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Architectural versus 3 Tab Asphalt Shingles

The most commonly used shingle in home construction has been the 3 tab asphalt shingle.  However, in the 1970’s, the architectural shingle was introduced.   There are many differences between these two, but choosing the correct one is simple, once the differences are understood.

3 Tab Asphalt Shingles

These shingles are named for the three tabs that are created by two grooves, cut into each shingle.  When on a roof, they have a flat, smooth appearance, and look like individual shingles.  Because of their flat appearance, any imperfections in the roof line are easily seen.  Care must also be taken in their application, so that the grooves in the shingles line up perfectly.  Grooves that do not line up give a sloppy appearance.

Three tab shingles are made of layers of cellulose or fiberglass fibers, and asphalt.  They are thinner, and lighter than architectural shingles, and easier to handle.  The thinner construction of 3 tab shingles makes them more susceptible to wind, hail, and curling in high temperatures.  Typical lifetimes for 3 tab shingle roofs are 20 years, and they can withstand up to 60 mile per hour winds.

The cost of 3 tab shingles is less than architectural shingles, and they cover more area when applied, so usually fewer are needed to complete a job.


Low cost compared to architectural shingles
Larger coverage area
Less labor intensive


Shorter lifespan than architectural shingles
Wind resistance only 60 mph
Can be less aesthetically pleasing if uneven roof line, or badly applied

Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles are also called dimensional, or laminate shingles.  They have a textured appearance that makes them look three-dimensional.  These shingles were originally introduced to give the appearance of cedar or slate roofs, but with the advantages of a lighter and more durable asphalt shingle.  Because they are textured, they break up any straight-line imperfections in the roof line, making them difficult for the eye to detect.  They come in a variety of colors, and can be easily matched to any housing style.

The mat base used in the construction of architectural shingles is heavier than that used in 3 tab shingles.  It is made of cellulose or fiberglass fibers, and asphalt layers, but can be as much as 50% heavier.  The increased thickness makes architectural shingles more resistant to wind damage, up to 120 miles per hour in some cases, and hail damage as well.  Some styles have inter-locking tabs, which increases their wind resistance.   They can be susceptible to algae growth, so algae resistant shingles are recommended.  Architectural shingles are typically guaranteed to last a minimum of 25 years, and can go as long as 50 years.

Architectural shingles are usually 20 – 40% more expensive than 3 tab shingles, due to their heavier construction.  They also cover less area than a 3 tab shingle, so more are required to finish the job.


Durability, up to 50 years in some cases
Higher wind resistance, up to 120 mph
More aesthetically pleasing, especially for complicated roofs


Higher cost than 3 tab shingles
More labor intensive
Susceptible to algae growth

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