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April 13, 2023

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    You might think that all asphalt shingles are interchangeable, but there are some surprising differences between 3-tab and architectural shingles that you need to know before choosing which is right for your roof

    This article breaks down the similarities and differences between 3-tab and architectural shingles, comparing them based on cost, aesthetics, durability, and more. To find a top-notch roofing professional near you, use the tool below.

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    • 3-tab shingles are the most popular type of asphalt shingles and one of the most common roof types on single-family homes.
    • The average architectural shingle is more durable and has a longer lifespan than the typical 3-tab shingle.
    • Architectural shingles come as single tabs, while 3-tab shingles come in long strips with three tabs per sheet.
    • Neither 3-tab nor architectural shingles are better in every scenario, which means the right one depends on your circumstances.

    What Are 3-Tab Shingles?

    Three-tab, or 3-tab, shingles are the most popular type of asphalt shingles and one of the most common roof types on single-family homes. They’re affordable, easy to install, and durable enough to last between 10 and 20 years on average, making them the perfect choice for homeowners looking for low-cost and low-maintenance roofing.

    Three-tab shingles get their name from their design. Each strip in a package of 3-tab shingles comes with three flaps, or tabs, separated by small gaps to give the appearance of three individual shingles. The 3-tab model makes installing your shingles much faster without sacrificing individual shingles’ aesthetic appeal and look.

    Lift a shingle on an asphalt roof with a flat prybar
    3-tab shingles

    Pros and Cons of 3-Tab Shingles


    • 10- to 20-year lifespan
    • 25-year warranty
    • Cost-effective
    • Easy to install


    • Limited room for customization
    • Not as durable as other roofing materials

    What Are Architectural Shingles?

    Architectural shingles are less common than 3-tab shingles, mostly because they cost more. However, the average architectural shingle is more durable and has a longer lifespan than the typical 3-tab shingle, justifying the higher cost. Architectural shingles are also more flexible than 3-tab shingles in terms of design, with more shapes and colors to choose from.

    Unlike 3-tab shingles, architectural shingles are individual, so installing them takes longer. Architectural shingles are approximately 50% thicker than 3-tab, giving them a more three-dimensional look — which is why they are also called dimensional shingles. They’re also sometimes called composite shingles.

    Architectural shingles

    Pros and Cons of Architectural Shingles


    • Can withstand up to 120 mph winds
    • Come in a variety of styles
    • Extremely durable
    • Typically last 30 years or more
    • Usually come with a limited lifetime warranty


    • More complex to install
    • Somewhat expensive

    3-Tab Vs. Architectural Shingles: Similarities and Differences

    To the untrained eye, architectural and 3-tab shingles are hard to tell apart. They’re both made primarily of asphalt, and they can look the same once they’re installed. The differences between architectural and 3-tab shingles are important to understand if you’re in the market for a new roof. The following sections explore the main similarities and differences between architectural and 3-tab asphalt shingles.


    From a distance, 3-tab shingles and architectural shingles can be hard to differentiate, but up close, it becomes much easier. Architectural shingles come as single tabs, while 3-tab shingles come in long strips with three tabs per sheet, making it easy to tell the two apart before installation. Architectural shingles are also noticeably thicker than traditional 3-tab shingles, which can appear flimsy by comparison.

    Architectural shingles come in various designs, with some made to mimic wood shake, slate, or metal roofs when installed. Architectural shingles are considered a high-quality roofing option and are more common than 3-tab shingles in high-end homes. Recently, architectural shingles designed to look like cedar shakes have become an increasingly popular way to add to your home’s curb appeal.


    Both architectural shingles and 3-tab shingles are made of asphalt. However, architectural shingles have an additional layer of asphalt and built-in granules, making them thicker, heavier, and more durable than 3-tab shingles. Architectural shingles are sometimes called laminate shingles due to the layers of materials used to manufacture them. The composition varies from company to company, but most architectural shingles contain fiberglass, minerals, and asphalt.

    By contrast, 3-tab shingles are made almost entirely from asphalt, which helps keep their cost down at the expense of longevity.


    Three-tab shingles are your best bet if you’re looking for affordable asphalt roofing. Most 3-tab shingles cost about $1 to $2 per square foot, resulting in a total cost of around $1,500 to $3,000 for a typical 1,500-square-foot roof.

    Architectural shingles are generally more expensive, fetching prices between $4 and $8 per square foot on average. Even on the low end, covering a 1,500-square-foot roof in architectural shingles will run you about $6,000 — more than double what it would cost for the most expensive 3-tab shingles.

