Would you like to enjoy the beauty of a slate or cedar shake roof without the high cost and skill required? Consider installing one of the newest vinyl composition roof shingles on your home. Even the most expensive asphalt-based shingles can’t match the distinctive 3-dimensional appeal of vinyl-blend roof shingles. These products mimic classic roofing materials well enough to fool the eye from curbside. Even if you can afford real slate or wood shakes, consider these…

Advantages of installing synthetic “slate” vinyl shingles:

  • Ability to select custom color blends
  • Choice of unique shape profiles
  • Lower cost per square
  • Dramatically lower roof weight
  • Can be installed over plywood
  • Uniform product dimensions
  • Resistant to work damage
  • Easier to handle and cut than stone roof tiles
  • Reduced reliance on special metal trims
  • Factory warranty supplied (50 years or LLW, typical)
  • Class A fire rating
  • Documented freeze/thaw, heat, impact and wind resistance

While both natural slate and cedar shake roofs require special skills and unique roof-deck preparation, vinyl-based shingles are designed for easy installation over standard sheathing. Each product will offer documentation, even DVD video instruction. Some may require that you use proprietary roofing underlayments. The techniques involved are all well within the abilities of most do-it-yourself roofers.

Tools required for Vinly Roof Installation:

  • Standard ladders and staging, (possibly) product-specific roof brackets
  • Measuring tape, chalk-line, framing square
  • Utility knife, power- and jigsaw, shingle-shear tool (optional)
  • Hammer, stapler, and fasteners
  • Heat gun (for ridge caps)

Once you’ve decided to install a vinyl roof on your home, make your selection based on budget and aesthetics. For all but the smallest jobs, arrange for delivery of all materials. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and watch the video, if supplied. Schedule your roofing job based on the weather and the other usual factors related to finding helpers and taking time off work. Pay someone else to tear-off and dispose of your existing failed roofing. Seriously, you don’t want to do this part unless you’re a pro.

Getting started:

Like all roofs, you new vinyl shingle roof begins with a clean roof deck and plenty of staging for easy access to the eaves. Pay attention to ladder and staging safety warnings, and note these two important roofing safety rules:

* Never work alone
* Never work in bad weather

Step one is to lay down the correct roofing underlayment. This could be basic roofing felt or a designed product for your shingles. Use only specified fasteners. Underlayment provides a clear work surface and protects from dust and moisture penetration. Many systems also specify an ice/water shield adhered product at the eaves and in valleys. Just follow the directions.

Next, add trim on all edges. You might be using off-the-shelf drip-edge or a product detailed in your product’s instructions. Work on one roofing surface at a time to avoid resetting your access staging. Set up any adjacent valleys next, using rubber membrane and/or metal valley flashing as directed. Prepare step-flashing if your roof section meets a wall or dormer; you’ll add this as you install the shingles.

Movin’ on up:

With preparation complete, it’s time to begin laying shingles. Every design uses some sort of “starter shingle.” Usually, this involves modifying the standard shingles in some simple way. This first row is always hidden, so it’s a great place to use up any blemished shingles. To avoid color problems later, mix shingles from several bundles at a time before you start nailing them up.

Vinyl shingles may come in assorted sizes to mimic the variation of shake or slate roof materials. If so, be sure you understand the proper approach for mixing these. Like the roof tiles they imitate, vinyl shingles use overlapping in two directions – side-to-side and up-and-down – to prevent leaks. Uniform sizing and (usually) molded-in exposure gauges make this job much easier for you.

You’ll still want to use chalked lines to keep everything nice and straight. Pay special attention to the manufacturer’s nailing instructions – most often, holes are provided and MUST be used correctly.

Cut your start and end shingles using a knife or shear. Add wall flashings as you go, if needed. You should be able to use a jigsaw with the appropriate blade to cut shingles around vent pipes and outcroppings. For angled cuts, at valleys and hips for instance, you may be able to use a table- or power saw. Again, read the directions.

Unlike slate or cedar, vinyl shingles include matching trim and venting products. When you finish applying these caps, your hard work is done. Clean up your debris, put away the tools, and have a cold one. Nice job!

Product links:

* Eco-Star – http://www.serrano2roofing.com/slatetile.html
* Authentic Roof – http://www.authenticroof.com/PDF/Article%20April%202009.pdf
* DaVinci Synthetics – Synthetic Roof Shingles