Asphalt shingles are a roofing staple all over North America by dint of their low upfront cost and easy installation. They are currently the biggest player in the roofing market, outpacing all other roofing materials by a considerable margin. Asphalt shingles are manufactured in two different types: three-tab and architectural.
Three-tab shingles are distinguished by cutouts—tabs—made along their long lower edge. The result, says Joan Crowe, a technical services director for the National Roofing Contractor's Association (NRCA), is that "each shingle looks like three separate pieces when installed, but it's only one." Three-tab shingles have been around a long time and are still the most economical and most popular shingle today.
Architectural asphalt shingles contain no cutouts, but their lower portions are laminated with an additional asphalt layer. This creates the contoured, dimensional look that gives them their name. Asphalt sealant bonds the layers, reinforcing the shingles' waterproof capability. Though durable, architectural shingles are not recommended for low-sloping roofs, which are more vulnerable to wind-driven rain.
Although the difference between three-tab and architectural shingles seems superficial, roofers consider the latter a more high-end roofing product. The price difference reflects this, with architectural shingles costing 20% to 40% percent more than three-tab shingles—a difference that can mean up to $1500 more for larger roofs.
But are architectural shingles really worth the extra cost? Roof Roof, one of the leading roofers in Marietta, GA, says yes, they are. Here's why:
- Aesthetics. Architectural shingles can be made to resemble premium roofing materials like cedar and slate and are better able to hide imperfections on the roof surface.
- Durability. Architectural shingles are nearly twice as thick as three-tab shingles and are therefore more durable and less vulnerable to curling.
- Weight and wind resistance. Three-tab shingles usually weigh 240 lbs per square and are rated for wind speeds up to 60 mph; architectural shingles weigh 340-440 lbs per square and are rated for wind speeds up to 80-120 mph.
- Manufacturer's warranties. 25 years for three-tab, 40 to 50 years for architectural.
So is cheaper better? The answer will depend on how you look at things. Three-tab shingles are cheaper upfront, but over the course of your roof's lifetime, architectural shingles can cost less.
(Article Excerpt from Asphalt Shingles 101, Bob Vila)