I was recently asked by a young person just getting into the remodeling industry what I at first thought was a fairly simple question: “What’s the difference between a 3-tab and an architectural shingle?” As I said, I thought it was a simple question. As it turns out, I’ve spent the last month gathering information from the internet and roofing professionals trying to come up with an answer that will make sense to the average homeowner, or to anyone else like me whose knowledge of shingles is basically limited to “they go on the roof”. Ok, I probably knew a little more than that before I started, but not a lot. Here’s what I learned.
Let’s start with 3-tab (traditional) shingles. You are probably most familiar with this type of shingle, as it pretty much used to be the industry standard for most roofs. 3-tab shingles are made by coating a single layer of fiberglass or other matting with asphalt, then covering it with crushed rock or similar materials to add color and protect the asphalt and matting from the sun. At around $0.60 per square foot a typical 3-tab shingle, weighing in at around 250 lb. per square (that’s roofer speak for a 10 x 10 area, or 100 sq. ft.) and with a wind resistance rating of about 60 mph, carries a warrantee of 20-30 years, depending on the manufacturer and type of shingle. Bear in mind, this warrantee is only for manufacturing defects. There are different warranties for wind damage, algae resistance, labor, etc. Make sure to read the warranty carefully to understand exactly what is covered and for how long.
By comparison, an architectural (sometimes referred to as “dimensional”) shingle is manufactured initially in a similar fashion to 3-tabs (that is, asphalt over matting coated with granules), except that a second layer of the same materials are then attached to the first layer (basically a shingle placed on top of a shingle) to create a dimensional appearance, and, of course, double the thickness of a 3-tab. That’s a very simplified explanation, but it is close enough for our purposes. Costing around $0.85 per square foot (if you’re doing that math, that’s $0.15 per square foot more than a 3-tab), and with a weight of about 450 lb. per square, a 50 year (or, in some cases “lifetime”) architectural shingle has a wind resistance rating of 110 mph (again, nearly double that of a 3-tab). As with the 3-tab, the 50 year (or lifetime, depending on the shingle) warranty only applies to manufacturing defects. Warranties for wind are generally closer to 15 years, whether 3-tab or architectural, and algae resistance is more like 10 years, again, regardless of shingle type.
Remember those prices I mentioned earlier? Those are simply for the cost of the shingles, and are only a rough estimate. Shingle prices tend to fluctuate with oil prices (after all, asphalt is a petroleum product), among other things. And, that does not include the cost for ice and water shield, a must for any roofing installation, ventilation systems, decking, flashing, and, of course, labor. Each of these costs is going to be comparable regardless of whether you choose 3-tab or architectural shingles. So, in the long run, a full roof installation, including tear off (always recommended to ensure the validity of the manufacturer’s warranty), replacement of decking (the plywood underlayment that forms the foundation of your roof) as required, installation of all materials, and everything else that goes into a roof replacement is only going to vary a few hundred dollars from 3-tab to architectural. If you take into account the difference in the warranties (particularly wind resistance), the price distinction is probably going to be negligible over time.
Instead of focusing on price, as so many homeowners seem to do, you should be much more concerned about proper installation of your new roof, starting with the inspection before you even sign a contract. Before you bought your home, you probably had an inspection: that’s pretty standard. However, odds are that the inspector did not actually go up on the roof or into the attic space to do a thorough inspection. It was more an on the ground sight inspection to see if there were any obvious defects, in which case the inspector might have taken a closer look. When you decide to replace your roof, though, you should make sure your roofer performs a more in depth inspection to see if the decking needs to be replaced, what ventilation is in place or needs to be added (including soffit or edge and ridge ventilation), and, from inside the attic to note any interior damage that would not be obvious from an external investigation. That way, you know on the front end all the work that needs to be performed, instead of getting a huge and probably expensive surprise when they begin the tear off process. Yes, I said tear off. If you pay close attention to the warranty documents for roofing materials, they generally specify something about proper installation from the decking up. If you do an overlay roof, which some homeowners may opt to choose to reduce costs, this could very well impact your warranty.
Bottom line, when choosing between 3-tab and architectural shingles, there is not a substantial price difference for the materials, particularly when you prorate the cost over the life of the shingles. And, to provide the best overall warranty and life expectancy from your new roof, regardless of the type of shingle you choose, you should definitely consider a deck up replacement (not necessarily the decking itself, except where needed, but everything above that) rather than an overlay, paying particular attention to proper ventilation, as extreme attic temperatures as a result of too little ventilation can considerably shorten the life of your roof, as heat has a serious negative impact on the wear of a roof. That means making sure there are plenty of vents at the ridge line, along the roof, and either at the lower edge of the roof or through the soffit, if your home has a soffit. These precautions will ensure that your roof lasts for years, and helps reduce your energy costs in the process.
When you are ready to consider a new roof for your home, contact us at (708) 423-1720 or visit our website at http://evergreenwindow.com for professional assistance in making the best choice for your particular needs.