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Pros and Cons of Architectural Shingles

When it comes to roofing materials, architectural shingles have become a popular choice among homeowners and builders alike. Known for their aesthetic appeal, durability, and enhanced performance, these shingles offer a range of benefits that can significantly improve the look and longevity of your roof.

However, like any building material, they also come with their own set of drawbacks. In this post, I’ll look into the pros and cons of architectural shingles, helping you make an informed decision about whether they are the right choice for your next roofing project.

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Pros and Cons of Architectural Shingles

What is the Difference Between Architectural Shingles and 3-tab Shingles

How Long Do 30-Year Architectural Shingles Really Last?

Do Architectural Shingles Cost More Than 3-tab Shingles?

Can You Put Architectural Shingles Over Regular Shingles?

Do You Need Starter Shingles for Architectural Shingles?

How to Install Architectural Shingles

Are Architectural Shingles Impact Resistant?

Are Architectural Shingles Energy Efficient?

Are Architectural Shingles The Same As Composition Shingles?

Can Architectural Shingles Be Installed In Cold Weather?

Pros and Cons of Architectural Shingles


Enhanced Aesthetics… Architectural shingles come in a wider variety of styles, shapes, and colors than regular 3-tab shingles. They can mimic the look of slate or wood shakes, but at a lower cost [architectural shingles vs 3-tab shingles]. This can greatly enhance your home’s curb appeal.

Greater Durability… Compared to 3-tab shingles, architectural shingles are thicker and more resistant to wind, hail, and other harsh weather conditions. They also come with longer warranties, offering you peace of mind.

Potentially Lower Long-Term Costs… While architectural shingles have a higher upfront cost than 3-tab, their extended lifespan and lower maintenance requirements can even things out over time.


Higher Initial Cost… Architectural shingles are more expensive than 3-tab shingles. This can be a significant factor for homeowners on a tight budget.

Installation Considerations… Due to their weight, architectural shingles may not be suitable for all roofs. They also require more time to install, which can add to the labor cost.

Not Maintenance-Free… While they require less maintenance than other options, architectural shingles will eventually need to be replaced.

Overall, architectural shingles are a good investment for homeowners who prioritize a beautiful and long-lasting roof. If budget is a major concern, 3-tab shingles may be a better option.  It’s always best to consult with a qualified roofing professional to discuss your specific needs and get a recommendation for your home.

What is the Difference Between Architectural Shingles and 3-tab Shingles?

Here’s the breakdown of the key differences between architectural shingles and 3-tab shingles:

Material and Construction… Architectural shingles are thicker and beefier than 3-tab shingles. They use higher quality materials throughout, with thicker asphalt layers, stronger adhesives, and more granules on the surface for better protection.

Appearance… 3-tab shingles have a flat, uniform look with three distinct tabs per shingle. Architectural shingles, on the other hand, offer more dimension and variety. They can be designed to resemble slate, wood shakes, or even certain types of metal roofs.

Durability and Lifespan… Due to their sturdier build, architectural shingles are more wind, hail, and weather resistant than 3-tab shingles. This translates to a longer lifespan, typically lasting 20-50 years compared to 15-20 years for 3-tab shingles.

Cost… Here’s the trade-off. Architectural shingles come with a higher upfront cost due to the extra materials and labor involved in their construction and installation. 3-tab shingles are the more budget-friendly option.

Weight… The extra thickness and materials make architectural shingles considerably heavier than 3-tab shingles. This might be a factor for older roofs that weren’t built to handle the extra weight.

In short, architectural shingles offer a more premium look, increased durability, and a potentially longer lifespan, but at a higher cost. 3-tab shingles are a more budget-friendly option with a basic appearance and shorter lifespan.

How Long Do 30-Year Architectural Shingles Really Last?

The advertised lifespan of 30-year architectural shingles is a hopeful estimate under ideal conditions, not a guarantee. Architectural shingles typically last around 22-25 years with proper care and installation.

Here’s why the advertised lifespan may not always be reached:

Industry Standards… The 30-year rating is based on controlled laboratory testing, not real-world conditions. Factors like sun exposure, extreme weather, and ventilation can all affect a shingle’s lifespan.

Maintenance Matters… Regular inspections and occasional cleaning can significantly extend the lifespan of your roof. Neglected shingles will deteriorate faster.

Installation Quality… Improper installation can shorten a roof’s lifespan. Make sure you hire a qualified roofer who follows proper installation techniques.

Here are some additional points to consider:

Warranty vs. Lifespan… The shingle warranty might not cover all aspects of shingle failure after a certain period. It’s important to understand the specifics of the warranty.

Planning for Replacement… Even the best architectural shingles won’t last forever. Budgeting for a replacement around the 20-year mark is a wise idea.

If you’re looking for the maximum lifespan out of your architectural shingles, regular inspections, proper maintenance, and ensuring proper ventilation in your attic are key.

Do Architectural Shingles Cost More Than 3-tab Shingles?

