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Asphalt Shingles Comparison: 3-Tab Shingles vs. Architectural Shingles

Select the Right Roofing Material for Your Roof

15 min
3-tab shingles vs. architectural asphalt shingles comparison

If you have ever replaced your roof, you may know there are two primary types of asphalt shingles: 3-tab and architectural. Approximately 80% of US homes have asphalt shingle roofs.

Three-tab shingles have dropped in popularity, replaced by new architectural or dimensional shingles, as more contemporary designs have added thickness and improved aesthetic. No matter the style, asphalt shingles can be a durable, beautiful, and smart, economical choice for most homes.

In recent years, architectural shingles may be Class 4 or impact resistant and even better protect your home and enable a substantial discount to your homeowner’s insurance policy.

When choosing a roofing company in metro Denver to install asphalt shingles on your home, it’s best to ask about different designs and attributes to make an informed decision and get the new roof you want.

The following offers details on 3-tab and architectural shingles to aid your research and choose the best fit for your home.

What are 3-Tab Shingles?

3-tab shingles are the simplest design and the least expensive type of asphalt shingle available. Manufactured with asphalt and fiberglass and lightweight, these shingles are called 3-tab shingles because they consist of 3 identically sized tabs.

3-tab asphalt shingles design

When working with a limited budget such as a rental property or budget home, 3-tab shingles are a great roofing choice. However, there are trade offs when using an inexpensive shingle, as 3-tab shingles typically have lesser wind resistance than architectural shingles, meaning they are more vulnerable to Colorado’s extreme weather.

Three-tab shingles have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years, depending on product and wind resistance, but typically need to be replaced sooner since these are lighter and thinner than architectural shingles and more prone to wind and hail damage.

What are Architectural / Dimensional Shingles?

Architectural shingles, also known as dimensional or laminated shingles, consist of multiple material layers of a more refined type of asphalt than 3-tab. They are a thicker, more durable shingle.

swatch of Owens Corning Duration Storm Class 4 impact resistant asphalt shingle

Unlike 3-tab shingles, architectural shingles contain no cutouts, but the lower half is laminated with an extra layer of asphalt. This produces a dimensional and sleek look that gives the shingles their name. The layers are bonded with asphalt sealant, improving the waterproof capabilities of the shingles.

Architectural shingles are popular due to their added thickness and durability and overall more modern style options, providing an attractive three-dimensional look to your roof, mimicking the appearance of natural wood shake or slate shingles.

Architectural shingles are thicker, more durable, more expensive, and come with more extended manufacturer’s warranties, sometimes up to 50 years. A typical architectural shingle has a 3-year rating, but Class 4 impact resistant versions can increase life expectancy and warranties up to 50 years. Because architectural shingles are thicker than 3-tab shingles, they likely will not need to be replaced as early, typically lasting 24-30 years unless wind or hail damage justifies a roof replacement.

The Complete Comparison of Three-Tab and Architectural Shingles

When considering installing a new asphalt shingle roof or a roof replacement, of utmost importance is to decide what roofing product best fits your needs. Both the basic 3-tab and the more premium architectural shingles share many similarities, but they are, in fact, quite different.

Three-tab shingles are available in only one design style compared to many dimensional or architectural shingles options. Depending on the design, architectural shingles are manufactured with varied thicknesses, which affect budget and warranty. A premium architectural shingle can have a 50-year rating.

Let’s review the key advantages of architectural shingles compared to 3-tab shingles.

What is the Appearance Difference Between Three-Tab and Architectural Shingles?

There is no correct decision for the best shingle design. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and additional factors such as specific design, budget, and warranty contribute to the decision.

Three-Tab Shingles Aesthetics

3-tab shingles are flat, with a uniform single tab shape and size. Nearly all asphalt shingle manufacturers manufacture these budget-friendly shingles in a range of neutral colors and some non-traditional color options. There is only a single, uniform shape and size, so there are no additional style choices from which to choose.

Each shingle is typically manufactured in 36-inch length, with three even segments, where the shingle gets its name. Though each shingle is technically one piece, it appears to be three separate shingles.

