Three Tab Shingles Vs Architectural Shingles

By Todd Fratzel on Roofing

3 Tab Shingles Vs Architectural Shingles

Which Are Better? Three Tab or Architectural Shingles

Recently I was asked what the difference is between three tab and architectural shingles and which are better. As far as I’m concerned there is quite a bit of difference in both appearance and performance. To understand why, you need to look at both types side by side as shown in the image above.

Physical Difference Between Architectural Shingles and Three Tab

Architectural (also known as dimensional, laminated or composite shingles) shingles are constructed with a heavier base mat which multiple layers of material are adhered to. This gives the “dimensional” shingles a layered or three dimensional look. Whereas the standard three tab shingle contains a flat layer with no dimensional “thickness” to it. Typically architectural shingles weight almost 50% more than the standard 3 tab shingles.

Aesthetic Difference

Dimensional shingles were developed in the 70’s for the high end home market. Home owner’s were looking for an asphalt shingle product that had the architectural appearance of cedar shingles while providing the performance of asphalt. By using the layered construction of the dimensional shingle it appears to have texture similar to cedar shakes. Laminated shingles do a much better job hiding imperfections in the roofing structure as well. Another option is to use synthetic roofing shingles which look similar to laminated shingles.

Performance Difference

Architectural shingles typically have a minimum of 25 to 30 year warranties. Because of the heavier construction they are less likely to warp and they provide much better wind resistance. Standard three tab shingles are typically rated for 60 mph winds while most architectural shingles are rated for 80 mph up to 120 mph.

Cost Difference

Today laminated shingles are available in many different warranty lengths from 25 to 50 years. Typically, the cost of architectural shingles is only about 20% more than the traditional 3 tab shingles. Some of the higher end 50 year products can be as much as twice as expensive to buy. One thing to consider though is the increased value of your home. laminated shingles help raise the curb appeal of a home and make it more valuable in an appraisal.

Shingle Type Summary

I personally prefer architectural shingles for all of the reasons listed above. I happen to live in a development that requires them as part of the architectural covenants. It’s likely that in the coming years standard three tab shingles will begin to fade away in the market as demand for laminated shingles increases. What type do you have on your home?

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Martha Cutler says:

    I appreciate the informative comparison between three-tab and architectural shingles.

    Architectural shingles were developed in the 70’s for the high end home market. Home owner’s were looking for an asphalt shingle product that had the architectural appearance of cedar shingles while providing the performance of asphalt.

  2. Wayne England says:

    Hi all,

    OK– Here’s the deal—-Listen I’ve done a few roofs in my life.
    I’ve heard and looked at these so called architectual shingles………They guaratee 30 years on the archetectual…it’s thicker but only in some areas!….As far as ease of application?-huh–for me I did’nt see it……..OK BOTTOM LINE…IS IT WORTH IT PAYING MORE AND GETTING THESE SHINGLES?????

    Do tarred shingles look like cedar shakes ?? ha,..ha..ha…

    I think the american has been taken for a ride and talked into something else they don’t need….Tell me I’m wrong

    • Todd says:

      Wayne – Thanks for sharing. Frankly I think Architectural look much nicer than 3 tab. I’m not so sure they last any longer and frankly the warranties are a bit mis-leading in my opinion.

    • Phil says:

      Wayne. I question your roofing experiences. Arch shingles are much easier to install, they hide a lot of ‘mistakes’ and don’t have to be perfectly aligned for a good appearance.

      3 cut tabs are not as sturdy as a solid shingle with laminated shake applied to it. There are less tabs/flaps to catch wind. This is why arch’s have better wind resistance and ‘better’ durability. The higher end 50+ year shingles are absolutely thicker, some are triple layered.

      3 tabs are not ‘guaranteed’ to last 15-20 years, neither are Arch shingles. Arch’s have a better warranty, but I am highly skeptical of any asphalt shingle consistently lasting more than 25 years. Manufacture warranty’s are nearly worthless once you get beyond 5 years or so…if they cover anything at all, you get pennies on the dollar. 50year shingles may be better built, but I doubt many will see that full 50 year life. Installation quality, climate, and ventilation have the biggest impact on lifespan.

