The word shingle is derived from the German Schindel,, meaning a shingle or roofing slate. Historically they were known as tiles, and shingle was a term originally only applied to wood shingles. While they are a very common roofing material, they tend to deteriorate quickly compared to other types of roofing.
Shingles are a roof covering that utilizes individual overlapping elements; flat, rectangular pieces laid in courses from the bottom edge of a roof upward, with each successive course overlapping the joints below it. When they are laid in these courses, it is common practice to offset each shingle from its neighbors. The first course is called the starter course, and the last is a ridge course; which is often covered with a ridge cap, board, piece, or roll, sometimes with a special ridge vent material. All shingle roofs are installed in this way, from the bottom upward beginning with a starter course and the edge seams offset, to avoid leaks.
Shingles are placed on top of an underlayment material such as asphalt felt paper, to prevent leaks even from wind-driven rain as well as snow and ice dams in colder climates. At the ridge the shingles on one side of the roof simply extend past the ridge – or there may be a ridge cap made of boards, copper, or lead sheeting. An asphalt shingle roof will have flexible asphalt shingles as the ridge cap. Asphalt shingles are available in a large number of styles and colors. They are not water-tight, so the minimum recommended roof pitch is 4:12 without additional underlayment materials.
Due to increased fire hazard, fiberglass-based asphalt shingles have become the industry standard; and in the US, fiberglass-based asphalt shingles are by far the most common roofing material because they are easy to install, relatively affordable, last 20-50 years and are even recyclable in some areas.