Basics of How To Shingle a Roof

Things You’ll Need

  • Roof hammers
  • Hammer tack/stapler
  • Chalk box
  • Speed square or framing square
  • Caulking gun
  • Ladders and/or scaffolding
  • Air compressor
  • Pneumatic coil roofing nail gun
  • 5/8-inch (1.6 cm) tacks/staples
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm) minimum roofing nails
  • Tubes of asphalt cement
  • 15-pound (6.8 kg) asphalt roofing paper
  • Metal flashing or preformed drip molding for edges
  • Enough 3- or 4-tab asphalt shingle bundles to complete the roof
  • Premade asphalt ridge shingles


3 Tab Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingle roof costs are the most affordable as far as installation goes. They are the most common type of roof replacements or new home roof installations that homeowners choose. There are three main types of asphalt shingles: 3-tab asphalt, fiberglass asphalt, and architectural style asphalt shingles. 3 tab asphalt shingles are the most affordable shingle to install but they are thinner, have an organic-mat paper base, and wear out more quickly than fiberglass or architectural shingles.

Asphalt Shingle Roofing Asphalt shingle roofing is the most common roofing material: Easy to Install Budget Friendly Multiple Color Options Lasts 15 – 20 years Average Costs – 1,800 sq. ft: $4,286 – $6,429

The average cost for a 3 tab asphalt shingle roof replacement costs anywhere from $4,286 to $6,429 on a single story 1,800 sq. ft home. Total replacement costs can vary depending on the slope, pitch, and size of your roof. Asphalt roofing materials alone will cost you around $0.85¢ to $1.50 per sq. foot or $85 to $150 per square of asphalt shingle roofing materials. Architectural shingles are a bit more expensive to install at around $1.50 to $5.50 per square foot.

Install Flashing

The metal strips that cover seams and joints betwe

The metal strips that cover seams and joints between protrusions on your roof are called flashing. This includes the chimney, skylights, vents, and any other permanent fixtures that stick out of the roof.

If it’s in good condition, you can leave your existing flashing in place. If you see signs of corrosion, curling, lifting, or other damage, you’ll want to replace the flashing before adding new roofing materials.

Step 8: Begin Starter Course

Ideally, a manufactured starter strip should be used, placing the adhesive strip adjacent to the eave and creating the correct headlap.  If a starter strip is not available and shingles are used, it’s good practice to cut off the lower portion of the shingle so that the adhesive strip can better protect from blow-off.

The roofers installed (uncut) shingles in a reverse orientation to waterproof the joints of the first course of shingles.

You can see the first course of shingle is install

You can see the first course of shingle is installed flush with the starter course and the joints are staggered.

The starter course (and subsequently the first cou

The starter course (and subsequently the first course) extends past the drip edge by about an 1″.

Tile Roofing Shingles

Tile roofing shingles are one of the most durable roofing styles you can install, but that’s only the case when the tiles are installed properly. When placed on a mortar bed, the tiles are known to slip off after just a decade or so. Tiles are not very expensive to purchase depending on the type of tile you choose, but the installation will cost you a premium. You also may have to pay to have your roof strengthened to handle the weight of a new tile roof before it is installed. Some tile roof is in line with metal roofing as far as lifespan goes and can lasts up to 100 years with proper maintenance. There are 8 different types of roofing tiles that you will see installed, the most common are:

Install the drip edge

Metal drip edge isn’t usually required (check with a local building official), but it gives roof edges a nice finished look, prevents shingles from curling over the edge, and keeps water from running directly down your fascia boards.

Before you install the underlayment, fasten the drip edge that covers the fascia on the eaves. The whole length of the fascia is probably not perfectly straight, so don’t snap a line; just hold the drip edge snug against the fascia and fasten it through the top into the decking with roofing nails. Nail it every couple of feet.

Install the drip edge on the gable ends of the roof after you finish installing your underlayment. Start at the bottom side of the gable, and overlap the sections of drip edge a few inches as you work your way up the roof (see Figure A). Use a tin snips to cut the drip edge to size.