      3 tab shingles are almost dead in most parts of the US. Look around, that’s pretty easy to determine. There is a usually a minimal price difference of $5-$8/square difference. Most will agree that arch’s look better and is worth the extra $100-$200 for a more modern/newer looking roof. I can’t tell you the last roof I’ve seen covered with 3 tabs.

      What were Americans talked into that they don’t need? It’s called evolution. Technology, experience, manufacturing standards, fashion, economics all dictate changes in any product category…that’s the case if your talking shingles, automotive, or blue jeans.

      • Todd says:

        Phil – Well said! 3 tabs are a thing of the past in my book.

      • ImReady says:

        Yeh, you’re completely right! I’ve installed many of both kinds of shingles. The architectural shingles are so much easier to lay, you don’t have to worry about lining up the “weep holes” and there are much less waste with them. They are a little harder to handle, but not so much that they aren’t more desirable! The look is SO much better than the three tab. I ALWAYS try to use the architectural shingles, always recommend them to my customers.

    • casey says:

      Just how many roof have you done? Architectual shingles are way easier to install and thicker. If your roof hase any flaws your three tabs will not hide it at all where your architectual shingle will help hid a good portion of it, I dont think that americans have been talked into anything they are spending a little extra money to have a higher quality shingle that looks and last longer.

    • richard says:

      I’ve been installing architectural shingles for years here in Nebraska. And may I say that all my customers have not regretted it nor complained. In fact, they all have insisted on it. These shingles have a 50 percent more wind rating as well as impact rating of class 4 which means that it is more durable to mother nature than three tab. Three tab have a max wind stability of 60mph compared to the architectural 110-130 mph. Three tab have no impact rating. Also, your home owners insurance provider will give you a 20 percent discount on your yearly premium with architectural shingles. 3 tab, junk. And they are only 5 bucks less per bundle. Compare before you judge. Especially if your deductible is high. Trust the difference and the facts.

    • Nick says:

      Wayne –

      As someone that has worked in the professional sloped roofing industry for my entire career – initially as an installer, then supervisor, and eventually a division head and project manager… several things you state immediately strike a chord.

      For one, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve met many grown men that don’t claim to have “done a few roofs in my day”. For what it’s worth, I mean no disrespect but speaking frankly I’ve brushed and flossed my teeth on a *daily basis* and yet I don’t consider myself to be a qualified dentist.

      Amongst my current roles I oversee the sloped-roof maintenance and repair division at my company – and I can personally assure you that architectural/dimensional shingles experience far fewer wind damage and puncture issues than the vast majority of “comparable class” 3-tab shingles.

      It’s a relative fact admittedly. Which is to say yes, I’ve seen very well-installed premium 3-tab shingles out-last poorly-installed or inferior-grade dimensional shingles. But given the same workmanship/installation, even a “low grade” dimensional shingle universally out-lasts and out-performs a comparable level 3-tab shingle.

      Aesthetics? Eye of the beholder. Aesthetics are a matter of opinion. The fact of the matter is that although not an exact facsimile, dimensional shingles do look a LOT more like cedar shakes than a 3-tab shingle. Would anyone confuse an asphalt dimensional shingle for real cedar shakes, slate, or ceramic tiles they mimic in appearance? Of course not. But nonetheless even the most discerning eye would begrudgingly admit that dimensional shingles look at lot more like cedar shakes (for instance) than 3-tab shingles.

      Dimensional shingles are, in fact, simpler to install. I say simpler (not “easier”) intentionally. Again, that’s relative, but the stepped-course installation of dimensionals is undebatably to lay out amongst other things and faster to install than a 3-tab shingle for anyone equally experienced in installing both types. Your initial statement about nice, clean lines is irrelevant – both types (as well as cedar, tile, slate, standing seam, etc/etc) have “nice clean straight lines” when properly installed.

