3-Tab Versus Designer Versus Architectural Shingles: Which Is Right for Your Roof?

Learn more about the differences in appearance, cost, durability, and performance with traditional 3-tab, designer, and architectural shingles.

New gray roof

Most asphalt shingles probably look the same to the untrained eye, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are three primary types of shingles you can choose for your roof: 3-tab (traditional/standard), designer, and architectural.

Understanding the differences between these types is crucial not just for aesthetic alignment with your home but also for functional considerations like durability and weather resistance.

In this blog post, we’ll examine how these shingle types vary in appearance, cost, environmental considerations, and overall performance.


A house with CertainTeed's XT25 Strip Shingles
A line of strip shingles sold by CertainTeed. Image from CertainTeed’s website.

Traditional 3-tab shingles, or “strip shingles,” have a flat, uniform appearance and are named for their cut, which is typically divided into three tabs of equal width. In terms of versatility, 3-tab shingles are mainly limited to color choices compared to designer and architectural shingles.

Designer shingles, sometimes called premium or luxury shingles, are larger and thicker than traditional 3-tab shingles. These high-end products, which come in different shapes and sizes, are often designed to mimic the look of natural roofing materials like slate, wood shakes, or even tile.

A house with Landmark PRO designer shingles installed on the roof
A CertainTeed designer shingle option. Note the depth of the shingles compared to strip shingles. Image from CertainTeed’s website.
A house with CertainTeed's Grand Manor shingles
A CertainTeed dimensional shingle option. Note the more textured appearance. Image from CertainTeed’s website.

On the higher end of the spectrum are architectural or dimensional shingles, designed with a layered or laminated construction that creates a three-dimensional appearance.

This texture is less about mimicking specific materials and more about adding visual depth and contour to the roof. While architectural shingles are available in various colors, the color blends are generally more subtle than designer shingles. They often mimic the look of wood or slate but do so with less dramatic color variation.

Most Flexible & Versatile Style:

  • Designer


3-tab shingles are the cheapest option because they are lighter and require less material per square foot, which reduces the overall cost of materials and labor.

Designer shingles are more expensive than 3-tabs due to their intricate designs, superior material quality, and advanced weather performance engineering. 

Architectural shingles are the most expensive type because they are thicker and have a more dimensional appearance, which requires more material per square foot. Additionally, installing architectural shingles often involves greater detailing, such as using metal valleys, which adds to the complexity and cost of the installation process.

Most Expensive:

  • Architectural

Environmental Conditions

3-tab shingles are not the most durable option—they can be fine in areas with mild to moderate weather conditions, but because of their simple construction and lighter weight, they aren’t ideal for regions like Michigan that are prone to severe weather, like high winds or heavy snowfall.

Designer shingles are recommended for regions that experience severe weather conditions, such as high winds and heavy rain. Their robust construction and high-quality materials allow them to withstand most environmental challenges while maintaining their high-end appearance.

Architectural shingles can also be durable due to their layered structure. However, depending on the product grade, their performance in extreme conditions like heavy snowfall or hail can vary.

Most Durable:

  • Designer

Overall Performance

There’s no question that designer shingles are the better option in terms of overall performance. These shingles are known for their durability and longevity and are constructed from high-quality materials.

While architectural shingles are durable and offer good protection against the elements, they typically have a slightly shorter lifespan (around 20 to 30 years) than designer shingles (around 25 to 50 years). They are designed to perform well under typical weather conditions but, as mentioned earlier, are not the best option for homes in areas that experience frequent harsh weather, like snowfall and hail.

3-tab shingles offer basic protection and performance with a more modest lifespan compared to both designer and architectural shingles, typically between 15 to 20 years. Although their single-layer construction makes them more budget-friendly, it also limits their performance in challenging weather, so 3-tabs often don’t add as much value as designer or architectural shingles, especially for homeowners living in harsher climates.

Best Performance & Lifespan:

  • Designer

A Quick Breakdown

AppearanceFlat and uniform; available in multiple colorsLarge and thick; mimics high-end materials; available in many colors and stylesLaminated/textured, three-dimensional; mimics high-end materials; available in some colors and styles
CostCheapestMid-rangeMost expensive
EnvironmentMild climatesHarsh/extreme environmentsSome extreme environments
Overall Performance & LifespanShortest lifespan (15 to 20 years); offers adequate protectionHighest lifespan (25 to 50 years); offers exceptional protectionMedium lifespan (20 to 30 years); offers good protection

Our Recommendations

We always recommend designer shingles to homeowners because they last long and offer exceptional performance in Michigan’s harsh weather conditions. We work specifically with CertainTeed’s Landmark PRO series and have seen great results with this line.

