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April 22, 2024

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    When you’re considering ways to boost your home’s curb appeal, it’s easy to overlook your roof. But even here, you have options that can add a dramatic flair to your home’s exterior. One common way is through dimensional shingles.

    Unlike your traditional asphalt shingle, dimensional shingles add depth and character to your roof without sacrificing durability or longevity. However, they’re not the best option in every situation. This article will review the pros and cons of dimensional shingles and give you the tools you need to decide if they’re right for your roof.

    What Are Dimensional Shingles?

    Dimensional shingles are similar to a traditional three-tab asphalt shingle but with a twist. Regular shingles create a brick-like pattern. But dimensional shingles are layered and notched at varying points, creating a depth and design resembling slate or wood shakes.

    Asphalt shingles placed at varying depths for dimension

    Each dimensional roofing shingle features multiple layers fused together to create the final product. These layers are notched to expose the layer underneath and create a three-dimensional appearance.

    This added thickness improves the shingles’ longevity, helping them to last longer and hold up better in harsh conditions. They offer better protection from high wind and hail and can last upwards of 40 years, compared to the 20-year average lifespan for traditional asphalt shingles.

    However, dimensional shingles are considerably more expensive than traditional options — adding 20% or more to your material costs. Dimensional shingles are also more susceptible to mildew and algae due to their notched design.

    We recommend reading our comprehensive analysis of roof shingles to gain deeper insights into all aspects related to them.

    Dimensional Shingles vs. 3-tab Shingles

    When you think of your traditional, standard shingle, a three-tab asphalt shingle is typically what you have in mind.

    Three-tab shingles are notched at regular intervals, creating a repetitive brick-like appearance. They’re low-cost, widely available in many styles and colors, and easy to repair if damaged. However, they’re not as sturdy or weather resistant as other options and don’t have the longest lifespan.

    By contrast, dimensional shingles offer randomly spaced notches that create a varied appearance. These shingles are thicker than three-tab shingles, so they hold up longer and can withstand harsher climates. However, they tend to be pricier than three-tab shingles, so they might not be the most budget-friendly option for your roof replacement.

    Dimensional vs. Architectural Shingles

    Dimensional shingles are often confused with architectural shingles, but there are a few key differences.

    Architectural shingles feature a random design and shape, requiring a custom roof installation that adds to your costs (explore our detailed analysis of architectural shingles). Dimensional shingles are somewhat more uniform, with a pattern that repeats itself.

    Both dimensional and architectural shingles are thicker than standard shingles and offer better durability, impact resistance, longevity, and fire resistance. They both also hold up well under harsher weather, such as strong winds, heavy rain, and snow.

    Keep in mind: Even some contractors refer to these two types of shingles interchangeably. However, they are technically different.

    How To Install Dimensional Shingles

    Person installing shingles on a roof

    Installing dimensional shingles is a doable project for an avid DIYer with the proper safety gear. That said, it’s usually best to leave these projects to professional roofers, as they have the knowledge and experience necessary to make adjustments and catch potential roofing issues as they arise. If you’ve decided to hire a professional roofing service, we recommend reading our article titled questions to ask before hiring your roofer. This will help you make informed decisions.

    The process starts with laying one row of shingles in the lower-left corner of the roof. Nail the shingles down, ensuring 1/2 inch hangs over the eaves. Cut 6 inches from your first shingle on your second row to ensure that the two rows don’t line up. As you work up the roof, you’ll stagger the rows to create your design and overlap the shingles to create a watertight barrier.

    Read also: Step-by-Step Roof Shingle Installation

    Cost of Dimensional Shingles

    On average, dimensional shingles cost between $3 to $5 per square foot to purchase and install. However, the the price to shingle your roof will depend on various factors, including where you live, the size of your home, the complexity of your roof, and the specific shingle you select.

    Some brands and styles are pricier than others. In addition, larger homes require additional roofing materials, and complicated roofs require more time to complete, driving up the cost.

    If you’re replacing your old roofing material with dimensional shingles, you’ll also encounter additional costs associated with removal. Generally, roofing contractors charge between $1 and $5 per square foot to remove and dispose of old roofing material. We refer you to read our article on essential roof element guide for more detailed information.

    Lifespan and Durability

    Dimensional shingles offer longer lifespans and superior durability when compared to three-tab shingles. They feature a thicker, layered design and better withstand harsh weather conditions. On average, a well-installed dimensional shingle roof can last over 40 years, compared to the 20-year lifespan of a traditional three-tab shingle roof.

    Related: Owens Corning vs GAF Roofing Shingles Comparison

    Types and Styles of Dimensional Shingles

    Roof shingles with a unique rounded shape

    Dimensional shingles typically have a standard style, with varied notching that creates an appearance similar to wood shakes or natural slate roofing.

    However, these shingles come in multiple colors, including shades of white, gray, black, blue, green, and red. The exact color availability ranges from one brand to the next, but they’re widely available in several color options.

    Benefits of Dimensional Shingles

    Notable upsides to dimensional shingles include the following:

    • Better weather resistance
    • Longer lifespan
    • Longer warranties, depending on the brand
    • More upscale appearance
    • Superior durability
    • Widely available in several colors

    Drawbacks of Dimensional Shingles

    Of course, dimensional shingles also have their drawbacks. Notable disadvantages of dimensional shingles include the following:

    • Heavier than traditional shingles, potentially adding too much load to your roof
    • More susceptible to mildew and algae
    • Pricier than other options

    FAQs About Dimensional Shingles

    Which is better, three-tab or architectural shingles?

    Both options have their merits. If you’re looking for an inexpensive asphalt shingle with a uniform appearance, three-tab shingles are the better choice. On the other hand, architectural shingles are the better choice if you’re looking for a higher-end style and a roof that will last for decades.

    Are dimensional shingles good for steep roofs?

    Dimensional shingles are suitable for steep roofs but may require additional reinforcements for certain slopes. They generally work well on slopes between 3.5/12 and 11/12, but extra reinforcements are usually necessary for slopes of 12/12 or higher.

    Do dimensional shingles come with a warranty?

    Generally, dimensional shingles feature a solid warranty. The warranty length or availability depends on the brand, but many manufacturers offer a guarantee of between 30 years and a lifetime.

    Who has the best dimensional shingles?

    Dimensional shingles are widely available in multiple styles, colors, and designs. The best-selling brands include Atlas, GAF, and CertainTeed. Other brands also feature high ratings, including Tamko, Owens Corning, and IKO.

    What is the composition of dimensional shingles?

    Dimensional shingles consist of fiberglass, ceramic-coated mineral granules, and asphalt. The shingle’s base is a hefty fiberglass mat. On the top, there’s typically a coating of refined, water-resistant asphalt and tightly embedded ceramic-coated mineral granules. The two layers are bonded together to create a durable shingle.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Jonathon Jachura

    Jonathon Jachura


    Jonathon Jachura is a two-time homeowner with hands-on experience with HVAC, gutters, plumbing, lawn care, pest control, and other aspects of owning a home. He is passionate about home maintenance and finding the best services. His main goal is to educate others with crisp, concise descriptions that any homeowner can use. Jon uses his strong technical background to create engaging, easy-to-read, and informative guides. He does most of his home and lawn projects himself but hires professional companies for the “big things.” He knows what goes into finding the best service providers and contractors. Jon studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and worked in the HVAC industry for 12 years. Between his various home improvement projects, he enjoys the outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with his family.

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    photo of Lora Novak

    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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