      We install a lot of BOTH types and feel that, provided a quality installation, either type of shingle will serve nicely. But part of being a roofing professional (no offense) involves “what you’re selling” – and simply put, the manufacturer’s product warranties do in fact provide for a higher warrantable life expectancy and wind rating than a comparable-level 3-tab shingle. It’s not by accident, they have to honor that – if they can’t find a reason to wiggle out from a claim… not unlike homeowners insurance and so on regrettably. If the dimensional products (relatively) didn’t hold up to those higher standards that would obviously be a losing proposition for the manufacturers.

      Am I poo-pooing 3-tab shingles? Absolutely not.

      I do feel that your broad stroke in labelling dimensional shingles as a “sales job” or “sucker bet” is deeply in err however.

  3. Eliz C says:

    I live in the southwest area now and have a tile roof. However, when I lived in St Louis I had architectural shingles. I love the look, the weight, and the longer warranty.

  4. Maggy Dumas says:

    This conversation about 3 tabs and architectural shingles has been very helpful to me as I think I see a new roof in my future pretty soon. Looks-wise there’s no comparison between the two–I like the three dimensional look of the architectural shingles. Thanks very much.

  5. Ken Viall says:

    I have been putting roofs on since 1984 and have put on my fair share of both types of shingles. When I bid a job I dont charge any more for installing architectural shingles becuase I can save the extra cost in the time saved to install.

  6. Roofing stretcher says:

    It’s tough to make up my mind as to metal or Architectural shingles. I have heard a lot of good about Arch type shingles. 3 Tab are probably out of the question, due to the fact that we are now encountering higher wind factors, like tornado’s. Metal was a choice for me, but the price of concealed fastener systems is a bit to high. And exposed fastener systems, the screw down type are a bit of a worry, because of the screws themselves. It concerns me that the screws may cause leaking problems and walking on a metal roof may cause problems especially with slats to screw down the metal roof. I mean if you made a mistake and stepped on the part of the metal that didn’t have a slat you might damage the metal itself. So, I am leaning toward Arch shingle roofing. Seems the best and you can walk on it without slipping off. Of course you only want to walk occasionally on any roof because to much walking can cause problems for any roof. I just wonder how hard it is to get the shingles on the roof since they are heavier than 3 tab.

    • ImReady says:

      Roofing Stretcher,
      I think that the bundles of shingles are about the same weight, whether 3-tab or Dimensional. 3-tab shingles are 3 bundles to a square while 40 and some 50 year Dimensional shingles are 4 to a square. Some 50 year dimensional shingles are 5 to a square.

  7. mac,warren,ohio says:

    I,ve done some roofing in my life time,an there is not much differ in arch or 3 tab all it comes down to is how solid its nailed downed.arch is just pretty to look at and cost more,its the work ya put into it that counts.

  8. darrell white says:

    im tired of seeing arch shingles. they are on every new house here in ontario canada. kind of like granite counter tops in the kitchen. im not even in the roofing business and I can drive by a house and say “oh thats the hunter green shingle by certainteed”. They look predictible and trendy to me. 3 tab is more classic and I bet we eventually move back to those, just a higher quality version of it.

    • Rob says:

      I agree that Arch are all over the place and almost passe now. I put 3 tab on my home in Atlanta 7 years ago and still looking good to my eye and I think will come back, nobody wants to be like everyone else.

      As aside, this happened with Granite and esp because it was pushed by the RE industry. What they did not tell you is that Granite is a source of interior Radon in the home and that virtually all slabs have some Radon and if you have it in your home, you have Radon. Probably not a lot to worry and esp since you dont “live in the kitchen”, but guaranteed nobody measured when you installed it. Just sayin’.

