Roof worker getting on roof off ladder

Posted On: March 14, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About Replacing Your Shingle Roof

If you’re considering replacing your shingle roof, there are plenty of things you need to consider. Here’s your DIY guide on getting it done!

Do You Need A New Roof?

Evaluating Key Danger Signals

If your roof is showing any of the following signs, it’s probably time to replace it:

  • Attic leakage or ice build up
  • Stains, mold or mildew on the interior walls or ceiling
  • Cracked, curled or missing shingles
  • Blistering of interior/exterior paint

How to Inspect Your Roof for Damage

It’s smart to regularly inspect your roof, especially if you live an area with adverse weather throughout the year. It’s best to get up and inspect the roof up-close, but you can also get away with inspecting the roof from the ground with binoculars.

Here are a few things you should look for when inspecting roof damage:

warped shingles in need of replacing on roof

  • Look under eaves and overhangs for damage that might mean water leakage
  • Look for sagging in the roof, along with unevenness
  • Analyze the flashing for damage or for inadequate coverage
  • Look for any open seams that could cause it to leak
  • Look at the attic interior for signs of leaks, moldy spots, gaps or sagging sheathing
  • Look for dark patches or growth
  • Look for raised or rusted nails, as well as stains around nails, indicating they’re loose
  • Check ventilation sources to ensure they’re not blocked by debris
  • Inspect gutters for sagging, signs of leaks, and accumulation of granules

For those DIYers who aren’t entirely ready to take on a roof inspection themselves, the best option may be to contact an expert roofing contractor to conduct on for you — many companies offer inspections free of charge.

Do You Think You can Handle the Job?

Replacing a roof by yourself is no easy task. It’s much more than just replacing a few shingles, if you don’t know what you’re doing you’d be much wiser to use a professional roofing company. A properly installed roof operates as a cohesive system, with many interworking components, to protect the interior of your home from substantial water damage. Hiring a team to replace or fix damaged roof shingles may be a better option if you’re worried about proper installation and, of course, the physical labor requirements of the job.

If you’re tearing off an existing roof, instead of doing an overlay, you’re increasing your workload quite a bit. If you’re not comfortable walking on a roof or hauling heavy materials up and down a ladder, you might want to reconsider taking on a roofing replacement job.

Additionally, there are plenty of safety precautions you need to take while undertaking roof work, which we’ll cover in the next section. Beyond that, you’ll need specialized tools and know how to properly use them. If you’re not careful, you can put your life or the life of others in danger.

If all of this seems a little much, it may be better to reach out to a contractor.

How Long Will It Take?

Taking on a roof replacement job by yourself can take a lot of time and effort. The total amount of time it will take will depend on a number of factors, from the amount of experience you have to the size of your roof to how many people you have helping you. Since it’s important not to leave your roof unprotected for any length of time, you must allow at least several uninterrupted days in a row to work on the project.

Will You Save Money on a DIY Job?

using tools and getting materials when replacing your shingle roof

There are many different things a contractor takes into account when estimating the cost for a roof replacement job, from removing an old roof, installing new flashing and disposal of materials, among others. They’ll also take into account things like slope and square footage of your roof as well as the amount of materials needed to get the job done.

Of course, there’s a caveat. If you have little to no experience working on roofs, the savings will not be worth the risk. Not only to your wallet, but your safety. Is a few hundred or even thousand dollars worth a big medical bill in the case of a fall?

Staying Safe when Working on a Roof

Safety should always be your top priority when replacing a shingle roof. It’s incredibly important to abide by all safety precautions and recommendations when working at heights in order to avoid serious injury or even death.

Avoiding Falls

Falls are one of the most common ways to injure or kill yourself while working on a roof. In fact, about 50 roofers are killed on the job each year in the U.S. It’s crucial that you take the necessary precautions to avoid falls.

