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Tearing off old asphalt roof shingles.

New Garage Roof:

Replacing Asphalt Shingles:
Part 1
Tearing Off The Old Roof

In This Article:

Tarps and a trailer are used to keep the area clean. The old shingles are peeled off with a scraper tool. The old nails are removed. Tar paper is laid down. The old shingles are hauled away.

Related Articles:
Skill Level:
2-3 (Basic - Intermediate)
Time Taken:
About 6 Hours
Project Date:
September 2008
Start >>


I've seen a lot of badly worn-out asphalt roof shingles in my years, but the worst shingles I've ever seen were on my own garage. When I bought this house in 2006, I knew the garage needed reshingling, but I didn't replace the roof right away because I wanted to explore some ideas about remodeling the detached garage to make it look less boring.

After living in the house for two years, I gave up on the idea of fixing up this little garage into something nice. The best long-range solution is to replace the garage with something bigger, taller and with a better foundation. Knowing that my dream garage wouldn't happen for a few years, I decided it was time to just replace the shingles with something economical.

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What Do Worn-Out Roof Shingles Look Like?

Asphalt roof shingles wear out because they lose their layer of protective granules, which also give the shingles their color. Asphalt (which is basically tar) degrades when exposed to sunlight for more than a few months. Eventually the shingles start to curl, usually at the lower corners. Over time, small bits of shingle material will break off. Badly worn shingles might not cover the nails in the shingle below, or the end gaps, and then water can enter the building at the nail locations.

Worn shingles are weaker and more brittle than newer shingles, and they are more prone to breaking off in a windstorm. When a roof has a lot of curled shingles, it's time to start planning to replace the roof.

These first two pictures were taken on the south side of the roof, in the fall of 2007, a year before I replaced the roof on my garage.

The shingles in some areas were in fair condition, but a couple of sections were ridiculously worn out.

Badly-worn asphalt roof shingles that leaked during prolonged rainfall.


Old worn-out roof shingles, cracked and curled.

A closer view of the worst area. Frankly, I'm surprised the roof didn't have a worse leak. At this point the shingles were about 28 years old.

There was nothing left of the shingle tabs but little flaps of tar paper.

I took these pictures when I did a quick-and-dirty patch job with a couple gallons of tar. That patch worked very well... it stopped the leaks and lasted for almost a year.

When I tore off the south side shingles, the plywood was dry. Luckily there was no major water damage to the roof plywood from years of leaks. There were just a few spots where the plywood had water marks, yet the wood was strong and intact.

The shingles on the north side were in much better condition, although they had started to curl.

Oddly, these shingles had no tar strip below the shingle tabs, which is meant to keep the tabs from lifting up and breaking in strong winds. Up to this point I didn't know they made shingles without tar strips.

Old roofing shingles just starting to curl.


Old asphalt roof shingles growing moss and lichen.

This was the worst shingle on the north side of the garage.


Preparations For A Clean Roof Tear-Off Job:

I spread out some tarps and old sheets of plastic on the ground below the roof. Past experience has taught me that there will be lots of nails and small bits of shingles that will be very difficult to clean up without some tarps.

I parked my small utility trailer close to the garage, so I could throw shingles directly into the trailer.

My garage roof was so low that I could easily reach it from an 8-foot stepladder.

Garage roof before tearing off old shingles.

Note the small squares placed at the corners of the tarps. Those are patio pavers... but they aren't concrete, they are made from rubber. I bought some to try, but I hadn't installed them yet, so I used them to weigh down the tarps. They worked great because they are heavy, flexible, and so thin that I didn't trip over them. Normally I would use anything available that is cheap and heavy, such as pieces of concrete, scraps of wood, or rocks.

Utility trailer used to haul away old roof shingles.

To make disposing of shingles easier, I lined my 4x8 trailer with a sheet of plastic. This should keep nails from falling through the gaps. I used spring clamps to hold the plastic in place.


This is a shingle scraper, which is just a special shovel with teeth and a heel for prying shingles up. I bought this tool at Home Depot several years ago for about $35.

In a pinch, a flat-blade shovel or a pitch-fork can also be used, but they aren't as fast as this tool.

Shingle scraper tool for scraping off asphalt roof.


Doing a roof tear-off with a shingle scraper.

I started the tear-off procedure in the upper corner of the roof. It seems to be faster to work from the top down, but it's harder work.

If I worked from the bottom up, it was easier to pull off the shingles, but it seemed that the nails usually stayed in the roof.


I made sure to get the scraper under the original tar paper, so the whole works would be pulled up.

Prying at this jagged angled edge of shingles was less effective than just working across the top, removing a strip of two or three shingles at a time.

Lifting up old roof shingles with shingle removal tool.


Roofing nails remaining in roof plywood after shingles torn off.

After removing shingles, there were LOTS of nails sticking up.


I just used the shingle scraper to get under the nail heads and then pop them out. This worked fairly well, but a pry bar works just as good.

Pulling roofing nails with shingle scraper.


