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Are 3 tab shingles the cheapest?

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Marina

Dec. 06, 2023
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Getting a new asphalt shingle roof requires making some big decisions. Besides hiring a roofer, no decision is bigger than choosing the type of shingle.

And if you’re like most homeowners, the decision will come down to either 3-tab shingles or architectural shingles. Unfortunately, you can’t make the right decision without an honest comparison. 

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners choose the perfect roofing material for their situation. That’s why I want to give you the information needed so you can make the right decision. 

This article starts with the basic differences between the two types of shingles, including their pros and cons. After that, we’ll put the two against each other on curb appeal, wind rating, lifespan, warranties, and cost. 

What’s the difference between 3-tab and architectural shingles? 

Before getting to the head-to-head matchup, you need to know the differences between the two types of asphalt shingles. So, let’s do a quick overview of each shingle, plus their pros and cons. 

3-tab shingles

3-tab asphalt shingles lay flat and get their name from the 3 tabs on each shingle strip. This asphalt shingle used to dominate the residential roofing industry until technology improved to create architectural asphalt shingles. 

3-tab asphalt shingle pros:

  • Cheapest roofing material on the market
  • Ease of repair and installation

3-tab asphalt shingle cons:

  • Short lifespan
  • Being phased out of the roofing industry

  • Hard to color matches for repairs and insurance
  • Needs yearly maintenance
  • Low curb appeal
  • Prone to wind damage

Architectural shingles

Architectural (also called dimensional) shingles provide a random pattern to give your roof dimension or simulate the look of a wood-shake roof. It’s not only the most common asphalt shingle installed on homes today but also the most common roofing material in general.

Architectural asphalt shingle pros:

  • Affordability
  • Ease of repair and installation
  • Readily available materials and colors

Architectural asphalt shingle cons:

  • Low curb appeal compared to other materials
  • Needs yearly maintenance
  • Prone to hail damage (

    Impact resistant options

    available)

3-tab shingles vs. architectural shingles

Now that you know the main differences between the two asphalt shingles, let’s get to the main event. The rest of this article compares 3-tab and architectural shingles on key decision-making factors like curb appeal, wind ratings, warranties, lifespan, and cost. 

Curb appeal

Both 3-tab shingles and architectural shingles make for good-looking roofs. However, architectural shingles have a higher curb appeal than 3-tab shingles. 

(3-tab shingle roof)

This is mainly due to architectural shingles providing more dimension instead of laying in a flat, uniform way like 3-tab shingles. There’s also the fact that 3-tab shingles are being phased out of the industry, which means fewer color options.

(Architectural shingle roof)

On the other hand, architectural shingles have plenty of color options, and some are made to resemble cedar shakes. However, aesthetics are subjective, and there’s no problem with liking the look of 3-tab shingles more.

Wind ratings

Both shingles have wind-resistant ratings, but the difference is dramatic. With architectural shingles being thicker, a higher-quality material, and their installation method, they have a higher wind rating than 3-tab shingles. 

Let’s use Certainteed’s shingles (our preferred brand) as an example. Certainteed’s XT25 3-tab shingles have a 60-mph wind rating, while their Landmark architectural shingle has a 110-mph wind rating.

The wind resistance between the two is obviously dramatic, but you can increase architectural shingles’ wind rating even further to 130 mph with the appropriate accessories.

Lifespan

Compared to other roofing materials, both asphalt shingles have the shortest lifespans. However, architectural shingles have a longer lifespan than 3-tab shingles. 

This simply comes down to the quality of materials and their ability to withstand the elements. As long as they are properly installed and your attic is adequately ventilated, architectural shingles will last between 20 to 25 years. 

On the other hand, 3-tab shingles can last 15 to a maximum of 20 years in perfect conditions. But if your area experiences strong winds and frequent storms, their lifespan could even be shorter than 15 years. 

Warranties

Both shingles come with warranties out of the package, but their differing lengths reflect their quality. 3-tab shingles come with a 25-year limited warranty, while architectural shingles come with a 30-year warranty (prorated after 10 years). 

This doesn’t seem like much difference, but architectural shingles come with the opportunity to get a 50-year non-prorated enhanced warranty. By getting all the asphalt roofing components (including your asphalt shingles) from one manufacturer, this warranty ensures your roof is covered for the life of the materials. 

With the enhanced warranty, architectural shingles are the clear winner for this category. 

Cost

Both shingles are the most affordable roofing materials on the market today. However, architectural shingles are more expensive than 3-tab shingles. 

A 3-tab shingle roof will cost around $4.00 per square foot, while an architectural shingle roof will cost around $5.86 per square foot. These numbers aren’t exact and fluctuate based on roofing contractor, area, and availability. 

Even though 3-tab shingles are cheaper, you’re more likely to spend more on repairs and sooner replacement than architectural shingles. So, consider investing in quality over trying to get the cheapest roof possible.

Did you decide which asphalt shingle is right for you?

After reading this article, you should have a good idea of which shingle is right for you. My recommendation is architectural shingles simply because of the quality, but I understand why homeowners on a tight budget choose 3-tab shingles.

But at the end of the day, your decision is yours to make. I have no doubt you’ll make the best choice for you, but did you know metal is closing in on asphalt shingles as the most popular residential roofing material?

