If you’re looking for a quality architectural shingle but don’t want to break the bank, you may be best suited by IKO Cambridge or PABCO Premier styles. Shingle manufacturers try to differentiate themselves by optimizing for a different qualities: warranty, longevity, appearance, etc. — and IKO and PABCO are two of the top when it comes to optimizing for low cost architectural laminated shingles.
Their model is what’s called “value-engineering”, where the priority is to minimize cost as much as possible while maintaining basic function. While some manufacturers focus on making their shingles look the best, or have the most comprehensive warranty — IKO and PABCO try to be the best at providing the most function for the lowest cost with their Cambridge and Premier shingles, respectively.
We’ve been installing roofs in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. Our wealth of experience extends to all shingle types and many manufacturers. We’ve found these are the two main competitors for the value-engineered architectural shingle type, and this article intends to guide you through the key points of distinction between these two shingles.
IKO’s ROOFPRO contractor program is more transparent. You can go to IKO’s site and look for contractors they recommend, and you can research these contractors yourself (which is important). PABCO, on the other hand, doesn’t have a transparent list of preferred contractors near you. Instead you complete a form on the PABCO site then an unknown contractor will call you within 2 business days. You can’t conduct your own research on PABCO contractors but you can on IKO contractors.
The value of doing your own research cannot be understated. Roofing installations are significant projects, and every bit of transparency will help you get the best roof you can. That IKO shows you which contractors they work with is a big plus for IKO.
IKO promotes its Pro-4 installation system. Total roofing systems are important, and each manufacturer goes about them differently. GAF, for example, has the most comprehensive roofing system, where if you have a Master Elite contractor give the Golden Pledge warranty, all of the important components (except perhaps intake ventilation) of your roof will be addressed and warranted with no dollar limit and workmanship for up to 30 years (and materials for 50 years). This is miles beyond what IKO or PABCO do, but also GAF systems are more expensive.
The IKO Pro-4 system, however, surpasses PABCO’s apparently non-existent system. PABCO does have ridge cap, starter strips, and synthetic underlayment that their contractors can choose to install. But their shingle warranty doesn’t cover non-shingle accessories. Where PABCO doesn’t appear to promote the roofing system, IKO does.
IKO’s Pro-4 system composes of shingles, hip and ridge cap, synthetic underlayment, and leak barrier. At least 3 of these 4 must be used for contractors to qualify for benefits. This means that in general the IKO contractor will likely use higher quality accessories than the PABCO contractor.
Shingle weight and longevity
The importance of shingle weight is a highly debated topic in the roofing industry. Some believe heavier is better, and this is often achieved by manufacturers throwing more asphalt on a lower layer of the shingle. Others believe that it’s primarily the top layer of asphalt that matters, so the shingle can be lighter and function well as long as it has enough top layer asphalt. Amount and quality of filler matters too.
IKO’s Cambridge line has one of the heaviest mats of any shingles. Because blends are proprietary, we don’t know what goes in IKO Cambridge exactly. But we can triangulate on the quality of the shingle in roundabout ways. One is to look at track record. As we are a Western Washington roofing contractor, our experience with IKO shingles comes from those which are manufactured up in Sumas, Washington. This facility’s track record is phenomenal.
Every big shingle manufacturer has undergone class action lawsuits because of faulty shingle products. When you read through these lawsuits, you’ll notice that the defective shingles are facility-specific. So, it isn’t the case that when GAF or CertainTeed or any other big manufacturers had defective shingles, that every respective manufacturing facility was at fault. Some facilities may not be a part of the lawsuits. While it does matter who the manufacturer is, it also matters which facility manufactures the product. The same company can have differently performing facilities, where the product of one exceeds the quality of another. Obviously, the companies try to keep all product above a standard at all times everywhere, but it’s the micro-scale where issues can arise where knowing the track record of the specific facility is important.
Perhaps the most important point to cover when evaluating shingle quality is warranty. Very few homeowners truly check the warranties fine print (understandably). It’s our job to understand the warranties, and even we find them full of lawyer-speak and hidden caveats that can completely change effective coverage. Homeowners usually never hear about coverage issues until they find out their roof is leaking and they’re not covered by warranty when they thought they were.
