No matter the reason why you’ve decided to replace your roof (or if your wife or mother decided for you) if this is your first time doing it you really don’t know what you’re getting into. When you first climb onto your roof and survey the area you’ll probably think to yourself…” I could do this in a couple of days”. I know I did when I did it for the first time.
It will take you longer.
Do this in the summer. I know it will be hot. But if you do it in the winter things will be harder for you. Tar shingles are hard to cut in the first place, but if you do it in winter when they are cold it’s VERY difficult. However, summer heat makes them pretty pliable and makes things much less frustrating. Just drink plenty of water and use sunscreen if you have fair skin and you will be fine. One other important reason to do this in the summer is that if it rains while you’re doing this you are in big trouble…so do it during the dry season.
In this article I will include pictures of the tools and supplies that I think the average person wouldn’t know, and also include links to the other tools and supplies just in case you are REALLY a newbie 😉
What you’ll need
There are a few tools that you need, and some that will just make things easier. Gather these.
Two, preferably three helpers (I tried doing it by myself in the beginning, it really is impossible to my knowledge).
Hammers for all of them.
A couple of prybars or crowbars.
Ladder (to get on the roof).
Two Tape Measures.
Box cutters with new razors.
A couple of heavy-duty hammer stamplers (you swing it like a hammer and a staple comes out)
A dumpster. The last time I did this I rented a medium-sized one and filled it up twice. You really need this…because despite the fact that it doesn’t look like you have a lot of trash before you take the roof off, there is A LOT, and you’ll have nowhere to put it.
Stuff you’re gonna want if you don’t want to go insane:
Compressor (you can rent them at Home Depot for relatively cheap, you don’t need a huge one, just a small one will do, you have to carry it up the ladder)
Roofing nail gun, if you can afford it rent two. Roofing nail guns are different from regular nail guns so make sure you specify. Along with that, you should buy a couple of boxes of roofing nails, which are, again, different from regular nails.
A chalk line is much more efficient than laying down a tape measure all the way across the roof.
A shingle remover. You can find these at Lowe’s or Home Depot, last time I bought one they were red. They are similar in shape to a shovel except the end is triangular with teeth to grab the nails out of the roof. Your back is guaranteed to hurt during this project, but this makes things a whole lot better anyway.
You also need a radio. One that you can hear no matter what part of the roof you’re on. This REALLY helps the time pass while you’re up there in the sun.
Circular saw…if you have to replace some wood from the roof this makes things MUCH easier than using a hand saw.
You’ll also need to buy some materials:
This is a frustrating part of doing this job because it seems like you’re doomed to neverending trips to Home Depot to get more stuff. If you measure correctly the first time and double-check your measurements then you’ll have to go back fewer times, but you really might as well resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to go back multiple times.
Asphalt shingles are measured in bundles and squares. A square of shingles is usually about 100 square feet. And for middle-grade shingles that means there will be 3 bundles per square. High-grade shingles are thicker so sometimes you get four bundles per square. So, when you go to buy your shingles (you don’t necessarily have to do this at Home Depot or Lowe’s, sometimes stores dedicated to shingles will give you better quality and better prices) they are going to ask you how many squares you want, so be ready with the answer when you get there.
There are a couple of different grades and lots of colors to choose from. There are two grades, one which comes with a thirty-year warranty, and one that comes with a fifty-year warranty. If you can at all afford it buy the shingles with the fifty-year warranty. They are better, they definitely last longer, and it’s a selling point if you sell the house later. As far as colors go if you are interested in selling the house be sure to choose a neutral common color like earl gray or something similar.
If you plan on staying in the house forever, on the other hand, feel free to get something that you personally like, as long as you think it would look good on the house. Most roofing supply stores will allow you to take samples home to look at them with your house, I highly suggest this, because just because a shingle looks good at the store doesn’t mean that it is the right color for your house.
Once you choose your color and your warranty you can either tow the shingles to your house yourself, or you can pay a little extra to have them delivered.
When they do that they usually will put the shingles on the roof for you as well, so don’t have them deliver until you’ve removed the old shingles or you’ll have lots of moving stuff around to do, and those bundles get heavy!
