Asphalt Shingles Pros & Cons, Plus Costs: 3-Tab Vs. Architectural Shingles

For homeowners looking to do a re-roofing job on a budget, while maintaining a fairly attractive look and weather tightness of their home, a composition shingles roof (asphalt) may be a plausible, simple and cost-effective solution.

In a highly competitive residential roofing market saturated with numerous options, asphalt shingles are by far one of the most popular choices. While not as durable and long-lasting as some of the more premium roofing materials such as metal, cedar shakes, slate, or clay tiles, asphalt shingles can provide an adequate protection and sufficient aesthetic appeal at only a fraction of the cost of other systems.

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Learning Objective:

In this guide you will learn about advantages and disadvantages of composition shingle roofs to help you decide if this popular roofing option is the best fit for your needs.

Two Types of Asphalt Shingles:

asphalt-shingles-roof Asphalt shingles come in two types: organic and fiberglass. Organic shingles are based on paper (waste paper) saturated with asphalt to make it waterproof, with coatings of adhesive salt and ceramic granules embedded on top. Fiberglass shingles are made with a base layer of glass fiber reinforcing mat. This mat is coated with asphalt, which contains mineral fillers and makes the shingle waterproof.

While organic shingles are more durable than fiberglass ones, they are more flammable and hence more prone to fire. They are less environmentally-friendly due to their high asphalt (oil based) content. Fiberglass shingles offer excellent fire protection. Today, fiberglass shingles are more commonly used and are slowly, but surely, replacing the organic shingles.


complex asphalt shingles roof

Affordable Value

By far the greatest advantage of composition shingles roofing is its relatively low upfront cost. This is the most affordable roofing option in the short term, which is why so many homeowners favor it. In most cases, a properly installed asphalt shingles roof will provide your home with a decent level of protection with an average lifespan of 12 to 17 years, all for a modest upfront cost.

Variety of Styles: 3-Tab, Architectural, and Premium Shingles

Roofing Shingles Display

Just because asphalt shingles are cheap, does not mean they are lacking in style. Residential asphalt shingles are available in three profiles: 3-Tab (basic and least costly), Laminated (Architectural or Dimensional), and Premium. Whether you have a contemporary or traditional style home, you can choose an asphalt shingles option that will be a good match.

A 3-tab shingle is the most basic and least expensive, entry level roof shingles rated for up to 60mph – 70mph wind uplift. Most 3-tab shingles come with a limited warranty provided by the product manufacturer; 20 to 30 years limited warranty is the norm for 3-tab shingles.

You can easily recognize this style of shingles by its simple 3-tab pattern. You will normally need three bundles of shingles to cover 100 sq. ft. of roof surface. At roughly $25 to $30 per bundle, you are looking at the approximate cost of $75 to $90 per square of 3-tab shingles.

If you are willing to pay a bit more, installing architectural style also known as dimensional (laminated or composition) shingles will provide a beautiful 3-dimensional look to your roof, imitating the look of natural wood or slate shingles. Most architectural shingles are rated for up to 110mph – 130mph wind uplift and will last longer than 3-tab shingle. Manufacturer ratings ranging from 30 to 50 years of limited warranty are the norm. You will normally need four bundles of architectural shingles to cover an area of 100 sq. ft. At roughly $35 to $40 per bundle, you are looking at the approximate cost of $140 to $160 per square of architectural or dimensional shingles.

Premium style shingles are the premium type known for their unique appearance and high cost. 😉 Most premium shingles are rated for a wind uplift of up to 110mph and come with a limited lifetime warranty. You will normally need five bundles of premium shingles to cover an area of 100 sq. ft. At roughly $45 to $50 per bundle, you are looking at the approximate cost of $225 to $250 per square of premium shingles.

Examples of GAF, Certainteed, and Owens Corning Shingles Styles and Colors

Asphalt shingles are manufactured in almost all colors imaginable, including blue, red, yellow and green. Numerous patterns are also available, allowing you to create an attractive custom look that could greatly enhance the appearance of your home.



Owens Corning

Tip: For the daring DIY enthusiasts, you can buy Owens Corning Shingles at Lowe’s. Both, Lowe’s and Home Depot offer volume pricing discounts, when you buy a certain number of bundles of shingles. Some stores may also give you a 10% Veteran’s discount.

Owens Corning Shingle Colors

Relative Ease of Installation

Unlike most other roofing materials, which require specialized training and experience to properly install, asphalt shingles can be installed by any knowledgeable roofing contractor. It is even possible for a homeowner skilled in DIY projects to install an asphalt shingles roof on their own. Also, while asphalt shingles are not the lightest material available, they are light-weight enough to be installed on almost any roof without requiring any additional structural support. Since no special tools, skills, or major preparation work is required during the installation, a typical composition shingles roof can be installed in a matter of days.

The cost of installation is also significantly lower than what you would pay for a specialty roofing system such as slate, tiles, or metal. Fierce competition for asphalt roofing installation jobs among contractors also contributes to fairly low labor prices, which means that if you shop around, you can get a really good deal.


As the saying goes: “you get what you pay for” and for their low prices, asphalt shingles have a considerable number of disadvantages that you need to be prepared to deal with. Here is a brief list of some of the common issues:

– Asphalt shingles can get damaged if installed at below freezing temperatures.

– Attic ventilation issues can cause damage to asphalt shingles.

– Cheaper grades of asphalt shingles such as 3-tab shingles are susceptible to wind uplift.

