diy roofing guide

Posted On: September 17, 2021

How To Shingle A Roof: DIY Roofing Guide (For Homeowners)

Working on a roof is not a project that homeowners should take lightly.

Unlike some other jobs around the house, DIY roofing is hard work, with the added factor of the risks associated with working high off the ground.

But, with a bit of know-how and maybe taking a hybrid approach that blends the services of a roofing contractor with your labor, you can put a new roof on your home. We’ll break down the steps and roofing materials you’ll need to get the job done and leave the work to you.

How To Shingle a Roof: Before You Begin

Whether you’re replacing an old roof that is leaking or just looking to boost your home’s curb appeal, a new roof is a serious undertaking. Before we even get started, let’s look at the pros and cons of a DIY roofing job.


  • Save money versus hiring a contractor
  • Control the quality of the work
  • It doesn’t require many specialty tools


  • Very labor-intensive
  • Hauling roofing materials is back-breaking work
  • Working at height is dangerous
  • Easy to get in over your head

Think Safety First

Working on a roof isn’t something everyone can do. If you’re thinking about replacing your shingles yourself, you have to be realistic about your abilities.

So, if you already have a ladder, set it up and carefully climb up and onto your roof. If you’re not comfortable walking to the peak and then down the other side, you probably shouldn’t go any further without calling in a pro.

Once you’ve assessed yourself for operating on the roof safely and without triggering your fear of heights, you can move to phase two of our self-test. Go to the local big box store and find a bundle of shingles. Can you heft it onto your shoulder? Do you think you could climb up a ladder carrying the added weight?

Experienced pros will tell you it’s hard labor, and you’ll be out in the elements without much protection.

diy roofing guide safety

Other Safety Considerations

  • Always extend the top few ladder rungs over the roof’s edge. They’re for handholds only. You should have about 3 feet of ‘extra’ ladder to grab as you climb on and off the ladder.
  • Consider using scaffolding for added safety and convenience when working near the edge of the roof (like when you run the first few courses of shingles or install the drip edge)
  • Consider purchasing a complete fall protection kit. They’re relatively inexpensive and can be a literal lifesaver.
  • Always wear appropriate work gear, including a hard hat and boots with plenty of traction.
  • Keep the roof and your work areas clear of debris to avoid clutter and any hazards.
  • Be careful to minimize dropping tools. Consider tying them off, or utilize a ladder tool that can function as a tool bag and kneeling platform.
  • Never toss something off the roof without alerting anyone on the ground.
  • Avoid trip hazards by placing extension cords, air-lines, and ropes carefully.
  • Check the condition and weight rating on your ladder. It needs to hold your body weight plus an additional 50 – 100 Lbs.
  • Don’t risk your life to save a few dollars. When dealing with steep or high roof work, call in a professional. A fall can result in massive injuries, lifelong consequences, and even death.

Handle the Prep Work

Before you can even begin reshingling, make sure that the area around your worksite is clear of hazards. Falling off a ladder or even the roof is dangerous enough, don’t make things even more hazardous by leaving nails, debris, garbage, or other equipment lying around.

Consider using tarps all around the perimeter of your home to catch falling debris and to protect your landscaping. When you start removing shingles and nails, it’s going to make a mess.

If possible, position a dumpster nearby so that you can quickly and easily drop heavy debris right into it, rather than going around picking up junk at the end of the day.

Always contact your local building department. You may need an inspection and a permit to replace your roof.

Remove Old Roofing Shingles

Removing the old shingles is best done with a pitchfork or roof removal tool. They sell specialized tools designed to make things easy on your back and prevent damage while removing your shingles.

shingle removal

Usually, the shingles come off pretty easily. You’ll have to spend time removing any old nails or pounding them down. Failing to do so will almost guarantee tears in your new shingles. So take the extra time to ensure to get old nails out of the way.

Also, spend time making sure that any of the loose roof sheathings get nailed back down to the rafters beneath.

Install Your New Drip Edge

Before you buy a drip edge, make sure you are aware of your local building code. Some municipalities require metal drip edges, and others specify exactly how far they must extend past the exterior walls of your home, as dictated by the climate and wind speeds in your region.

Once you know what your building code requires, go ahead and purchase the right materials in the right quantities.