Most popular 3-tab shingle models include:

The following lists the top 3-tab shingle brands and products but is comprehensive to all available brands and products. While each is manufactured in similar sizes and colors, there are some differences in impact resistance, wind resistance, and life expectancy.

  • Supreme by Owens Corning. This 25-year rated shingle has a 60 miles per hour (MPH) wind resistance and a Class A UL fire resistance.
  • XT 30 IR by CertainTeed. This shingle carries a 30-year warranty against manufacturing defects, meets the Underwriter Laboratories (UL) 2218 Class 4 impact resistance, and has a 70 MPH wind warranty. CertainTeed also offers a 25-year rated shingle.
  • Royal Sovereign by GAF. These strip shingles have a 25-year limited warranty and a 60 MPH wind warranty.
  • Dura-Seal by Malarkey. Malarkey’s traditional 3-tab style shingles have a Class 4 hail impact rating and include granules that reduce algae streaks and help clean the air of emission pollutants.

Architectural Shingles Aesthetics

Architectural shingles are also commonly referred to as laminated or dimensional shingles because they provide a more three-dimensional appearance to the roof. Designed to avoid repetitive patterns, each shingle is manufactured with multiple layers of materials adhering to the base, which gives a more varied, contoured visual effect and adds more water resistance.

There are many different styles of architectural shingles, offering versatility for homeowners to find a suitable design that meets their needs. Some are designed in such a way to mimic more expensive roofing styles, such as slate and cedar shakes.

Homeowners who want to upgrade their home look have a wide selection of options in design and color. If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association (HOA), we recommend checking whether your HOA will allow for a change.

Most popular architectural shingle models include:

Below are top-selling basic architectural shingle brands and products. Unlike 3-tab shingles, where there is a single style, there are many premium or luxury options, but the below focuses on the basic architectural shingles.

  • Duration by Owens Corning. This popular 30-year rated asphalt shingle is available in various popular colors. It comes with Owens Corning’s patented SureNail Technology that delivers maximum holding power in the nailing zone.
  • Landmark by CertainTeed. This shingle has a 30-year rating and a 110 MPH wind-resistance warranty, and UL Class A fire resistance.
  • Timberline by GAF. GAF proudly touts that Timberline is North America’s #1 selling shingle. GAF also states that more homes and businesses in the United States have a GAF roof than any other product.
  • Highlander by Malarkey. This product by Malarkey earns a Class 2 hail impact rating, like its peers. A differentiator is Malarkey’s granules that reduce algae streaks and help clean the air of emission pollutants.

Class 4 impact resistant options of these shingles are available, which are more durable. A Class 4 rating is the accepted industry testing performed with the UL 2218 classification.

Homeowners who upgrade to a Class 4 roof can earn a substantial discount on their homeowners insurance premium. At Metro City Roofing in the metro Denver market, we see an average 28% discount.

Popular Class 4 shingles include Owens Corning Duration Storm, CertainTeed Landmark IR, GAF Armourshield II, and Malarkey’s Legacy.

Which is More Durable: a 3-Tab Shingle or Architectural Shingle?

Several characteristics differentiate 3-tab from architectural shingles. Style is one. Others include durability, wind and water resistance, life expectancy, and warranty. Let’s explore in more detail.

Aerial view of a recent roof replacement with light brown asphalt shingles and cream color exterior by Metro City Roofing in Denver, Colorado

Asphalt Shingles Durability

Strip or 3-tab shingles are the thinnest asphalt shingle available. As a result, this makes them less resistant to Colorado’s extreme weather like hailstorms and windstorms and more prone to being blown off in a storm.

By contrast, architectural shingles are better suited to withstand the harsh weather conditions in Colorado. Manufacturer warranties promote higher wind resistance, with even the more basic architectural shingles withstanding winds up to 110 MPH than 60-70 MPH for 3-tab shingles.

The extra thickness of architectural shingles allows increased durability, making the shingle heavier with decreased likelihood to blow off in the extreme wind.

Asphalt Shingles Wind and Water Resistance

Each style of architectural asphalt shingles will have its own wind resistance rating. 3-tab shingles routinely have wind resistance ratings for only 60 to 70 MPH. Architectural shingles are thicker and more expensive, so it would make sense that they have higher wind ratings. Architectural shingles average wind resistance ratings between 80 MPH and 130 MPH.