– Asphalt shingles are not resistant to extreme temperature fluxuations, which causes expansion and contraction of the shingle and subsequent cracking.

– Shingles perform better in cooler climates rather than in hot temperature conditions; extreme heat causes shingles to crack and loose color.

– Regular maintenance and repairs are required and are better done before it rains or snows to prevent further damage to the shingles.

– Asphalt shingles are not an environmentally friendly roofing material. They are a petroleum based product; manufacturing of shingles wastes a lot of energy and exacerbates green house gas emissions. By and large, old asphalt shingles don’t get recycled, and hence regularly end up in our landfills, after a relatively short service life compared to other, more-sustainable roofing options for homes and commercial buildings.

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13 thoughts on “Asphalt Shingles Pros & Cons, Plus Costs: 3-Tab Vs. Architectural Shingles

  1. Pingback: Roof Replacement Cost 2015 - Materials & labor Costs Guide

  2. adam forster

    Great article!

    Can composition shingles (asphalt) be supplied and fitted onto cold (vented), or warm (non-vented) roofs, as you said in the article that attic ventilation can damage the shingles?

    Many thanks,


    1. Alex Post author

      Hello Adam,

      Asphalt shingles will work fine on a roof with a properly ventilated attic space. The lack of adequate attic-space ventilation may cause problems such as shingles getting melted and stock to the over-heated (due to poorly-ventilated attic space) roof deck. A properly installed roof underlayment is vital, because it can actually help prevent asphalt shingles from becoming glued to the roof deck.



  3. anyes

    Do you recommend felting as a proper roof underlay for a beach house on island?

    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      Hi Anyes,

      30 lb felt underlayment is generally suitable for asphalt shingles roofs. Note, it needs to be installed over a clean deck (free of nails, old shingles, damaged wood, or any sort of debris). If you plan to have a new roof installed over the existing layer of asphalt, then I’d recommend a breathable synthetic underlayment such as “Deck Armor” by GAF. It’s much stronger and longer-lasting than regular felt paper. On the island, you should also consider wind speeds from the lake/ocean when picking an appropriate system. Once again, the quality of installation and appropriate system selection in terms of location and roof shape is the key to a long-lasting roof.

      1. anyes

        Hi Roof Guy,
        Thank you for your reply the GAF deck armor sounds good. there is an existing asphalt roof on a steep roof with 3 dormers on a beach cottage in the Bahamas. after a bad choice of metal roof 9 years ago, we want to restore the roof to asphalt shingles which was white. no budget for “bermuda roof”
        2 more questions:
        is there such a thing as white asphalt panels or will it need painting?
        what type of flashing do you recommend near a salty ocean ?
        also this is a roof used for collecting rainwater for drinking supply,
        Many thanks,

        1. The Roof Guy Post author

          Hi Anyes,

          While you can use a metal roof such as standing seam for drinking water collection, you would be ill advised to use asphalt shingles roof, whether painted or coated for that purpose. Since an asphalt shingle roof is basically a composite of asphalt, an oil-based product, and sand granules, you would not want to use such a combination of materials for water collection. Think about it this way, would you want to drink water that was poured into a mug made of asphalt? How about throwing a few loose sand granules in there? At best, this water would be non-potable, but non-drinkable, unless you have some sort of ultra-sophisticated water filtration system in place, which could remove any harmful elements associated with asphalt deposits (think of the oil spills in the oceans that kill fish and wild life).

          I’m not sure what happened to the previous metal roof you had installed, but if it was poorly installed in the first place, then perhaps it was one of the reasons why it did not last too long. Another possibility is that your metal roof was made of steel (as opposed to aluminum), which would corrode and rust away in the heavy salt-spray environment such as a beach-cottage near the ocean.

          However, if instead, you had ended-up getting a bare-metal aluminum roof installed the right way, you would have an ideal set-up for water-collection, as well as a long-lasting and energy-efficient roofing system. Bare-metal, gives the advantage of not having to deal with any peeling paint and whatnot, which would be an important point of consideration for water collection metal roof.

          For flashing materials, I would recommend aluminum, even if you go with asphalt.

          If you are going to go with asphalt shingles rather than metal, after-all, which IMHO would be inherently poor choice given your water-collection ambitions, look for an energy-efficient and Eco-friendly roof coating that could also act as some sort of buffer between the asphalt and the water being collected.

          What type of a metal roof have you had in the past? Was it steel or aluminum? What was wrong with it?

          1. anyes

            Hello Roof Guy,
            Thank you very much for your response which makes me rethink the asphalt shingles choice. Drinking rain water is part of island life in the Abacos. The metal roof we had was painted white but the exact material escapes me…A bare metal alumunium roof is a very good suggestion.
            Thank you for your help,

  4. Pingback: Types of Asphalt Roofing Shingles: 3-Tab, Architectural, Costs, DIY Options, and Pros and Cons - - Remodeling Image: Ideas, Tips, and Practical Advice

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  6. Zippy

    Would you recommend Decra steel-coated roofing or asphalt shingles? We plan to collect rain water roofing for drinking and farming.

    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      You should not use either Decra or asphalt for rainwater collection, because both systems have sand granules and impurities you don’t want to have in your drinking water.

      The best system for rainwater collection would be bare aluminum or zinc shingles or standing seam. I prefer zinc.

  7. AJ

    I am looking into repairing my roof with a new addition of some asphalt shingles. I didn’t know that there were two different types of asphalt shingles until I read through your article. After reading your explanation of the two, I think I’ll invest in some fiberglass asphalt shingles since it is less flammable.


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