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Rolled Roofing Vs 3-Tab Shingles

Deciding on a new roof is an important investment. Two popular options for budget-minded homeowners are rolled roofing and 3-tab asphalt shingles. Both offer affordability and ease of installation, but they have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

This blog post will break down the key differences between rolled roofing and 3-tab shingles to help you determine which material best suits your roof’s needs and your wallet. We’ll cover factors like durability, cost, aesthetics, and installation to empower you to make an informed decision.

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Rolled Roofing Vs 3-Tab Shingles

Here’s a breakdown of rolled roofing compared to 3-tab shingles to help you decide which is best for your needs:

Rolled Roofing


– Lower cost upfront, including installation

– Easier and faster to install, good for DIY projects

– Works well on low-slope roofs

– Lightweight and easy to transport


– Shorter lifespan (5-8 years) compared to shingles (20+ years)

– Less durable, prone to cracking from sunlight and hail

– Limited color and style options

– May not be aesthetically pleasing for some homes

3-Tab Shingles


– Longer lifespan (20+ years)

– More durable against sun and impact

– Wider variety of colors and styles

– Classic look that complements many homes


– Higher upfront cost, including installation

– More complex installation, best left to professionals

– Not ideal for low-slope roofs

In summary:

Choose rolled roofing if:

– You’re on a tight budget

– Your roof has a low slope

– You’re comfortable with a DIY project

– Durability and aesthetics are not a major concern

Choose 3-tab shingles if:

– You want a longer-lasting roof

– You value a wider range of styles and colors

– Your roof has a steeper pitch

– You’re willing to pay more for a professional installation

No matter which option you choose, it’s always best to consult with a roofing professional to discuss your specific needs and get an estimate.

Is Rolled Roofing as Good as Shingles?

Not quite. Rolled roofing has some advantages, but overall, it falls short of shingles in terms of durability and aesthetics.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Cost: Rolled roofing is cheaper upfront, including installation.

Installation: Easier and faster to install, sometimes suitable for DIY projects.

Lifespan: Shorter lifespan (5-8 years) compared to shingles (20+ years).

Durability: Less durable, prone to cracking from sunlight and hail.

Style: Limited color and style options, not very aesthetically pleasing for some homes.

So, rolled roofing is a good option for temporary fixes, low-budget projects, or low-slope roofs where shingles aren’t suitable. However, for most homes, shingles are the better choice for their superior durability, wider style variety, and overall lifespan, even though they come at a higher upfront cost.

When Should Rolled Roofing Be Used?

Rolled roofing shines in a few specific situations:

Low-slope roofs: This is the most crucial factor. Rolled roofing is designed for flat or low-slope roofs (typically with a pitch of at least 2 inches vertically per 12 inches horizontally). Shingles, on the other hand, can easily leak on low-slope roofs because water doesn’t shed off as effectively.

Budget-friendly projects: Rolled roofing is a clear winner when it comes to upfront costs, including installation. This makes it a good option for outbuildings like sheds, garages, carports, or temporary roofing solutions.

DIY projects: The ease of installation makes rolled roofing a good candidate for handy homeowners who want to tackle a roofing project themselves.

Here are some additional factors to consider:

Durability: While rolled roofing is cost-effective, it typically lasts only 5-8 years, compared to shingles that can last 20 years or more. So, if you’re looking for a long-term solution, shingles might be better.

Aesthetics: Rolled roofing offers limited colors and styles. If curb appeal is important to you, shingles might be a better choice due to their wider variety.

Do You Need Underlayment for Rolled Roofing?

Underlayment isn’t mandatory for rolled roofing, but it’s strongly recommended for several reasons:

Extra protection:  Underlayment provides an additional layer of waterproofing between the rolled roofing and the roof deck. This can help prevent leaks caused by wind-driven rain, ice dams, or minor tears in the rolled roofing material.

Improved durability:  Underlayment can act as a barrier against sun damage and minor impacts, potentially extending the lifespan of your rolled roofing.

Smoother surface:  A good underlayment can create a smoother, more even surface for the rolled roofing to adhere to, which can improve installation and longevity.

While rolled roofing itself can function without underlayment, adding this layer offers significant benefits for a relatively small investment.