Like in wind resistance, architectural shingles come above in the list to 3-tab shingles when it comes to water resistance.

The architectural shingles are laminated and coated with tightly packed granules which are incredibly water-resistant. And the contoured design will slow water off the roof to avoid overwhelming your gutters and downspouts.

When installing a new roof or a roof replacement, it is important to know local code requirements. Most Colorado counties will require a permit for roof repair greater than 100 square feet. Some will even require installing the entire roof to the current code based on obtaining a permit. Each county and jurisdiction across the Front Range will have its own requirements, such as the number of nails used to ensure proper wind resistance and even the Class of shingles you can install. For example, Fort Collins requires a Class 4 shingle to be installed regardless of what shingle exists.

Asphalt Shingles Lifespan

Most 3-tab shingles come with a 20- to 25-year rating. CertainTeed’s XT 30 IR has a 30-year rating but will cost more than its peers. Because of their durability and higher-quality composition, architectural shingles generally have a longer lifespan than 3-tab shingles, with a minimum 30-year life expectancy. Some will have up to 50-year ratings, including most Class 4 impact resistant options.

Dimensional or architectural shingles will better withstand Colorado’s extreme weather, such as heat, snow, ice, rain, hail, and strong winds, with an average lifespan between 18 to 20 years. They will perform and last longer under optimal conditions, but Colorado’s weather will likely reduce the lifespan. By comparison, 3-tab shingles may last less than ten years when exposed to severe weather. In milder climates, the lifespan will be increased.

Asphalt Shingles Manufacturer Warranties

Warranties typically reflect a product’s quality: the better the product, the more extended the warranty. Asphalt shingles are no different. While warranties will vary by brand, they typically align to the type of shingle, thickness, and Class rating.

Since 3-tab shingles have a shorter lifespan, it should be no surprise that they will have shorter warranties. While most 3-tab shingle products have 25-year warranties, some have up to 30-years. Architectural shingles typically come with warranties of a minimum of 30 years and up to 50 years.

Class 4 shingles will have the most extended warranties since they are manufactured with thicker and more durable materials. Roofing manufacturers use the industry-standard UL 2218 steel ball test to describe the hail impact resistance of their products. Asphalt shingles are designed to flex upon impact, distributing the impact forces from a steel ball impact over a larger area. Products tested are given impact resistance classifications from Class 1 to Class 4, with a Class 4 rating as the best to withstand up to 2” hail.

In sum, it is not a coincidence that architectural shingles will have more extended warranties than their 3-tab counterparts.

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3-Tab Shingles vs. Architectural Shingles Cost Difference

When it comes to cost, there are a few things to consider. Two important facts to consider are the initial cost and, more importantly, the return on your investment.

How Much Do 3-Tab Shingles Cost?

We’ve already covered that 3-tab or strip shingles are of lesser quality than dimensional or architectural shingles. The cost of shingles may be defined as the combination of materials and labor.

Only focusing on materials costs, traditional 3-tab shingles average 20-25% less expensive than architectural ones. For basic 3-tab shingles, there are approximately 33 square feet (SF) per bundle. At the time of this writing, one can find a single bundle of quality 3-tab products between $27 – $37.50 or $0.80 – $1.14 per square foot + tax. For a 2,000 square foot house, the cost of the shingles will cost between $1,600 – $2,280, plus tax.

Unfortunately, anyone reading this should not believe shingles are the only materials required for a roof installation or a roof replacement. There are additional roofing materials needed that complete the entire cost structure, including starter, underlayment, valley liner, drip edge and gutter apron, plastic cap and coil nails, ridge cap shingles, ventilation, and more.

Further, since 3-tab shingles are thinner and use less material than architectural shingles, you should expect a shorter lifespan and the possibility of more frequent repairs following Colorado’s extreme weather like wind and hail.

How Much Do Architectural Shingles Cost?

Architectural shingles will likely have a higher initial price tag than 3-tab shingles. The price per bundle of architectural or dimensional shingles will start at $37.50 and can quickly increase by more than double in price based on the individual style. A luxury architectural shingle like the CertainTeed Presidential will cost more than $2.20 per square foot. So that same 2,000 square foot roof will now cost $4,400. Unfortunately, several premium shingle styles require additional materials like double starter to complete a roof installation.

