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Get to Know Your Roof

April 22, 2013
Amanda Curry
Read Time
2 minutes

How well do you know your roof?

Asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing material in the US, but not all asphalt shingles are the same. There are asphalt shingles infused with fiberglass and others made from organic material such as cellulose fibers.  And then there are 3-tab asphalt shingles, leading the way in shingle technology.

For those without the time to get into details, here’s the summary: 3-tab asphalt shingles are normal asphalt shingles – either fiberglass or organic based – but with a design that vastly improves its value. A 3-tab asphalt shingle is larger than normal asphalt shingle with strips or slot-cuts on its surface to give the appearance of three shingles. It’s basically a 3-in-1 asphalt shingle.

Why 3-tab shingles are popular

The 3-in-1 design of 3-tab asphalt shingles makes a lot of economic sense. First, it increases the size of a shingle, which means there are less shingles on any roof. That translates into easier transportation of the roofing material and less time – and therefore less cost – of installation, repairs and maintenance.

Secondly, one 3-tab shingle looks like three normal shingles and therefore retains the familiar beauty and feel of a normal shingle roof. Meaning it improves portability and cost without compromising on aesthetics.

Specs of 3-tab asphalt shingles

3-tab asphalt shingles are flat and usually 36 inches wide. They’re made of several layers of asphalt on top of either fiberglass or an organic material such as paper mat or cellulose fiber. Some minerals are then embedded into the mix to give the shingles protection from ultraviolet rays.

Their average lifespan is 20 years, but life expectancy all depends on climate. For example, 3-tab asphalt shingles in Florida will last less than 20 years because of the humid climate while those in the colder, northern parts of the US will last longer.

Like all asphalt shingles, the 3-tab shingles come in various colors and are mostly laminated. They are also usually treated against algae attack by a sprinkling of leachable zinc or copper granules.

Durability of 3-tab asphalt shingles

3-tab shingles are relatively low-maintenance. They are also fire-resistant, environmentally friendly, and can withstand heat, cold and winds of up to 60 miles an hour.

The main drawback of 3-tab asphalt shingles is that they are easily damaged by thermal shock – the extreme swing of temperature in one day. They cannot expand and contract quickly enough to avoid cracking or splitting, which makes the unsuitable for certain areas or regions. Other drawbacks of 3-tab asphalt shingles include:

  • Algae and fungus attack: Asphalt, particularly when it has cracks, allows seepage of water which may then lead to the growth of algae and fungus. That is a health risk to house residents. Water seepage also damages the roof by allowing water to freeze in, and consequently expand the cracks.
  • Attic ventilation: Asphalt has trouble handling consistently high temperature under poor ventilation.  A poorly ventilated attic, with temperatures of up to 140 degrees, excessively dries up asphalt, leading to cracks and splits.

3-tab asphalt shingles are not composite shingles

3-tab asphalt shingles should not be confused with composite shingles. These are shingles made of asphalt but infused with lots of other materials such as tar paper, slate, laminate and wood. They’re basically a composite of asphalt with other materials, not a redesigned kind of asphalt shingles which is what 3 tab asphalt shingles are.

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