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Re-roofing a small house with asphalt roof shingles.

Do-It-Yourself Roof Replacement:

Re-Roofing Part 3
Installing Asphalt Roof Shingles

In This Article:

After roof deck preparations have been made, starter strip is installed and shingles are laid rapidly. Details include shingling around pipes and installing ridge vent.

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Skill Level:
2-3 (Basic to Intermediate)
Time Taken:
15 Man-Hours
Project Date:
October 2000
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This small ranch house had a simple gable roof with no valleys, no hips, no dormers... just two low-pitch planes. The homeowner chose architectural shingles, which cost considerably more than basic three-tab shingles, but which have a longer life and a more interesting, textured appearance.

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Starter Strip:
Installing shingle starter strip.

The first thing we installed was the starter strip, which is just a backing for the first visible row of shingles (it prevents water from getting through to the roof at the gaps between shingles, and at the notches between tabs when 3-tab shingles are used).


We used pre-cut starter strips, which I had never used before. In the past I have always just trimmed the tabs off a whole shingle. These pre-cut strips save a few bucks when the shingles being installed are higher priced. You can also buy rolls of starter strip material with a self-adhesive backing.


We began by installing shingles from the lower left corner, working to the right and also working uphill.

Installing the first few rows of shingles.


Shingle Ends Are Staggered:
Tip on laying out architectural shingles.


I should not need to mention this... but it might not be obvious to everyone... the shingles must be arranged so the ends (and the tab notches) do not lie directly above gaps (or breaks) in the shingle below. If the gaps lined up, water could get directly onto the roof sheathing and then seep in through a nail hole.

Note how the shingle on the right (not yet nailed down) is a little longer than the first shingle in the row on the left (which has been nailed down).



In order to accomplish this mis-matching of gaps, we cut progressively larger amounts from the first shingle in each row as we worked up the slope. One row would have nothing cut, the next row would have 6" cut off, then 12" cut off, and so on.

The photo shows the scraps cut off from the first shingles in a progression of rows.

Small pieces of asphalt shingles used to start each row.


Shingle overhang at edge of roof.
Shingle Overhang At Lower Edge:

Note how the first full shingle overhangs the edge by about 1/8". This makes the water drip away from the fascia (the vertical board at the edge of the roof) and helps reduce deterioration of the fascia.



The nails are driven in just below the tar strip. The pneumatic nail gun makes quick work out of nailing shingles, but it has some drawbacks.

Nailing asphalt shingles with a nail gun.


The main drawback of pneumatic roofing nailers is their inconsistency in nail depth. Sometimes the heads stick up a little and sometimes the heads tear into the shingle. Another frequent problem is that nails sometimes enter the roof at an angle, which makes the head stick up. Protruding nail heads can tear the shingle above them, and it stands to reason that they don't hold as well as properly nailed shingles. In my opinion, hand driving roofing nails gives a superior level of quality... it just takes much longer, perhaps two or three times as long.


Shingle exposure.

The exposure (the amount of the shingle not covered by the shingle above it) of this product was listed on the package as 5-5/8".



Setting The Nail Gun's Guide:

The two roofing nail guns we used had an adjustable guide on the bottom.  This allowed us to accurately position the shingle before nailing it.

Setting on Bostitch roofing nailer to guide placement of shingles.

The same results could have been achieved with an "L"-shaped piece of wood to use as a positioning guide.

A Roofing Nail Gun Is Worth The Investment:

I have owned two roofing nailers over the years, and if you are planning on re-roofing your own house or garage, I would seriously recommend buying either:

A small air compressor, such as the Porter-Cable C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor works fine if only one nail gun is being powered from it.


Nailing shingles.
Using The Layout Guide:

It's kind of hard to see in this photo, but the adjustable guide is set against the lower edge of the previous row's shingle (in this case the first row) and the next shingle is rested against the nail gun's contact foot. This creates a uniform exposure every time. 



