Architectural Shingles vs 3-Tab: What’s the Difference?

Shingles protect your house and investment from rain, snow, hail, UV rays, temperature extremes, and wind. They withstand the elements but do need periodic maintenance and replacement. So, if it’s time to replace your shingles or finish off a new build and you’re wondering about architectural shingles vs 3-tab, we’re here to help!

3-tab shingles are easy to install, inexpensive, and come in a wide selection of colors. They will last 15 to 25 years and provide a good water-resistant barrier. Architectural shingles have a 3-D profile and are heavier, thicker, less flexible, and more water and wind resistant. They are more expensive but will last between 30 and 50 years.

In this guide, we’ll explain what architectural and 3-tab shingles are, discuss their pros and cons, and compare them. We also provide a handy comparison chart and identify which type of shingle is better. Our aim is to provide you with the information to make the best decision for your next shingling project.

Architectural Shingles vs 3 Tab

Architectural Shingles vs 3-Tab: Key Points

Architectural and 3-tab shingles are made of asphalt and fiberglass or cellulose materials and are installed in a similar manner. However, the differences are key to which type of shingle is best for your roof and location. The Table below compares the two types to help facilitate selection.

Architectural Shingles3-Tab
Visual Appearance3-dimensional look with greater curb appeal.Flat regular pattern look.
DurabilityGreater durability overall due to greater weight and thickness.Edges can curl, crack, and break due to weather extremes.
DimensionsRange of sizes from 36”x12”, 37-3/8”x18-1/2”, 39-1/2”x13-1/4”, 40-7/8”x13-3/4”, or 40-7/8”x13-3/4”.Commonly 36” long and 12” wide, and each tab is 12” by 12”.
LifespanWarranties range from 25 to 50 years.They are typically rated for 15 to 25 years.
Wind ResistanceRated for winds up to 120 or 130 mph.Can sustain winds up to 60 mph.
Water ResistanceDouble the thickness and layers of protection, so greater water resistance.Good water resistance.
WeightA bundle of 15 to 29 shingles weighs between 85 and 141 pounds or 255 to 425 pounds per square.A bundle contains 21 to 29 shingles and weighs between 50 and 65 pounds or up to 195 pounds per square.
MaintenanceLower maintenance due to weight and thickness.Greater maintenance due to lighter weight and thickness.
CostBetween $1.50 and $8 per square foot. Plus, 60 linear feet of matching starter shingles run from $50 to $90, and 25 linear feet of ridge or hip shingles from $55 to $100.Range from $1 to $2 per square foot.

What Are Architectural Shingles?

ArchitecturalArchitectural shingles are designed and engineered to look like cedar shakes or slate tiles. They are essentially two shingles fused together with the tabs in the upper layer cut out in different shapes and sizes to provide a dimensional contour and thickness for architectural effect. Most product lines include matching starter strips and molded hip and ridge shingles since the shingles don’t bend easily.

Architectural shingles are also known as dimensional or laminated shingles. They have two layers of fiberglass bonded to layers of asphalt to form a stronger, heavier shingle. The exposed asphalt sections are topped with colored ceramic-coated granules that complement any house color and style.

What Are 3-Tab Shingles?

3 tab3-tab shingles are an inexpensive way to water and weatherproof a roof, but they don’t offer a lot of pizazz. They typically have a fiberglass or cellulose mat bonded on both sides to weather-grade asphalt.

The lower half of the shingle strip is cut, notched, or punched to form three equal-sized tabs. The tabs form the exposed portion of the shingle and their surface has colored ceramic-coated granules embedded into the asphalt.

The uncut upper portion of the shingle is exposed asphalt, so the underside of the tabs on the next shingle will bond to it as the sun warms it. The fiberglass makes for a stronger, more fire-resistant shingle, and the asphalt makes it waterproof, while the cellulose is usually heavier. The three tabs can be cut off and gently bent to form ridge and hip shingles, negating the need to buy special shingles.

Difference Between 3 Tab and Architectural Shingles

Difference Between 3 Tab and Architectural Shingles

The differences between 3-tab and architectural shingles may seem subtle or glaringly obvious depending on what you are looking for. Both shingles have a Class A fire rating and will provide a water and weatherproof barrier. However, the differences typically are the deciding factor for selection.


Both 3-Tab and architectural shingles are made of weather-grade asphalt and fiberglass with colored ceramic granules embedded into the exposed portions. However, the architectural shingle has double the layers of fiberglass and asphalt to provide the 3-D effect.

