Comparing 3-Tab and Architectural Shingles: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing which material to use for your new roof isn’t an easy decision. If you want asphalt shingles for your roof, there are several types to choose from. Most homeowners narrow it down to either 3 tab or architectural shingles. Now, the real question is, which one is better for your home?

3 tab shingles are easier to install. They feature 3 tabs on each shingle which are simple to line up, similar to puzzle pieces. These shingles lay flat once they’re installed. Architectural shingles are strong and heavy shingles. There is more depth to these shingles, which helps them remain sturdy throughout the years.

You likely want your new roof to last a long time. That’s why it’s very important to choose the right type of shingles. If you’re not sure which shingle is right for you, you’re on the right page. Today, we’re going to break down the difference between 3 tab and architectural shingles.

What Are The Best Shingles For A Roof?

There are many types of materials on the market to use for roofs. Asphalt shingles are the best choice for most roofs. If you were to take a walk around your neighborhood, you would likely notice that most (if not all) of the houses have asphalt roofs. Though asphalt is not recommended for low-slope roofs due to its drainage requirements.

Asphalt is a top choice for house roofs because of the price. On average, asphalt shingles cost between $2.75 and $5.75 per square foot. For most homeowners, the average cost to complete their roof this way sits between $5,500 and $11,500.

Even though asphalt is cheaper, it’s just as efficient as slate and cedar. One of the main reasons asphalt is cheaper is that it requires less labor. Materials like slate have to be installed one shingle at a time, whereas asphalt comes in sheets for quicker installation. 

Asphalt shingles also have a long lifespan. If they are installed correctly, they can last for 15 to 30 years. Both 3 tab shingles and architectural shingles are asphalt.

What Are 3 Tab Shingles?

3 tab shingles are like puzzle pieces. Each shingle will have 3 tabs on it, which makes it easier for the roofer to align the shingles together evenly. Many people prefer these shingles because the finished roof looks uniform.

A lot of roofers prefer the 3 tab shingles because they are easy to repair. Since every shingle is the exact same pattern, the roofer knows what to expect. After a repair, a 3 tab roof has the same flat and even pattern as before.

What Are Architectural Shingles?

Architectural shingles are also known as dimensional shingles. These shingles started to become popular with homeowners in the 1980s and are still a top choice today.

You can spot a house with architectural shingles because of its distinct appearance. There is more personality to architectural shingles. Unlike 3 tabs, which are completely flat, these shingles have dimension to create a more dramatic look.

Architectural shingles aren’t just popular because of their appearance. They are very sturdy and weather-resistant shingles. Traditional architectural shingles are made from a water-resistant asphalt and heavy fiberglass mat base.

Are Architectural Shingles Better Than 3-Tab? 

Architectural shingles are made from better quality material than 3 tab shingles. They are heavier-weighted shingles. This allows them to be more resistant to high winds and other weather conditions.

The lifespan of an architectural shingle is significantly longer than a 3 tab shingle. Most 3 tabs shingles last for 15 to 30 years. However, if they weren’t professionally installed, they may only last for 10 years.

On the other hand, most homeowners get 50 years or more from architectural shingles. This is something you should consider when you’re comparing the costs of the shingles.

The cost of shingles does vary between different hardware stores. However, one thing you can expect is that the price of architectural shingles will be roughly 40 to 50% more than the cost of 3 tabs.

While the upfront cost of architectural shingles is more, you end up saving money over the years. You are less likely to need repairs and replacements of architectural shingles after a storm.

Why Should You Consider 3 Tab?

Do you enjoy the eye-catching appearance of 3 tab shingle roofs? Let’s take a look at some of the important things you should know about 3 tab shingles.

Overall Appearance

The overall appearance of 3 tab shingles is the main reason people prefer them. With 3 tab shingles, the finished roof looks clean and even. The shingles are flat and placed together perfectly.

One of the great things about 3 tab shingles is that you don’t have to hire a specific expert to install them correctly. Every roofing professional is familiar with them. Even a beginner is able to lay a 3 tab roof that is flat and even.

You can always expect a 3 tab roof to look phenomenal when it’s finished. Even the pickiest homeowners are satisfied with the results of 3 tabs.

Color Options

You have several color options when choosing 3 tabs shingles. The most common choice is black. This is because the black 3 tabs look very sleek. Over the years, they may fade to a darker grey shade, which still looks great with most homes.

The color of your home will be the ultimate factor in which color a shingle you choose. Grey and brown are also popular choices. There are several shades of brown, making it easier for homeowners to choose one that looks good with their house color.

If you want something a little more colorful, you may also be able to find blue or green 3 tab shingles.


Many roofing professionals believe 3 tabs are versatile shingles. Since 3 tab shingles are lightweight, they are easy to install.

On top of that, they don’t require a lot of maintenance. As long as the homeowner stays on top of regular roof inspections and cleaning, they shouldn’t have many issues with 3 tabs.


3 tab shingles are durable to a certain degree. While they may not be as strong as architectural shingles, they can still withstand harsh weather conditions. Most 3 tab shingles are strong enough to handle the impact of 60 to 70 mph winds.

However, when you compare them to architectural shingles, they aren’t as durable of an option. This is part of the reason why they have a shorter lifespan than architectural shingles.


3 tabs typically last for 15 to 30 years. With proper care and maintenance, you could extend the length of a 3 tab roof’s lifespan. If the roof needs repair, it’s best not to wait.