  • Set up and climb your ladder properly
  • Do not work on a wet or slippery roof
  • Always wear safety equipment, such as a helmet, harness, net and guardrails
  • Keep your work area clear of excess tools, debris, dirt and people who aren’t actually working on the roof (i.e. kids)
  • Wear proper shoes-soft-soled boots provide the best roof traction.
  • Never work during extremely hot or cold weather. Roofing in extreme weather can lead to damaged shingles or shingles that will not lie or seal properly.

Using a Ladder Properly

  • Use ladders that conform to local codes or are approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Inspect your ladder carefully before climbing on it.
  • Make sure to set up your ladder properly. Place your ladder on solid, level footing and tie it off at the top or secure with a plywood brace.
  • Extend your ladder at least 36 inches above the landing or roof eave to provide a secure location to grab when transitioning from the roof to the ladder.
  • Always face the ladder when climbing down.
  • Always keep metal ladders away from electrical wires and boxes at all times to avoid electrocution.

Electrical Safety

Electricity can leap or “arc” from a wire to a ladder several feet away. Make sure to use a non-conductive ladder of wood or fiberglass when working near wires. Never touch electrical wires with your hands or tools. Remember that metal materials such as flashing and drip edge should never touch electrical wires.

Important: If it’s necessary to work near electrical wires, call your local power company first. They should inspect the wires and insulate them if necessary.

Nail Gun Safety

You’ll be using a nail gun to attach your roof materials to the structure. A nail gun isn’t a toy and can cause some serious damage if used improperly. If you’ve got yourself an electric nail gun, it is vital that you are aware of how to use it safely and properly. Only use a well-lubricated gun on the material to be fastened. Do not rest the tool against your body to eliminate misfires, or it could kick back and injure you. Keep the gun maintained properly and never point it at another person.

Utility Knife Safety

close up of using utility knife on shingle when replacing roof

You’ll be using a utility knife to cut various roofing materials, so it’s important to know how to properly use one. Always use a sharp blade and cut away from your body to prevent injury. Replace you blades frequently and always retract the blade when the knife isn’t in use.

The following is a list of safety equipment that you may need for your upcoming roof replacement job:

  • Eye protection
  • Guardrails
  • Helmet
  • Ladder stabilizer
  • Lanyard
  • Netting
  • Roof anchors
  • Roof brackets
  • Rope
  • Safety harness
  • Scaffolding
  • Work gloves

What Tools Do You Need to Complete a Roofing Job?

If you’re taking on the job yourself, you’ll need some specialized tools and safety equipment you may not already have. The list below contains a the type of tools you’ll need to get the job done:

  • Air compressor
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Caulking gun
  • Chalk line
  • Chisel
  • Circular saw
  • Clamp
  • Claw hammer
  • Clean-up cloth
  • Combination square
  • Electric drill
  • Finish hammer
  • Framing hammer
  • Hacksaw
  • Handsaw
  • Magnet
  • Nail gun
  • Roofing shovel
  • Saw horse
  • Screwdriver set
  • Seaming pliers
  • Shingle cutter
  • Shingle remover or ripper
  • Staple gun
  • Sturdy ladder(s)
  • Tape measure
  • Tin snips
  • Utility knife
  • Wrench set

It’s imperative that you pay attention to the optimal materials for your specific roof type. Failure to do so can lead to costly damage repairs. Always follow the shingle manufacturer’s instructions for the best installation methods, tools and materials to use on your specific kind of roof.

Getting Your Roofing Project Started: Planning the Work

Once you’ve made the decision to do it yourself, you can start planning out the work you’ll undertake for your roofing project.

Understanding Building Codes and Obtaining Permits

Whatever city you live in will have a set of requirements you’re expected to abide by when taking on a roofing project. Before you begin replacing your roof, head over to the city permitting office and gain the proper information about building codes. You’ll also be expected to obtain a permit to begin work.