Notice the pattern of shingles as they are applied. This method of starting at a corner and working outwards and upwards can be a good way for two people to apply shingles and not be in each other's way. One person works horizontally and the other works up the diagonal.

Pattern of roof shingles during installation.


Shingling Around A Roof Penetration:

Plumbing vent boot on roof.

A plastic-and-rubber flange was used to seal around penetrations such as this plumbing vent. The lower edge of the flange lies above the shingles, and the upper edge is underneath the shingles. The shingles were cut to fit around the flange's dome.

Click here to view a detailed article about installing shingles around a vent pipe.



The shingles adjacent to the flange were adhered with roofing tar (lower red arrows), and tar was applied as a sealant where the cut edges of the shingles met the dome (upper red arrow).

Roofing around a penetration.


Getting Closer To The Peak...

Shingles near top of roof.
The Last Few Rows...

At the very top, the shingles were lapped over the peak of the roof (red arrow).



The shingles were trimmed away from the ridge vent hole.

Shingles trimmed back from ridge vent holes.


Nailing ridge cap shingles.
Ridge Cap:

The ridge cap shingles were attached with two nails each.

Typically, 1-3/4" to 2" long nails are used on the ridge. These nails need to be longer, because they are penetrating many layers of shingles.



Vented Roof Ridge:

The plastic ridge vent was installed with 3" roofing nails.

See a detailed article about installing this ridge vent.

Ridge vent after installation.


Applying cap shingles over ridge vent.

The ridge cap shingles were applied over the ridge vent, using 3" roofing nails.

There are two narrow bands molded into the plastic indicating where the nails must go.



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A dab of tar held down the loose corners of the first shingle we applied over the vented ridge.

Securing shingle with roofing tar.


Vented roof ridge cap.

The completed ridge.

From this angle, you can see a slight wave in the ridge, but it's impossible to see from the ground.



The Finished Roof:


The finished roof. This was actually a pretty easy roofing job.

Completed roofing job.


The Finished Roof:
Architectural shingle texture.

The architectural-grade shingles have a pleasing textured appearance created by the raised layers.



Time And Cost: 

I was surprised that this shingling project only took 5 hours to complete, with 3 people working -  myself, the home owner and an experienced contractor. The 15 man-hours taken to complete this small roofing job just goes to show how quickly roofing work can be accomplished... if the roof is not complicated.

The homeowner said that the project cost around $1500 for labor and materials. (This project was done in October 2000... prices for asphalt shingles have gone up since then) The roof area was about 14' x 42' on each side, or about 1176 square feet.

A small roof like this is well within the grasp of a competent do-it-yourselfer, especially if done one side at a time. It certainly helps to have a helper or two, especially for removing the old shingles and cleaning up the mess around the base of the house. We used two utility trailers for the old shingles and hauled the waste to a dumpster at another job site.


Some Hazards Of Roofing Projects:

Besides the obvious risk of falling off the roof, there are a number of dangers in roofing work:

  • Objects can fall off the roof and injure people below. Warn others of the work overhead, and keep children away from the work area.
  • Use caution when carrying bundles of shingles up ladders. If the shingle bundles are too heavy, divide the bundle in half (which is the only way I'll carry these extra-heavy shingles up a ladder). There's no need to play He-Man and fall off a ladder, or rip the muscles in your back.
  • Keep one hand free when climbing up and down the ladder. An even better way to haul tools and materials is to place them in a bucket and use a rope to lift the bucket.
  • Some lumber yards will deliver the shingles to the roof top for an extra charge. This is only practical if the delivery can be timed to the point where the old roof is removed and the tar-paper laid down.
  • Use roof jacks on steep roofs, such as 6:12 pitch or greater.


More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Pneumatic Roofing Nail Guns
  • Air Compressor
  • Utility Knives
  • Tin Snips
  • Tape Measure
  • Hammer
  • Caulk Gun
Materials Used:
  • Architectural Shingles
  • Starter Strip
  • Roofing Nails
  • Roofing Tar
  • Ridge Vent
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