How to Install Roof Shingles

Wondering how to install roof shingles? Asphalt roof shingles are the traditional roofing material of choice. Designed to keep water flowing downward off your roof, roof shingles come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, making it easy to complement the exterior of your home.

How To Install Roof Shingles Like A Pro

  • Working safe. Working on a roof is inherently dangerous. You can minimize the risks by working a helper or two, working only on dry, windless days and by wearing non-slip shoes. Always keep track of your tools and ladders and try to keep the work area free of loose nails, shingles or other debris that might lead to a slip or fall.
  • Covering up. You can install new shingles directly over an existing roof, but if the roof already has more than two layers of shingles, the old shingles should be removed. If you are removing shingles prior to installing new ones, repair any damage to the sub roof deck and make sure all old fasteners are removed or hammered flush with the roof deck surface.
  • Starting fresh. Before installing shingles on a new or cleared roof, apply a layer of felt roofing paper over the roof deck before laying the shingles. Start at the bottom edge of the roof and make sure to overlap each course of paper by at least three inches.
  • On your mark. To being installing roof shingles, mark the centerline of the roof section where you'll be installing shingles. A chalk line is the most efficient way to mark the roof.
  • The starter strip. You'll need to install a starter strip of shingles along the bottom edge of the roof, using either a special starter shingle or a standard shingle body with the tabs cut away. If you use a cut down shingle, flip the shingle so that the adhesive side faces up at the bottom of the roof edge. No matter what type of starter strip you use, the edge of the starter shingles should project about 1/2" to 3/4" past the edge of the roof. This projection allows rainwater to flow off the roof and not down the face of the roof's edge.
  • The first course. Once you've laid the starter strip, you can lay the first course. Beginning at the centerline of the roof, lay the first course of shingles directly over the starter strip so that the edge of the first course shingles matches the edge of the starter strip. Nail the shingle in place using four roofing nail per shingle, placed between the tab ends and the top of the shingle. Trim the edge shingles so they project about 1" past the end of the roof.
  • A snappy comeback. The following rows of shingles need to overlap the first course so that only the tabs are visible. This offset (called exposure) is typically 5" and should be maintained throughout the roofing job. To ensure an accurate exposure and even placement of the shingles, use a chalk line to snap marks at 5" intervals up the face of the roof.
  • Repeat as necessary. Continue to add shingles, row-by-row, until you reach the peak of the roof, each row should be offset from the row below so that the tab slots don't line up. Tab slots that line up will provide easy access for rainwater after the shingles have been installed.
  • Capping things off. Once you reach the peak of the roof, you'll need to install a special line of shingles called ridge cap shingles. Ridge cap shingles fold over the roof peak, covering the gap where both sides of the roof come together.
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