Disposing Old Materials

recycling shingles after replacing your shingle roof

If you’re replacing an old roof, you’ll have to figure out what to do with all of the materials that come off. As you start tearing materials off, it’s imperative to sort nails, shingles, felt and other asphaltic underlayment and set them aside in a separate group for recycling. This saves you money as you’re making the recycler’s job easier.

Wood, metal, and other debris should be separated as well. Most recyclers will let you to place these materials on top of the load-maybe with a tarp separating the two layers-but it must be easy for the recycler to separate the materials, otherwise they won’t take it. Visit shinglerecycling.org to find a recycler near you. Or, many transfer stations have specific recycling instructions to help you through the process.

How Much Material will You Need?

To decide the amount of materials you need for your upcoming project, you must first calculate the pitch, or slope, of your roof. To determine the pitch, you’ll need to use a tool called an inclinometer. Next, determine the total square footage of your roof – measure all sections of your roof, including the hips, valleys, ridges, eaves, rakes and any overhangs.

Once you’ve measured everything, calculate the total square footage. Be sure to take the measurement you got from the inclinometer and use a roof pitch factor chart to figure out how much you will need to add to the total square footage. Then, divide that number by 100 to get how many squares (10′ x 10′) of roofing material your job will require. Look online for a roof measurement guide and/or calculator to help you through this step. Additionally, don’t forget to estimate the amount of tear-off debris you will need to handle.

What Are Your Roof Ventilation Needs?

Another critical component of your roof is the ventilation. Your local building codes will dictate how many vents you’ll need in your attic, and will vary across jurisdictions.

Where To Buy Roofing Materials

There are plenty of places to buy your roofing materials, from a local hardware store to master distributors, master retailers, and authorized lumber dealer. Do your research by asking around for the best prices.
Deciding Between a Full Tear-Off or Overlay Job
There are a few reasons to conduct a full tear-off of your old roof, including:

  • Damaged flashing
  • Improper soffit ventilation
  • Rotted or deteriorated decking and framing
  • No leak barriers in place
  • Critical leak areas such as valleys, dormers, skylights, chimneys, roof slope transition areas, ice dam areas and wind-driven rain entry points are not sealed
  • Your old roof does not comply with current building codes

Most of the time a full replacement is the way to go, however if you have a flat roof or if your flashing and roof deck protection are in good shape, and you don’t have leaks or ventilation problems, an overlay may be just fine.

Installing a New Shingle Roof

The first step to installing your new shingle roof is to prepare your work area and home for the upcoming job.

First, clear and organize your work area. Identify all danger areas around your job site, such as dangerous power lines, unsafe roof access areas and underground hazards.

Next, take down any loose items from walls and shelves, especially those directly underneath your roof (like a finished attic). Cover any important landscaping elements with tarps to avoid damaging your plants. Move your vehicles away from the construction area and remove any other sensitive items around the house that might be damaged by falling roofing debris.

Tearing Off The Roof And Preparing The Roof Deck

close up of tearing off shingle when replacing your shingle roof

The most important aspect of a successful roof installation is the preparation of the surface underneath the shingles. When you tear off your existing roof, you’ll have a clean deck that gives you the chance to pinpoint problem areas that need fixing. This could include anything from cracked boards to weak decking to rotten wood and much more.

Installing Roof Deck Protection

The proper installation of high-quality roof deck protection is the foundation on which a good roof system is built.

Installing Leak Barriers

Leak barriers will ensure your investment is protected and will safeguard vulnerable areas of your roof.

Starter Strip Shingles

Without properly installed starter strip shingles, you’re likely to face a failure in your roof system down the road. Starter strip shingles are crucial, especially in protecting your home from wind, as they are the first line of defense against wind uplift along the edges of your roof.

Proper Shingle Nailing

Without proper shingle nailing, you can face future problems with your roof. If you commit nailing errors, such as under-driven or angled nails, you can face premature shingle failure, blistering and blow-offs. It’s incredibly important to use the correct nail type, location, length, angle and force of application are all critical to getting the job done correctly.

