How to Install Architectural Shingles

Dimensional (Architectural) Shingles

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 days - 1 wk
  • Total Time: 3 days - 1 wk
  • Yield: 800 square foot roof
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Estimated Cost: $2,000 to $5,000

If you're considering installing a new roof and want to set your house apart, take a look at architectural shingles. Classic asphalt or composite shingles lay flat and have little definition. Architectural shingles are thicker and have a higher profile. This profile lends your house a unique, textured appearance, even from a distance.

Architectural shingles are available in a Class 4 impact rating, which can lower insurance rates in hail-prone areas. Most manufacturer's warranties only cover if the roof is striped to the sheathing. Other types can be layered up to 3 layers of roof depending on local codes.

What Are Architectural Shingles?

Conventional three-tab composite or asphalt shingles are durable, practical, and inexpensive. They are found on countless roofs and often last for as long as 30 years. Yet, beyond the color, composite shingles have limited design variations.

Architectural shingles, sometimes called dimensional or laminated shingles, are thicker and heavier than conventional shingles. They work well on steeply pitched roofs where the shingles are more visible than with regular 4/12 pitch or 12/12 pitch roofs. They're also a good stylistic touch for historic homes or for any home striving for a classic, traditional look.

Architectural Shingles Appearance

Architectural shingles' higher profile provides the shingles with a more varied, random texture. Thicker shingles cast a larger shadow for a more dramatic look. although they can lead to additional moss growth in some areas.

These shingles are a reliable substitute for cedar shake or slate shingles. Cedar is a hazard in fire-prone areas, plus its durability is limited. Slate is an expensive material and it's equally expensive to install. Not only that, but slate is so heavy it often requires extra roof support.

Unlike true cedar shake, architectural shingles are fire-proof and longer lasting since they have no wood content. And unlike slate, slate-look architectural shingles can be installed by any roofing company. No extra roof support is needed, either.

While architectural shingles are slightly heavier than regular composite shingles (about 240 pounds per 100 square feet, as opposed to composite's 200 pounds), they do not even begin to reach the weight of real slate which is around 675 to 1,870 pounds per 100 square feet.

Architectural Shingles Composition

Architectural shingles are a laminate or layered construction. At the base is a heavy fiberglass mat that provides structural reinforcement and increases the product's tear strength.

On top of that are ceramic-coated mineral granules. These granules are mixed and embedded in a slurry of asphalt. In some cases, recycled tires and other plastics are used in the manufacture of architectural shingles.

  • Convincing simulation of wood or slate

  • More shadowing for a dramatic look

  • Premium shingle adds value to home

  • More expensive than regular composite shingles

  • Fewer choices

  • More prone to moss growth because of shadowing

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Hammer
  • Caulking gun
  • Ladder
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure


  • Architectural shingles
  • Roofing nails
  • Roofing cement
  • Ice dam flashing
  • Underlayment


The following are highlights of architectural shingle installation. For specifics, consult the instructions included with the product and be sure to check on your local building code. You may need to obtain a permit before installing the shingles.

  1. Install Eave Flashing or Ice Dam Protection

    In areas that experience snow and ice, install rubber flashing on the lower 24 inches of the roofline. This will protect your home against damage from ice dams. Even areas that do not freeze but have rain may require flashing as part of the local building code.

  2. Install the Underlayment

    Lay down the underlayment from the roof edge up to the ridge. Overlap each row by two inches. Sides should be overlapped by four inches. Use a bare minimum of fasteners; just enough to hold the underlayment in place for the next step. Make sure that you apply one layer of underlayment over the metal drip edge along the eaves.

  3. Fasten the Shingles

    Similar to the underlayment, start at the roof edge and create rows that move upward to the roof ridge. Architectural shingles usually have distinct nailing patterns of four nails that you must follow for slopes with regular pitches. When the pitches exceed a certain slope, the number of fasteners may change. For example, with roofs that are 60 degrees slope, you may need to increase the number of fasteners to six, plus use asphalt roof cement.

    Most manufacturers require a starter strip underneath the first row of shingles.


    Use only galvanized steel, stainless steel, or aluminum nails. The nails should be a minimum 12-gauge shank at 3/8-inch diameter. The fasteners should be able to penetrate the wood deck below the shingles by at least 3/4-inch.

Safety Considerations

If you intend to install the roofing by yourself or access the roof for any reason, be sure to take safety precautions. The roof may be slippery, especially when wet or icy. Wear rubber-soled shoes, use a fall arrestor system, and make sure that materials on the roof are secured.