If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Metal roofing’s popularity has crept up on everyone in the industry. 

That’s why one of the biggest roofing questions asked today is, “Is metal roofing better than asphalt shingles?” Let’s find out. 

Check out Metal Roofing vs. Asphalt Shingles to determine if you should stick with asphalt shingles or join the metal roofing trend.

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3-tab roof shingles have been around the roofing industry for a long time. They even used to be the most common type of roofing material used around the country. 

But the truth is, 3-tab roof shingles are slowly being pushed aside. So, if you already have or are seriously considering a 3-tab shingle roof, there are some things to know before choosing it for your roof replacement.

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners understand the ins and outs of the roofing industry. Now we’ll help you determine if 3-tab roof shingles are really the best choice for your roof replacement. 

Let’s get to the 4 things you need to know before choosing 3-tab roof shingles for your new roof. 

1. 3-tab roof shingles are being phased out of the roofing industry

The first thing you need to know before choosing 3-tab roof shingles is their future. 3-tab roof shingles are starting to be phased out of the roofing industry. 

Because of this, they’re getting harder to find, and your color options will be limited. It’s even possible suppliers in your area aren’t carrying 3-tab roof shingles anymore.

This makes it harder to find color matches for repairs and to find a color you like for your roof replacement. The simple reason why they’re being phased out comes down to improvements in shingle technology.  

With the improved technology, manufacturers developed architectural asphalt shingles. Architectural shingles are a higher-quality material and have taken 3-tab’s place as the most common roofing material used around the country. 

Just know every 3-tab roof shingle won’t disappear overnight. However, you may not find the exact color you’re looking for, and it could be hard to find them in general. 

2. The look of a 3-tab shingle roof

The next thing to know about 3-tab roof shingles is the look they offer your home. 3-tab roof shingles have the lowest curb appeal of the 3 types of asphalt shingles.

For an example, let’s compare the look of a 3-tab shingle roof to an architectural shingle roof. 

(3-tab shingle roof)

3-tab roof shingles lay flat and get their name from the 3 tabs on each shingle strip. 

(Architectural shingle roof)

On the other hand, architectural roof shingles give you a random pattern or simulate the look of a wood shake roof.

Now, I’m not saying that a 3-tab shingle roof is a bad-looking roof. And honestly, the look of a roof is subjective. 

However, 3-tab roof shingles don’t have the color options and patterns to make your roof stand out like other shingles. If you already have a 3-tab shingle roof and like the look, great. 

Just know they don’t offer the same curb appeal boost other roofing materials do. 

3. 3-tab roof shingles have the shortest lifespan of the common roofing materials

The lifespan of your roof is how many years you get out of it. Depending on the roofing material, this could be 20 years, 30 years, or even 50 plus years.

With that in mind, 3-tab roof shingles have the shortest lifespan of the common roofing materials. 3-tab roof shingles have a manufacturer-specified lifespan of 25 years. 

Realistically, you should get around 80-85% of a 3-tab roof shingle’s maximum lifespan. This means you can expect to get around 20-22 years out of a 3-tab shingle roof. 

For comparison, an architectural shingle roof should last around 25-28 years. Once you get to more premium roof systems, that number keeps going up. 

Keep in mind there’s always the possibility your roof won't reach its maximum lifespan because of the factors that impact the life of a roof. But if a 3-tab shingle roof is properly installed and the attic is adequately ventilated, it should get close to that 20-year mark.

4. 3-tab roof shingles are the cheapest roofing material option

3-tab roof shingles are actually the cheapest roofing material option available. This is why homeowners consider a 3-tab roof shingle for their roof replacement. 

But the reason they’re the cheapest comes down to the quality. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just the truth when comparing 3-tab roof shingles to the other roofing materials. 

Just know a new roof will always be an investment. So, I understand it’s important to look for an affordable option. 

But if you’re seriously considering a 3-tab shingle roof, it’s crucial not to try to find the cheapest roof replacement possible. Doing this leads to premature roof failure right off the bat. 

If you decide a 3-tab shingle roof is right for you, make sure to invest in quality materials and hire a great roofing contractor to get the most out of your new roof. 

Is a 3-tab shingle roof the best choice for you?

Now you know the 4 things to consider before choosing 3-tab roof shingles. After reading this article, you should have a pretty good idea if a 3-tab shingle roof is right for you. 

If it is, you’re ready to talk to a local roofing contractor about starting the roof replacement process. But if you’re on the fence or just want to know your options, we have just the thing to help you make the right roofing material decision. 

The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof has the disadvantages and advantages of the top residential roofing materials. It also includes the lifespan, warranty, and cost information for each one. 

But that’s not all. The buyer’s guide will help you find a great roofing contractor, break down the components you’ll pay for, how to pay for a new roof, and so much more. 

Keep going to get The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof so that you can make the right purchasing decisions for your upcoming roof replacement. 

Since 1990, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided high-quality roof replacements to thousands of homeowners in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee areas. When getting a roof from us, you can count on decades of protection for you and your family. 

Here’s The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Roof to help you find the perfect roofing material for your upcoming roof replacement.

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