One of the great things about repairing 3 tabs is that it’s very easy. This is mostly because new 3 tab shingles can easily fit with old shingles. By making repairs as needed, you could help extend a 3 tab roof’s lifespan.

Installation Process

The average 3 tab roof takes 2 works days to complete. This average is for a 1,500-square-foot roof with 2 or 3 professionals working on it. So, how does the installation process go?

  1. Most professionals will begin the process by preparing their workspace on the roof.
  2. Once the workspace is ready, they will snap chalk lines on the underlayment. These are important because they help the roofer keep the courses straight.
  3. Next, they will install a starter strip.
  4. Starting at one end of the roof, they will place the starter shingles. Then they will use a nail gun to attach them.
  5. Once this is complete, they will plan the layout. Then they will align the 3 tab shingles and attach them.
  6. During this process, they will make sure to plan around pipes and keep them protected. They will also measure the shingles to fit snugly around vents.
  7. Before they finish, they will apply flashing and ridge caps.


A basic 3 tab shingle costs between $1 and $2 per square foot. If you want a specific color, you may have to pay more per shingle.

However, if you’re not picky about the color, you should keep an eye out for sales. Many homeowners have been able to find discounted 3 tab shingles for less than a dollar per square foot.

If you’re on a budget, this is a great option to consider. It’s also important to remember that replacement shingles won’t be expensive either.


The average warranty for 3 tab shingles is 25 years. However, it’s common to find warranties that range from 20 to 30 years. These warranties cover homeowners from manufacturing defects that could affect the shingle’s quality.

Why Should You Consider Architectural Shingles?

Homeowners love knowing that architectural shingles are built to last. Let’s take a look at some of the important things you should know about architectural shingles.

Overall Appearance

Architectural shingles will have a more dramatic appearance than flat shingles. These are the type of shingles that catch an architecture enthusiast’s attention. The dimension of these shingles adds an artistic flair to the house.

The design of architectural shingles is a lot more impressive than other types of roofs. They are a great way to improve the curb appeal of your house. One of the reasons people like the appearance is that the shingles resemble wood shake panels.

Color Options

There are many color options to choose from. Most homeowners choose between black and brown shades. Ideally, you should choose a roof color that will complement your home.

If your house is white, nearly any color of shingle will look good. If you have a log home or an older house, the best color options are grey or green. Some other colors that you can get architectural shingles in that you may not have considered are blue and white.


Architectural shingles are very versatile. What roofers like about these shingles is that they’re very easy to cut. This makes them easier to shape correctly to fit different roof sizes and shapes.

A lot of people are under the impression that 3 tabs are the easiest shingle to install. If you’re working on a roof that requires more shingle cutting, you may prefer to work with architectural shingles.


Architectural shingles are known to be one of the most durable shingles on the market. If you invest in an architectural shingle roof on your home, it’s very likely you won’t need to buy another roof in your lifetime.

These shingles are strong enough to handle nearly any weather conditions. Most architectural shingles can withstand 110 to 135 mph winds. This is an option you should consider if you live in an area with high winds or hurricanes.


Most architectural shingles will last for over 50 years. On average, the estimated lifespan of an architectural shingle is between 30 and 50 years. However, if you pick a high-quality shingle that’s installed professionally, it could last for over 75 years.

To get the most out of your shingles, make sure you keep up with regular maintenance and roof cleaning.

Installation Process

Depending on your roof size, it could take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to complete the installation. This is what you can expect during the installation process.

  1. The roofers will prepare the workspace to begin the installation.
  2. They will attach one row of shingles at a time. It’s a common practice to start at the lowest left corner to begin attaching shingles.
  3. The following row will be placed in a style that overlaps the lower row. This will continue until they reach the top.
  4. The same process will be done on both sides of the roof. When the roofers reach the top, they will overlap the remaining shingles.


Architectural shingles cost an average of $4.50 to $7 per square foot. Most homeowners spend between $13,500 and $21,500 for the entire roof. However, if you have a larger home, you may end up paying more.


Architectural shingles generally come with a lifetime or a lifetime-limited warranty. This is because they shouldn’t contain any manufacturing defects that affect their lifespan.

Some contracting companies will have a warranty on their work. If you have architectural shingles installed by a professional company, you may be able to get a warranty that’s between 25 and 50 years.

Can You Install 2 Layers Of Shingles?

Asphalt shingles do allow for 2 layers to be installed. However, before you go ahead with this installation, it’s important to make sure building codes in your municipality allow it. Most communities in the USA allow 2 layers on roofs with a 4:12 pitch.

While it’s normal to have 2 layers of shingles on a roof, homeowners aren’t allowed to exceed this. Houses that have 3 or more layers of shingles could be a risk in the event of a fire.

Can You Install Architectural Shingles Over 3 Tab? (Or Vice Versa?)

It is possible to install architectural shingles over 3 tab. Professionals will only recommend doing this once. This is because it could lead to future problems with the roof and may affect its lifespan.

One thing you will not be able to do is to install 3 tab shingles over architectural shingles. You can only install a new layer of 3 tab shingles over another layer of 3 tabs.


3 tab and architectural shingles are both great options for homeowners that want an asphalt roof. Architectural shingles are of better quality. They are made from stronger material and have a longer life span. You can trust architectural shingles during a storm.

Many homeowners do prefer 3 tabs. This is because 3 tab shingles are more affordable and easier to install. You can install a 3 tab roofer quicker with fewer workers. It’s also easier to make repairs on 3 tab shingles.