The underside of both types of shingle, and any exposed asphalt on top, are dusted with a fine mineral or stone powder to keep them from sticking to each other. There is also a sticky heat-activated sealant strip on both surfaces to help keep the shingles in place and fuse them into a single protective membrane.

Visual Appearance

Architectural shingles have a 3-dimensional or layered profile with a double layer of cut-out tabs designed to resemble cedar shakes or slate pieces. The shingles are heavier and thicker, and the colored granules are more naturally toned.

3-tab shingles are flat, single-layer strips with the lower half having two perpendicular slots or cuts to form three equal-sized tabs. The colored granules tend to be solid in color to create a more consistent coloring. It should be noted though, that the further away the view of the shingles, the more difficult it is to tell them apart.


3-tab shingles are commonly 36” long and 12” wide, with each tab being 12” by 12”. This allows the shingle strips to be cut into 1/3 or 2/3 sections to facilitate the staggering of successive rows. The granule-covered portion of the shingle ranges between 5” and 7” along the bottom of the top surface, with some being as much as 10” depending on the manufacturer.

Architectural shingles tend to be thicker and larger than 3-tab shingles. Some are 36”x12” or 37-3/8”x18-1/2”, and others 39-1/2”x13-1/4”, 40-7/8”x13-3/4”, or 40-7/8”x13-3/4” depending on product line and manufacturer.


Architectural shingles have a double layer of fiberglass and twice as many layers of weather-grade asphalt. So, they offer double the protection, strength, and durability available from 3-tab shingles. They are also almost twice as thick and heavy and are more rigid than the thinner and flimsier 3-tab.

If the roof deck and structure aren’t strong enough, then the heavier shingle could cause structural damage while a 3-tab wouldn’t, making the lighter shingle more durable in some situations. Durability also depends on the roof slope or pitch, climate, and manufacturer.

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of any shingle depends on the roof slope, climate, prevailing wind, maintenance, quality, and manufacturer. 3-tab shingles are typically rated to last 15 to 25 years, but they can begin to curl and look ratty in half that time. The thicker architectural shingles tend to last 25 to 50 years but may need replacing sooner. Both shingle types will also last longer if properly maintained too.


The weight of shingles varies from manufacturer and product line. Architectural shingles are essentially double the thickness and often larger than 3-tab shingles, so weigh more. A square of shingles covers 100 sqft, and a bundle will cover a third of that or 33.3 sqft.

A bundle of 3-tab shingles will contain 21 to 29 shingles and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds, or up to 195 pounds per square. A bundle of architectural shingles will include 15 to 29 shingles and weigh between 85 and 141 pounds, or 255 to 425 pounds per square.

Wind Resistance

The wind resistance rating of asphalt shingles depends on where the building is located, the roof orientation, and its slope. The roof deck material and the type of fasteners also play a part in wind resistance too. Asphalt shingles must meet either ASTM D7158 or ASTM D3161 and their packaging be labeled accordingly.

Depending on their classification, the heavier architectural shingles will withstand basic wind speeds between 85mph and 150mph. However, the average is around 130mph. Most 3-tab shingles are lighter and typically withstand winds up to 70mph.

Color Options

Color Options

Architectural shingles tend to have a more neutral palette than 3-tab shingles. The heavier shingles offer a dozen or so colors in a more natural spectrum found in wood shakes or slate tiles which they imitate. 3-tab shingles typically have a broader color choice of 30 or more, with more flamboyant possibilities.

Color selection may complement the house coloring, adhere to local HOA covenants, or be selected to address climate issues. Darker colors absorb heat and are common in colder climates while lighter colors reflect more heat, and are better for hot climates. However, personal preference is often a determining factor too.

Water Resistance

The asphalt used to make both 3-tab and architectural shingles is highly refined and oxidized oil. The tar-like substance is what makes the shingles water-resistant. The oil makes the shingles impermeable to moisture, and the slope of the roof sheds the precipitation or meltwater away.

Architectural shingles have twice as many layers of asphalt as 3-tab shingles, so provide a thicker barrier to moisture penetration. However, a properly installed and maintained 3-tab roof will provide adequate water resistance too.


Asphalt shingle installation is reasonably straightforward and can be done by a DIYer. However, the more hips, valleys, and ridges, the greater the need for professional experience.

Check to see if a permit is required, many jurisdictions require them to ensure the shingle and nails are appropriate for the roof deck and pitch. Most shingle manufacturers have installation instructions and recommendations on the bundle wrapper, so be sure to follow them.