Stay Safe

When it comes to roofs, even the best safety equipment is no substitute for common sense and good judgment. Here are some tips for working safely on a roof:

  • Leave steep and/or high roof work to the pros. No amount of money you could save is worth the risk of death or a lifelong disability from a fall.
  • A fall protection kit (harness, rope and hook) only costs about $100 at home centers.
  • Wet roofs are slippery. Wear shoes with soft rubber soles for extra traction.
  • Keep the roof swept clean of dirt and debris.
  • Everyone on the ground should wear a hard hat—even the most careful worker can drop a tool off the roof.
  • Always look and call out before tossing anything down.
  • Carefully position ropes and extension cords so they’re not underfoot.
  • Check the weight rating on your ladder—it needs to hold you plus 80 lbs.
  • Extend the top of the ladder at least 3 ft. above the roof edge so you’ll have something to hang on to as you step onto and off the roof.
  • Never step on any of the ladder rungs above the roof.
  • Set up scaffolding to install the drip edge and first few courses.

Carefully Flash the Valleys and Seams

Almost 75% of roof leaks occur in valleys where two roof planes meet, or at chimneys or other roof penetrations, so be sure to install roof flashing in these areas prior to the start of the installation. Flashed open valleys may be more durable and water-resistant than blind alleys, in which the shingles overlap from one plane to the other and cover the valley. For asphalt shingles, aluminum flashings are recommended. The metal should be at least 0.019 inches thick.

If working on a roof where someone has already installed flashing, make sure it is in good condition and not leaking. When re-roofing, most pros choose to install new flashings rather than relying on the existing flashings.

Use Full Tabs at Valleys or Rake Edges

Where possible, install three-tab shingles so that the tabs falling over metal valleys or rake edges at the side of the house are at least four inches wide. For better results, try to use full-size shingles going into a closed valley (one without metal flashing) as this can eliminate nailing too close to the centerline.

Install the shingles

Nail on shingles

Following the manufacturer's nailing instructions

Following the manufacturer’s nailing instructions is critical; improper nailing is the biggest cause of roof failures in storms. Where and how often you nail your shingles will depend on wind speeds in your area and the pitch of your roof.

Step 14: Self-Adhering Membrane

This self-adhering membrane is a SBS modified bitumen roll, and they’ve been in use in the U.S. since the mid 1970’s. These rolls can be used as an entire roofing system for low-slope applications, and the roofing crew used it in lieu of shingles on a roof cricket. This cricket would be very difficult to shingle because the wall of the addition comes in at an odd angle only a short distance away. Furthermore, this section of the roof isn’t visible from the ground so it won’t be noticeable.

The membrane adhered to the roof, and the guys placed a few nails into the wall right along the edge to hold it in place.

Should Shingles Overhang the Drip Edge?

Overhanging shingles over the drip edge about a half-inch can help with surface tension. Plan out how you will lay your shingles beforehand, here’s how we recommend you approach your installation.

Laying Asphalt Shingles

With the prep work done, it is time to begin actually laying the shingles.

  1. Begin with a starter row. Cut the tabs off a shingle and nail just the top half as a starter. This will have the effect of giving the first real row of shingles something to stick it down right at the edge. Continue clear across the bottom edge, aligning this starter with the edge of the drip edge. Asphalt shingles are easy to cut, particularly if it can be turned over and cut from the back side, with an ordinary razor knife (box cutter)
  2. Begin once more at the far left (or right – it makes no difference) of the roof but with only a partial shingle. Cut the shingle about 2/3's of full width, with the cut edge to the left (if you have started the row at the left of the roof). Save the 1/3 cut off for possible use at the other end of the row. This time, extend the shingle about ¼" past the drip edge, line it up square with the bottom of the roof and nail with 4 nails spaced fairly evenly across the shingle. Nails should be driven just above the center of the shingle, at about the tar line – the nail will penetrate not only the shingle you are placing but the one underneath as well. Some shingles have a mark at the proper height for nails. Continue across the roof, butting each shingle to the one before it.

