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3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: What’s Best for Your Roof?

3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles

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When it comes to the match-up of 3-tab vs architectural shingles, there are various aspects that come into play. Both forms of roof shingles come with their own benefits and drawbacks, relating to durability, installation processes, cost, lifespan, and more based on their materials and construction.


The roof of your home is one of your most crucial barriers to the elements, which means if you’re renovating, replacing a roof, or building a house from scratch, you want to make sure that you make the best choice. We’ve put together this guide explaining the difference between 3-tab and architectural shingles, so you can feel confident moving forward.


3-Tab Shingles: The Basics


3-tab shingles are a lightweight, relatively low-cost option when it comes to roofing. They take the form of thin mats made from a fiberglass base that’s been coated in mineral granules, looking like three pieces but really only being one. They’re notable for being cheap, if a little complicated to install, while also giving roofs a fairly clean and tidy look.


Architectural Shingles: The Basics


Architectural shingles were a natural industry progression from the traditional 3-tab model. Also known as laminated shingles, architectural shingles are essentially two or more traditional shingles bonded together, for increased thickness. They’re made of the same materials as 3-tab shingles, but are heavier and thicker with stronger adhesives, while they can also be made to look closer to wood or slate tiles, rather than a strictly granular look.


3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: Aesthetics & Colors


The look of each shingle can be boiled down to their overall aesthetics, along with their space for variety with colors.



Many would argue that one of the biggest advantages of architectural shingles vs 3-tab is the look and feel that they can provide to a roof. 3-tab shingles are flat, while also being uniform in size and arrangement, which leaves roofs looking flat with a matte shade.


On the other hand, architectural shingles are thicker, giving a more three-dimensional look to roofs, which is reminiscent of more expensive materials, such as traditional tiling. Along with this, architectural shingles can also be made to look glossy, while being available in different sizes and shapes, meaning they’re more versatile for different home aesthetics.




On the topic of colors, there are plenty of color options for both 3-tab and architectural roof shingles, but it’s the way those colors are used that makes the difference. Regardless of what color you choose for your 3-tab shingles, their texture and style will always be apparent, while the architectural variety can come in far more shades, colors, and textures, giving you more autonomy over your home’s curb appeal.



If you’re not particularly bothered about creating the illusion of more premium roof materials, then 3-tab shingles could be the choice for you, but if crafting your dream home, architectural shingles will provide you more space to realize that dream.

3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: Cost & Installation


There are two main aspects that come into play when considering how much money you’ll have to spend on either of these roofing options - material and installation cost respectively.


Material Cost


It’s worth noting that 3-tab shingles are considerably cheaper than architectural shingles in their material form. You can expect to pay around 40-50% more for architectural shingles than 3-tab, but there are arguments for it being a wiser investment overall, relating to durability and lifespan (more on that later).


Installation Cost


Despite architectural shingles being a higher value item, they’re actually significantly easier to install than 3-tab shingles. Because of their construction, they can be installed using fewer tools and time than it takes to properly get 3-tab shingles in place, which in turn can make their installation less costly.



If you’re short on quick cash, it could be tempting to lean toward 3-tab shingles, however, this will likely cost you in the future, due to pricier installations, and a likelihood of more replacements. Architectural shingles generally last longer and can be installed for cheaper, however, you will have to part with more money at the start of the process.


3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: Durability


Regardless of how you feel about looks and if money is no object, the durability of your roof should always be vital in your decision-making process. In the battle of durability in 3-tab shingles vs architectural shingles, architectural shingles run away with the win.


Materials & Make


3-tab shingles are a single-layer product, made from a mat of fiberglass coated in granules and minerals. Architectural shingles are made of the same materials but are essentially double layered, using a very strong adhesive to stay firmly together. However, it’s worth noting that architectural shingles are also generally around 50% heavier than 3-tab shingles, which could be an issue for certain roofs.




When it comes to wind resistance, 3-tab shingles will only be able to tolerate speeds between 60-70mph as a maximum, while it’s not uncommon for architectural shingles to stay strong against winds of up to 130 mph. If you’re living in an area of the US with higher winds, then architectural shingles are really your only choice. It is worth noting that architectural shingle repairs are more costly than those for 3-tab shingles.



If you're looking for the safest, strongest roof shingles, then architectural win over 3-tab every day of the week. Just make sure your roof can handle the weight of them with a thorough inspection before you start installing haphazardly.


3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: Lifespan


We know that they’re stronger than 3-tab, but how long do architectural shingles last in comparison to their cheaper alternative? Unsurprisingly, this durability also bleeds into the architectural shingle’s lifespan.


A 3-tab shingle roof will last you anywhere between 10-25 years before requiring serious repairs or replacements, while a roof built of architectural shingles can stay strong for 50 years or more if cared for properly. With architectural shingles being only 50% more expensive than 3-tab shingles, and potentially lasting twice as long, they seem to be the wiser choice in terms of lifespan.


3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: Warranty/Insurance


With everything that we know about 3-tab and architectural shingles in terms of durability and lifespan, it’s no surprise that warranties and insurance policies differ between the two.




Warranties for 3-tab shingles will range from around 20-30 years maximum, while architectural shingles won’t be installed with a warranty lower than 30 years. However, there’s more to this than the shingles themselves, with the quality of the installation process having a big impact on how reliable and long-term your warranty will be. It’s important to always choose a reputable roofing company to install whatever shingles you go for, as a shoddy job will overrule good materials every time.




Taking out an insurance policy on 3-tab shingles is generally cheaper, being that the materials are cheaper. This also means that if you make a claim on your insurance, the replacement will only be applicable to 3-tab shingles, and if you want to upgrade you’ll have to pay the difference. Insurance on architectural shingle roofs is more expensive, while also being less likely to be claimed, which is worth considering before you take out a policy.


3-Tab vs Architectural Shingles: Conclusion


So with all that you now know about 3-tab and architectural shingles, which should you pick? Let’s sum things up one by one.


Aesthetics: If you’re looking for a simple uniform look, 3-tab could be your choice, but for variety and versatility, architectural shingles win.


Cost: You could save money in the short-term with 3-tab shingles, but the initial investment into architectural shingles will likely be trumped by their lasting power and cheaper installation costs.


Durability: This one is no contest. Architectural shingles are much more durable, although they are also slightly heavier.


Lifespan: Again, this one is clear. Choose architectural shingles for a longer-lasting roof, especially if you live in an area with harsher weather.


At the end of the day, it all depends on where you live. If you live in an area with very low winds, not much rain, and a tendency toward generally relaxed weather, 3-tab shingles could be plenty to protect your home. Along with this, if you’re not always flushed with disposable income, choosing 3-tab shingles might make more sense for your budget.


However, if you’re looking to give your home the best possible chance against the elements, make it look as nice as it can, and have to worry about repairs less commonly, then architectural shingles are the only choice for you. There’s a reason their warranties are so much longer.


For more interesting and helpful pieces on roofing, visit our blog today.

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