Architectural vs 3-Tab Shingles Roofing

Each year, millions of Americans pull out their PCs and smartphones in search of someone to repair or replace the roof on their home. The traditional asphalt shingle is often the top choice for most homeowners, but there are actually two types of shingles used on residential homes today.

If you've been on the fence between using 3-tab shingles or architectural shingles, you've come to the right place. In our architectural vs 3-tab shingles guide, we are going to break down the pros and cons of each style to help you make an informed decision.

Types of Asphalt Shingles

While there are close to 20 different types of roof shingles there are two only main types of asphalt shingles with 3-tab shingles and architectural shingles, which are sometimes referred to as dimensional shingles because of their design. Before you can properly compare the two, it is a good idea to understand how they are made.

3-Tab Shingles

Homeowners that appreciate a clean uniform look on their roof will like 3-tab shingles. They are lightweight, which makes them much easier to deal with. That's crucial if it's a repair job you are planning on attempting yourself, although of little concern to contractors.

3-tab shingles

These shingles have a thinner backing layer and are easy to identify as they provide a symmetrical feel compared to architectural shingles. While they provide a uniform look, each has cutouts or tabs along the side. These popular shingles are affordable, attractive, and come in a vast range of colors including light and colorful hues.

Architectural Shingles

Whereas a 3-tab shingle is all about uniformity and keeping things simple, architectural shingles are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They are specially designed to add more depth to a roof but are also twice as tough as a traditional 3-tab shingle.

architectural shingles

These dimensional shingles feature two pieces of shingle that are laminated together. That not only provides more strength and damage resistance but can allow for some unique designs as well. While more expensive, architectural shingles last longer than even the best traditional asphalt shingles. We found the color range to be just as impressive as you'll soon find out.

Architectural Shingles vs. 3-Tab Shingles

Now that you understand a bit more about each type of shingle, it's time to put them head-to-head. We're going to keep things simple by comparing these shingles in three key areas with durability, styles, and pricing.


Both architectural and 3-tab shingles are made from a combination of asphalt and adhesives. As mentioned, architectural shingles are thicker by design, which automatically makes them stronger than a 3-tab shingle. Does that mean 3-tab shingles are inferior? Not necessarily...

Some of the best 3-tab shingles can last for up to 30 years before needing to be replaced. That's impressive once you consider the cost difference with some lines. Architectural shingles will have a longer warranty. They can last around 50 years before needing to be replaced.

This one isn't close as architectural asphalt shingles have better wind ratings, a better warranty, and are thicker than 3-tab shingles. If you're looking for durability, you'll want to go for a dimensional shingle from a top manufacturer.

Range of Styles

This is an area where things are a bit closer as you can find both types of shingles in a variety of tones. You can find earth tones in a range of browns and greys alongside dark blue colors and greens. Darker colors are more popular than lighter tones when compared to metal roofing, but both have a shade for almost everyone.

With that in mind, architectural shingles may have a slight edge depending on your tastes. We found that you can buy both in similar colors, but there are more variegated tones with dimensional shingle manufacturers. If you don't mind more muted colors, consider this area a tie, otherwise, we would give architectural shingles a slight edge.


If you had already ruled out 3-tab shingles, you may want to keep reading if the budget for your roof is a concern.

As a thinner shingle, 3-tab roofing shingles are cheaper to produce, which results in savings to the consumer. On average, we found these shingles to be around $10-15 cheaper per bundle compared to architectural shingles.

That said, some companies sell their dimensional shingles on a tier system listed as good, better, and best. That can bring the prices a bit closer, although we still found that the best 3-tab shingles are still cheaper than budget-friendly dimensional ones. Our table below should give you a clearer picture in regards to pricing.

Keep in mind, some of the colors can vary by region, and Owens Corning along with GAF essentially have the industry cornered. There are some other popular brands like Atlas and CertainTeed, but Owens and GAF are the two most likely brands you will find in a local hardware store.




Wind Resistance



Price per Bundle

Owens Corning



Chateau Green

60 MPH

25 years

33.33 sq. ft.





Weathered Wood

130 MPH

Limited Lifetime

11.1 sq. ft.



Pinnacle Pristine


Natural Expressions

130 MPH

Limited Lifetime

33.3 sq. ft.



Royal Sovereign



60 MPH

25 years

33.33 sq. ft.


Owens Corning

TruDefinition Designer


Pacific Wave

130 MPH

Limited Lifetime

32.8 sq. ft.





Desert Shake

60 MPH

30 years

32.5 sq. ft.



While you won't find as many companies producing asphalt shingles as you will metal roofing or slate, choosing the right type of asphalt shingle is critical. If you are concerned about the budget for your project, 3-tab shingles are an obvious choice. 

Homeowners that don't want to worry about leaks for 50 years are better off with an architectural shingle,however, despite the price difference. If you are considering composite shingles instead of asphalt, we have that covered as well.  

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