    Durability and Wind Ratings

    Architectural shingles are your friend if you live in a windy part of the country. They are sturdier and more wind-resistant than 3-tab shingles and can withstand winds up to 120 miles per hour in some cases. Three-tab shingles perform less impressively, with most unable to withstand winds beyond 70 mph.

    Architectural shingles are also better if you value overall durability since they can last up to 30 years with proper care and maintenance. Three-tab shingle roofs usually need to be replaced every 10 to 20 years, although relative replacement costs may be similar since 3-tab shingles are more affordable.

    Installation Processes

    If you’re hiring a professional roofing contractor to install your shingles, you might not care as much about how easy they are to install, but if you’re planning on doing it yourself, take heed. 

    Three-tab shingles are significantly easier to work with and faster to install than architectural shingles. They’re thinner and more flexible, which makes them much easier to manipulate, and they come in strips of three, which greatly reduces the amount of work you have to do laying them out and nailing them down.

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    Architectural shingles come individually, which means they take more effort and time to install. They’re also bigger and bulkier, so you’ll have a harder time lugging them around during installation.


    Architectural shingles last 50% longer than 3-tab shingles, which makes their higher cost understandable. However, properly-cared-for 3-tab shingles can last up to 20 years in low-impact climates, which makes it hard to justify the higher price of architectural shingles based on longevity alone. If you live somewhere without high winds or other types of extreme weather, 3-tab shingles might make more sense for you.


    Most companies provide a 25-year warranty for their 3-tab shingles that covers manufacturer defects and limited protection against things like fires, algae, and wind damage due to winds up to around 60 miles per hour, depending on the shingle. Three-tab shingle warranties aren’t bad but pale in comparison to architectural shingle warranties.

    Architectural shingles usually come with lifetime warranties that cover your shingles for as long as you own your home. Most architectural shingle manufacturer roof warranties also provide more robust protection against wind, fire, and algae.

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    Final Verdict: Which Is Better, 3-Tab or Architectural Shingles?

    Neither 3-tab nor architectural shingles are better in every scenario, which means the right one depends on your circumstances. If you’re looking for a low-cost roofing option that’s easy to install quickly, 3-tab shingles are what you want. If you don’t mind paying a bit more and want a higher quality option with increased durability, a longer lifespan, and a better warranty, it’s worth it to spring for architectural shingles.

    Architectural shingles are also better for people who want more control over their roof’s look since they’re available in tons of different colors and designs, making them a more popular option for new-construction homes.

    FAQs About 3-Tab and Architectural Shingles

    Are 3-tab shingles cheaper than architectural shingles?

    Three-tab shingles are much more affordable than architectural shingles since they’re made from lower-cost roofing materials. They’re also easier to install yourself, which can help you save money on installation costs if you have the skills and knowledge to install them yourself.

    What’s easier to install, 3-tab or architectural shingles?

    Three-tab shingles are easier to install than architectural shingles. Architectural shingles come individually, requiring more work since you have to install them one at a time. Three-tab shingles come in sheets where three “shingles” are part of the same roofing material, making it easier to arrange and attach them to your roof. Additionally, 3-tab shingles are thinner and more flexible than architectural shingles, which makes them easier to work with overall.

    If you’re considering undertaking a roofing project as your next home improvement, remember that unless you have the requisite skills and experience, it’s better to hire a roofer to install your shingles.

    Are architectural shingles worth the extra cost?

    Architectural shingle roofs last longer and are more resilient, making them worth the extra cost in areas with extreme weather. Some architectural shingles are rated to withstand wind speeds up to 120 mph — double the 60 mph rating of most 3-tab shingles. If you live somewhere that regularly sees high winds or other forms of adverse weather, architectural shingles are a solid investment and will cut down on how much you’ll have to spend on roof repairs and roof replacements.

    How long do 3-tab shingles last?

    The average lifespan of 3-tab shingles is between 10 and 20 years. Three-tab shingles last longer in some environments and don’t hold up well against high winds, so your mileage may vary.

    Editorial Contributors
    Dan Simms

    Dan Simms


    Dan Simms worked in real estate management for five years before using his experience to help property owners maintain their own homes. He got his master’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and he now enjoys sharing his knowledge about homeownership and DIY projects with others on Today’s Homeowner. When he’s not writing, he’s usually outdoors with his wife and his dog, enjoying mountain biking, skiing, and hiking.

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    Lora Novak

    Senior Editor

    Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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