3-Tab Shingles – the Most Affordable Shingles for Your Roofing

Replacing a roof often comes at inopportune times. If you're replacing your roof because of unexpected damage, you may have to shop on a tight budget. Luckily, you can find affordable shingles from top manufacturers, ensuring you get top quality, excellent curb appeal, and exceptional performance without breaking the bank. Let's look at 3-tab shingles, the cheapest shingles for your roofing.

What are 3-tab Shingles?

Shingles are the most common type of roof covering and are typically an asphalt construction. Some types of shingles come in metal, wood, slate, or other materials. 

3-tab shingles

The history of asphalt shingles dates back to 1903, first produced in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by an American inventor Henry Reynolds. Original construction consisted of a felt base, typically made of cotton rag, followed by wool, wood pulp, manila, or jute. By the 1960s, manufacturers switched to a fiberglass mat, which is still in use today.

The most popular and least expensive type of asphalt shingle is the 3-tab. There are four steps to the construction of 3-tab shingles. 

  • Mat

The center of an asphalt shingle consists of a solid base. Most asphalt shingles have a fiberglass mat center. Fiberglass resists tears from wind damage and freezing; it's lightweight and bonds well with asphalt.

  • Asphalt

The center mat goes through a saturation tank, which coats the base with hot asphalt. Asphalt is petroleum-based, which is resistant to water and durable. This material is heavy enough to keep the shingle secure to the roof during wind and storms.

  • Mineral granules

The top layer of asphalt gets a coating of ceramic mineral granules. These tiny rough pieces give your shingles their color and add protection against UV rays, water, and impacts. Asphalt shingles can be a single solid color or a color blend to get more nuance. 

  • Sealant strips

The final part of asphalt shingles is sealant strips. Strips of raw asphalt laid in intermittent or continuous lines go at the top of each shingle. As the next layer of shingles goes over the strip, it bonds to the back of the top shingle to create a fused hold. This sealant, combined with nails, provides a firmer grip for your shingles. 

Pro Tip: Another type of asphalt shingle is architectural, consisting of two layers of shingles laminated together. Compared side-by-side, 3-tab shingles have a lower life expectancy and performance. But architectural shingles are more expensive.

3-tab Shingle Colors

The color granules of 3-tab asphalt shingles allow you to find roofing in multiple colors. In addition, these granules protect your roof from UV damage, which is the number one enemy of asphalt shingles. Climates that experience a lot of sunlight can have a reduced lifespan due to sun damage. 

Picking light-colored, solar reflective shingles are the best way to ensure you get the expected lifespan out of your shingles if you live in a hot climate. Solar reflective roofs can also help lower energy costs by blocking solar heat, which can seep into the interior of your home, increasing the temperature inside your house.

Darker colors are better for colder climates when you want to absorb solar heat to help keep your home warm, reducing heating costs.

Colors vary by manufacturer, with some brands offering dozens of colors while other brands offer a limited selection of shades. The chart below demonstrates the color difference options for 3-tab shingles from some of the top brands. 

* Energy-Star colors

3-Tab Shingle Pricing For Brands

All 3-tab shingles come at affordable prices. When you have a significantly lower product than most other brands, it's typically a sign that the product will have poorer quality. 

The chart below displays the pricing of common brands per roofing square. When getting quotes from contractors, discuss whether the price is by roofing square or by the bundle. For example, one square covers 100 square feet, while one bundle covers 28 to 33 square feet.



Owens Corning Supreme

$75 to $90

GAF Royal Sovereign

$75 to $96

GAF Marquis Weathermax

$115 to $127

Atlas Glassmaster

$47 to $54

Atlas Legend

$72 to $81

CertainTeed XT-25

$70 to $85

Malarkey Dura-Seal (or AR)

$73 to $77 ($79 to $85 for AR)

Tamko Glass Seal (or Elite)

$65 to $85

Pros of 3-Tab Shingles

There are a few reasons why 3-tab shingles are suitable for affordable roofing, just as there are a few downsides of this shingle type.


