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How To
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Dean Johnson

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Bare roofShingling is a notoriously hot and exhausting job, and working alone is a chore for anyone. It's usually easier, faster and safer to work with a partner. Also, renting a compressor and pneumatic nailer/stapler is money well spent on a big project.

WARNING: Working on a roof is always dangerous. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about working on the roof, don't. Hire someone to do the work for you.


How Many Shingles?

Dean carrying load up a ladderThe surface area of a roof is measured in "squares" of shingles. Each square covers 100 square feet. However, when you buy shingles, they're usually priced per bundle.

Calculate the number of bundles needed by measuring the roof's square footage (length X width). Divide that number by 100 to get the number of squares needed. Multiply the number of squares by 3 (in most cases) or the number of bundles it takes to equal one square. Again, in most cases 3 bundles = 1 square.


Laying The First Courses

first row of shinglesLay a starter strip before the first full course of shingles. The starter strip consists of "tabless" shingles that you can make by cutting the tabs from regular shingles. To discourage water penetration, stagger the starter joints from the first course joints. Special starter row shingles may be available with your line of shingles. If you’re using laminated shingles (which don’t have cutouts), you can use a continuous starter strip material that comes on a roll.

Shingling methods tends to vary. One person may start with a full shingle on the first row and cut a shingle to fit at the end -- depending on the roof distance. Sometimes, this method creates a tiny 1" to 3" piece at the end. So it's best to measure the length of a full shingle (usually 36") and divide it into the length of the roof (in inches) to figure how the shingles will lay out.

If you want the shingle to overhang (ours extended 1/4"), that factors into the length. That required us to precut the end shingles before nailing them.

installing second row of shinglesIn other cases, you may be able to let the first shingle run wild, cut it flush and use that "scrap" piece on the opposing end to complete the row. Again, how you start each row depends on the shingle and roof lengths.

Nail the first course of shingles at each end and middle tabs about 1/2" to 5/8" above the tabs.

Stagger the first shingle of the second course 6" short of the first course shingle, so their tabs don't set directly above the first row tabs.


Getting Straight Lines

roof with straight shingle lines

Throughout the shingling process, a sure-fire way to get straight lines and make a roofing job look professional is to snap chalklines.

An experienced roofer may be able to just butt the next shingle square with the previous one, but getting them all straight takes some practice and never guarantees straight lines. So we encourage you to take a few extra minutes and snap some chalklines for key areas.

Your first chalkline might be a horizontal line across the starter strip to guide the top of the first row.

After the first course of shingles is laid, snap a vertical line the height of the roof to indicate the inside edge of the first shingle. This mark will be a guideline for the first shingle in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc. rows.

After the second course is laid, snap a vertical chalkline to indicate the inside edge of the second row's first shingle. This mark is the guideline for the 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc. rows.



Racking Shingles

racking shinglesRacking is a shingling method that professional roofers utilize. It's intended to get as many shingles laid as possible without having to move back and forth across the roof

Nail down the first row as far as you can comfortably reach (about 3-6 shingles across). Then do the second row, but leave the end tab unfastened so when you do move, the next first row shingle can slide into position under the loose end.

Racking ShinglesWork each row up the roof this way, leaving the end tabs unfastened where a lower shingle goes. Rack the rows as far as you can comfortably reach, then move over. Slide the next section of shingles under the unfastened ends, staple/nail both shingles, and continue to rack the rows.

Although racking is a fast way to shingle, it can have drawbacks. If bundles of shingles vary in color, racked areas may look different. It's also easy to forget to fasten shingle ends that get covered up.


Using Roof Jacks

roof jackAfter completing 3 to 5 rows from scaffolding or a ladder, add roof jacks to access the upper rows. Roof jacks are typically thick gauge steel brackets that hold planks in position.

Underneath a completed row of shingles, start a nail through the decking and rafter, hook the jack onto the nail, and hammer the nail down completely. Then fasten a second nail on the lower hook slot. Line up and fasten the opposing jack the same way and set a sturdy plank on the jacks.

NOTE: It's a good idea to put jacks and boards across all the eaves in case you slip or something slides down the roof.

Avoid walking excessively on the felt and shingles during hot days. Both can get soft and are easy to damage and cutting them can get a little gooey. If you can, schedule to avoid the midday hours when the roof is hottest.


Ridge Shingles

Ridge ShingleMany lines of shingles have a special product to use on hips and ridges. Hip and ridge shingles can also be made by cutting 3-tab shingles into thirds (tapering the upper part to be thinner at the top). Trim the top of the last row of shingles even with the ridge. When both sides of the roof are finishing, nail ridge shingles across the top. Ridge shingles require longer nails, since the nails will be going through more layers of shingles.


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