The roof of a house is a critical component of a home’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, roofs, like most other parts of a home, can deteriorate over time requiring replacement. A time consuming task, roofing a home requires several steps and a certain level of expertise in order to complete the job efficiently and effectively without having to hire a professional. Those who are able to do this task themselves are often able to save thousands of dollars in labor. On the other hand, not completing the task correctly can lead to having to repair or possibly even replace the entire roof or risk damage to the home’s infrastructure.
The first thing to consider when deciding to take on a roofing project is whether you will actually be physically able to do the work. Depending on the regulations in your municipality, you may need to obtain a permit from your local government office. Additionally, it is essential that before you decide to work on such a project, that you get up on the roof and ensure that you feel comfortable walking around the roof and climbing up and down the ladder, as you will have to do both of these frequently throughout the process. As the Family Handyman explains, “if you can’t walk [around] comfortably, hire a pro” (n.p.). Once these essential preliminary steps have been taken, you are ready to begin the process.

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The next step is to tear off all the old roofing material and check for any damage to the wood. Tom Streissguth recommends “[starting] at the top ridge and [working] your way down, removing all the old nails” and from there then moving on to attend to any rotten, warped, or otherwise damaged wooden roof boards (n.p.). After removing the old shingles it is advised to find a place that will recycle the old shingles and nails safely. Recycling the old materials is the most environmentally sound option, and will ensure that the old materials do not end up in a landfill.

Once the old shingles have been fully removed and it the wooden roof boards have been replaced or repaired as needed, the next step is to apply an underlayment, ideally one that is self-adhesive. Taylor-Made Roofing suggests self-stick underlayment because “it’s best in shedding water and protecting against damage from wind” (n.p.) versus underlayment that requires adhesive to be applied separately. The best way to approach the application of self-adhesive underlayment is to apply it in sections, ensuring that it is laid down completely flat and straight to prevent ripples or bumps in the underlay. In order to achieve a straight placement of the underlay, it is recommended to have another person assist in this process by holding the material flat.

Once the underlay is in place, the next layer is to felt paper, which comes in rolls. Felt paper can also be called either tar paper or builder’s paper and comes in either a 15-lb or a 30-lb roll. The Family Handyman recommends that unless the paper is to be exposed for greater than a few days, that the 15-lb paper is sufficient (n.p.). To lay down the paper, begin by with a small portion of the roll and use a staple gun in order to secure the center of the paper. Once a section of the paper has been secured, roll additional paper out in ten foot sections and fasten using the stable gun following the printed overlap lines on the felt paper for each row of paper. For the last row of paper, drape it over the peak and to the other side of the roof to completely seal in the paper and ensure that it is watertight.

The next step is one of the most important steps in the process, installing the shingles. The first layer of shingles are called starter shingles and should be aligned at the bottom-most edge of the roof, hanging over the edge of the roof by about ¾ of an inch to prevent any leaks. Once all the starter shingles have been installed, the regular shingles should be staggered over top of the starter shingles and then each row should overlap the row above it, leaving approximately five to six and a half inches of non-overlay shingle. Manufacturers of shingles always include a guide on staggering and placement of the shingles and this guide be followed to ensure proper shingle placement. Similarly, the shingles will have a specified nailing pattern which guides where the shingle should be nailed into place. The Family Handyman suggests that nails must be used to attach shingles to the roof rather than staples as “staples don’t have the holding power of nails; they tend to rust out before the shingles go bad; and most manufacturers don’t allow staples, so you’ll void the warranty” (n.p.). Throughout the process, it is crucial that the shingles are properly installed according to the manufacturer’s guideline as improper staggering and placement of the shingles can lead to leaks and shorten the life of the roof. Beyond the general application of the shingles across the roof, special care must be taken to secure shingles around chimneys, vents, or other items on the roof. In working around these items, it is necessary to ensure that no vents are accidentally covered by any material and that the shingles are applied surrounding the object tightly as to prevent any leaks.

The final steps in the roofing process involves covering the ridges with ridge caps to protect the ridge and the tops of the shingles that meet at the ridge as well as cleaning up any debris left on the roof and checking to ensure that all nails have been properly sealed and that no vents have been accidentally covered. Once all debris has been removed from the roof, ensure that the area surrounding the house is also cleaned up and any debris or excess materials disposed of or recycled.

Independently roofing a home can be a challenge; however, carefully examining each step in the process and having a solid understanding of the process before beginning can lead to a successful roofing project.

  • How to Roof a House. Taylor-Made Roofing, 18 Sept 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
  • How to Roof a House. The Family Handyman. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
  • Streissguth, T. Proper Steps to Shingle a House Roof. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.