One benefit is that 3-tab asphalt shingles have a long proven history and are still among the most popular types of roofing used on homes throughout North America. 

3-tab shingles are the most traditional type of shingle due to their versatility, price, range of colors, and availability. However, it can sometimes be challenging to find an experienced roofer who knows how to properly install newer types of roofing, like metal or architectural shingles.


One of the most significant selling points of 3-tab shingles is affordability. Compared to other types of roofing, including other asphalt shingles, choosing to install 3-tab can save you thousands of dollars. 

You'll save money not only on material costs but you can also avoid labor costs if you choose to install the shingles yourself. Even if you decide to have it installed professionally, labor costs are generally lower than when selecting more expensive materials.

Easy installation

Many people love the traditional look of 3-tabs, which look like individual pieces but are three tabs built into one strip, making them easier to install. 

If you're considering DIY your roof installation, 3-tab shingles are the best choice of roof material. Other options like metal, wood, or slate require more experience and special tools for installation.

Cons of 3-Tab Shingles

Despite the many benefits of 3-tab shingles, there are a few disadvantages you need to know before deciding on this product for your roofing needs.

Weak Wind Resistance

The single-layer construction of 3-tab shingles means that your roof can only withstand winds up to 60 mph. So if you live in an area prone to major storms and high winds, 3-tab shingles may not last the expected lifespan. 

Lower longevity

Asphalt shingles have a lower lifecycle than other roofing materials. The average longevity of 3-tabs varies from 18 to 20 years, although some brands can survive up to 30 years with the right conditions. 

3-tab shingles have reduced performance in locations with severe weather. For example, in climates with significant storms, high winds, hail, or snowstorms, 3-tab shingles may only last a minimal 7 to 10 years.

Flat look

Despite the long-standing popularity of 3-tab shingles, more people are starting to invest the extra cost to install more expensive roofs, such as metal or architectural asphalt shingles. 

These more expensive roof materials last longer and provide a better visual appeal than 3-tab shingles, which look flat and one-dimensional. In comparison, architectural shingles have more depth and dimension.

Tips for Picking the Right 3-Tab Shingle

Although there are some downsides to 3-tab shingles, there are a few ways that you can shop smart and get a 3-tab shingle that is suitable for your climate.

Color Matters

Picking the proper color for your location is an excellent way to get the expected lifespan out of your roof. Hot climates do best with light-colored roofs, with additional UV protection that protects against UV damage. However, a darker roof in cold temperatures can save money and extend longevity.

Algae Protection

If you live in a climate with high humidity or long periods of rain, or if your roof gets a lot of shade, you're at a higher risk of roof staining due to algae. Some brands offer 3-tab shingles with algae protection caused by adding copper into the granule mix.

Impact Resistance

Having a high impact resistance isn't a feature that you frequently see in 3-tab shingles. But there are a few brands that have a Class-4 impact rating, which offers protection against hail storms, falling tree branches, and wind debris.

When to Choose 3-Tab Shingles?

Any time you're stuck replacing a roof while on a tight budget, you'll want to limit your search to 3-tabs. When you do your research and know the best brand and product line, you can get great value for your money, ensuring your roof performs well without draining your pocketbook.

If you're trying to save the most money possible by doing the roof replacement yourself, 3-tab is the easiest to install. You might even be able to save time and labor by adding the new layer of shingles directly over the old layer - referred to as an overlay. Most states allow two layers of asphalt shingles before it's necessary to do a tear-off.

Another situation where 3-tab shingles are the right choice is when you live in a mild climate that does not experience foul weather. Winter storms, high temperatures, hurricanes, strong winds, tornadoes, hail, and humidity are major threats to 3-tab shingles. 

