The lifespan of asphalt shingles depends highly upon the environment. Shingles in cooler climates such as the northern United States seem to last longer than those installed in the warmer climates. Studies have shown that the average lifespan for a 20 year shingle in Phoenix, Arizona is around 14 years. In Minneapolis, Minnesota the lifespan was 19.5 years. And in Reading, Pennsylvania, the lifespan was 20.8 years. From this data it seems obvious that the hotter the environment is, the shorter the service life of the shingles. One thing that’s very damaging to shingles is Thermal Shock. Thermal Shock is what roofing materials experience when the ambient temperature changes dramatically within a very short period of time – usually 24 hours. For example, in Yreka, California, the temperatures during a summer day can often reach 100 degrees and at night, they’ll often drop below 50, sometimes as low as 40. Roofing materials are unable to expand and contract to accommodate such a dramatic temperature change in such a short period of time so cracks and splits in the materials start occurring.

Water can then enter the materials and damage them further in two ways. One is the damage water does to asphalt materials in general. It’s not that water hurts asphalt, but algae and fungus do and the continuous presence of water will permit algae and fungus to grow on asphalt materials. Another way water damages is the freeze-thaw cycle. In the cold months, water will get into the cracks and then freeze at night. Water expands as it freezes so the more this occurs, the bigger the cracks or splits become. This is why most roofing contractors and consultants are such big advocates of sloped roofs. The better the roof sheds water, the less problems it will usually experience.

Still another factor affecting asphalt shingle roofs is attic ventilation. Proper roof ventilation has been known to extend the service life of a roof. Whether it is because it has a direct effect on the shingle themselves or on the other components such as the roof deck is uncertain.