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.

Install Roof Shingles

$7,500
Average price
Install Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
Install Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

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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.


Advantages

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.

GAF

Certainteed

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.

Estimated Roof Costs (1620 s.f.)
Asphalt Shingles
Metal Roofing
Flat Roof
$7,500
$14,500
$8,225
See Roof Costs in Your Area

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.

Disadvantages

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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19 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,

    Adam

    Reply
    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.

      Best,

      Alex

      Reply
  3. anyes

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

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
      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,

        Reply
        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?

          Reply
          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,
            A

  4. Pingback: Types of Asphalt Roofing Shingles: 3-Tab, Architectural, Costs, DIY Options, and Pros and Cons - RemodelingImage.com - 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.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
  8. Jill Strain

    Hi Roof guy,

    Do you have a list of your #1, #2, #3 manufacturers of quality asphalt shingles? I’m leaning toward a contractor who uses GAF, but the salesperson representing Certainteed tells me that GAF is the worst shingle on the market. It’s so very confusing.

    Thank you,

    Jill

    Reply
    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      Hi Jill,

      Both Certainteed and GAF, as well as Owens Corning, are pretty much on par or on the same level as far as quality goes.

      It’s true that some contractors will swear that one kind of shingles, their favorite, is better than another, but, the truth is that ultimately it’s the workmanship and the quality of the overall installation and service including warranty, which makes all the difference. 😉

      As far as a particular kind of shingle to choose, you should make sure that you are getting architectural shingles rated for at least 130 mph wind uplift to ensure that you have a durable and long lasting roof.

      Keep in mind that all asphalt shingles will lose granules. All asphalt shingles are inherently impermanent. That’s right, all of them are designed to be temporary. You are lucky if you get 20 to 30 years out of an asphalt shingle roof, especially if you live in a tough climate.

      If you want a permanent roof, then consider going with metal roofing such as metal shingles or standing seam — these systems should only be installed by experienced metal roofing installers, not asphalt roofers.

      That being said, though, what I cannot stress enough, is that the key to a long lasting roof is making sure that you choose your installer wisely. When hiring a roofing contractor, you want to make sure that they will not be cutting any any corners during the installation and that they will treat you and your home right.

      Quality installation may entail repairing the deck, installing ice and water shield, followed by high quality underlayment — GAF breathable synthetic underlay such as Deck Armor, and properly flashing around chimneys, end-walls, and skylights.

      Whether it’s a GAF or Certainteed, is pretty much inconsequential as long as your roof is installed right in terms of quality and service — going by the book and ensuring proper installation process, final product, and great customer service during and after the job is done.

      Here are some questions you may want to ask when vetting the contractor:

      Ask about how the contractor will handle ventilation of the roof to see if they understand the relationship between soffit and ridge vent. Will they inspect the attic to make sure soffit vents are not covered or blocked? If there are no soffit vents, ridge-vent would be useless, meaning that roof vents or gable vents may be necessary.

      If you happen to have a hip roof, will they use the special hip shingles to cover the ridge-lines along any hips of the roof?

      Will they offer any warranty on their workmanship to guarantee the quality of the installation?

      Are they going to be using any subcontractors?

      Who will be your project manager or foreman responsible for the job?

      Is the written proposal being provided?

      How long will they take to complete the job?

      How soon will they start the job?

      Will they tear off the old roof and repair any damage to the deck? Will they protect your garden during the tear off? Will they pick up all the nails, old shingles and garbage, and leave your property clean every night?

      Remember, there is very little difference between GAF and Certainteed, but there can be a world of difference in the delivery of your product and customer service. Choose wisely.

      Let us know what you decide and Good Luck!

      Reply
  9. Flossie

    Hi there,

    We are having our shingles replaced due to weather damage. The existing shingles have been in place for approximately 15 years.

    Our insurance adjuster uses Service Master and in our dealings with them they advised us that if we go with one type of singles the warranty would not be honored. Not sure we understand the messaging here!

    We live in an environment where we have four seasons and we live on an island. In our research to choose the best possible asphalt shingle we are more confused than ever.

    We did see GAF product at Home Depot, however their price per bundle was about $24.00 per bundle.

    We would gladly pay a little more money if we felt it was the right choice for us. This whole shingle decision is a little intimidating! Help!

    Reply
    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      Hi Flossie,

      Since you live on an island, where you are probably experiencing some storms and hurricanes, I would advice you to go with either a metal roof such as standing seam, or a more durable version of asphalt shingles such as GAF that is rated for up to 130 mph wind uplift or more. That would be architectural/dimensional shingles (not the 3-tab shingle which is only rated for up to 60-70 mph wind uplift).

      Check with your insurance company to make sure the above are approved options.

      Good Luck!

      Reply
  10. Anthony Lorello

    A roof consultant, recently invited to our Board Meeting, suggested that we should refrain from using architectural shingles to replace our worn mansard shingles. His claim suggested that the architectural shingles that are laminated, will lose its integrity in the hot Tampa sun.
    Please provide your opinion.

    Reply
    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      There is certainly some truth in what the consultant is saying. Florida climate is not ideal for asphalt because of the potential for rapid temperature changes and the hot sun which is not good for asphalt.

      A metal roof, composite shingles (plastic/rubber), slate, or tile may be a better option in Tampa, FL. Asphalt roofs are more appropriate for temperate climates. Although, if you do go with asphalt, your roof will not lose its integrity over night, but its lifespan will likely be shorter than what it would be in a more temperate climate.

      Has the consultant suggested any alternatives? Let us know what you end up choosing.

      Reply

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