Guide Home Improvement

How To Shingle a Roof

Generally, the shingles on the roof of your home and/or garage should last a good 15 to 20 years (depending upon the quality of shingles used). Even if the manufacturers state that they will last 20 to 25 years, it all depends, really, on the weather your shingles have to endure. Extreme weather conditions can reduce the life span of your shingles. Even the extreme heat from the sun can cause your shingles to dry out and curl up long before their expiration date is up.

It’s important to be sure that your shingles are in good condition. If they are starting to show signs of age and wear, if they are cracking, splitting, and especially curling up at the ends, it’s definitely time to re-shingle. This will ensure that the structure of your roof is not being saturated by water, due to the elements. It is much easier, and less costly, to keep your shingles in good repair, rather than having to replace your entire roof later on.

Shingles are quite adept to keep the roof in check and can be utilized for other purposes as well as replacing the roof will result in unnecessary wastage of money and even the roof service provider are not exactly competent to deal with such issues.

Here is a step-by-step, how-to guide for replacing shingles on your roof. This is also a guide for using standard asphalt shingles.

CAUTION: It is NOT recommended that you re-shingle over existing shingles (some people actually do this, out of either laziness or by trying to save money in not having to pay for the removal and hauling away of the old shingles). This will drastically reduce the life span of your new shingles. In order to make your new shingles last for the next 20 years, be sure to strip your roof of the existing shingles.


* claw-foot hammer (for removing old roofing nails)

* strong utility knife (for cutting shingles when you get to the ends)

* asphalt shingles

* flashings

* metal starter strip

* roofing felt

* galvanized roofing nails and hammer, or air nailer


If this is an existing home and you are re-shingling your roof, as stated above, be sure that you have removed the old shingles. Also, be sure that all the old nails have been pulled.

Metal Starter Strip

You will need to purchase and affix metal starter strip to the very bottom edge of your roof (all the way around for cottage-style roofs). Starter stripping comes in an “L” shape. One edge of the stripping will be nailed to the bottom edging of the roof boards while the other side of the stripping will hang down against the fascia board and over the lip of the eaves troughs (gutters). This allows the rain to run off the roof and into the eaves (gutters), preventing the fascia board and edge of your roof from rotting.

Install Flashing and Roof Vents

The next step is to add all your roof vents before shingling. You might have decided to add one or two newer vents (if this is an older home), to add extra ventilation to the roof (attic area). You might also want to install a turbine ventilator at this point as well. This will give your home constant ventilation and help to reduce your energy costs. Be sure that there is proper flashing around all vents to prevent your roof from leaking.

If your roof happens to have peaks and valleys, you will have to add metal flashing to the valleys of your roof in this step as well. This will help to ensure that no water is leaking between the shingles, then through the joining where the roof boards meet, subsequently seeping into your living space. This is a very important step to ensure a longer life span for your shingles and your roof.

Roofing Felt

You will now need to add the roofing felt. Some people cover the entire surface of the roof with roofing paper, however, this is not entirely necessary and will only add to the cost. All you need is one layer, the width of the roofing felt, running it along the entire bottom edge(s) of the roof. This can be tacked on with an industrial staple gun or air stapler.

Installing the Shingles

You are now ready to add the shingles. Starting at the bottom edge of the roof, nail on the first set of shingle(either using standard galvanized roofing nails or an air nailer). The first row of shingles should be placed upside down, and must cover the metal starter strip. The edge of the shingles should run flush with the edge of the roof and the starter strip. This will be your guide line for the rest of the shingles, helping to ensure they run in a straight line all the way through to the top.

When you get to the ends of the roof (on a gable style roof) or to the edge where the roof changes direction (a cottage-style roof), or to the valley, cut off excess shingle with the utility knife, as evenly as possible.

Once your first row of shingles are in place, put the next row of shingles atop the first upside down row (this will now be considered your first row). Be sure that they are staggered (a full sheet should cover the joint where the previous bottom shingles meet). Continue your row until you reach the outer edge of the roof, or where the roof starts to change direction. Cut off excess with the utility knife (these will be covered with the caps later, so don’t be too worried if your cuts look a little rough).

With the next row of shingles, you will be starting a new complete row. Again, stagger your asphalt shingle sheets (as a brick layer would when laying bricks). Each sheet of shingle should have a distinguishable line drawn at approximately the 1/2 way point. This line is your guide when placing down the next row of shingles. The bottom of the shingles should run flush with the line on the previous row. Also, remember to nail your shingles “above” this line. This will hide the nails with each subsequent row of shingles.

Continue shingling all the way up the roof, using the same method….. remembering to stagger your sheets. Step back every now and then to be sure your rows are lining up evenly.

Capping The Peaks

When you have placed your last row of shingles on the roof, you will now need to cap the peaks. This both hides the unsightly edges of the shingle (and the last row of nails), but also makes sure that no water will get behind your shingles.

When you purchase your shingles, be sure to also purchase caps that will match the color of your shingles. These are smaller pieces of asphalt cut in rectangular pieces. When nailing these to the peaks, nail at the bottom part of the cap. The next cap will hide the nails of the previous cap.

On a gable style roof, you will only need to cap the very top of your roof. For a cottage style roof, you will need to cap all the cut joints where the roof changed direction, as well as the top peak. For a roof with several peaks and valleys, cap all peaks. You may want to add a bead of roofing tar to the valley joints as added protection from rain.

You have now completed your project and I’m sure your roof is looking very nice. Well done!


TIP #1: Here is a very important tip that can save your fingers from serious injury when using roofing nails and a hammer. Never hold the nail with your thumb and index finger while hammering it down. This is a good way to bash your thumb with the hammer (I learned this the hard way!). Instead, lay your hand on the roof, palm side up. Hold the nail between your first and second finger and tap the nail gently at first. Then remove your hand and continue to hammer the nail down. You should also be wearing construction gloves for added safety.

TIP #2: If you are using an air nailer, they can be very dangerous as well. If you are not paying proper attention and using good safety practices, you might find that the gun will shoot nails at the slightest jostle. These nails leave the gun at quite a velocity and can imbed themselves into your leg or other parts of your body. So be sure to use good, practical and sensible safety practices when using an air nailer.