Asphalt shingles are the most commonly used type of shingle on homes in the U.S. and come in different styles, including architectural. While architectural shingles are a subtype of asphalt shingles, the two types have different construction and typically offer different levels of durability.
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Standard Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles, properly called composition shingles, are made with layers of fiberglass or building paper covered with asphalt and topped with granular mineral material that provides color and UV-resistance. Standard shingles have a "3-tab" design in which each rectangular shingle has three slots cut into its bottom half, creating three tabs. When the top, unslotted half of the shingle is covered by the shingle above, the exposed tabs have the appearance of being three individual shingles.
Architectural shingles are a type of asphalt shingle but are typically thicker and heavier than standard composition shingles and often are premium shingle options. Instead of a 3-tab design, architectural shingles have alternating sections of thicker and thinner material, creating the illusion of individual shingles. The thickness is achieved with laminated construction, giving them the nickname "laminated" shingles.
Standard composition shingles often carry warranties of 15 to 30 years. Architectural shingles typical have longer warranties, from 30 years up to 50 years. Both types offer generally good durability in a variety of climates, and quality is the best indication of lifespan. They are suitable for sloped roofs only (not flat or very low-slope roofs).