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Types of Asphalt Roofing Shingles

There are so many different names for types of shingles that it can be a challenge for homeowners to get them all straight. Is there a difference between laminate shingles and composition shingles? What differentiates each type of shingle? Each shingle type has its unique features and benefits. However, if you can’t tell them apart, you may not know what you’re actually buying.

To help you make the best decision for your roof, we’ll explain each of the four main types of roofing shingles.

1. Traditional Shingles

Traditional shingles are also called 3-tab shingles or strip shingles. They are the oldest type of asphalt shingle that is still available today, although they have seen many improvements over the years, including the addition of a fiberglass mat instead of a cellulose core

2. Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles go by many names, including laminate shingles and dimensional shingles. Whatever you call them, the key difference between these shingles and traditional shingles is their construction. Dimensional shingles are composed of two layers. Both layers are composed of asphalt and fiberglass. This thick two-layer construction may give them an advantage in weather-resistance.

Originally, shingle manufacturers intended these shingles to have enhanced aesthetics and visual thickness. They caught on because they are simpler to install. Today, dimensional shingles are the most popular shingles.

You can identify dimensional shingles by their unique look. Unlike 3-tab shingles, these shingles are not cut into identical shapes. Instead, each shingle is manufactured with alternating areas or tabs of single and double layers. This shingle patternis often referred to as “dragon’s teeth.” Manufacturers also add a shadow line, which is a band of darker granules. The intermittent double-layer tabs, in conjunction with the intermittent shadow band on the single-layer areas, add dimension to the roof, which enhances the home’s look and style.

What is the Difference Between Architectural Shingles and Asphalt Shingles?

Although architectural shingles are “asphalt” shingles, when people ask this question, they are generally asking for the difference between architectural shingles and 3-tab shingles. Some homeowners get confused about what really differentiates 3-tab and architectural shingles.

The simple answer is that architectural shingles are thicker. This thickness may give them performance benefits. Plus, they have a unique, dramatic look. Architectural shingles have shadow bands and “dragon’s teeth,” while 3-tab shingles are more consistent and flatter. That doesn’t mean one type of shingle is necessarily preferable. Which shingle you should choose depends on your priorities, home and climate conditions.

3. Premium Shingles

Premium shingles are also called designer shingles. They share the two-layer composition of laminate shingles, but they have other features that create a premium look. Many premium shingles are made to mimic the look of other roofing materials, such as cedar shakes and slate tiles. Roofing manufacturers wanted to offer homeowners these unique looks, without the high cost and other drawbacks of these more traditional roof materials.

Many roof shingles may qualify as performance shingles. These are simply shingles that have been designed to offer specific performance benefits, such as wind resistance, hail resistance or solar reflectivity. These features may be available in other types of shingles as well. Here are some of the advantages that asphalt shingles can give your home.


Shingles may face a sudden, hard impact from hail. Performance asphalt shingles may be designed to resist hail better and may stay intact through hailstorms. This rating, while not a guarantee of performance, may allow for a reduction in home insurance premiums if available in your area.

Wind Resistance

Performance shingles may also be designed with special features to cope with high winds and may reduce wind uplift or blow off.

Algae Resistance

In many areas of North America, algae growth on rooftops is a problem. When it dies off, blue-green algae leaves behind black stains on the roof. Many asphalt shingles now offer algae-resistant granules to reduce the risk of blue-green algae growth on your roof.

Fire Resistance

Another element our homes have to protect against is fire. You can purchase shingles that have Class A Fire Resistance. Class A is the highest fire resistance rating. Note that it’s important to install the whole roof system to get this high fire rating, as other elements of the roof also help to protect your home from fire.

5. Other Types of Shingles

You may also hear the terms “hip and ridge shingles” and “starter strips.” These shingles match the overall style and construction of the main shingle that your roofing professional installs on your roof. However, they are specially shaped or designed to make installation easier.

In order to install shingles on the hips and ridges of a roof, professional roofers used to have to take a shingle and cut it into strips, then line the strips up and down the hips and ridges. This became a challenge when thicker laminate shingles became standard, as they were harder to cut and harder to bend over the ridge. To make things easier for roofers, manufacturers invented hip and ridge shingles in matching colors that don’t need to be cut to be installed.

Starter strips or starter shingles are the first shingles that your professional roofer applies on the roof. Starter strips provide a solid sealant strip to bond the first course of main shingles to the roof. This sealant protects the roof substrate where there are gaps, joints or cutouts in the first course of shingles. They may also act as guides to ensure the roofer achieves the correct pattern on the rest of the roof.

A Roof Isn’t Just About Its Shingles

While choosing the right type of asphalt roofing shingle is important, it is not the only product that your roofer will install on your roof. Shingles are actually part of a whole roof system, the parts of which work together to protect your home. Learn about some of the other components of a roof to understand their role and importance.

Which is the Best Type of Asphalt Roofing Shingle?

No one shingle is the best choice for everyone. Instead, focus on finding the right type of shingle for you, that suits your home and your needs. When you’re researching shingle types, why not reach out to a roofing professional? Cornerstone Roofing professionals can help guide you throughout this process and advise on the best solution for you and your homes longevity. Contact us today at 940-447-5944

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