Additionally, the type of roof will determine how much extra materials you will need to buy. A simple gable roof will require less waste than a more complex roof like a hip roof or with many roof facets or cuts.

As a homeowner, building owner, or property manager, you will need to decide if the premium shingles are worth the premium cost. More expensive laminated shingles with a designer look can cost two times more than their lesser-priced counterparts.

But with premium prices, you will get a more durable shingle that likely has a more extended warranty, higher wind rating, and is more effective in preventing hail damage, plus more styles from which to choose.

When selling your home, a higher-grade shingle like a Class 4 rated one may increase your home’s value and help your home sell faster.

Asphalt Shingle Roof Installation Charges

Most architectural shingles will have the same installation process as 3-tab shingles. Some styles will require additional labor for added complexity, like the Owens Corning Woodmoor, but roofers are unlikely to charge a premium simply for installing more expensive materials.

Labor will include tearing off the existing roof shingles, including fees to discard the materials, plus charges to install the shingles, underlayment, and other roof system accessories. Many additional variables play a significant role in determining actual labor charges, including:

  • Type of shingle
  • Square feet of the roof
  • 1-story, 2-story, or greater
  • The roof’s pitch (the steeper the slope, the more expensive)
  • # of layers of roofing materials to remove; many older homes may have two or more layers of shingles to remove
  • Accessibility to roof load materials with a boom truck or needing to hand-carry materials
  • Accessibility to position a dumpster or trailer near the property to easily discard roof debris
  • Other items such as adding decking to meet current manufacturing and code requirements or detaching and resetting gutters

Installation costs can range from $1.00 to $3.50 or more, depending on the above variables. So a 2,000 roof can cost between $2,000 – $7,000 for installation alone.

You will spend approximately $5.00 per square foot when you add materials and labor, assuming you buy materials and hire a roofing crew for installation. You can expect to pay $7.50 – 12.50 per square foot by hiring a professional roofer. That same 2,000 square foot roof can be $15,000 – $25,000.

Are Architectural Shingles Worth the Extra Cost?

It is a personal choice to spend the additional money on architectural shingles over 3-tab shingles. Architectural shingles are increasing in popularity, while 3-tab shingles are declining.

You may prefer the design aesthetic of one style over another and decide the cost is worth it since it’s your home or business.

If you are budget-focused and need to replace your roof, 3-tab shingles may be an intelligent choice.

If you plan to sell your home, your roof can be a huge selling point. A buyer will immediately evaluate the home’s exterior, and the roof will play a significant role in creating a positive first impression.

A new, premium quality roof will provide confidence to a buyer that the home is well maintained and minimal work is required upon title transfer. Suppose the home requires additional work or a home inspector cites roof repair. In that case, you can expect fewer offers, lower offers, and a longer sales process, as a buyer may ask for concessions and repairs to be made before closing.

Which Are Better: 3-Tab Shingles or Architectural Shingles?

Here is a simple chart to compare 3-tab and architectural asphalt shingles. There is no correct answer; your decision will be individual and right for you.

3-Tab ShinglesArchitectural Shingles
DesignFlat, 2-dimensional3-dimensional
Style choicesOnly 1Multiple
Wind resistance60-70 MPH110-150 MPH
Warranty20-30 years30-50 years
PriceLow-endWide range
Property valueNo impactIncrease value
PopularityDecreasingIncreasing

3-Tab Shingles: Affordable Choice for Your Roof

Three-tab shingles are lightweight, flat, giving a more two-dimensional appearance than architectural shingles. 3-tab shingles do not typically have as long a lifespan but are less costly than architectural shingles.

The following are the top benefits and negatives of three-tab shingles.

Three-Tab shingles pros:

  • 3-tab shingles are affordable. Three-tab shingles are the least expensive style of shingle available. These asphalt shingles are commonly selected for those on a budget.
  • 3-tab shingles are durable. The life manufacturer warranty on three-tab shingles typically averages 25-years, with some options up to 30-years. Even a 25-year warranty is often more than sufficient for many homeowners.
  • 3-tab shingles are attractive. The flat, uniform look of 3-tab shingles is beautiful for many homeowners and business owners.

