Are Architectural Shingles Worth It?

Roof Replacement Tampa Bay

Asphalt shingles are far and away the top choice on American homes. In fact, about 70% of homes in this country use the trusty asphalt shingle. But they don’t all use the same type. Some use the simpler, cheaper version known as the 3-tab shingle. But more now use the upgraded and more expensive architectural shingles. But are architectural shingles worth it?

What Goes Into Asphalt Shingles?

First, the materials are mostly the same. Both use a base material or mat that acts like the “frame” of the shingle. It provides the structural integrity and the shape, as well as the place for the waterproofing layer to be applied. The mat was typically heavy roofing felt back in the day, which the manufacturers would saturate with an asphalt compound in order to gain its waterproof qualities. Now the material is typically a fiberglass mat with an asphalt layer on both the top and bottom sides. The topmost layer is the granular layer that provides UV protection, fire resistance, and the color of the shingle.

are architectural shingles worth it?
Architectural shingles provide a nicer look with more shadowlines.


The primary difference between 3-tab shingles and architectural shingles is the layers of material. If you pick up each of the shingles you’ll notice how much heavier an architectural shingle is. That’s due to the additional layer of fiberglass matting and the additional asphalt layers. Another type of asphalt shingle, designer shingles, is similar to architectural shingles. They’re made the same way but have additional layers to create more shadow lines and a heftier appearance.

Architectural shingles, in fact, are about 30% thicker than 3-tab shingles, and designer shingles can be 50% thicker. That means that both architectural and designer shingles are sturdier and will generally last longer than 3-tab shingles.

are architectural shingles worth it?
3-tab shingles have a flat and plain appearance compared to architectural shingles.

So why would anyone choose 3-tab shingles when architectural shingles offer those advantages? It’s all about cost. Some home builders and remodelers try to keep prices as low as they possibly can, so for them 3-tab shingles are a way to go for the lowest price point. Sometimes, also, homeowners are looking to put on a new roof in preparation for selling the home. Stating that the home has a new roof—even if it’s cheap 3-tab shingles—may be appealing to some buyers.

Finally, sometimes storm damage takes a toll on your roof and you find out that your homeowner’s insurance didn’t offer enough coverage. In that case, you could be on the hook for roof repairs and the new roof, and you really need to stretch the budget as far as possible. In that case, getting an affordable new roof installed as fast as possible is the most important factor.

What’s the Lifespan?

Here’s a good example of “You get what you pay for.” In most cases, a roof with 3-tab shingles will have a lifespan of roughly 15 years. Architectural shingles will be more like 20–25 years, and premium shingles should last 25–30 years. The difference, again, is the extra layers of material that manufacturers use in both architectural and premium shingles. That’s the expected lifespan when properly installed with full tear off.

Florida’s extreme weather, though, with intense sunshine, rain, wind, not to mention the occasional hurricane makes it tough for anyone to say just how long an asphalt shingle roof will last. That said, the heftier nature of architectural and premium shingles is a bonus when it comes to enduring extreme weather. And considering that you don’t necessarily pay more for labor to install better-quality shingles, you’ll really just pay a bit more for the architectural or premium shingles themselves. They are a better value overall.

What’s the Warranty?

As for the warranty, GAF’s Royal Sovereign shingles have been popular for decades and come with a 25-year warranty. You can get this shingle in nine colors, as well as with GAF’s algae protection so your roof doesn’t develop those black streaks you see on some older homes. The Royal Sovereign also passes the roofing industry’s two toughest wind tests, so even though you’re buying one of the more affordable shingles, you’re still getting a good shingle.

CertainTeed, another of the largest shingle manufacturers, offers their XT 25 3-tab shingles. Similar to GAF’s 3-tab shingle, this one comes with a 25-year warranty and algae protection, as well. One difference, though, is that the XT 25 only carries a 5-year, 60 mph wind-resistance warranty. The XT 25 is officially accepted by Miami-Dade County, though. That means that CertainTeed submitted the XT 25 to Miani-Dade County for acceptance as a roofing material and was accepted.

What Do They Cost?

Here’s a guideline for pricing for the different types of shingles:

  • 3-tab shingles: $78–93 per square
  • architectural shingles: $99–163 per square
  • premium/designer shingles: $150–224 per square

As for installed prices, you may be able to get a roof of 3-tab shingles installed for as low as $260–270 per square. Architectural shingles will come in at around $320–340 per square, installed. For an average 1600-square foot home, the range will be from just over $4000 to just over $9000. That figure is for a basic installation without repairs, which your roof may or may not need. If your roof is quite old or has storm damage, you may end having to pay for some repairs to the roof decking, or new flashing, and so on. If your home’s roof is more complex with valleys or skylights, for example, the labor charge will increase. Your roofer will advise you of those costs when it’s apparent that they’re necessary.

Skylights add cost and complexity to any roofing job.

Are Architectural Shingles Worth It?

Based on the relatively small extra cost compared to 3-tab shingles, and the fact that the labor for both types of shingles will be basically the same, I’d say that architectural shingles definitely are worth the extra cost.

If you’d like to talk about replacing your roof with any of these types of materials, give us a call at 813-373-9088. Our team has more than 40 years of experience in roofing. You can also use this form and ask us, “How much does a new roof cost in Florida?” and we will contact you.

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