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Asphalt shingles come in two standard design options: architectural (also known as dimensional) shingles, and three-tab shingles. Three-tab are essentially flat simple shingles with a uniform shape and size. They use less material and are thinner than architectural shingles, and are therefore lighter and lower cost for both the material and the installation. They also do not last as long or offer manufacturer’s warranties as long as good architectural asphalt shingles. Three-tab are still the most commonly installed in lower-value homes, such as those used as rental properties.

However, they are declining in popularity in favor of the architectural style. Dimensional, or architectural shingles are thicker and stronger, vary in shape and size, and offer more aesthetic appeal; casting more distinct, random shadow lines better mimics the appearance of traditional roofing materials such as wood shake shingles. The result is a more natural, traditional look.

While more expensive to install, they come with longer manufacturer’s warranties, sometimes up to 50 years – typically prorated, as virtually all asphalt shingle roofs are replaced before such an expiration could be reached. While three-tab shingles typically need to be replaced after 15–18 years, Dimensional typically last 24–30 years.

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