You also need to decide whether you’re going to use the special shingle made for the peaks of your roof, or if you’re just going to cut your shingles in half and lay them sideways. From a distance, you really can’t tell the difference, and functionally it makes no difference, but some people like how the special shingles look. It’s up to you.
The next thing you’ll need to buy is the felt. This is a heavy black paper that goes under the shingles. Ways of measuring the felt grade are different for different locations, but the men at the Home Depot can explain them to you there. If you plan on leaving the previous felt (again I don’t recommend this) then you can buy felt of middle thickness, however, if you remove the felt then you should get maximum thickness. Before you go to buy the felt measure the square footage of your house (you should already have done this to buy the shingles).
Then when you get there divide your square footage by the size of the role. Buy one extra just in case you really mess things up, if you don’t need it you can always return it. These rolls take up a lot of space and you can’t really take them home in a car, so if you have a truck take the truck to Home Depot, or if you have a friend with one ask to borrow it.
You’re also going to need something called starter shingles. These shingles are what make a seal around the outer edge of your roof. They come in rolls, so you’ll have to measure the perimeter of your roof and divide by the length of the rolls to know how much to buy.
You’re also going to need some roofing cement. Buy it in the containers that fit your caulking gun, that makes things easiest.
Half-inch staples for your staple hammers.
In the roofing section of Home Depot, there will be a display of long thin strips of metal formed at a 90-degree angle so that if you laid them along the eave of your roof it would fit with half of it resting on top of the roof, and the other half hanging over the side. These are called eave metal flashing or roof edging. There will be a couple of different kinds, get the shiny ones with a little bit of a lip on one side, and the lip will point down toward the ground.
These should come in 10-foot-long strips so divide your perimeter by 10 and get one extra for mistakes and you should be good. Note, if the edge metal that is already on the roof is still in good condition you COULD reuse it, but if there are any signs of rust or corrosion or weakness, just buy new ones.
To go with this buy some tin snips, so you can cut the edge metal to the right size.
You’ll also need to buy some flashing for the valleys of the roof. Valleys are formed when two rooves at different angles join together. Flashing is necessary here. Measure the distance from the peak of the roof to the edge and purchase 18-inch wide flashing for the valleys.
There is one final thing that SOME people might have to deal with on their rooves, then they’re done. buy for their rooves. There are some rooves that have a small section. This is hard to describe, so look at the picture to the right, I couldn’t find one that is exactly the same, but here is one that is similar to give you an idea, the picture is actually one of flashing that is done incorrectly, but it’s just to show you what I’m talking about. Here there is a piece of metal flashing that fits in the corner between the wall and the surface of the roof.
You must check this flashing and see if it is still good. If it is then you have nothing to worry about, if it’s old and rusted then you must buy a new one. Take a picture and bring your camera with you to Home
Depot so you know what to buy. The felt you lay down will go UNDER the flashing, but the shingles will go ON TOP of the flashing. After you lay the flashing nail it down and cement the nails and the edge along the felt. After you lay the shingles cement the edge of the shingles along the flashing.
Then you’re done with that!
When you’re ready to start just climb up on the roof with your helpers, grab your shingle-remover tool and get ready. The best way I’ve found to do this is to have rotating shifts since this is kind of hard work. One person can remove a row of shingles while the next person can go along behind him removing the small pieces you missed and the old felt.
However, if the felt that is already there looks like it is in good condition, you have the option of leaving it there. I really do not suggest this, but people do it. The third person rests. When the first person has finished a row he rests, the follower takes the shingle remover, and the rester becomes the follower. You can really work almost all day like that, remember though, drink lots of water.
Depending on how fast you work, how warm it is and how old the shingles are, and how big the roof is you can finish this first step between one to three days. After the shingles are removed all three of you can go back with your hammers and pry bars and start removing staples and nails from the previous roof.
Once one side of the roof is clear of nails one of you can stop removing nails while the other two continue on the other side. The one who stops can begin surveying the roof for rotten plywood. Any plywood that looks rotten or in bad condition should be replaced, there is also often a strip of wood that runs under the eaves of houses that gets rotten if there is any and it’s rotten make note of that as well and you can replace them at this time.
