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What Are 3 Tab Shingles & Are They a Good Option for You?

When it comes to home improvement, a roofing project can be one of the best investments of your time and…
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Jacob Wadding

When it comes to home improvement, a roofing project can be one of the best investments of your time and money. After all, a new roof promises many benefits:

  • Renewed protection of your home from the elements
  • Decreased energy bills throughout the year
  • An increase in your home’s value

When it comes to roofing material, it’s tempting to simply go with the same option that’s always been on your roof. If your roof is an asphalt roof, that likely means you’ll be using 3 tab shingles.

However, replacing your entire roof is a big undertaking. You owe it to yourself to fully understand the roofing materials you’re choosing before committing to one option.

To help you with this, we’ve put together a complete breakdown of what 3 tab shingles are, how they’re installed, and whether they’re a good choice in the long run.

What Are 3 Tab Shingles?

tab shingle roof close up image

Each 3 tab shingle has three identical tabs (hence the name) that easily fit into the row above it when it’s installed on the roof. They’re designed to look like three separate shingles laying side by side. This design makes 3 tab shingles easy to install, and it also gives them a very uniform appearance.

3 tab shingles tend to be quite thin, and they’re made almost entirely of asphalt. The layer of shingle granules on top of these shingles acts as a waterproofing agent.

These asphalt shingles are by far the most common choice for single-family residential homes, and they’ve been in use by roofing contractors for decades. Many manufacturers provide a 3-tab asphalt shingle option among their lines of products, including:

  • GAF
  • Owens Corning
  • CertainTeed
  • IKO

5-Step Installation Process

While a professional contractor will handle the installation process for you, it can be helpful to have a basic understanding of how roof replacement is done. Your contractor will follow these steps when working on your roof:

  1. Prepare roof deck and underlayment: If any repairs need to be done on the underlayers of your roof, your contractor will complete those first.
  2. Lay down the starter row: Your contractor will install a row of start shingles along the bottom edge of your roof, aligning it with both your flashing and the chalk line for the first row of shingles.
  3. Plan the layout: Your contractor will decide, with your input, whether it’s best to offset your shingles or lay them down in a basic pattern.
  4. Lay the shingles: Once the plan is solidified, your contractor will lay your rows of shingles, taking special attention to properly cover any area with a pipe, skylight, or vent.
  5. Lay the ridge caps: Once they’ve reached the top of your roof, your roofer will lay the ridge caps to finish off your roof.

As you can see, even though 3 tab shingles are easy to install compared to other roofing materials, the process is still quite complicated and should only be undertaken by an experienced roofing contractor. Professional installation shouldn’t take more than a day or two under favorable conditions.

Once your 3 tab shingles have been installed, they should last 20-30 years, after which time they’ll need to be replaced. If you notice curling, denting, or missing shingles, you should look into immediate roof repair, no matter how old (or new) your roof is.

3 Tab vs. Architectural Shingles: What’s The Difference?

house with dormer and asphalt shingle roof

3 tab shingles should not be confused with architectural shingles.

Architectural asphalt shingles have varying tab widths and are made of several layers of roofing materials such as fiberglass, minerals, and built-in granules. This gives them a 3-D look that mimics the appearance of cedar shakes, and it’s why they’re sometimes known as dimensional shingles.

Architectural shingles differ from 3 tab shingles in the following ways:

  • Weight: Because architectural shingles are made of many layers, they’re heavier than their 3 tab counterparts. If you switch from 3 tab shingles to an architectural asphalt shingle roof, make sure that your home can support the weight before you jump into the project.
  • Price point: Architectural shingles tend to cost about 15-25% more than the same amount of 3 tab shingles. Their installation costs will also likely be higher.
  • Lifespan: Architectural shingles can generally last around 50 years, meaning that they’ll need to be replaced less frequently than 3 tab shingles.
  • Appearance: Architectural shingles are generally considered to be more attractive in appearance than 3-tab shingles. They boost your home’s curb appeal and offer many color and style options to choose from.
  • Durability: In general, architectural shingles have higher ratings for wind resistance, impact resistance, mildew resistance, and fire resistance than 3 tab shingles.
  • HOA compliance: Because of the difference in appearance, some homeowners’ associations will only allow members to install architectural shingles on their roofs.
  • Property value: If you switch from 3 tab to architectural shingles, it may increase the value of your residential property.

When to Choose 3 Tab Shingles

old tab shingles on roof

While 3 tab shingles and architectural shingles are both in use on homes today, architectural roof shingles are the best choice if you’re looking for a roof with a longer lifespan, better protection from the elements, and increased curb appeal.

However, if you’re a homeowner on a budget and simply can’t make architectural shingles work for your finances, there’s nothing wrong with using 3 tab shingles on your home. Just be prepared to have them replaced within the next couple of decades.

Hire an Expert in Asphalt Roofing Materials

3 tab shingles are a tried-and-true roofing solution that’s accessible to both contractors and homeowners. While they won’t protect your home as well as architectural shingles, both architectural shingles and 3 tab shingles have their benefits, and you should consult with a roofing professional to figure out the best choice for you.

Since 2009, the team at ARCH Exteriors has been providing superior roofing work to homeowners throughout Maryland and Virginia. With affordable financing options, virtual appointments, and high ratings and certifications, we have all the resources you need to have an unforgettable roofing experience.

Want to learn more about what we do? Reach out today to get started!

About the Author
Your home is probably the most expensive thing you own. When you hire somebody to make improvements, you want high-quality work. In addition, you hope they’ll take the same care you would. You want someone with a good reputation, legitimate credentials, well established, using quality materials, and who charges a fair price. For over 11 years, I have worked hard to provide all of those benefits to my clients. One of the major reasons we have been able to do that is our ability to keep highly qualified personnel. Our workers are well trained, properly motivated, and managed professionally. I make certain that I convey measurable systems and procedures that our team understands and can readily follow.

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