Since your existing fascia is probably not perfectly straight, you don’t need to mark a straight line. Just fasten your drip edge to the fascia tightly using roofing nails. It should be nailed down at least every couple of feet, right into the roof deck.

Don’t do the gable end yet. Save that for when you’ve completed laying your underlayment but following the same process.

Shingling Your Roof

Now with your roof deck exposed, you’re ready to move on to the next steps.

Laying the Underlayment

Underlayment protects the roof from ice damming and wind-driven rains. It comes in a self-adhesive roll. The backing has a seam down the middle of the roll, so it comes off in two halves.

Following the instructions on the underlayment package, unroll it along the edge of the roof, using a single nail to hold the first corner in place. As you unroll it, keep peeling off the top half of the backing. Make sure that it lays down flat.

roofing underlayment

Now, nail the top edge down to fix it in place. Finally, fold the unnailed edge back, remove the other half of the backing, and set it back down smoothly. Overlap the next course with the first following the manufacturer’s specifications.

This will obviously be easier to do on roofs without a severe pitch. If your roof is quite steep, work in shorter sections and use a nail every five feet or so to tack things in place as you go.

Roll Out and Fasten Felt Paper

With your sticky underlayment complete, you can move further up and begin laying out the roofing paper. It traditionally came in either fifteen-pound or thirty-pound weights, but that’s not always the case anymore.

Generally, steeper roofs require heavier paper. If your roof is strong enough to handle the additional weight, there is no downside to going heavier, and it will protect your roof better than a lighter product, as it’s less likely to tear off in a storm.

It’s essential to use adequate staples. Some guides say to staple at least every fifteen inches. Others say twelve inches is the rule. We suggest stapling every 10 inches. Every time you move, there is a risk of the paper tearing under you, so staple aggressively.

Each new roll of paper should overlap the one before it for added protection from water penetration. The paper usually will have a guide printed right on it, so you know you’ve overlapped it far enough.

When you get to the ridge of the roof, leave extra from both sides. You can fold this extra over the peak to create a watertight ridge seal.


Water will tend to pool in any valleys on your roof. So, those areas, and the peak, need to be flashed. After applying all underlayment, install metal flashing as additional protection from water damage.

That same type of flashing will also protect the ridge of the roof. Simply fold it neatly over the peak with an equal overhang on each side.

Lay Starter Shingles

Now, you’ve already made a lot of progress, and the end is in sight. But don’t rush.

Carefully run a row of starter shingles about ½” over the drip edge. Be sure to leave the adhesive side up. Nail them down using a nail gun.

asphalt shingle diy

You could theoretically use a hammer, but renting or buying a pneumatic nailer and compressor is pretty affordable. Work smarter, not harder.

Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for the placement and number of nails.

More Shingles

Now you can progress to the next course of action, shingling the rest of your roof.

Again, make sure to nail them down to the manufacturer’s specifications. They may tell you to use more nails or to adjust their placement depending on the pitch of your roof and the wind speeds in your area.

Make sure that your nail gun and compressor are set to the right pressure so that the shingles fasten snugly but that the nails don’t go all the way through. If any nails end up sticking up, tap them down with your hammer.

Trim Shingles

When in doubt, it’s a good idea to run shingles a bit long. Then, you can snap a chalk line to mark the excess and cut it off neatly with a hook-bladed utility knife for a straight and polished appearance.

Finishing Touches and Considerations

Do you have adequate ventilation? Consider using a circular saw to install vent holes for increased air movement.

You may have to install flashing around pipes, vents, stacks, or dormers.

roofing job

Always use an asphalt sealant product to leak-proof nail holes around vents and pipes, where water may penetrate your home.

Cap the roof’s ridge with appropriate ridge shingles. They may be thicker than standard shingles, so adjust your nail gun and compressor.

Sweep any debris off the roof or you’ll risk having loose nails and other materials fall.

As you can see, replacing roof shingles is a big undertaking. If any part of the process seems too far above your skill level, it’s probably a good idea to bring in a professional.

Even if you’re good on a ladder and handy around your home, your roof is an essential barrier to the elements and subject to pretty strict building codes. So, while DIY roofing is doable, it’s not something for everyone. If that’s the case, make sure to call Northface Construction. We can tackle your roofing job, big or small, while you sit back, relax, and let us handle the tough work.


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