Architectural Shingle vs 3 Tab: What You Need to Know

Architectural Shingle vs 3 Tab: What You Need to Know

Most people don’t ever see the shingles on their roof up close. Therefore, they aren’t aware of the difference between various shingle types. In fact, they may not even know what kind of shingles are on their house.

Two of the most popular types are architectural and 3-tab shingles. Understanding the features of each will help you plan your roof repair or replacement appropriately.

Similarities Between Architectural Shingle vs 3 Tab

Architectural and 3-tab shingles are both considered to be asphalt shingles. Sometimes, they’re referred to as composition shingles. That’s because they are not made of asphalt alone.

The surface that faces the roof is made of fiberglass. The side that faces the sun has a granular texture that feels like coarse sandpaper. This outermost layer is made of asphalt and ceramic grains.

Both types of shingles repel water and reflect UV light. That makes them excellent options for protecting your home from the elements.

What Are 3-Tab Shingles?

When you look at a roof that’s made of 3-tab shingles, it appears as though each shingle is a single rectangle that measures about 5 inches by 11 inches. However, applying single shingles would be cumbersome and take a great deal of time. Therefore, 3-tab shingles are designed with three rectangles attached together.

They form a strip that’s typically between 36 and 39 inches long. They’re connected at the top with a wide overhang. Any fasteners, such as nails, are placed through the overhang. The tabs in the row above will overlap the overhang, hiding holes and fasteners.

What Are Architectural Shingles?

Imagine taking two strips of 3-tab shingles and laminating them together with one on top of the other. Essentially, this would create an architectural shingle.

This isn’t exactly the way that architectural shingles are made, however. Architectural shingles are specially designed to have a particular appearance, thickness and contour. They’re about 50% heavier and may have finer granules than 3-tab shingles.

Like 3-tab shingles, architectural styles have a base mat that lies beneath the row above it. This overhang is used to secure the fasteners.

Differences Between Architectural and 3 Tab Shingles

Although these types of shingles have similar compositions, they have plenty of differences.


One of the features that differentiate each type of shingle is the amount of material on them. Architectural shingles have much more material. The granules on architectural shingles are usually finer than those on 3-tab styles. The base mat is also sturdier. Therefore, architectural shingles offer additional protection from the weather.


Three-tab shingles tend to have the same basic look. You can choose different colors, but the design is standard among brands. These shingles lie flat and have a uniform look.

Architectural shingles offer much more aesthetic variety. Because of the way that the layers are laminated and the thickness of the material, architectural shingles have a three-dimensional appearance. In other words, some of the tabs are raised more than others, and the contours create a sense of depth. Industry experts refer to this quality as high-definition.

You can find architectural shingles in a wide variety of patterns and styles. Even though they’re made of asphalt, they are often designed to mimic the appearance of other types of shingles. For example, architectural shingles might resemble cedar shakes or slate.

One of the benefits of using architectural shingles instead of wood or slate is that the asphalt is lighter than the other options. It’s an ideal choice if your structure can’t handle the weight of heftier materials.


No matter how good they look, the primary role of roof shingles is to protect the structure from wind, precipitation, sun and pests. All types of shingles are rated to safeguard your building from these factors.

However, architectural shingles usually have a higher wind rating. Whereas 3-tab shingles generally have a wind rating of up to 60 mph, architectural styles usually have a wind rating of 80 to 120 mph. Therefore, architectural shingles might be the better option for areas that are prone to high winds, hurricanes and driving rain.


The average lifespan of 3-tab composite shingles is about 20 years. Regular roof inspections and maintenance can extend the life of your roof.

Installing architectural shingles can also extend the longevity of your roof. Because the granules are packed tightly together, they don’t wear down as quickly. Architectural shingles can last much longer than 20 years if they’re properly maintained. In fact, some architectural shingles may last up to 50 years under optimal conditions.


It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that architectural shingles are more expensive than 3-tab styles. They offer several superior features and contain more material. Although the initial cost to purchase and install architectural shingles may be higher, you’ll make it up on the back end when you don’t have to repair or replace your roof as frequently.

Which Shingles Should You Choose?

Most roofing experts agree that architectural shingles are higher in quality than 3-tab shingles. If their budget can accommodate them, many people choose architectural shingles because of their longevity and protection.

But that’s not to say that 3-tab shingles aren’t worth it. Because most homes in the U.S. still use 3-tab shingles, your home will likely fit in with the rest of the neighborhood if you choose this versatile option. However, if you have a bigger budget, you can use architectural shingles to enhance your home’s appearance and protection from the elements.

Contact us with any questions about the best type of shingles for your roof. We’re glad to go over your options and provide you with a free roofing estimate.

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