      • Todd Fratzel says:

        Rob…..3 tabs are dying a slow death and likely won’t be around much longer. And the granite….lol….there’s simply not enough granite in anyone’s house to off gas sufficient radon to even measure :)

  9. Lisa says:

    I am 53 years of age and live in Ohio. I am getting ready to re-roof with a complete tear-off. A good friend, who has several income properties, suggests a 3-tab shingle because down the line I will be able to roof over it. I guess my question is, what is the realistic life span of both the 3 tab and an architectural, all warranties aside? Even though I prefer the aesthetics of a dimensional roof, I’m trying to figure out just how soon will I actually need to re-roof with an GAF Timberline archetectural because I will be facing another tear-off at that time. Regarding prices, the 25 year 3 tab is about $10.00 per square less than the dimensional and the 30-year 3 tab (which needs to be special ordered)is darn near the same price as the architectural.

    • Todd says:

      Lisa – I’m not a huge fan of 3 tab shingles. Today’s good quality architectural shingles can last 25 years or more. While it is possible to re-roof over architectural shingles it’s not something I recommend. The roof ends up looking very bumpy and poor quality. However, it’s been my experience that architectural shingles last longer than 3 tab and they certainly look much better.

      I would investigate more options on the architecturals as many now have even longer warranties. 3 tab shingles really shouldn’t be that close in cost to architectural shingles in my opinion.

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks so much, Todd! Have a couple of more questions for you, if it’s OK. 1) In your opinion do you think that the
        ‘Lifetime warranty’ that all the manufacturers are offering now, ends up not having much value down the line? 2) Also, how effective do you think that zinc strips are at keeping mildew off of the shingles? Seems like the algae resistant shingles only provide a 10 year warranty. The roof I’ll be doing is black and my understanding is that the strips are silver. 3) Also, in your experience, is there one manufacturer you favor over another for their willingness to solve warranty issues? For example, someone told me that one manufacturer seems to work better with you on color fading than another, but I forget which. 4) I have a carport with lower than a 3-12 pitch.(can send a picture if you forward your email) The roofing salesman suggests either a 2-step modified roofing product, with a 10 year warranty, (2 squares per roll) or a 3 step process with a 13-year warranty and 1 square per roll. Do you think if the contractor ice and water guards the whole area and puts down the 10-year warranty product down, I’d be in for less money overall and get the same duration out of it? Last… 6) What ridge vent product do you favor? I understand they’ve come out with some new ones. Thanks so much! – Lisa

        • Todd says:

          You’ve got quite a list of questions. Let me give you a few pointers as best I can.

          1. Check out
          You probably already know that shingle warranties are not super great. I prefer to select a shingle based on the roofers experience. Find a really good roofer, someone with a really good reputation, then pick a shingle based on his recommendation. Ask for a good, better best list.

          2. I think the zinc strip is a detail that architects spec and seldom get’s used anymore. I’d stick with a good shingle that works well defending that sort of things. Again rely on a local roofer.

          3. I’ve had good luck with two shingle manufacturers, CertainTeed and IKO.

          4. I’d follow the manufacturers recommendations to the letter. Low slope roofs are a royal pain, pick a product made for it. Don’t try to save 4 or 5% it’s just not worth it.

          5. I prefer rigid roof vents. I’m not a fan of the “brillo pad” types as they crush and hardly work very well.

  10. Paul says:

    Whereas with “Architectural” shingles you get something that looks “bumpy and poor quality” even when it’s brand new. Admittedly this is great if you’re building a haunted house and want to give it a nice decrepit look while still having a roof that won’t actually leak, but outside that niche application I can’t see the appeal.

    • Todd says:

      I think quite the opposite. It gives you a roof with far more architectural texture similar to older homes that used shakes and slate. The beauty though is everyone can make their own personal choice.

  11. Conrad Zukowski says:


    My roofer said that 3 tab singles will not be avalable after 12/12 and the only 3 tabs you can get now are 20 year. Is this true?



    • Todd says:

      That might be true in the Brand on your house…but I highly doubt that’s true industry wide because there are millions and millions of sq. ft. of existing 3 tabs out there.

  12. Jim B. says:

    My neighbors recently had the architectural shingles installed and I love the look of them. With my roof in desperate need of a tear down and replacement, I’m heavily considering them. However, I’m having hard time finding out what the materials cost alone.

    For example, this guide — states that I should plan on budgeting around $48 to $84 per 100 square feet just for the shingles? Does that sound right? What about labor? What should I plan on spending there?