The first bit to understand about IKO and PABCO warranties is that they only cover leaks caused by material defect. If your contractor put the roof on wrong, the warranties don’t cover it. And wrong application makes up a sizable portion of premature problems with roofs. Manufacturers have their production down to a science, so a material defect is usually an aberration, though they do happen. Contractors tend to have higher application variation. Some may just regularly install materials wrong in such a way that doesn’t get discovered for years. Which is why we think contractor reputation is very important.
It’s called Limited Lifetime, and it applies only to the owner of the single-family residence at the time of shingle installation. Up to the first 20 years of the period is the Iron Clad Protection Period, where IKO will supply replacement shingles and “reasonable allowance” for cost of applying shingles. Other elements, like flashings, metal work, vent work, repair of other damages, tear off, or disposal — are not covered. The remaining few decades of the warranty is pro-rated, which means the amount IKO will pay to fix a leak caused by material defect diminishes over time. We tend to find that the prorated period from any manufacturer is not even worth discussing since the amount covered is so small.
Given that IKO is a Canadian company, reports have surfaced that actually getting the company to make good on a warranty is extra difficult. Given how difficult getting any manufacturers to make good on a material defect only warranty is, if the dollar amount you get back is low enough, it may not even be worth it to depend on the warranty.
It’s also called Limited Lifetime and covers the owner at the time of install at the single-family residence for 50 years. Its non-prorated period lasts for 15 years and covers the “reasonable cost” of replacement material and installation only. Like with IKO, other associated labor, damages, or materials are not covered.
Both manufacturers have language in their warranties that mean if your roof is determined to not be ventilated to their specifications, your warranty is limited to 10 years and only cover shingle replacement costs. The effect of this wording is not entirely known, but it is likely to be a get out of jail free card because a ton of roofs do not meet standards of proper ventilation.
Most contractors don’t measure for ventilation specifically. Intake is often from the bird blocks under the overhangs, which are frequently not adequate. Or roofers will just replace ventilation for what is already there, rather than measure up what’s needed and add more or delete the unneeded.
Attic ventilation is key because it keeps the attic cool and tends to ward off condensation issues. A warm attic is a sign that the plywood substrate under the roofing system may be rotting out.
Given its complexity, there’s still a lot of guesswork in condensation issues for roofs. With the wide variation in home types and how different homeowners condition their living space, even a non-perfectly ventilated attic may not result in much issue. Sometimes it can be a big issue — it really depends. But the verbiage in both manufacturer’s warranty suggests that’s irrelevant, and if the roof doesn’t meet the standard (which it sometimes won’t), then the warranty you thought you might have might be kaput.
The main distinction between PABCO and IKO warranties are length. You can get a 50 year coverage with PABCO, and 20 year with IKO. So PABCO must be a better shingle, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. “True life” of shingles is not known, and that which constitutes a “material defect” may not be the same as when shingles age normally and leaks eventually manifest.
Then recent trend is for manufacturers to offer 50 year warranties. GAF started it after they designed shingles for greater longevity, and their warranty is very strong. Other manufacturers have joined the bandwagon, leaving the question of whether or not their shingles are up to snuff. Given that IKO has not joined this bandwagon is a refreshing sign. We may not know why, but there is belief among some specialists that most shingles have a few decades of life in them.
Color and appearance
IKO Cambridge has a more dimensional appearance. Each shingle has a blend of colors designed to create one whole general color. These colors have greater variation across the shingles, creating greater contrasts across the shingles. The dimensional look of wood shakes, which most asphalt architectural shingles try to replicate, is more apparent with IKO Cambridge.
PABCO Premier utilizes less color variation, creating a more solid and uniform appearance. Where IKO Cambridge uses only lines at 90 degree angles on its shingles, PABCO Premier integrates diagonal lines as well. Though this doesn’t reflect a true replication of cedar shakes, the diagonal lines also provide added dimensionality.
As you can see by these examples, IKO Cambridge has greater depth and contrast across the shingles, while PABCO Premier has a more solid appearance.
Neither of these shingles represent peak emulation of shakes, but IKO Cambridge comes closer. GAF Grand Canyon is a great example of the type of thickness, color variation, and geometry that replicates the shake profile. Cambridge is a markedly less expensive shingle than Grand Canyon, but it still uses some of the same strategies (but not all) to bring the rugged appearance of shakes.
Which shingle do you prefer? Drop us a comment below!