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Are Four Layers of Shingles Better than One?

Re-Roofing Mission

Are four layers of shingles better than one? In theory it sounds better, an additional layer of shingles should provide additional protection for the homeowner’s roof and it is less costly in the short-term at the same time; 

  • Saving on tear-off and disposal costs now, while paying more for the disposal of multiple layers of shingles later; 
  • Maybe benefiting from a local recycling program in the process;
  • Local building regulations accept two layers, depending on how many layers of shingles are allowed in your area;  

Maybe more or less layers of shingles would be better than one, asking are three layers of shingles better than one? Or are two layers of shingles better than one? It’s advisable to take some consideration before coming to a decision on these.

In reality, the short answer is No, one layer of shingles is always better than four layers of shingles because it offers the most protection possible, by being secured flat to the roof deck it avoids issues with gaps/bumps created by layering shingles. Preventing:

  • weather events (ice, water, wind, etc.) from getting underneath the shingles, 
  • easily bounce back from the impact of falling debris, 
  • and insulate properly to stay dry (preventing mold, rot, etc.).

Generally, when a homeowner is considering adding three layers of shingles to their home, it’s recommended to tear-off the shingles and install one layer again. Then layer up to two layers of shingles again if the homeowner chooses to.

The reason being that three layers adds too much weight to the home and makes issues related to layering shingles even worse than they were before. Shortening its lifespan faster than two layers of shingles would.

When a roof reaches four layers, the same general rule applies from three layers of shingles to four, except it will be more costly to the homeowner to replace the roof.

Layering shingles is a bad idea because it:

  • Easily traps heat and water between the shingles, shortening the top shingle layer’s life drastically in the process; Think of it like a sandwich, with an insulator on top and an insulator below. Each insulator repels water and heat towards one another, not allowing either to escape, and effectively trapping water and heat between the layers. Every additional layer on top adds to this effect, making it work even faster to damage the roof;
  • Gaps/bumps help to accumulate water and debris, anytime this happens it’s likely to lead to a leaky roof some day. Due to the layers of shingles, it will be difficult to find the leak in the first place and once it becomes a noticeable leak inside of the home, then the homeowner is already too late. Meaning the homeowner is past due for a roof replacement and they will require major repairs on top of that too. Scary situation;

At roofing mission (a.k.a “BulletpRoof”), we advise against layering shingles because it will save the homeowner a lot of trouble and a lot of money over the long-term. Especially since layered shingles will require multiple replacements over the 20 year average lifespan of a single shingle layer roof.  

Table of Contents

Why to Not Layer Shingles?

In detail, there are about 64 reasons not to put shingles on top of shingles, though there are a few worth noting here:

  • Lowers the real estate value of the home; Home inspectors will report layering of shingles, notifying a prospective buyer of additional costs associated with replacing the roof; Prospective home buyers will be deterred by its lack of curb appeal because a roof is one of the first elements they will see and will give the home listing a bad reputation for being listed for a long time.
  • Insurance providers will not provide coverage; Upon roof inspection, the risks associated with the roof’s condition and lifespan being unknown along with the additional roof replacement costs will force them to turn the homeowner down; Unexpected damage repairs will come out of the homeowner’s pocket;
  • Manufacturer’s warranty isn’t valid; Manufacturers require the installation of a single layer for their material warranty, pro rated enhanced warranty and contractor’s workmanship warranty to be valid;
  • Building Code may or may not permit it; High storm risk areas will not allow it (risk of tearing the shingles off or flooding the home), while other areas may allow it, though contractors may choose to ignore this in order to sell a layered roof to the homeowner; 
  • Additional weight of the shingles and obscure leaks; Generally, a home’s vital systems; its electrical, plumbing, framing, foundation, roofing and HVAC; are designed to handle the home’s requirements. Meaning when shingles are layered on the roof effectively tripling its weight, a home’s framing isn’t designed to hold that extra weight. Also, leaks become obscure (more likely to happen) so they could be damaging the home’s vital systems without the homeowner even knowing until the leak becomes visible inside the home, when it is already too late;
  • Hide problems with the roof; Between the layers of shingles there could be organic growth (mold, rot, algae, etc.), leaks could be starting in multiple parts of the roof, animals could be burrowing through the soft roof deck below and the old shingles are shortening the life of the new shingles. Making the risks of putting off repairs on a leaky roof a possible reality for the home;
  • Current roof installer has to trust the previous installer did a “good job”; Current roof installer can’t replace any roof decking, underlayment, ridge shingles, starter shingles and flashing that the previous installer had installed. They can only overlay new shingles on top of the flat surfaces of the roof, attempting to fasten the shingles on top, but most of the nails will never reach the roof deck (loosely installed shingles on top).

Conclusion About Four Layers Being Better Than One

Having an extra layer of protection does sound good in most cases, except when it comes to a homeowner’s roof, which isn't the case unfortunately. As asphalt shingles are meant to be installed flat to the roof deck, so that it can insulate and protect against the elements properly. Preventing water, ice, wind, etc. from getting enough traction or friction to cause any real damage to the roof and home. 

Although the short-term cost savings of layering shingles in exchange for forgoing the labor and disposal costs of the old shingles does make it more affordable. The long-term cost of its false sense of security against the outside elements makes it not worth it. As the homeowner will have to replace the roof more often, deal with obscure leaks that could be damaging any one of the home’s vital systems and will ultimately cost them more over the roof’s lifetime; Which is why the roof is what to fix first in an old house.

 At the end of the day, it is up to the homeowner and their roofing installer to come to a decision as to what is the best course of action for a roof’s longevity.

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