This completes the first two, special, rows. Each additional row will be placed with the bottom of the new shingle just covering the slots in the one already nailed. Each additional row also needs shifted to the side in order that all shingle edges do not line up – you will alternate between using 1/3, 2/3 and a full shingle. The cuts do not need to be at exactly 1/3 or 2/3 of a full shingle; vary them somewhat for a more pleasing appearance and cut them so that the slots between tabs will not line up, particularly when working with architectural shingles. Nail each shingle with 4 nails in the same manner that the first full height shingle was nailed.

Valleys and ridges will require special treatment and are covered in the next sections.

Proper nail spacing; there is one more nail just out of the picture to the left.


Questions Answers

Question: Are the shingles supposed to hang over the facia 3/8 of an inch?

Answer: Yes. Hang them over a small amount; 3/8 inch is appropriate.

© 2012 Dan Harmon

Installing Your Roof Shingles

Installing roofing materials the right way makes all the difference in your roof’s durability and functionality. The methods you’ll use will also depend on the types of materials you choose to install.

Installing Asphalt Shingles

Before you nail the first shingle into place, chec

Before you nail the first shingle into place, check with the manufacturer and find out how they suggest you secure the shingles. They’ll have a recommended nailing pattern as well as recommended roofing nails for their products.

Now that you’ve taken the preparatory steps it’s time to actually learn how to install your shingles. Here is our recommended process.

  1. Working your way up and across the roof, begin laying out your shingle courses. 
  2. Be aware of using proper nailing technique so that your nails always hold the top edge of the course beneath it. 
  3. Example: Hammer one nail around 2 inches from each end of a shingle. Then secure another nail an inch above each cutout. So, your next course of shingles should cover the nails by 1 inch vertically. 
  4. Follow this pattern of lining shingles up against the next and then nailing the shingles into place. You’ll want to follow this as a guide to keep your shingles straight.
  5. Cut your last shingle on each row to size and repeat this process all the way to the ridge.
  6. Once you’ve reached the ridge, bend the shingle over the ridge so that each side is equal and nail it into place with a single nail on each side. 
  7. Do the same with the following shingle, continuing this step until you get to the far edge of the ridge. 
  8. Cut the last ridge shingle to the preferred length that is needed, but be sure that none of your roof is exposed. 

Tip: Be mindful to hammer nails straight rather than at an angle. Each individual shingle should be held down by 4-6 nails. Six nails are preferred for regions that have heavy wind. 

Installing Clay Tiles

Clay tiles, like asphalt shingles, need to be inst

Clay tiles, like asphalt shingles, need to be installed in the right pattern. Map it out before you start placing tiles on the roof.

Once you have the pattern in place, nail the edge of the tile to the roof underlay. Then, spread a small amount of mortar beneath the tile to add more structural support. Repeat the process until the tiles are in place.

How to Install Metal Panels

Metal panels are a bit trickier to install on your

Metal panels are a bit trickier to install on your own. You’ll need help maneuvering the metal into place and making sure the seams between panels are secure.

Cut the metal to the right length before pulling it up on the roof. Then, add a layer of sealant tape along the seam where the next panel will slide into place. Repeat the process for each panel you add.

Then, secure the panels with metal roof fasteners. Take care not to overtighten the fasteners as this will damage the metal and increase your risk of leaks and damage.

How to Install Wood Shakes and Shingles

Before you can install wood shingles on your roof,

Before you can install wood shingles on your roof, you need to create the vent structure or sheathing. This keeps them from warping in the dampness and heat.

Once the structure is in place, plan the layout of the shingles and nail them into the sheathing. Take care to measure the shingles’ placement throughout the job to make sure you’re on the right track.

Reader Success Stories

  • Stephany Porter

Nov 3, 2016

    Stephany Porter Nov 3, 2016

    “I needed to find out how to do the last row of shingles on the very top. I knew they have to ridge over the top, but didn’t know how to hide the nails of very last shingle. Reading the instructions answered that question for me. Thank you.” …” more

More reader stories Hide reader stories Share your story


Leave a Comment