Three-tab shingles cons:

  • 3-tab shingles are less popular. The popularity of 3-tab shingles has diminished in the last ten years in favor of architectural shingles, partly due to the flat design vs. three-dimensional design. If you plan to sell your home anytime soon, popularity should be a factor in your roof replacement consideration.
  • 3-tab shingles are thinner. Because 3-tab shingles are thinner than architectural shingles, they will likely need to be replaced sooner. That’s not to suggest one will need to replace their roof as often as a set of automotive tires but replacing a roof is never something one looks forward to doing.
  • 3-tab shingles are less popular. The popularity of 3-tab shingles has diminished in the last ten years in favor of architectural shingles. This should be an important consideration if selling your home anytime soon.
  • 3-tab shingles have a lower manufacturer warranty. The average warranty for 3-tab shingles is 25-years compared to 30-years and up to 50-years for premium architectural shingles. 3-tabs also have a lower wind resistance warranty.

As with most decisions about a home, the preferred roof shingle style depends on the homeowner’s personal style and needs. Before deciding, we recommend carefully considering both short-term and long-term.

Architectural Shingles: Durable and Long-Lasting Roof Solution

Architectural shingles have increased in popularity across the United States in the last decade for various good reasons. They are thicker, more durable, available in more style or design options, have longer manufacturing warranties, higher wind resistance ratings, and are viewed as a more premium roofing shingle.

The following are the top benefits and negatives of architectural shingles.

Architectural shingles pros:

  • Architectural shingles are long-lasting. Premium, architectural shingles are thicker and designed to last up to 50 years. Architectural shingles can be an excellent investment for those thinking long term.
  • Architectural shingles have longer warranties. Architectural shingles typically have 30-year or longer warranties, can resist winds up to 130 miles per hour, and are more resistant to nature’s elements like hail.
  • Architectural shingles improve property value. A roof plays an essential role in a home’s overall curb appeal, and selecting the right roof for your home or business may help your property value and help your home sell for top price and faster.

Architectural shingles cons:

  • Architectural shingles cost more. Architectural shingles are more durable and will likely last longer than 3-tab shingles but come with an increased material cost.
  • Design is a personal choice. Some individuals will like the simple, flat design of 3-tab shingles so that architectural shingles won’t be for everyone regardless of price or cost.

So, which is the better option for your new roof installation or roof replacement? The answer is it depends. There are pros and cons of each shingle style, from durability to design to price, and each homeowner, business owner, or property manager will need to weigh options to select the best shingle for you.

Hire a Professional Roofer to Install an Asphalt Shingle Roof in the Denver Metro Area

As professional roofers, we coach clients to select the best roofing material for their projects. There are many factors to consider, but a critical one is how long you intend to remain in the property. If you plan to be in the property for the next five to ten years, your roof may not matter as much to you but may play a vital role when selling the property.

Another critical factor is price. Since architectural shingles are more expensive than three-tab shingles, three-tab shingles may be a more financially attractive option for some homeowners.

A third critical factor is design. There is only a single design for three-tab shingles compared to many more for architectural shingles. If you are considering changing or upgrading the look of your home or property, you will simply have more options with architectural shingles.

Contact Metro City Roofing to learn more about your different roofing choices, and our professionals will discuss further so you can make the right roofing choice for your home.

Why Choose Metro City Roofing?

Metro City Roofing is a Colorado roofing company headquartered in Denver, CO, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We specialize in hassle-free professional roofing and will treat your home like our own.

We deliver the best professional roofing services across the entire Front Range from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. We are proud of the excellent reputation we've earned, with outstanding customer satisfaction, one roof, and one customer at a time.

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Jonathan Abramson

Jonathan Abramson

Colorado Roofing Expert, Founder of Metro City Roofing

Jonathan loves the roofing industry as his company helps individual customers to navigate the insurance claim process and get them the new roof they need after a hailstorm. He has earned numerous roofing certifications and licenses, including the distinguished All Lines Adjuster License.

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