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Architectural Shingles vs. 3-Tab Shingles: Pros, Cons & Verdict

If you’ve reroofed your home, you know how complex it can get. Your typical roof lasts for many years, so you want to pick the right material for your roof the first time. You’ve probably read about architectural shingles and 3-tab shingles, but what exactly are they and how are they different? Let’s check out the pros and cons of each product, as well as how to decide which is right for your roof.

divider 4 What Are Shingles?

Shingles are one of the most popular types of roofing materials for residential homes, and they’re typically made of fiberglass mixed with asphalt and other long-lasting compounds. There’s also usually a layer of ceramic granules stuck to the shingle surface.

As might be expected, there are numerous types of shingles available. The main difference between them is in their physical composition and materials used, but installation may also vary between shingle types. Another consideration is how the shingle matches the roof and the rest of the building.

Overview of Architectural Shingles

church with architectural shingles roofing
Image Credit: hpgruesen, Pixabay

Architectural shingles, also called laminated shingles, are a type of shingle where two or more shingles are laminated or bonded together. Many types of architectural shingles are designed to imitate high-end materials like slate or cedar without the flammability or maintenance needs of the authentic material.

Architectural shingles are created with a combination of asphalt, granules, and adhesives. Unlike other shingles that use asphalt over a fiberglass mat, these shingles use thicker, more durable asphalt. The resulting shingles are wind resistant to up to 120-miles-per-hour gusts and are flame-resistant. Most architectural shingles come in a wide variety of textures and colors, though natural colors are the most popular.


Architectural shingles are a newer type of shingle, so that means you’ll pay more for them versus 3-tab shingles. However, the extra asphalt used in their construction makes them more durable than 3-tab shingles.

On the other hand, installation of architectural shingles is remarkably easier than 3-tab shingles, requiring fewer tools. In some cases, this can reduce the cost of installation.

close up light yellow architectural shingles
Image Credit: PIRO4D, Pixabay


Because of their heavy-duty construction, architectural shingles last up to 50 years, but 20 years is more of a standard lifespan. They may be more expensive up front, but they last about twice as long as your average 3-tab shingle.


  • Wind resistant up to 120 mph
  • Flame resistant
  • Lasts up to 50 years when properly maintained
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Most available colors are natural colors
  • More expensive than 3-tab shingles

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Overview of 3-Tab Shingles

old house with 3-tab shingles roof
Image credit: ctvgs, Pixabay

The common 3-tab shingles are somewhat similar to architectural shingles but are lighter and less durable. They’re made of the same materials but are all compressed together into a small package. For this reason, you’ll notice that most 3-tab shingles are uniformly shaped and sized. The matte appearance of 3-tab shingles can be attractive. However, their lack of availability in other sizes and colors is a turn-off for many consumers.

In general, 3-tab shingles are just a bit easier to install than architectural shingles, but not by much. Their lightweight construction makes them less effective against the wind, although they are typically flame resistant. The biggest benefit of 3-tab shingles is that they’re very cheap at the tradeoff of not lasting as long as architectural shingles.


Even today, many older homes still have 3-tab shingle roofs. Many contractors have begun to offer and install newer types of shingles, like architectural shingles, but they have yet to rival the popularity of 3-tab shingles. In terms of efficiency, 3-tab shingles are usually easier to install.

close up 3-tab shingles
Image Credit: Tujunga Photo, Shutterstock


Because they’ve been around forever, 3-tab shingles are widely available and known by contractors and homeowners alike. This can make it easier to buy your shingles as cheaply as possible if budget is an important factor.


  • Simple installation
  • Lightweight yet durable
  • Flame resistant
  • Various colors available
  • Only one size and shape available
  • Not as wind resistant as other shingle types
  • Can trap moisture underneath if not properly installed
  • Shorter lifespan than architectural shingles

Verdict — Which Is Better for Your Needs?

To review, architectural shingles last much longer and withstand stronger inclement weather than 3-tab shingles. Go with architectural shingles if durability is important to you.On the other hand, 3-tab shingles are much cheaper than architectural shingles, which can be a critical deciding factor if your budget is limited.

Architectural shingles are a better value for the money, with 50% heavier weight and durability, not to mention aesthetic options available. If you want to customize your roof and not worry about replacing your shingles in your lifetime, these are a safe bet. However, 3-tab shingles are the best choice if you’re sticking to a budget and don’t mind replacing them after 10 years or so. They’re also a good choice if you’re not picky about what your shingles look like because there are few options available.

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Both 3-tab and architectural shingles will protect your roof for over a decade, but the latter are more durable and can last over twice as long, while 3-tab shingles have few aesthetic options and are much cheaper. Which one is right for you? Unfortunately, the choice is ultimately up to you and your home’s specific needs.

Featured Image Credit: Left : Roof architectural shingles, Ratchat, Shutterstock | Right: Asphalt roof tab shingles, kovalto1, Shutterstock


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