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How to Install Roofing for Complete Amateurs

Posted on February 2, 2021| Guides
How to Install Roofing for Complete Amateurs

Roofing can be installed by a complete amateur. Whether you need a brand new roof or need to replace existing shingles, tackling the job yourself can save you loads of time and money. But before you grab your roofing hammer and hoist yourself up onto the roof, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process from start to finish.


4 men on roof with harnesses and ladder


Here’s our handy guide on how to install roofing for complete amateurs.

Step One – Do Your Prep work on the Roof

What you need

Before you get up on the roof, you must make sure have all the correct safety gear for obvious reasons. Working at heights is dangerous, especially working on roofs where they can be steep or slippery. If there is any chance you could do harm to yourself or others contact a professional roofer to get the job done.

You’ll need to collect your materials. The number of shingles you need will depend on the size of your roof. Assuming you’re using asphalt shingles you’ll need three bundles of shingles to cover around 100 square feet. Using this estimate and the size of your roof, buy your shingles, a roofing hammer, and enough asphalt cement to finish the job. You’re not going to want to head to the store half way through!

Roofing hammer, shingles and other tools

Removing the shingles from your roof is easier than you might think. You can buy a roofing shovel for the task but something like a garden fork will work just as well. If your tiles are particularly well stuck-on, use a hammer and chisel. You’ll also need to remove all the nails and metal flashing and if you can clean the roof while removing the shingles you’ll save yourself a job later.

Next, install your new underlay (or roofing paper) and new flashing. If your old flashing looks pretty good you can reuse it but this is a good opportunity to install something shiny and new. Start at the lowest point of the roof and work upwards, stapling the underlay down with no gaps and no tears. Next, nail on the flashing, paying attention to chimneys, walls and the edge of the roof.

Step Two – Start Laying Shingles

Make it easier for yourself by purchasing starter shingles with tabs and chalk out lines to make sure your shingle rows are poker straight. Starter-course shingles (the first line of shingles you lay) must be prepped by cutting off the tabs and shortening the length of the first tile by 6 inches. This will ensure your next course lines up between the shingles of the first course, covering the gaps on the bottom row. Once you have your first starter course stuck down you’re on your way!

Use a caulk gun to apply asphalt cement to the starter row and stick down the next row of shingles. Use dots rather than lines as lines of cement can trap condensation.

Roofer using a nail gun and tool belt.

Each time you start a new row of shingles, you need to cut the first one to ensure your roofing is staggered. Wikihow offers the following pattern for cutting roofing shingles:

  • 1st course, cut a half tab
  • 2nd course, cut a full tab
  • 3rd course, cut 1.5 tabs
  • 4th course, cut 2 tabs
  • 5th course, cut .5 of final tab
  • 6th course, no cut

The best way to hammer your shingles down is to use a roofing hammer and hit one nail about 2 inches from each end of the shingle. Some people hit an extra one in the center of the left and right edge, so 6 nails total. Each layer of shingles you install will cover the nails by about 1 inch.

It’s also good practice to move from left to right and follow your chalk line exactly to keep each course of shingles straight. You may need to use special ridge shingles to finish off your roof and fill in any potential leak sites with asphalt cement.

If you sense your project going off course, refer to this handy tutorial or if you’re really struggling it’s never too late to call in the professionals!

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