Here’s a quick recap:

Underlayment not required: Yes, rolled roofing can be installed directly on the roof deck.

Underlayment recommended: Yes, for better waterproofing, durability, and a smoother installation surface.

How Do You Fasten Roll Roofing?

There are two main ways to fasten rolled roofing: with nails and with roofing cement.


– Most common method for fastening rolled roofing.

– Use galvanized roofing nails, 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length.

– Hammer nails in every 8-10 inches (20-25 centimeters) across the roof, ensuring they are at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the edges.

Tip: As you move backward while nailing, rub your feet against the rolled roofing material to stretch it taut for a better fit.

Roofing Cement:

– Provides additional security and helps seal the nails.

– Apply roofing cement in several stages along the edges of the rolled roofing, starting at the bottom and working your way up.

– After nailing the rolled roofing in place, use roofing cement to cover the nail heads for an extra layer of protection.

Here are some additional points to remember:

Overlap: When installing multiple rolls of roofing, ensure they overlap by 4 inches (10 cm) or as specified by the manufacturer’s instructions.

Seams: Avoid having seams from different rolls meet directly next to each other. Ideally, space them out at least 2 feet (60 cm) apart for better strength.

Valleys: Valleys on your roof will require special attention with additional roofing cement and possibly cut roofing material to ensure proper sealing.

Safety First!

– Always prioritize safety when working on a roof.

– Wear proper safety gear, including gloves, eye protection, and sturdy shoes with good grip.

– Be cautious when working at heights and use appropriate fall protection equipment.

If you’re not comfortable working on a roof yourself, it’s always best to consult a professional roofing contractor.

Rolled Roofing Vs 3-Tab Shingles

What is the 3-Tab Shingle, A 3-tab shingle is a classic and affordable type of asphalt shingle for sloped roofs.

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Here’s a breakdown of its key characteristics:

Appearance: It has a rectangular shape with three distinct tabs that create a dimensional look.

Material: Typically made from asphalt, with a fiberglass mat core for reinforcement and asphalt coating for waterproofing.

Cost: A budget-friendly option compared to other roofing materials.

Installation: Relatively simple installation process, but best left to professional roofers for optimal results and safety.

Lifespan: Can last 20+ years with proper installation and maintenance.

Durability: Provides decent protection against rain, sun, and wind, but not as strong as some other roofing options.

Style: Offers a classic look that complements many home styles. Comes in a variety of colors to match your preferences.

Pros of 3-Tab Shingles:

– Affordable

– Easy to find and readily available

– Wide range of colors

– Classic look

– Relatively lightweight

Cons of 3-Tab Shingles:

– Not the most durable option compared to other materials

– Requires proper installation for optimal performance

– May not be suitable for all roof styles, particularly low-slope roofs

Overall, 3-tab shingles are a good choice for homeowners looking for a balance of affordability, aesthetics, and decent protection for their sloped roofs.

How Much Does 3-tab Shingles Cover?

3-tab shingles themselves don’t have a specific area they cover.  Instead, they are packaged in bundles that cover a specific area.  Here’s how it works:

A bundle of 3-tab shingles typically covers around 33 square feet (a little less than 3 square meters).

However, important to note that shingles are applied with overlap for waterproofing. This overlap reduces the actual coverage area per bundle.

Taking into account the overlap, a single bundle of 3-tab shingles will actually cover closer to 25 square feet (a little less than 2.5 square meters).

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Here are some additional factors to consider:

Roofing square: Shingles are also often sold by the “square” which refers to 100 square feet (around 9.3 square meters) of roof area.

Bundles per square: Because a single bundle covers around 25 square feet, it typically takes 3 bundles (3 x 25 square feet = 75 square feet) to cover 1 roofing square (100 square feet). There may be slight variations depending on the specific brand or manufacturer.

Waste factor: When calculating how many shingles you’ll need for your roof, it’s important to account for waste due to cutting and trimming shingles around vents, pipes, and other roof features. A 10-15% waste factor is commonly added when estimating shingle needs.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you have a simple, 100 square foot (9.3 square meter) roof section.

To cover this area with 3-tab shingles, taking into account bundles and typical waste, you might estimate the following:

– You’ll need 3 bundles per square (100 square feet), so 3 bundles would be required.