Also, check out the flashing. These flashing are the metal housings for the metal pipes that stick up out of your roof. If they are old and yucky and rusted then take a picture of them and bring your camera with you to Home Depot so you know which ones to buy. After you’ve figured out how much plywood and eave wood and flashing you need you can make another trip to Home Depot while the other two finish pulling out the nails and staples.
Show your helpers the areas of the roof that needs to be replaced so they don’t cover it with felt and have them start laying the felt down while you’re gone. Make sure that they know to sweep all of the plywood surfaces before laying the felt, and to make sure that it is clear of dirt and debris and old nails and staples.
When you return they will have probably removed all of the staples and nails and just started on the felt. The key to laying felt is to start at the bottom and work your way up. There are orange or yellow lines on the felt to tell you where to lay the next piece. So just roll the felt out along the eave of your house and align the edge of the felt with the edge of the roof. After you have it all straight have one person hold the felt while the other two staple it down.
Do this around the perimeter of the whole house first. After you have the first rows completed lay the next layer of felt, aligning the edge of the felt nearest the edge of the roof with the orange or yellow line on the previous layer of felt. (Note: for that to work correctly you must lay the felt with the orange line facing up to the sky, and the line must be nearer to the peak of the roof than to the edge of the roof). While two people continue working their way up the roof with the felt the third can begin laying the eave metal flashing around the perimeter.
Take one ten-inch strip and lay it down. With the roofing nail gun nail it into the roof. When you get to a corner, use the sheet metal cutters to cut the part of the edge metal that lays on top of the roof, do NOT cut the part that hangs down. After cutting, gently bend the strip so that it wraps around the corner, and nail it down. It is important that you do it this way.
Do not try to measure things so that you will arrive at a corner just at the same time your 10 feet of edge metal runs out, there must not be a crack at the corner to preserve the life of the roof. When you finish laying down one strip of edge metal lay the next one, overlapping the previous one a few inches. It is a good idea to put some roofing cement with your caulking gun where you nailed the edge metal down to protect against rust and water damage.
After you have put down all of the edge metal you can go back around again with the starter shingles. The starter shingles are important because they create a seal at the eave so wind and rain and snow cannot get in there and cause damage.
When you lay the starter shingles there will be one edge that has a strip of some that looks like tar. Make sure that the stuff is facing the sky and that it is closest to the edge of the roof. Align the edge of the starter shingles exactly with the edge of the roof. After you’ve lain out the starter shingle go over it with the nail gun. You don’t have to go crazy with the nails here, just make sure that it is securely nailed down.
By this time the other two will probably have finished laying the felt on one side of the house. That means you can start laying down the shingle! Only one person is NEEDED to lay shingle, but two people are needed to get started. So, pause working on the felt for a bit, have one person go on cleanup duty, and throw all the shingles and felt and nails and stuff that you’ve removed into the dumpster that you’ve rented.
The other two need to get the chalk line and the two tape measures. Measure the short side of the shingles. If they are 16 inches, for example, then your first chalk line must be 14 inches from the edge of the roof, thus when you lay down your first layer of shingles they will hang two inches over the edge of the roof. This is important for when it snows and rains, as it protects the eave from water damage.
Do the same for the side edges of the roof, lay the shingles so that they hang about an inch over the edge on the side. After you have your chalk line drawn, you can start laying the shingles and nailing them down. There is another tar strip on these shingles, this is where you should nail them in, in order to create a seal.
This tar strip, along with the one on the starter shingles is another reason why it’s a good idea to do this when it’s hot. The heat causes the shingles to seal with the tar (since the tar is cold in the first place, and therefore doesn’t stick), making it so water and air cannot get through. The helper can go back and start laying down more felt with your other helper. Once all of the felt is laid, then one of them can come back to help you lay the shingles.
He can lay them down and you can follow behind him with the nail gun, while the third person finishes cleaning up. Once the only thing being done is laying down shingles then you can rotate on shifts again.
After you’ve laid the first layer of shingles there are two ways you can proceed. One is POSSIBLY a little more accurate, but slower, and the other, if you’re not CAREFUL is less accurate but faster.
