The 3 main types of asphalt shingles (and how to spot them)

It’s unlikely that you’ve considered different types of asphalt shingles unless you’re in the market for a new roof.

On the other hand, if your roof is failing, you’re probably scrambling to find a reputable contractor. You’re also trying to figure out the type and color of shingle that will look best on your roof.

A home with asphalt shingles on the roof

Read: How to find a professional roofing contractor

While a good contractor can give you some reliable input on asphalt shingles, you’re the one who has to live with that roof for the next 20, 30 or 40 years (or more!). You need to be sure you like those shingles before you buy them — even if your contractor swears by a recommended color or style.

How do I choose the right asphalt shingles? 

The options may seem overwhelming, but asphalt shingles are a great choice for almost any home. Asphalt shingles are durable, affordable and come in incredible variety of colors and styles to match almost any exterior. So how do you choose?

Home with asphalt shingles

Read: Why are asphalt shingles right for my new roof?

Let’s keep it simple. According to our friends at CertainTeed, one of the nation’s leading producers of roofing materials, there are three primary types of asphalt shingles:

  1. Strip shingles — also referred to as three-tab shingles.
  2. Dimensional shingles — sometimes called architectural or laminate shingles.
  3. Luxury shingles — occasionally called premium shingles.

While all three kinds of asphalt shingles are made of similar materials, they are not exactly the same. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide which asphalt roofing shingles will meet your needs for years to come.

Strip Asphalt Shingles

Example of a strip asphalt shingle

What’s there to love about a strip shingle? Strip shingles are affordable and can last a couple decades in the right conditions.
What’s the problem with strip shingles? Fewer aesthetic options, potential blow-off issues and a shorter lifespan.

Example of a home with strip asphalt shingles

Affordability meets functionality! One-piece, single-layer strip asphalt shingles are the most basic and economical example on the market. Strip shingles are made from durable fiberglass basemat coated with mineral granules, giving each piece varying color tones.

Strip shingles are lightweight and designed to withstand the elements for about 20 years or more and are easy to recognize by their clean, horizontal appearance. Their exposed layer is notched (usually into three tabs, hence 3-tab moniker) to give a more decorative appearance. Strip shingles may be a good choice for homeowners on budget.

Unfortunately, strip shingles lack some of the aesthetic qualities of dimensional and luxury shingles. Blow-off — which is exactly what it sounds like — is also a threat to aging or poorly installed strip shingles in rough weather conditions. strip shingles still protect your home from the elements.

The day of the strip shingle, however, is passing. “Today,” CertainTeed’s experts note, “with significant advances in technology and consumer sophistication, strip shingles are used primarily by home builders manufacturing economy-priced homes or purchased by homeowners as replacement roofing shingles for homes that already have strip shingles on the roof.”

Dimensional Asphalt Shingles

Example of architectural asphalt shingles

What’s there to love about a dimensional shingle? Strength, baby. Dimensional shingles are extremely durable. These shingles boast a multi-dimensional texture and appearance, and can last 30 years or longer.

What’s the problem with dimensional shingles? You’ll pay more upfront for dimensional asphalt shingles than you will for strip shingles.

Example of dimensional asphalt shingles.

The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) reports that dimensional asphalt shingles are the most popular asphalt shingle used today.  Fine Home Building Magazine Issue 214 reports that dimensional asphalt shingles (also known as architectural laminate shingles) accounted for nearly three-quarters of all asphalt roofing sales in 2010. Everything points to that trend continuing through 2017.

Dimensional shingles are made of two or more layers of shingles. Multi-layered shingles are extra durable, allowing them to be used in stronger warranties for homeowners like you. Many dimensional shingles are warranted from 30 years to life, depending on the installation and specific shingles chosen.

The real appeal of dimensional shingles? They look great. These shingles are easy to spot as you drive through a neighborhood. They don’t look like run-of-the-mill asphalt shingles — they look more like wood shakes. Dimensional asphalt shingles are available in a wide range of colors to match any home.

You’e going to pay more on the front end for dimensional shingles. Todd Fratzel of Home Construction & Improvement claims that dimensional shingles are generally 20 percent more expensive than strip shingles. At the same time, dimensional shingles are about 75 percent less expensive than actual wood shakes, and you’re going to be eligible for a better warranty than you would be with strip shingles. You do the math.

Read more: Understanding what’s in a roofing warranty

Luxury Asphalt Shingles

Example of luxury asphalt shingles

What’s there to love about luxury asphalt shingles? Multi-Dimensional appearance; maximum durability; more affordable than slate or cedar aalternatives.

What’s the problem with luxury asphalt shingles? Luxury shingles can be heavier, which makes them unusable on certain kinds of roofs. Price can also be an issue.

Home with luxury asphalt shingles

Luxury shingles are designed to replicate natural slate and cedar shake roofs at a fraction of the cost. Shakes and slate are expensive to purchase, and extremely laborious to install. Joe Cuhaj of Today’s Homeowner estimates that a slate roof costs as much as 10 times that of architectural laminate shingles. Unless your last name is Rockefeller, that’s a price difference that’s worth noting.

Luxury asphalt shingles are a great roofing alternative for period-style homes that look best with slate- or shake-style roofs. The multi-dimensional texture of luxury shingles creates shadows and depths that look just like real shakes or slate. 

Read more: Take it from the top — understanding the basics of asphalt roofing shingles

Luxury shingles have extra layers that bring extra weight. In fact, they can weigh twice as much per square as basic strip shingles. They may not be best suited to every home.

The advantage of that extra weight? Extra strength against tears and impact. That’s helpful if you live in a tornado, hurricane, or hail-prone region.

Need a new roof?

If you’re in the market for roof replacement, talk to Long Roofing. We carry many of CertainTeed’s top-of-the-line shingles including heavyweight Patriot strip shingles, Landmark dimensional shingles and the Presidential shake series luxury shingle options.

High-quality materials and Long Roofing’s 50-year, non-prorated and transferrable roof warranty make the roofing process a lot less stressful. We build trust and peace of mind into every Long Roofing roof. 

Ready for an estimate? Call Long Roofing today at 1(866) 328-1187 or visit our contact page now.

Where can I get a new roof from Long Roofing?

We’re growing! Find us in the following markets across the United States:


North Carolina



Washington, D.C.


posted in Roofing.