3-tab shingles are lighter and more flexible, and typically easier to install and to segment into 1/3 or 2/3 row starter shingles. The tabs can also be used for ridge shingles too.

Architectural shingles are heavier and larger and have different segmentation and nailing locations but follow a similar layout. However, they also require matching starter strips and pre-formed ridge or hip shingles.

Maintenance and Repair

Maintenance is similar for both 3-tab and architectural shingles. Visually inspect the shingles after major weather events for damage. Look for broken, cracked, lifted, or missing shingles.

Wind, hail, torrential downpours, and heavy snow can damage shingles, as can falling branches. Seasonally remove leaves, dirt, organic material, and debris from the shingles, valleys, gutters, and downspouts. If going up on a roof, pick a dry day when the temperature is moderate to warm, not cold or hot.

Architectural shingles should require less maintenance as they are thicker, heavier, and have higher wind ratings, plus they tend to be easier to repair than 3-tab. Repair cracked shingles and replace curled, broken, or missing shingles, or hire a professional to carry out regular maintenance and repairs.


3-tab shingles are one of the least expensive roofing options and typically range from $1 to $2 per square foot. Architectural shingles are more expensive and matching starter strips and ridge or hip shingles add to the cost. The shingles start around $1.50 and go up to $8 per square foot.

60 linear feet of matching starter shingles run from $50 to $90 and 25 linear feet of ridge or hip shingles from $55 to $100. Architectural shingle costs typically depend on the manufacturer, product grade, wind ratings, color, and other factors. The type of shingles selected often come down to aesthetics and budget, but remember, you get what you pay for.


Shingle warranties vary with product and manufacturer but typically cover limited coverage for manufacturer defects, fire, wind, and algae growth. 3-tab shingles commonly are warrantied for 15, 20, and 25 years on a prorated basis. So, the older the shingles, the lower the payout.

Architectural shingles have enhanced warranties; they are heavier, thicker, and rated for higher winds, so will last longer. Most are warranted for 30 years with some up to 50 years. Some manufacturers offer better warranties if their ridge, hip, and starter shingles are also used, and if an approved installer does the work.

Typically, the first 10 years are 100% coverage, and the remaining life span is prorated. Installers prefer architectural shingles as the warranties better support their warranty.

Architectural Shingles Pros and Cons

Architectural Shingles Pros and Cons

Architectural shingles are made of four or more layers of asphalt and two of fiberglass. The greater thickness provides greater layering and dimension to the shingle, and tabs are cut in different shapes and patterns to mimic slate tiles or wooden shakes. The exposed portions have colored granules embedded in them.


  • Heavier and thicker, so less curling or breakage
  • Wind rated to an average of 120 mph
  • Fire, insect, and mildew resistant
  • Rated to last 30 to 50 years
  • Enhanced curb appeal
  • Granules wash off
  • More difficult to install
  • More expensive than 3-tab
  • Only available in a limited range of natural colors

Pros and Cons of 3-Tab Asphalt Shingles

3 Tab Shingles Pros and Cons

3-tab shingles are the most common asphalt shingle. They are made of two layers of asphalt and one of fiberglass or cellulose and are divided into three equal segments. The exposed tab portions have colored granules embedded into the asphalt.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install
  • Greater color choice
  • Rated to last 15 to 25 years
  • Lightweight, so can shingle over an existing layer
  • Less durable than other options
  • Only rated for 60 mph winds
  • Edges curl, crack, or break
  • Loses granules easily

What Is Better 3 Tab or Architectural Shingles?

Asphalt shingles have been in use in one format or another for more than a century to protect homes and buildings from the elements. While there have been improvements made over the years, they are still going strong. 3-tab shingles are inexpensive, easy to install, and come in a wide range of colors. They will last up to 25 years and provide a good water-resistant barrier.

Architectural shingles are essentially double-layered shingles that provide a 3-D profile and greater water resistance. They are longer lasting, heavier, thicker, less flexible, and more wind resistant. The shingles are more expensive but will last between 30 and 50 years, so well worth the investment if you’re planning to own the house that long.

Both 3-tab and architectural shingles provide a good protective barrier for a roof. However, neither is better than the other in every location. Roof pitch and climate issues, along with color choice, aesthetic appeal, and budget are often determining factors.

Hopefully, we’ve provided you with enough information to make the best decision for your next shingling project.

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