If you want to install your own asphalt shingles, all you need is a hammer and nails, right? If only it were that simple. Every shingle package shows you the steps to install new shingles on your roof, but it doesn’t show you what methods you’ll use. If you have the basic skills and ambition nail down your own roof, you’ll benefit from knowing more about the job.

Although asphalt-based shingles are the top choice for roofing, they are a bit temperamental. Cold makes them brittle, and heat melts them. Rough handling can damage your new shingles. A sudden rainstorm could ruin your project. YOU are fragile, too; and roofing is dangerous. Before you drive a nail, let’s review the basic…

Roofing Safety Guidelines:

  • Roofing is best done in shady or cloudy conditions between 30 and 80 degrees F.
  • Never work in icy, wet, or windy weather.
  • Avoid working alone. What if you fall?
  • Follow all ladder warnings. Secure tall ladders to prevent sliding.
  • Beware of any electrical lines. Never assume “it’s just the TV cable.”
  • Don’t work when you’re tired, taking certain medications, or after consuming alcohol.
  • Remove potentially dangerous objects on the ground below your work area. Lush bushes, good – iron fences, bad.

Should you re-roof it?

The best way to install a new Asphalt shingle roof is to start from scratch. Although re-roofing has been popular over the years, serious drawbacks remain. Many municipalities restrict re-roofing options, too. Removing the old shingles from your house is hard work, and also the most dangerous part of the job. Clean-up and disposal of debris can be a nightmare. If possible, leave this part to the pro’s.

Sometimes, your old roof has failed due to underlying roof deck problems. The only way to find out for sure is to tear the shingles off and have a look. Adding a layer of new plywood (or OSB) sheathing will add to the cost, of course, but goes a long way toward ensuring great results. This, too, is a good candidate for out-sourcing. The same roofers you use to do the tear-off will usually be happy to tackle re-sheeting as well. Once you have a nice, clean roof deck to work with, you can take over.

Tools you might need:

  • Ladder(s)
  • Staging for working at the eaves – planks or scaffolding
  • Standard and hook-blade utility knives
  • Work gloves
  • 25′ Measuring tape
  • Chalk-line and straight-edge (framing square)
  • Tin-snips or shears
  • Tool belt or pouch for fasteners
  • Hammer-tacker and staples
  • Roofing hammer or pneumatic nailing system

Preparing for new shingles:

Your bare roof needs a layer of 15# roofing felt underlayment, sold in 400 sq-ft rolls. Staple this felt down, starting at the lowest point of your roof and working upward. Overlap each row at least 3 inches. Use plenty of staples and work carefully to avoid tearing the paper.

If your roof is too steep for walking (above a 7/12 slope), use roof jacks and planks for safety.

Add metal trim on all edges. Use drip-edge throughout, or add rake-edge for the sides. Square-off your corners, and point overlaps downhill. Tack with roofing nails. In snowy regions, add a starter row of nail-sealing glued underlayment. This product also works well for forming valleys.

Finally, lay down some Asphalt roofing shingles:

Once the prep is done, work from your staging to begin installing asphalt shingles. The picture on the package helps here. Your starter row is shingles with the tabs cut off. Cut these upside-down with a utility knife. Begin laying full shingles from an outside corner of the roof. To avoid traveling back and forth along the length of your eaves, work on 4 or 5 rows at a time.

Each row will step back a half-tab. For architectural shingles, you’ll measure and cut each series of starters. For tabbed shingles, use the marks provided by the manufacturer. When you reach the row that starts with just a half-tab, start the next one with a full shingle again. At the other end, cut the final shingle to fit the edge, valley, or hip as needed – use a hook-blade to make face-up cuts. As you go up, use a chalk-line to keep rows straight (and tabs aligned, if needed).

If your roof meets a wall, use step-flashing beneath each tab row and the wall siding. For vent pipes and protrusions, use vent boots and cut the shingles around them.

Nearly all modern roofs use ridge venting – the sheeting stops short on each side. End your final shingle row here, using the hook-blade for cutting. To cover the ridge, install vented cap shingles or continuous ridge vent.Climb down carefully, take a picture, and call it a day.