The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why your asphalt shingles are falling apart

These shingles were supposed to last 30 years. They started to fall apart in nine years. (Tim Carter)

Q: Tim, I’m beside myself. My expensive asphalt shingles that have a 30-year warranty are less than 10 years old and starting to curl. I see lots of roofs around me doing the same. I never recall observing this type of defect in all my past houses with asphalt shingles. Did I get a bad batch? What’s going on? — Charlie, Raleigh, N.C.

A: Do your curled shingles look like the asphalt potato chips up on Charlie’s roof? Guess what, it happened to me. My own 30-year-warranty asphalt shingles started to fall apart in nine years and suffered a catastrophic failure just a few years later.

I was so angry I reached out to the national association that represents most of the asphalt shingle manufacturers. It rebuffed me. I then tried to interview the top three USA shingle manufacturers. Two refused to answer my questions, and the third company put so much spin on their answers, I got dizzy reading them.

More Ask the Builder: Low-voltage deck lighting can be an easy install for homeowners

I was so infuriated, I wanted to see how widespread the defective shingle problem was. You may have participated in my national survey more than two years ago. The results were so shocking I wrote a short book about why your asphalt shingles are falling apart. The book is titled “Roofing Ripoff.”

My research indicated the problem is happening all across the country. In my opinion, it appears many of the shingle manufacturers are blowing too much air into the liquid asphalt at their factories. You need to blow some air into the asphalt, just enough so the black brew doesn’t drip from your roof on a hot summer day.

But blow too much air into the asphalt, and you pre-age the shingles. Imagine opening a fresh pack of shingles only to discover they already have 20, or more, years of wear built into them. It sounds as if you got these poor-quality products.

I discovered something that can save you and millions of other homeowners money. While doing research for “Roofing Ripoff,” I discovered that copper ions react with asphalt molecules, slowing down the aging process.

It has been known for centuries that copper prevents algae and moss buildup on roofs and ship hulls, but I was the first to recognize copper can make asphalt shingles last 40, 50 or even more years! How cool is that?

You just have to put a 12-inch-wide roll of very thin copper on top of the cap shingles that run across the ridge of your roof and any hips. The copper dulls to an attractive medium nut brown in as little as four months, so you don’t even see it.

More Ask the Builder: If the wind rips off your shingles, you also may have been ripped off

Each time it rains, some of the tiny copper ions wash down onto the shingles. The copper bonds to the asphalt and prevents one asphalt molecule from connecting to an adjacent asphalt molecule. If too many asphalt molecules link together like a long freight train, the colored granules fall off and cause the shingles to curl up like a cat taking a nap. The copper that ensures your roof will outlast your ownership of your home.

You must use solid copper nails to attach the copper strip to your cap shingles. The copper is the same width as the cap shingles and will not interfere with any ridge ventilation products.

You can read the first three chapters of my Roofing Ripoff book free.

Tim Carter can call you on the phone free to solve your problem. Go to his website and fill out the form on this page: