The Homeowners Guide to Architectural Shingles: Are They Worth the Cost?

Lauren Wellbank
Written by Lauren Wellbank
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated January 3, 2022
two story family home
Photo: Sherri Camp / Adobe Stock

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Architectural shingles, also known as laminated or dimensional shingles, are a high-end way to recreate a more durable version of some of your favorite roofing styles. Attractive and functional, these dimensional shingles come in a variety of shingle styles and colors to recreate perennial favorites like slate, cedar shake, and more.

But their durability and character come at a cost. While topping a roof with traditional shingles can run a homeowner anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000, architectural shingles usually cost about 15% more. But don’t discount them yet; for many, the benefits of architectural shingles outweigh the cost. Keep reading to learn more.

What Are Architectural Shingles?

Made popular in the 1980’s, architectural shingles are made from a mix of a heavy fiberglass mat base and ceramic-coated mineral granules. These materials are then embedded into a water-resistant asphalt mix and shaped and colored to resemble a variety of popular roofing styles. Unlike more traditional three-tab shingles, these dimensional options can give your roof a more unique and stylized look, and avoid duplicating the repetitive nature of common asphalt shingles. Which makes them perfect for homeowners who really want their home to stand out, from top to bottom.

Architectural Shingles vs Asphalt Shingles

Architectural shingles come in a much broader spectrum of colors than traditional asphalt, for starters. They are also made in various shapes and sizes, which can make your roof the envy of your neighborhood. Even better, it is possible—even easy—to match the aesthetic of the roof to that of the rest of the home.

Architectural shingles are also stronger than traditional three-tab shingles.

“Architectural shingles are generally rated for 110 to 130 mph winds, so they hold up better,” says Ami Feller of Feller Roofing. “Also, the years the manufacturer rates the shingle for can double. So, for example, GAF warranties their 3-tab Royal Sovereign shingles for 25 years and their Timberline HDZ architectural shingle for 50 years. Many manufacturers are changing their warranty clauses on architectural shingles to be ‘lifetime warranty,’  which usually means for as long as you own your home.”

You might need to shell out a little more upfront, but the increase in curb appeal (and the added value you’ll get from warranties and lifespan, which we’ll go over below) may make the initial hit to your wallet hurt a bit less.

Available Shingle Styles

close up of roof with gray shingles
Photo: Rattanachat / Adobe Stock

One of the perks of architectural shingles is that they mimic popular styles like slate or cedar shake, which are rarely climate or structurally compatible.

Slate

True slate shingles are made from small slabs of naturally formed slate or similar stone. They are typically dark, irregularly shaped, and incredibly durable. They are also fairly expensive. Homeowners can expect to pay around $5,800 and $23,600 for a new slate roof. But a synthetic slate roof (the architectural version) does not require any additional roof support as slate would, saving you money on costly structural reinforcements for your home.

Cedar Shake

Like wood shingles, real cedar shake roofing tiles are rectangular pieces of wood laid with a slightly raised look, giving homes a more rustic, natural vibe with plenty of rough edges and non-uniform pieces. Homeowners can expect to pay $6 to $9.50 per square foot when installing a new cedar shake roof. Synthetic wood shingles, on the other hand, leverage random colors and textures that provide a unique accent for steep roof planes, turrets, and gables.

Durability of Architectural Shingles

That contoured look that makes these shingles so popular also adds an added layer of durability. The added layers of thickness, coupled with the more staggered and staged the shingles are laid, offer better wind resistance and light reflection.

Lifespan

Manufacturers and installers really stand behind the quality of architectural shingles—so much so that these roofs often come with longer lifetime warranties than their asphalt counterparts, usually between 30 and 50 years. Even if your roof doesn’t come with a lifetime warranty, the average lifespan for a roof covered in architectural shingles is between 25 and 30 years.

Upfront Costs

Although architectural shingles boast a 50% higher price tag than asphalt shingles, the long-term costs usually level out. The longevity of these shingles—and their ability to recreate timeless and classic styles—means you’ll need to replace your roof less often.

Choosing The Right Shingles For Your Home

There are plenty of pros and drawbacks when it comes to choosing architectural shingles. The increased price tag, coupled with the fact that you’ll need to find a local roofer familiar with installing them, may put these shingles out of reach for many homeowners. However, if the upfront investment is within your budget and meets your design needs, architectural shingles might be the right choice for you.

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