The typical types of nail you should use are galvanized steel or corrosion resistant roofing nails. Be sure to confirm this against building code requirements and manufacturer recommendations. Not every type of nail can be used with every type of asphalt shingle.

Asphalt Shingles Installation Tips

The following are a few professional installation tips that you can follow when laying down asphalt shingles on your new roof:

  1. Begin by installing shingles from the lower left corner, working to the right and also working up-slope.
  2. Always use shingles from the same bundle before moving on to another bundle. By doing this, you will avoid having different colors on the roof within the same area.
  3. Avoid using shingles that are 4″ or shorter at the rakes or in the valley. For better results, try to use full-size shingles going into a closed valley, as this can eliminate nailing too close to the centerline.
  4. Ridge cap shingles should be attached with two nails each. Typically, 1-3/4″ to 2″ long nails are used on the ridge.
  5. At a minimum, asphalt shingles can be attached with just four nails per each one, but if installing in an area prone to high winds, 6 nails should be used per shingle.
  6. Asphalt shingles have a nailing line, depicting the area over which nails shall be placed. To reduce the wind lift forces acting over the shingle, do not nail them too high. However, if you nail them too low, nails can become then the weakest part of the installation.
  7. Never nail through the sealant strip of the shingle as it might affect the water flow over the roof.
  8. Protect shingles from the weather when stored at the job site. Do not store near steam pipes, radiators, etc.
  9. Make sure that all fasteners penetrate at least 3 ?4″ into the wood deck or completely through the sheathing.
  10. A good idea that will save you money and time is to install shingles over existing shingles. However, do not go more than two layers deep. If you are doing this, make sure that waterproof underlayment must need to be installed.
  11. Aluminum flashings for asphalt shingles are recommended. These flashings shall be least 0.019″ thick.
  12. Valleys should always receive a 24? wide ice and water barrier installed in the entire length of the valley.
  13. Cut Shingle panels to length and notch where they fit into the valley section. Shingle valley caps can be installed by snapping or Siding into place.
  14. Save the tabs that you cut off starter shingles for use as a vertical front wall base flashing cover.
  15. It is recommended to use shingles with a reinforced nailing strip area. These strips will increase wind uplift resistance up to 110 mph. As a general guide, a minimum of four No. 9 1-1/2″ hex head screws must be used when shingles are installed in high wind areas.

Installing Ridge Vents

replacing your shingle roof and ridge vents

A crucial component of a properly functioning roof system is the ventilation. These reduce hot and moist air in your attic that can damage the structure of your home, increase energy costs and potentially reduce your roof’s lifespan. The Federal Housing Authority, the Engineered Wood Association, many national building codes and all major roofing manufacturers require the installation of attic ventilation.

While working on the ridges of your home, which are the highest parts of your roof, always use the best safety equipment to prevent falls and injury. To find out which ventilation system will work best for your needs, reach out to your local permitting office to understand the requirements in your town. Once you decide on the type of vent that is needed and how much to install, always ensure you install the vent as per written application instructions. Be careful not to cut any attic rafters or wires, and always ensure to properly fasten the vent to prevent blow-off or weather infiltration.

Last Step: Clean Up

Some easy ways to make clean up easier include:

  • Staying organized and keeping your job site clear as you work
  • Use a tarp to catch as much falling debris as possible
  • Use a magnet and run it over the “drop zone” to collect any nails that may have fallen off the roof during the job.
  • Consult your recycler to understand how they want materials organized for easier removal

A DIY Roofing project is not for everyone. As you can see, there is complexity and and expenses to the project that are not always considered in the beginning. If you are looking for a stress-free roof replacement, Northface Construction is your trusted partner. We communicate with you every step of the way, and ensure that you are 100 percent satisfied at the end of the job.

Get in touch with us today for a free estimate.


Work With Minnesota's Top Roofing Contractors

Let's Get Started