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There are a few different asphalt shingle types out there on the market. The two major styles are architectural, also known as laminant and 3-tab. Each have their own unique look and one has quite a few advantages over the other. I’ll explain the differences between styles and the one I consider to be the best asphalt fiberglass shingle type. I use the words asphalt and fiberglass interchangeably because they are both describing the same thing.

The Old School Shingle: 3-Tab

3-Tab shingles are a type of shingle that is one layer, split up into 3 tabs. It’s solid along the top, with cuts in the bottom to give the roof some texture after it’s installed. One thing to note about 3-tab Asphalt shingle is they MUST be installed correctly in order to end up with a good pattern. If not, as you look up the roof you won’t see nice parallel lines, but wavy lines that will look very unprofessional.

Thankfully though, 3-tab fiberglass shingles are on their way out (finally!). Since we started over 9 years ago, I’ve adamantly refused to install 3-tab shingles on our clients homes. Yes, we have installed 3-tab a handful of times, but it was usually to match an existing roof.

The Biggest Problem With 3-Tab Asphalt Shingles

These shingles have been widely used for many years, and up until a few years ago many builders were still putting them on their new spec homes. So if they’re so widely used, how can they have big problems?

Well, first of all, the main reason they are so common is because of price. Anyone looking for a really cheap roof would look to 3-Tab because it naturally seemed cheaper than the “newer stuff.” So that should tell you something right there.

The #1 problem I see with 3-Tab shingles is that they end up blowing off long before they run out of “useful life.” What I mean by this is they start blowing off well before they are cracking, losing all their granules, or showing any other signs of age.

Because of the 3 separate tabs and only one layer, there are lots of places for the wind to catch and start working them loose from the tar strip. Once that tar strip wears out and fails, there’s no stopping them from folding in half, breaking, and blowing away in the wind.

It’s not uncommon to see 3-Tab asphalt shingles blowing off homes that have a roof just 10-15 years old if they live in an area that gets any wind.

There are several other problems presented by this design as well, but none of them compete with its ability to blow off of homes well before its life is up. Here’s a brief list:

  1. More places for moss to grow
  2. Higher chance of shiners (exposed nails)
  3. They don’t fold well in valleys and can catch debris

The Best Style of Asphalt Fiberglass Shingle: Architectural

What makes architectural fiberglass shingles better than 3-Tab? Simple, the way it was designed. Architectural shingles start with one layer of fiberglass shingle, then get another one with notches laid over the top of it. The 2 layers are “laminated” together. This makes it so the shingle is one solid sheet instead of 3 separate tabs. Plus, it’s 2 layers in many places on the shingle.

This not only makes it look much better, but it also makes it a lot stronger. Where 3-tab shingles have all those edges for the wind to hit and get under architectural fiberglass shingles have one solid sheet of shingle material holding everything together, then the designer tabs on top to give it extra strength.

All this is held down by a tar strip that stretches across the whole shingle which makes it all stronger. Overall architectural shingles don’t blow off near as often as 3-Tab shingles do. And when they do, most of the time it can be attributed to a careless roofer that installed them wrong.

Did I mention it looks a lot better too?

One great thing about architectural shingles (both for the homeowner and the installer) is that they don’t have a strict pattern that they need to be installed. This gives the roof a much more random look which mimics the look of old-style wood shakes much better.

If you get a good brand of architectural shingle, they have a beautiful coloring that won’t end up giving your roof strange-looking stripes or unsightly patterns.

The Problem With Architectural/Laminate Shingles

Compared with 3-tab, architectural shingles have a lot fewer problems, however, they aren’t perfect. Different brands of architectural shingles use a different recipe for their tar strips, and some brands will outperform others. Some brands that use a weaker tar strip, or just less of it, can have failures between the shingle layers, and lead to shingles that lose the top layer of tabs. This will make the roof look not quite right, however, in most cases, it won’t cause any leaks because of the layer underneath.

Most brands also have a fairly thin “nail line” that the installers must hit with nails in order for the warranty to stay in place. If your installers aren’t skilled professionals, they may make mistakes that can cause similar problems to 3-tab shingles – blow-offs.

Thankfully architectural shingles are in much higher demand now so they have reached about an equilibrium in price too. If you have any roofing contractors come out and give you the option to install 3-Tab, I would question that contractor’s knowledge about roofing materials. If given the choice between 3-Tab and architectural asphalt fiberglass shingles, go with architectural every time…they are FAR better.