Yes, architectural shingles definitely cost more than 3-tab shingles.

Here’s why:

More Material… Architectural shingles are thicker and use higher quality materials throughout. This includes thicker asphalt layers, stronger adhesives, and a greater number of protective granules on the surface.

Durability and Lifespan… They are built to last longer, translating to a higher upfront cost.

Labor… Their weight and dimensional profiles can make them more complex to install, requiring more time and potentially more skilled labor.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost difference:

3-Tab Shingles… These are the most budget-friendly option. They typically cost around $100 per square (100 square feet of roof).

Architectural Shingles… These can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 per square, depending on the specific style and materials.

While the upfront cost is higher, architectural shingles can be a good long-term investment due to their extended lifespan and lower maintenance requirements. This can potentially even out the cost difference over time compared to 3-tab shingles that may need to be replaced sooner.

Can You Put Architectural Shingles Over Regular Shingles?

In some cases, you might be able to install architectural shingles over existing regular shingles (typically asphalt shingles) – this is called a nail-over roof. However, it’s not always recommended and there are important considerations:

Suitability of Existing Roof… The existing shingles must be in good condition – no major cracking, curling, or missing shingles. They should also be nearing the end of their lifespan, typically around 15-20 years old.

Roof Structure… The roof structure needs to be strong enough to support the additional weight of architectural shingles. Older roofs may not be suitable.

Limited Inspections… By overlaying, you can’t inspect the condition of the underlayment beneath the old shingles. This could lead to hidden problems down the road.

Building Codes… Some building codes may not permit installing a new layer of shingles over an existing one.

Here are some advantages of a nail-over roof (if conditions are suitable):

Cost-effective… It can be cheaper than a complete tear-off and re-roofing project.

Here are some disadvantages to consider:

Reduced Lifespan… The lifespan of the new architectural shingles might be slightly reduced compared to a new roof installation on a bare deck.

Ventilation Issues… Adding another layer can affect roof ventilation, potentially trapping moisture and leading to problems.

Warranty Limitations… Some shingle manufacturers might void the warranty if installed over an existing roof.

It’s highly recommended to consult with a qualified roofing professional to assess your specific situation. They can inspect your existing roof, determine if a nail-over roof is feasible, and advise you on the best course of action.

Do You Need Starter Shingles for Architectural Shingles?

Yes, you do need starter shingles for architectural shingles for several reasons:

Better Sealing… Starter shingles create a strong foundation layer at the eaves (the horizontal underside edges of your roof) where the first row of shingles is laid. This helps ensure a watertight seal and prevents water from seeping under the shingles, which can damage the roof deck underneath.

Wind Resistance… Starter shingles improve the overall wind resistance of your roof. They provide a secure base for the architectural shingles, helping them stay in place during strong winds.

Uniform Appearance… Starter shingles provide a consistent and finished look to the edge of your roof. Architectural shingles themselves are not designed to be exposed at the eaves, and starter shingles hide this unfinished edge.

While you may be tempted to use leftover architectural shingles for the starter course, it’s generally not recommended.

Here’s why:

Improper Installation… Cutting architectural shingles to use as starter shingles can be time-consuming and might not be installed correctly.

Aesthetics… Starter shingles are typically hidden beneath the finished shingles and don’t necessarily need to match the architectural shingles exactly.  Using leftover architectural shingles for the starter course might not provide the cleanest finished look.

Performance… Starter shingles are designed specifically for this purpose and may have features, like a self-sealing adhesive edge, that optimize their performance compared to cut-up architectural shingles.

In conclusion, using dedicated starter shingles is a small investment that ensures a well-sealed, wind-resistant, and aesthetically pleasing roof with architectural shingles.

How to Install Architectural Shingles

Installing architectural shingles is a complex job that requires specific skills and safety precautions. It’s generally recommended to hire a qualified roofing professional to ensure a proper installation and avoid potential risks.

However, if you’re still keen on DIY roof installation, here’s a general overview of the steps involved:


Safety First… Roofing is dangerous work. Ensure you have proper safety gear like fall protection equipment, a sturdy work platform, and proper ventilation if working in hot weather.

Permits… Check with your local building department to see if a permit is required for roof replacement.

Project Scope… Carefully measure your roof to determine the number of materials needed, including shingles, starter shingles, underlayment, flashing, and nails.

Existing Roof Removal (if applicable) … If you’re not installing over existing shingles, a complete tear-off of the old roof is necessary. Dispose of the old shingles responsibly according to local regulations.

Inspection and Repair… Inspect the roof deck for any rot or damage and make necessary repairs before proceeding.


Underlayment… Install a high-quality water barrier underlayment over the entire roof deck. This is crucial for preventing leaks.

Flashing… Install proper flashing around chimneys, vents, and other roof penetrations to prevent water infiltration.

Starter Shingles… Apply starter shingles along the eaves to create a sealed edge for the first row of architectural shingles.