    Thanks so much,


    • Todd says:

      Jim – Today a new roof costs between $300 and $400 (or more) dollars per 100 sq. ft. The $48/$84 number seems low as it doesn’t likely account for underlayment, flashing, edge metal, etc. If the roof needs a tear off first the cost can be even higher. Good luck.

      • ImReady says:

        30 year “Architectural” or “High Definition” shingles are around $65.00 a square. Felt underlayment is a little less than $20.00 a roll, whether it’s the 15lb roll, that covers 400 sq. feet, or the 30lb felt that covers 200 sq. feet. Other things to consider are metal edging, valley flashing, roof vents. I pay about $65.00 a square to have a square removed and disposed of, and replaced. This is a pretty good price, I live in NE Texas. So, less metal, I pay about $125.00-$130.00 for removal and replacement of each square, me furnishing shingles. Three-tab shingles are a bit cheaper, labor is the same. I use a very good crew of roofers, and use my local lumber yard for supplies. There are more expensive shingles, but, these are the most common and most used.

        • Roofing Man says:

          I looked at the date to make sure this comment was recent and I was surprised to see that it was posted only a month ago. Where I live architectural shingles arent $65.00 a square. They range from between $90 and $100 a square. If this guy is tearing off and reshingling for a $125.00-$130.00 a square, plus supplying the shingle the he is losing alot of money. So if he does good work, please use him because you are getting a deal.

          • ImReady says:

            Yeh, it’s true. Architectural shingles are now $84.99 a square, 3-tab are $62.00 per square.
            As for my roofer, he is a great roofer, has a great crew. He charged me $60.00 a square for one layer tear-off and one layer installation. I always furnish the shingles and supplies, this is just a labor fee. This was on a 100 square job. My roofer does not lose money. His employees are very efficient, and I guess work for small money, I don’t know what he pays them. I just pay him $60.00 – $70.00 a square for labor. He is very successful, very good. The entire crew is Mexican, including the owner. They are known for working very cheap! I’m very satisfied with them.

  13. Joy says:

    I am trying to sell my house and it’s about 3000 sq ft. The Architectural roof will cost me $13,000. That is a lot of money to cough up when you are on a fixed income. Isn’t there something between them and the 3 tab tiles?

  14. Donna says:

    I recently had a lot of wind damage to my roof from a storm and chose to replace my 3-tab shingles with architectural shingles. The cost for the architectural shingles was about $600 more than the price of the 3-tab. The main reason I chose to go this route was due to the wind resistance. My home in Charlotte, NC is on top of a hill and gets the full force of the wind every time a storm comes through. The roof I just replaced was 12 years old and even the insurance company agreed that the roof was damaged beyond just simple patching. Thank you for the comparison.

  15. Wanted to ask if you had heard any information about architectural roofing that failed before the 30 year warranty. We had architectural installed 12 years ago, and a roofing bidder from Home Depot was at our home today bidding new gutters for our home, and said that our nails in our roof were lifting, and that our roof might last another 2-3 years! Suggested that we have the roof replaced soon, as roofing prices are going up steeply every year. Have you heard of any problems regarding architectural roofing failure? Thank you so much for your reply.

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Mary – There are some architectural shingles that have had serious issues (organic shingles from IKO is just one of the known culprits). However, lifting nails in itself isn’t necessarily failure. Typically the shingles curl up and start to break. Not sure if the curling is what has caused lifted nails on yours. I’d HIGHLY recommend you get a qualified roofing contractor to inspect the roof. Then I’d recommend at least two qualified, and recommended roofing contractors to give you pricing. Sure shingles are going up, but all materials are, that’s not a reason to jump at a new roof. Good luck.

  16. Mark says:

    My problem with architectural shingles is they don’t come in some colors. The greens are fairly ugly, and everyone seems to offer the same variety of colors. I don’t agree with the “they look like cedar shingles or shakes”. That’s just marketing. They are indeed heavier and easier to install.

  17. Glenda says:

    Can architectural be out over a one later if 3tab?

