What are Asphalt 3-tab Roofing Shingles?

Published: Oct. 9, 2018
3-tab shingles

How are Asphalt 3-tab Shingles Made?

Asphalt 3-tab shingles are made with a durable fiberglass basemat that’s surrounded by two asphalt layers. The outer layer of the shingle is coated with varying colors of ceramic mineral granules that determine the color of the shingle. They are then cut into 3-tab pieces and installed as a simple, horizontal roofing product.

What’s the History of the 3-tab?

The development of modern asphalt 3-tab shingles began in 1893 with the invention of asphalt roofing. In 1897 slate granules were added to the roofing material for added durability, and in 1901 manufacturers began cutting the material into single-tab or multi-tab shingles.

In the early decades of the 20th Century, the U.S. National Board of Fire Underwriters encouraged the use of asphalt roofing instead of wood roofing to help prevent the large number of fires that plagued cities. By 1939, an estimated 11 million asphalt shingles had been manufactured for use. As they became more widespread, advancements were made in manually and self-adhesive sealing that protected the shingles from wind damage. Durable fiberglass was added to the base of the shingles in the 1950s and 60s, and this development improved over time as well.

Today, asphalt shingles cover over 70% of all steep slope roofs. Asphalt 3-tab shingles have declined in popularity over the years, but they’re still the select choice for lower-value homes or rental properties because they are inexpensive relative to the alternatives.


  • Price: 3-tab shingles are some of the cheapest roofing products on the market. The higher cost of architectural shingles make them out of reach for many homeowners, so the 3-tab shingles are a viable option that provide sufficient roofing coverage.
  • Easy Repairs: Because of their simple, lightweight design, 3-tab shingles are relatively easy to repair when compared to more complex roofing systems.


  • Lack of Durability: While architectural shingles can withstand winds between 110-130 mph, 3-tab shingles can only withstand winds between 60-70 mph. Furthermore, the single layer of lightweight materials fails to hold up to weather damage as well as other multilayer roofing like architectural shingles.
  • Lifespan: Asphalt 3-tab shingles have one of the shortest life spans of commonly used roofing materials. While metal roofing, solar shingles, and even architectural shingles can last between 30-50 years, asphalt 3-tab shingles typically last for only 10-25 years. So while you’ll save on the initial cost if you purchase a 3-tab shingle roof, you’ll likely have to replace the roof more frequently.
  • Appearance: Asphalt 3-tab shingles have a very simple, flat design. Architectural, slate, and cedar shingles all have a more staggered, natural look to them. Additionally, many lower-value homes or rental properties have asphalt 3-tab shingles, and they are rarely seen on higher-value homes. Asphalt 3-tab shingles are unlikely to increase your property value.


  • Architectural Shingles: Architectural shingles are very similar to 3-tab shingles. Both are made of asphalt, but architectural shingles have a heavy mat base and several layers of asphalt making them much more durable than 3-tab. Architectural shingles are more expensive than 3-tab shingles, but they have a longer lifespan and have a more natural, 3-dimensional look.
  • Asphalt Corrugated Roofing Sheets: Asphalt corrugated roofing sheets are made of a tough organic fiber core that is infused with asphalt. Asphalt corrugated roofing sheets offer a simple design like 3-tab shingles, but they are also durable and often come with a lifetime limited warranty.
  • Metal Roofing: Metal roofing is a durable, long-lasting roofing option. While metal roofing is more expensive than 3-tab shingles, it has a longer life span, and can more adequately withstand wind, fire, and hail.

Wind, Hail and Fire Ratings

Most asphalt and fiberglass shingles, including 3-tab, have a class A fire rating, which is the best possible fire grade. When purchasing asphalt 3-tab shingles, it’s important to also ensure that the shingles have a UL 2218 Class 4 hail resistance rating. Additionally, asphalt 3-tab shingles typically have lower wind resistance than other shingles. While architectural shingles can withstand winds of up to 130 mph, asphalt 3-tab shingles can only hold up in winds between 60-70 mph.

Solar Reflectivity

Most asphalt roofing manufacturers offer shingles that come in lighter colors and can reflect the sun’s infrared radiation. This solar reflectivity can reduce your cooling bills in the summer because your roof won’t absorb as much heat.


Asphalt 3-tab shingles are a more affordable option for many homeowners. Although they a smaller initial cost, asphalt 3-tab roofs need to be replaced more frequently than roofs made of other materials. Installing an asphalt roof can cost between $2,000-$10,000 depending on the type of asphalt shingles used, the size and slope of your roof, and your geographic location. Asphalt 3-tab shingles are usually on the lower end. For more precise roofing quotes, it’s helpful to contact your local manufacturers and contractors.