Technical Papers

Do You Really Need Authentic Ridge Cap Shingles?

Friday, October 6th, 2017 by Joe Boettcher

Steeply pitched roof

As is the case with most roofing products, quality ridge cap shingles aren't cheap. Because of this, homeowners are often tempted to choose the more affordable alternative of cutting up 3-tab shingles and repurposing them as ridge caps. The problem with this surrogate option is it fails to take into account the factors that make ridge cap shingles so important: namely, their unparalleled strength, aesthetic appeal, and convenience. In this article, we will show you why you need your contractor to install actual ridge cap shingles on your roof and why no alternative will do.

Driftwood Roof Replacement in Winnebago, IL - Before Photo Driftwood Roof Replacement in Winnebago, IL - After Photo

The Unparallelled Protection of Ridge Cap Shingles

Roof with many hips and ridgesRidge cap shingles protect two very vulnerable parts of a roof: the hips and ridges. These are areas where two sloped roofing sections meet at a peak. The difference between the two is that ridges run horizontally and hips angle toward the ground. 

What makes these locations so vulnerable is the gaps in the decking at their peaks. While all spaces between decking boards present the risk of leaks, these chasms can be especially problematic because they sit at the highest points on a roof. Rain and wind pound these high points harder than the rest; therefore, they need extra protection from the elements.

Manufacturers design ridge caps to be thicker, more flexible, and more adhesive than regular shingles so they can give the hips and ridges the enhanced protection they deserve. Many ridge caps contain multiple shingle layers, which make them more substantial and allow them to endure more battering from the elements than regular field shingles. Their enhanced flexibility enables them to bend over the hips and ridges without cracking or pulling away at the nails holding them in place. Ridge caps also have stronger adhesive than regular shingles to keep powerful gusts of wind from blowing them off a roof. All of these quirks make ridge caps uniquely qualified to perform their protective task.

The problem with repurposing 3-tab shingles as ridge caps is they were not designed to provide the necessary extra protection. For one thing, 3-tab shingles aren't as thick as ridge caps, making them less durable during long-term exposure to the elements. This problem becomes quite apparent when contractors use 3-tab shingles as ridge caps on roofs with architectural field shingles. Because they are thicker and made of stronger material, architectural shingles have a longer life expectancy than 3-tab shingles. So why would you cap such a robust system with a weaker 3-tab ridge cap? It will only make you wish you'd gone with actual ridge cap shingles in the first place.

Another problem with using 3-tab shingles as ridge caps is 3-tabs weren't made to bend over the ridge of a roof. They don't have the enhanced flexibility of authentic ridge cap shingles and will likely crack and pull away at the nails holding them down as a result. Furthermore, repurposed 3-tabs don't have the extra adhesive strength that ridge caps need to stay lying flat on a roof, which is why these makeshift ridge caps are often the victims of blowoffs.

In sum, ridge caps serve too important a protective function to be substituted for a lesser option just to save some money. Although repurposing 3-tabs may seem like a frugal idea in the short term, it will likely wind up costing you more in the long run as the shingles begin to fail. And that's not even the only way using 3-tabs can come back to bite you. We haven't even talked about aesthetics or convenience yet!

The Aesthetic Value of Ridge Cap Shingles

Besides lacking the proper protective ability, repurposed 3-tabs can also hurt the curb appeal of your roof by not matching the color of your field shingles exactly. Most often this occurs when working on a roof with architectural shingles. Even if both the 3-tab ridge cap and the field shingles come from the same manufacturer and look similar enough, there is likely going to be a slight difference in color between the two leading to a finished roof that just seems slightly off.

On the other hand, manufacturers design ridge cap shingles to compliment the color of their architectural field shingles. The ridge caps look like they belong with the rest of the roof, giving the whole thing a very unified appearance.

The curb appeal of your roof is especially important if you think you might sell your house in the future. If your roof looks slightly off because of the 3-tab ridge cap you got to save a few bucks, then chances are it's going to hurt your house's chances of being sold at a decent price. Better to spend a few more dollars up front to get a roof that you can be proud of than to save some money and pay the price down the road.

The Time-Saving Convenience of Ridge Cap Shingles

Let's take a step back from the long-term perspective and take a look at how ridge caps can make your life easier during the roofing job. While a contractor may tantalize you with the lower price of repurposing 3-tabs, what he or she will likely leave out is the fact that it will make for a longer, messier, and more wasteful job

It takes a while to repurpose 3-tabs, and a lot of useless scraps get left over in the process. Conversely, using actual ridge cap shingles is a quick and painless process because they are easy to separate and leave behind no mess. Manufacturers create ridge cap shingles for efficiency, and if you want your roofing job to go as quickly and smoothly as possible, then they are a much better option than the needlessly time-consuming task of repurposing 3-tabs.

Looking for a local contractor who always uses authentic ridge cap shingles? Give My-Pros a call at 1-815-927-6400 or click here to schedule a free estimate!



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