2021 Most Popular 3-tab Shingle Colors

3-tab shingles come in a range of colors, depending on the brand. The best way to pick a roof color is to consider the color palette of your house exterior, including siding, shutters, and trim. Some of the most popular shingle colors for 2021 include:

  • Black
  • Gray (light and dark)
  • Charcoal
  • Dark green
  • Brown (dark or light)
  • Blue (light and dark)
  • Red
  • White (often Energy Star reflective)
  • Tan

Installation or Replacement Costs

Many people choose 3-tab shingles due to their cheap costs. But, of course, you can save the most money by installing them yourself. But if you're not a DIY pro, it should be simple to find an affordable roofer in your area. 

When having a new roof installed professionally, expect to pay as much as 60% to 70% in labor costs for an insured, licensed roofing contractor. 

That fee rounds to about $270 to $450 a roofing square for labor, plus the costs of materials. For 1,500 to 2,000 square foot houses (based on a single-story, ranch-style house), you could see between $6,725 and $9,000 in labor fees (calculated using a $450/hr labor charge).

The materials needed to install asphalt shingles are another factor to consider to get your estimated total cost for a roof install. Not only do you have to buy the shingles, but you'll also need other components to make a complete roof system. 

If your existing roof requires a tear-off before installing the new 3-tab shingles, expect to pay between $3 to $5 a square foot. Other costs you may have to cover when repairing a damaged roof include:

  • Disposal of old roofs: $3 to $5 a square foot
  • Roof trusses or rafters: $1,000 to $10,000

In total, you might pay anywhere from $2,000 and $10,000 for a new asphalt roof, with an average cost of around $7,500.

Installation/Maintenance Tips

If you're doing a DIY install of your 3-tab asphalt shingles (or during a professional install), it's crucial to ensure that all columns, rows, and shingle tabs match up for straight lines. 

  • Nailing

You also have to be sure and place the nails in the designated space, referred to as the shingle's nailing zone. Some shingle manufacturers produce shingles with wider nailing zones for easier nail placement. If you want to give your shingles better wind protection, use a 6-nail application for each strip rather than four nails.

  • Install in the right time of year

It's also crucial that you wait until the right time of year to install a new roof. Most shingles will not seal properly in cold winter, as the material needs a specific temperature to melt the tar strip that keeps the shingles fused in place.

If you're hiring a contractor to install for you, avoid the busiest times of the season, such as summer and fall. Early spring is a great time to get your roof replaced without having to be on a waiting list for days, weeks, or even months.

  • Shop around

And don't be shy about shopping around for contractors before picking one. Check for licenses, insurance, and whether the roofer offers a workmanship warranty. Some roofers will have extra certifications from a roofing manufacturer, allowing them to charge more for their expertise and qualify you for full warranties on your roof.

  • Roof inspections

To ensure you get the expected lifespan out of your roof, annual maintenance and inspection by a roofing contractor are essential. Between inspections, inspect your roof after significant storms for signs of damage. The quicker you repair an issue, the less damage you'll incur. 

  • Clean roof

Be sure to keep leaves, tree branches, and other debris off your roof, lest you end up with microorganisms like moss, lichen, algae, or even plants from growing on and damaging the shingles. It's also important to keep your gutters clear. 


Q: How many types of asphalt shingles are there?

A: Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing material. While 3-tab has a large following, architectural (dimensional) shingles are quickly becoming the preferred choice. But if you don't mind paying top dollar for high-quality shingles, there's a third type of asphalt shingle - designer (sometimes called premium or luxury).

Q: How many shingles come in a bundle?

A: One bundle of 3-tab shingles can consist of 21 to 29 shingles, with most brands having 26 shingles. Brands that come in a taller, wider design will have fewer shingles per bundle.

Q: How big are 3-tab shingles?

A: 3-tab shingles have three 12" wide tabs connected to form a 36" long shingle strip. 

Q: Do 3-tab shingles have a warranty?

A: You can find 3-tab shingle brands with warranties of 20, 25, or 30 years. Some brands claim to have a lifetime warranty. However, given that 3-tab shingles generally only last 15 to 20 years, the warranty is typically 25 to 30 years.

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