Removing The Old Nails That Held The Felt:

Most builders and roofers just leave the old nails in place and hammer anything that sticks up. I don't like that approach because there have been plenty of times when an old nail interfered with something. I just take a little time to get rid of the old junk.

Removing old roof shingle nails with pry bar and hammer.

I used a hammer and this medium-size prybar to dig under the nail heads.


Then the roofing nails were easy to pry up.

To make this job go faster, I used a bench grinder to sharpen the beveled edge on this prybar. A sharp edge made it easier to get under the nail heads.

Removing old roofing nails with pry bar.


Rolling magnet for picking up loose nails and metal.

After prying up a bunch of nails, I used this rolling magnet to pick up the nails. I suppose I could've just swept the nails over the edge, but this way I avoided kneeling on any stray nails.

It's also good to do any clean-up chores that reduce the chance of tripping while working on the roof. Loosing your balance is one way of falling off the roof.


More Nails For The Roof Sheathing:

When this garage was built in 1979 they fastened the roof sheathing with nails that have really small heads. And they spaced their nails about 10 to 12 inches apart.

I didn't think the original nailing was adequate, so I used my nail gun to add some more nails. I drove 2-3/8" nails about 8 inches apart, closer when nailing the edges of the panels.

Using this Paslode cordless framing nail gun is kinda slow compared to a pneumatic nail gun, but it's much faster than hand-nailing. It took me about 30 minutes to nail off each side of the garage roof.

Nailing off roof plywood with Paslode framing nail gun.


Applying Roofing Felt (Tar Paper):

Cutting roof felt or tar paper.

Instead of trying to juggle a heavy roll of felt while working on the roof, I cut the felt into shorter strips on the lawn.

I used a block of wood to weigh down the end, then I unrolled the tar paper alongside a tape measure.

Using a scrap of plywood for a cutting board and a level as a straight-edge, I cut the tar paper with a utility knife.


After ensuring 2 inches of overlap with the previous row, I stapled the lower corner of the felt to the roof and unrolled it.

Installing builder's felt on roof.


Stapling tar paper to roof before installing shingles.

When the felt was unrolled about 10 feet, I adjusted its position (to make it parallel with the previous row) and stapled it down with a hammer-tacker.


It only took about half an hour to apply felt to each side of the garage roof.

This is the goal of the roof tear-off procedure. Once the shingles are removed, the roof is covered with tar paper to protect the building from rain. While tar paper is certainly not a permanent solution, it can withstand a few months of sunlight before it seriously degrades. Withstanding the wind... now that's another story.

Garage roof covered with builder's felt.


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Roofing nails used to fasten tar paper at edge of roof.

To hold down the sides better, I fastened the edges with roofing nails.


Then I started shingling the roof.

Read the next step... Working With 3-Tab Shingles: Installation Details For Professional Results.

Completion of roof prep for re-shingling job.


Cleaning Up Afterwards:

After the tear-off was complete, I piled the shingles in my little trailer and hauled them to a local waste disposal transfer station. Since my trailer could only handle about 900 pounds, I hauled the shingles away right after tearing off one side of the roof. (I installed the new shingles on the south side before tearing off the north side.)

Before picking up the tarps, I ran my rolling magnetic nail picker-upper over the tarps to pick up any loose nails. I put the nails in an empty paint can for metal recycling.


Shingle Disposal:

My local disposal company charged me $32 per cubic yard of shingles, and each load was very close to a cubic yard, so it cost me $64 to dispose of the shingles from this small 2-car garage.

Disposing of asphalt roof shingles can be expensive. Roofing contractors often get a "roll-off" dumpster delivered to the job site. The same disposal company charges an eye-popping $465 for their smallest dumpster capable of handling the weight of shingles (which in their case is a 10-yard roll-off dumpster).

So I took two trips to the disposal station, which took less than an hour per trip, and I saved four hundred bucks. That was time well spent. Of course, I need a vehicle capable of towing the loaded trailer, but even my wimpy 4-cylinder Dodge Dakota can do that.

I like using a trailer because I can park it anywhere I want using my trailer dolly... as long as I can move it when full, or reach it with a truck.

Of course the cost savings I realized by using a trailer would disappear as the volume of shingles increases. Hauling ten cubic yards of shingles (that's 5 two-car garages with single layers of roofing) in multiple trailer trips would only save $145 in disposal costs. Perhaps not worth the average contractor's time.

Estimating Disposal Needs:

I'd estimate that a cubic yard of 3-tab shingles weighs around 900 pounds when tightly packed, and represents 380 to 400 square feet of roof area with one layer of shingles. Three-tab shingles usually weigh 225 pounds per square (100 square feet).


Next step:
Working With 3-Tab Shingles:
Installation Details For Professional Results.

More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Shingle Scraper
  • Pry Bar
  • Nail Gun
  • Hammer-Tacker (or Staple Gun)
  • Rolling Magnet
  • Tarps or Sheet Plastic
  • Utility Trailer
  • Ladders
Materials Used:
  • 15# Felt (2 Rolls)
  • Staples, 1/4" (2 Boxes)
  • Roofing Nails
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