– Factoring in a 10% waste allowance, you might add an extra 0.3 bundles (3 bundles x 10%) to account for waste during installation, bringing your total to 3.3 bundles.

By keeping these factors in mind, you can get a better idea of how much area 3-tab shingles will cover in your specific roofing project. It’s always best to consult with a roofing professional for an accurate estimate.

How Do You Fasten 3-tab Shingles?

Fastening 3-tab shingles requires following a specific procedure to ensure a secure and watertight roof.

Here’s a breakdown of the process:


– Roofing nails: Use galvanized roofing nails with a wide head (around 3/8″ diameter) and long enough to penetrate the sheathing (typically 1″ to 1.25″).

– Hammer or power Nailer (optional)

– Utility knife


Starter Strip:  Begin by installing a starter strip along the eave (lowest edge) of your roof. This strip provides a base for the first course of shingles and helps ensure proper alignment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the starter strip.

Shingle Installation:

– Align the first shingle in the bottom course with the starter strip and the edge of the roof.

– Drive nails through the designated nail holes in the shingle. There are typically 4 nails per shingle:

– Two nails driven near the top corners, about ½ inch above the cutout notches.

– Two nails driven along the centerline, about 1 inch above the bottom edge of the shingle.

Subsequent Courses:

– Overlap the top edge of the starter strip with the first course of shingles. The amount of overlap will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions, typically around 6 inches (15 cm).

– Shingles in subsequent courses should overlap the joints between the shingles in the course below. This creates a staggered pattern for better waterproofing. Aim for a 6-inch (15 cm) horizontal overlap and a 2-inch (5 cm) vertical overlap.

– Continue laying and nailing shingles in this manner, working your way up the roof.

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Cutting and Trimming:

You’ll likely need to cut shingles to fit around vents, pipes, and other roof features. Use a sharp utility knife to make clean cuts.

Ridge Cap:

Once you’ve reached the peak of the roof, install the ridge cap shingles to cover the joint where the two roof sides meet. Follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions for ridge cap installation.

Safety First!

– Always prioritize safety when working on a roof.

– Wear proper safety gear, including gloves, eye protection, and sturdy shoes with good grip.

– Be cautious when working at heights and use appropriate fall protection equipment.

Additional Tips:

– Use a shingle gauge tool to ensure consistent overlap and alignment.

– Ensure nails are driven in straight and flush with the shingle surface, but not overdriven.

– Work your way up the roof section by section, ensuring each course is secure before moving on.

While this provides a general guideline, it’s recommended to consult a professional roofer for proper installation, especially for steeper or complex roofs. They can ensure optimal performance and longevity for your 3-tab shingle roof.

Do You Need Underlay for 3-tab Shingles?

Yes, you absolutely need underlayment for 3-tab shingles and practically all asphalt shingle roofs.

Here’s why underlayment is crucial for your roof:

Water Protection: The primary function of underlayment is to provide an additional layer of waterproofing between the shingles and the roof deck. Shingles are not perfect, and wind-driven rain, ice dams, or minor shingle tears can allow water to leak through. Underlayment acts as a secondary barrier, directing any water intrusion away from the roof deck and towards the eaves, where it can drain safely.

Enhanced Durability: Underlayment protects the roof deck from sun damage and helps it resist heat and moisture buildup. This can extend the lifespan of both the underlayment and the roof deck itself.

Improved Strength: Underlayment strengthens the overall roof system. It provides a smoother, more stable surface for shingle installation, and can help absorb some of the impact from wind and hail.

Types of Underlayment for Shingles:

There are two main types of underlayment commonly used with asphalt shingles:

Felt Underlayment: A traditional and cost-effective option, typically made of asphalt-saturated organic materials. However, felt can absorb moisture over time and lose effectiveness.

Synthetic Underlayment: A newer option made of water-resistant synthetic materials like polypropylene or fiberglass. It offers superior strength, flexibility, and lifespan compared to felt.

While underlayment is not technically mandatory by building codes, it’s strongly recommended by roofing professionals for the reasons mentioned above.  It’s a relatively small investment that significantly improves the overall protection and longevity of your asphalt shingle roof.

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Is a Metal Roof Cheaper Than Shingles?

The Pros and Cons of Painting Roof Shingles

3-Tab Shingles – The Pros and Cons