The shingles need to be laid so that they overlap. Shingles are divided into two different parts, parts that will be seen and the part that won’t be seen. The two are easy to identify. It is a good idea to have the next layer of shingles overlap about half an inch or one inch PAST the line dividing the two sections. So, however long your shingles are, reduce that number by the distance from one inch overlapping the dividing line to the upper edge of the shingle. The difference is how much you will measure from the upper edge of the previous layer of shingles so you know where to make your next chalk line.
That is a waste of time. Instead of doing that you can just eyeball half an inch past the dividing line, (again, the dividing line is the line that divides the two sections of the shingle, the part that WILL be seen, and the part that WILL NOT be seen), overlapping the part that will be seen just a little, and then laying it down, being careful to not get too liberal with your overlap or things will look shoddy. Nail it down. This is the way I do it and it works fine.
When you get to the peaks of the roof go as high as you can with the shingles and then start on the other side of the peak. Once you’ve gotten as high as you can on both sides of the peak then you can either lay down your precut peak shingles, or you can waste lots of time and energy cutting your normal shingles in half and lay those down. I REALLY suggest that if you can afford it get the precut ones…it really makes things easier.
There are a couple of ways you can lay the shingles on the peak. One way is to start on the outer edges and work your way to the center. Once you get to the center you will have to put one shingle down on the very top to cover the gap. If you’re using the half shingles then this will reveal the tar strip. If you’re using the shingles MADE for the peak then it might not, it depends on who manufactures them. Either way, nails will be visible upon close inspection but don’t worry, no one will be able to see them from the ground.
Another important thing to note is that you must stagger the shingles as you lay them. The first row can be flush with the side edge of the roof…but for the next row you must cut the shingle in half and start the row off with a half shingle. What this does is makes the shingles lay neatly and it covers gaps between the shingles from the previous row.
On the other end of the roof, where you finish the row you will often have pieces hanging over. Your best bet with them is to cut them BEFORE you lay them, as it is VERY difficult to cut shingles from the top side where all the asphalt is. So when you get to the edge, measure, mark, turn it over and cut it on the tar side with your box cutter, then lay it and nail it.
When you get to the flashing, there is a specific way you must lay the shingles around the flashing. First, remove the flashing and lay the shingles so that they go halfway up where the base of the flashing WOULD be if it were in place. Nail it down. Then place the flashing and nail it into the shingles on the bottom half and into the felt on the top half.
After you do this, with the roofing cement and the calking gun put cement in all the old nail holes if it is old flashing, and also around all of the new nails, whether the flashing is old OR new. Optionally, you can also run the cement around the edges of the flashing, be careful though because the stuff is messy and you don’t wanna get it all over the shingles. After nailing and sealing the flashing, you can lay the next layer of shingles.
This layer will go ON TOP of the top half of the flashing base. This picture shows an example of how to lay the shingles over the flashing. You may have to cut some shingles for this to fit right, but that is ok. Remember to measure, and then cut the shingles from the underside, it is much easier.
The next thing is the valleys. A roof valley is formed where two roofs join at an angle. You must be careful when shingling in this area – an improperly laid roof valley can easily develop leaks. This is probably the most difficult (not physically) part of laying a roof and must be done correctly to avoid leaks.
When your shingles get close to this area, stop. You should have put felt all the way to the very center of the valleys. Now lay down the flashing that you purchased. This must run from the very top of the roof all the way to the edge. Nail it down with your roofing gun ONLY along the edges of the flashing, and makes sure that it stays flat in the valley. After you’ve nailed this down, with your roofing cement cover all of the nails and run the cement along the edges of the flashing.
After you’ve done this it’s time to get the chalk lines out. Have one person hold the line at the top, and one at the bottom. Measure six inches from the outer edges of both sides of the flashing, and make two chalk lines, one six inches from each edge. Make this measurement at the top and at the bottom. Snap the chalk lines.
Now you can lay the shingles. Once you get close to the chalk lines flip your shingles over, measure, and cut. THEN nail them down. After you’ve nailed down your shingles along the valley flashing, again put cement along the edge of the shingles, to keep water from entering there.
After you put down the flashing for the valleys, and the other flashing I mentioned in the supplies section, YOU’RE DONE! Congratulate yourself that you did a hard project on your own and then go online and write a how-to on how to replace your roof!