Three Tab Vs. Architectural Shingles

Three-tab and architectural shingles are two types of asphalt shingles that are common in home construction in the U.S. and Canada. Considered the industry standard, three-tab shingles are the most economical. Architectural shingles are built to be sturdier and are considered a high-quality roofing product. Both types are common, but the demand for three-tab shingles is decreasing while the demand for architectural shingles is increasing.


Construction of shingles for a home roof

Architectural shingles are constructed of fiberglass or an organic material such as cellulose, and more asphalt than typical asphalt shingles.  Also known as composite, laminate or dimensional shingles, architectural shingles weigh 50 percent more than three-tab shingles and look three-dimensional.

Architectural shingles may come with interlocking tabs to be used during roofing. 


Three-tab shingles are constructed like other asphalt shingles.  They are made of multiple layers of asphalt placed on top of fiberglass, cellulose fibers or another organic material.

Minerals are then embedded into the shingles, which are flat and one-dimensional.  Three-tab shingles are a basic, versatile and easy-to-use type of asphalt shingle.


Standard three-tab shingles look like three individual shingles and are designed to be a basic style of asphalt shingle.  They give your roof a smooth look.

Architectural shingles were designed to have the durability of asphalt with the good looks of cedar.  The layering of construction asphalt and other materials used to make architectural shingles gives them the textured appearance of cedar shingles and allows them to hide any imperfections in the roof's structure.


Three-tab and architectural shingles are not designed for the same lifespan and performance.  Standard three-tab shingles can withstand winds up to 60 miles an hour, while architectural shingles endure 80 to 120 miles an hour.

The difference in shingle performance comes from their construction.  Architectural shingles are of a heavier construction, which gives them more wind-resistance, and they are not as likely to warp.


Costs of shingles will vary depending on where you live, but you can expect to pay more for architectural shingles because they are sturdier and longer-lasting, with some warranties extending to 50 years.  They can cost you twice as much as three-tab shingles.

Architectural shingles that have a shorter lifespan, with warranties of around 25 years, will cost about 20 percent more than three-tab shingles. 


About the Author

Serena Brown graduated from the University of South Alabama with a bachelor's degree in communication. She has more than 15 years of experience in newspaper, radio and television reporting. Brown has also authored educational, medical and fitness material.

Photo Credits

  • Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)