Shingle Installation… Begin laying the architectural shingles according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This typically involves starting at the eaves and working your way up the roof, ensuring proper alignment and overlapping.

Nailing… Use the recommended type and number of nails specified by the shingle manufacturer to secure each shingle.


Ridge Cap… Install the ridge cap shingles along the peak of the roof to cover the exposed edges and provide a finished look.

Cleanup… Thoroughly clean up any debris and dispose of it properly.

Inspection… Once the installation is complete, perform a final inspection to ensure all shingles are properly nailed, flashing is secure, and there are no gaps or openings.

Here are some additional resources that you might find helpful:

Manufacturer Instructions… Always follow the specific installation instructions provided by the manufacturer of your chosen architectural shingles.

Video Tutorials… You can find video tutorials online that demonstrate the installation process for architectural shingles YouTube. Keep in mind that these are for informational purposes only and may not substitute for professional guidance.

Remember, roofing work can be dangerous. If you have any doubts about your ability to safely complete the installation yourself, it’s always best to consult with a qualified roofing professional.

Are Architectural Shingles Impact Resistant?

Architectural shingles generally offer more impact resistance than other types of shingles, like 3-tab shingles. This is because they are thicker and often have a stronger construction.

However, it’s important to note that not all architectural shingles are created equal. Some are specifically designed for impact resistance and will carry a rating. The most common rating system is based on Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2218, which assigns a Class 1 to 4 rating, with Class 4 being the most impact-resistant.

So, while architectural shingles offer some level of impact resistance by default, if you’re looking for the best protection against hail and debris, you’ll want to choose shingles that have a specific impact resistance rating.

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Are Architectural Shingles Energy Efficient?

Yes, architectural shingles are generally considered an energy-efficient roofing material. They offer several advantages over traditional options:

Reflection… Architectural shingles are designed to reflect sunlight more effectively than other types, like 3-tab asphalt shingles. This reduces the amount of heat absorbed by the roof, keeping your attic cooler.

Ventilation… The dimensional profile of architectural shingles can create air channels that allow for better ventilation under the roof. This further helps dissipate heat and reduce the burden on your cooling system.

Insulation… Some architectural shingles are made with a thicker, layered construction that provides a slight insulating effect compared to thinner shingles.

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits:

Lower Cooling Costs… By reflecting heat and keeping your attic cooler, architectural shingles can help you save money on your air conditioning bills in warmer climates.

Potentially Lower Heating Costs… The slight insulative properties can also contribute to a small reduction in heating costs during the winter.

Energy Star Rated Options… Look for shingles with an Energy Star certification for the most energy-efficient performance. These shingles meet strict criteria for solar reflectance and thermal emittance.

Additional factors to consider:

Color… Lighter colored architectural shingles tend to reflect even more sunlight and offer greater energy savings than darker colors.

Climate… The impact of architectural shingles on energy efficiency will be most noticeable in hot and sunny climates.

Overall, architectural shingles can be a good choice for homeowners looking for a combination of durability, aesthetics, and energy efficiency.

Are Architectural Shingles The Same As Composition Shingles?

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Architectural shingles are a type of composition shingle. Here’s the breakdown:

Composition Shingle… This is a broad term for shingles made from a composite of materials, typically asphalt, fiberglass mat, and mineral granules. 3-tab shingles, the most basic and flat kind, are also composition shingles.

Architectural Shingle… This refers specifically to a type of composition shingle that’s thicker and more dimensional than a 3-tab shingle. They have a layered look and come in various styles that can mimic other materials like slate or wood shake.

So, all architectural shingles are composition shingles, but not all composition shingles are architectural shingles.

The terms can be confusing because the roofing industry sometimes uses them interchangeably. But generally, when someone says “composition shingle” they’re likely referring to the simpler, flatter 3-tab style.

Can Architectural Shingles Be Installed In Cold Weather?

Installing architectural shingles in cold weather can be tricky, but it’s not necessarily impossible.

Here’s the key thing to know:

Cold makes them brittle… Shingles become stiffer and more prone to cracking or breaking at lower temperatures. Ideally, you’d want to install them when the weather is warmer, between 40 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit [source].
However, if you must install in cold weather, there are some precautions to take:

Store shingles warm… Keep the bundles in a heated space before installation to make them more pliable.
Handle with care: Avoid bending, throwing, or dropping shingles as they’re more susceptible to damage in the cold.
Mind the sealant strips: Asphalt shingles have adhesive strips that activate with heat to form a strong seal. Cold temperatures can slow down this process. Some manufacturers may have special recommendations for cold weather installation to ensure proper sealing.
Alternatives to consider:

Wait for warmer weather…. If possible, delaying the project until temperatures rise is the safest option.
Use modified asphalt shingles: Some shingles are made with polymers that make them more flexible in cold weather conditions.
Always consult a professional roofer: They can assess your specific situation, recommend the best course of action, and ensure proper installation techniques for cold weather conditions.

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