price went up.
The lower price of asphalt made it very popular for roofs, and manufacturers decided to make the asphalt less durable to maintain lower prices. Asphalt shingles now are made more from fiberglass, now, than asphalt.
For more information, check out the video above.