  18. I bought 17 square of 3 tab shingles some how the company mixed up the order and i got 17 square of architecture shingles is it going to be the same as far as the square footage or im i going to have to have more architectural shingles

  19. art searles says:

    kinfo was indeed helpful

  20. kent w mckee says:

    LEARNED a heck of a lot from reading this blog, thank you very, very much. I’ve got a rep from HD coming tomorrow and I had my insurance rep here today to examine the damage on my roof from hurricane Irma…..he’s wanting to replace the 3 tabbed shingles that are 25+ yrs more 3 tabbed shingles. Your input and the contributors have convinced me I will probably go for the architectural shingles since I live in a hurricane state (FLA) and we are likely to see stronger winds than my current shingles have been through.

  21. Denise Carroll says:

    Help, I just had an new architectural roof installed a few days ago. I am not pleased with the look as the shingles do not look dimensional. They look rather flat in many areas, but not all. The company is coming out to take a look at my concerns. Aren’t all of the shingles supposed to look 3 dimensional now and not 6 months from now??? I have taken pictures of the roof and sent it to the company and they are coming out tomorrow. At this point we have only put down a deposit. I want it done right, before we pay them the final payment. Any suggestions?

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Not all “3 dimensional” shingles are the same. Some have far more “reveal” than others. Also, until the roof sits down (heated by sun for some time), it’s really hard to tell how it will look. This combined with the vantage point, sun, etc they are all a bit different.

  22. C. Pepper says:

    We live in a high wind area and experienced roof damage due to a recent storm. The roofing is traditional 3 tab. We’re still getting quotes but our options so far are to repair with similar looking 3 tab, or replace the entire roof with arch. If we replace with arch, our roof will no longer match the roof of our detached garage. If we repair we still may not get a good match and the roof may looked patched. What do you suggest?

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      I’d do the Arch….eventually the garage will need replacing and then you can go ARCH there as well.

  23. cmeany says:

    I have a question about whether 3 tab shingles are actually the same or different than what someone is describing to me as “single tab” shingles? My house was build in 1992 and I need to replace a few shingles while I figure out replacing the roof altogether. Now I am TRYING to match the color of the shingles the best I can. I come across 3-tab and architectural shingles but nothing that just describes Single Tab as one contractor has mentioned.


  24. Lisa says:

    My insurance says I have to get 25 year composition archtectal 3-tab shingles. Now I’m really confused. What does that mean ?

  25. F Holloway says:

    I too appreciate the questions and replies. From my research it stated that architectural shingles weigh more than 50% more than the 3 tab. How is it determined whether or not a house’s “structure” can not/should not bear that type of weight difference (if the existing/orginal roof was 3 tab)? NOTE: 1) the house was built in central N.C., in 1992. 2) There are cracks above the door openings in 3 rooms.

  26. Kathy Troll says:

    I am in need of a roof and am frustrated. Salesmen come out and all say they are the best. One tells me a good landmark(235 lbs/square from certainteed is better than the best landmark Pro or Premium which weigh 250 and 300/square because we live in a place with snow and hail and wind. And no shingle will last so save your money. The other tells me GAF Armor Shield class 4 is a better choice. Both have great warranties from companies. But the first offers a 25 yr free labor and he has a thriving business with a good reputation. the other one I don’t know anything about and he gives me only 2 years on labor. Both want the same money. 25 years on labor makes me feel comfortable about his work and he told me it would be nailed with 6 nails. What do you think?

  27. ED Knickerbocker says:

    Can architectural shingles be installed over 3 tab shingles?

  28. William Gerhardt Sr says:

    I had 3/1 on my roof when I built 35yrs ago
    First windstorm 3 months living in my new home 2.5 sq headed north east. I could not be my own contractor because FMHA, so my “friend” stuck 3/1 when I told him they wouldn’t make it. I took the insurance money bought T Locks and I’m just covering them with a metal roof. 3/1 are junk! 50 years a carpenter residential/commercial I have been around long enough to know what does and doesn’t work….

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