Landmark PRO Features & Benefits

A two-story home with Landmark PRO designer shingles
Image from CertainTeed’s website.
  • Aesthetic: These shingles are available in a rich Max Def color palette, providing a more vibrant, dimensional appearance.
  • Durability: Landmark PRO shingles are laminated and engineered with a dual-layered construction that increases their weight and thickness, enhancing their durability and performance against the elements. Their construction also helps prevent color fading and granule loss, key factors in maintaining the roof’s aesthetic and functional integrity over time.
  • Fire Resistance: These shingles have a Class A fire resistance rating from Underwriters Laboratories, the highest rating available.
  • Efficiency: The inclusion of ceramic-coated granules in the shingles lowers the surface temperature of the roof. This feature helps reduce attic temperatures during hot weather and minimizes heat transfer into the home, potentially reducing cooling costs.
  • StreakFighter® Algae Resistance: Landmark PRO shingles are infused with copper, providing long-lasting protection against blue-green algae growth/unsightly black streaks. This is particularly beneficial for homes in moist or heavily wooded environments where algae growth is common.
  • NailTrak® System: This feature significantly helps roofers install the shingles correctly by offering a wider nailing area. This widened area ensures proper shingle placement and fastening, which reduces the risk of blow-off during high winds.

Architectural Options

If you’re trying to achieve a specific look that only architectural shingles offer, we recommend the following lines by CertainTeed. All products are backed by extensive warranties (when installed by a manufacturer-certified roofing company), feature CertainTeed’s patented StreakFighter® algae protection, and are designed with CertaSeal®, a fast-acting modified asphalt sealant that prevents shingle blow-off and potential cracking.

Presidential Shake

A house with CertainTeed's Presidential Shake dimensional shingles
Image from CertainTeed’s website.

CertainTeed’s Presidential Shake shingles have a sculpted, dimensional look with random slots replicating hand-split wood shakes, giving them a rustic yet sophisticated appearance. They’re made from multiple laminated layers of premium material, offering superior thickness and a more robust profile than standard strip shingles, which help create deep shadows.

Its dual-layer construction also enhances its durability. Presidential Shake shingles are engineered to resist high winds (up to 110 mph), and their heavy weight helps ensure long-lasting protection against weather elements. They also feature a Class A fire resistance rating from Underwriters Laboratories, the highest rating possible.


A top view of a home with Belmont weathered wood dimensional shingles
Image from CertainTeed’s website.

The Belmont architectural shingles mimic the natural beauty of slate and are constructed from high-grade roofing asphalt and reinforced with a fiberglass base mat, ensuring durability and long-lasting performance. Additionally, although they mimic the look of slate, they’re not as heavy and require less reinforcement than traditional slate.

These shingles are designed to withstand most weather conditions, including high winds, rain, and snow, making them great for a variety of climates. They also meet the UL 2218 Class 3 impact resistance standard (some are available with a Class 4 rating), providing great resistance against hail damage, and have a UL Class A fire resistance rating.

Grand Manor

The peak of a roof with CertainTeed's Grand Manor dimensional shingles
Image from CertainTeed’s website.

Grand Manor is also designed to mimic the look of natural slate with unique depth and dimension. This is achieved through a shingle design with oversized tabs and a random pattern. This shingle line is available in five dynamic color options.

Like the Belmont shingles, Grand Manor shingles have multiple layers of asphalt and a strong fiberglass base to improve longevity and their resistance to the elements. They also carry a UL Class A fire resistance rating, are certified to resist winds up to 110 mph, and meet the UL 2218 Class 4 impact resistance standards.

Carriage House

A house with CertainTeed's Carriage House dimensional shingles
Image from CertainTeed’s website.

Carriage House is another CertainTeed line designed to mimic slate with its unique hand-crafted scalloped edge design, which provides cut-away corners and wide, dark shadow lines. Like Grand Manor, this line is available in five dynamic color patterns, has a Class A fire resistance rating, provides wind resistance up to 110 mph, and meets UL 2218 Class 4 impact resistance standards.

See What Shingles Are Right for Your Home

L&S Home Improvements is a family-owned roofing company that has been installing, repairing, and replacing roofs for homeowners in Southeast Michigan for many years. We’re committed to your safety and satisfaction, which is why we only recommend and install shingles (and brands) we know and trust.

If you’re still unsure which shingle type is right for your home, let our team help you find the best option. We provide free inspections/consultations, and even offer flexible financing options through GreenSky and Enhancify (subject to credit approval). Please contact us today to schedule your free consultation.


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L&S Home Improvements. All rights reserved.
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