How to Shingle a Roof – Become Your Own Handyman

colorful round roof shingles

Learning how to shingle a roof correctly is not a difficult job providing that you have the right tools and follow the guidelines step by step. If it’s time for a new shingle roof or your current roof has been damaged, you can become your own handyman and do the job yourself.

You must follow some safety tips, make the necessary preparations, and employ quality products to make the job come out a success. Here’s how to shingle a roof the right way to avoid costly mistakes and end up with a finished product that will be the envy of your neighbors.


The first step in avoiding errors and mistakes on any do-it-yourself handyman roof project is to make a plan. This step entails taking accurate measurements and writing this information down on paper before you remove the first old shingle. Using these measurements, you will be able to draw a preliminary roof plan.

  • Measure the overall length and width of each section of your roof. If it is a simple two-sided roof, this step will be easy. However, for a roof with unique individual sections, draw an isolated picture of each section. Mark drain channel sizes for each opening in the roof.
  • Note exactly where each opening is located in your plans. Mark the positions of roof vents, ridge caps, and chimneys. Be precise with these markings. They will help you when calculating materials and during the installation stage.
  • Take your plans, including the date you hope to begin your project to your local building code inspector. Most of the time replacing an existing roof doesn’t require costly permits. However, lacking proper construction permits could result in expensive fines. Therefore, make sure you cover the paperwork as well.

Tools & Equipment

There aren’t very many tools required to follow these steps on how to shingle a roof. Nonetheless, having the right equipment will make the job easier and insure your safety.

Much of this equipment is not roofing specific, so you can use them for other jobs. If you anticipate making use of your handyman roofer expertise on future jobs, you’ll be ready to go.

  • Ladder – The number one piece of equipment for every roof job is a sturdy ladder. Invest in something that is not good for this project only, but that can be used for others as well. An extension ladder is strongly recommended instead of a step ladder. The ladder should safely extend at least 3-feet above the roof eaves.
  • Portable Dumpster – You need to have a large container for roofing debris ready on site.
  • Roof Jacks & 2×10 Planks – Using roof jacks represents an extra layer of safety protection. They are nailed through to the roof rafters, with a 2×10 board attached. One-time roofers often forego this piece of equipment. However, they can dramatically improve safety and simplify clean up. If you’re planning on adding roofing to your handyman jobs, it is highly recommended to invest in roof jacks and planks.
  • Pitchfork or Roofing Shovel – You can use flat, square-point shovel but it’s not the most efficient tool. A pitchfork will go under the shingles easier without hanging up on nails. A roofing shovel is specially designed to quickly rip off shingles, taking nearly 100% of the nails with each row. If you perfect your technique, you can actually use two pitchforks at the same time to add speed to the removal step.
  • Hammer – If you don’t plan to do roofs on a regular basis, you can use a good 16-ounce claw hammer. The claw will remove the old nails as it works well for removing small sections. Nonetheless, the best suggestion is a separate nail puller and a roofing hatchet.
  • Box Cutter – You’ll need a standard box cutter with sharp blades. Have a supply of extra blades on hand. You want to avoid ripping the roofing felt during installation.
  • A Floor Broom – After you finish removing the old roof, you should hard-broom it before you begin the installation. A blower can get rid of most of the dirt, but a good sweeping is recommended.

Proper Work Attire

three handymen with work attire

How to shingle a roof correctly begins with drawing plans and making sure you have the right equipment. However, working safely is critical. Part of being safe is starting with the right equipment, but it also involves your attire.

  • Know what you need to wear to be safe. You will need good-fitting rubber sole shoes. Steel-toe work boots with a soft sole are recommended. While the steel-toe is not critical, if you’re planning to add roofing to your handyman skills, they will be an excellent addition to your work attire.
  • While shorts may seem comfortable, you should wear long pants. Heavy material, such as dungarees, is highly recommended. For added knee protection, invest in a pair of roofer kneepads. These are special gel knee guards which protect your knees and add grip.

Secure the Work Area & Access Point

Once you have all the right tools and ladders plus attire for safety, the next step is site preparation. Securing the area under the roof and establishing a safe access point to the roof are important. These first four steps are important safety roofing procedures for how to shingle a roof.

  • Secure the area around the building. Remove as many movable things as possible. It will simplify clean up. Cover plants and flower beds with a protective tarp.
  • Observe where there are any power lines. Being aware of these can prevent serious injury.
  • Remove the gutters and the downspout attachment. They do not only get in the way of a roofing job, but they can easily be damaged.
  • Find at least one safe location to get on the roof. Remove everything from that area. Having two access points, one on either side of the building is recommended, but not essential.

Order Materials

There are roofing material calculators, even software like Roofsnap, to order your materials. Make sure you have all the materials on hand before you begin your roof job. Have everything on site before you remove the old roof. This is a pretty simple step, but mistakes can leave you with an uncovered roof.

  • There are roof apps for your phone, which can be very helpful. Use your plans and measurements and enter these numbers into the roofing materials calculator.
  • Clear a spot for anticipated delivery, keeping everything in one place if possible.
  • You’ll need galvanized roofing nails, rolls of roofing felt, and enough bundles of shingles to complete the job.
  • It is not a bad idea to order one more bundle of shingles, one additional roll of felt, and an extra box of nails just in case. You can return these unopened materials if you do not use them, but if you run short in the middle of the job, you’ll have to take an unnecessarily long break.

Tear off

Once you have all your tools and gear ready, you need to tear off the old roof. This is a step made easier with the right tools and some diligence. You need to discard old material as you go. This will prevent slipping on loose shingles and simplify the cleanup job.

  • Start at the peak of the roof and work your way down towards the eaves.
  • Take the shingles off in 3-row sections. Remove the debris from each section before moving on.
  • Sweep or blow off the roof.
  • Inspect for nails left behind and pull them out. Avoid leaving them in the wood.
  • Clear away everything and hard-broom the roof before moving on to repairs and final installation.

Make Repairs

Go over the entire roof and check the condition of the wood. This is a crucial step in learning how to shingle a roof. Look for roofing nails you missed during removal and try to pull these out if possible. If there are any weak spots on the roof or any other obvious sign of damage, make the necessary repairs. Covering up a roof problem could turn into a very expensive project.


roofer on a ladder repairs home roof

The final step in how to shingle a roof correctly is putting on the new roof. If you have taken care to complete the previous steps well, this is a rather simple process. Be patient and work progressively, one portion at a time.

  • Roof felt paper or tar paper is installed from the bottom roof eaves up to the peak. You will set your first chalk line 33 5/8-inches from the roof edge.
  • Roll out the felt paper, tacking it in the middle as you go.
  • After you finish this bottom section, then set a new chalk line that overlaps the previous strip 6-inches.
  • As you apply the roofing felt, cut out places for chimneys and vent pipes as you go. Apply a sealant around these areas to prevent leaks.
  • Check for wrinkles and cut slits so the wrinkles can be tacked flat. Add a strip of roof felt 6-inches wide over the cut area to insure good coverage.
  • Next, you will start your first row of new shingles. Make sure you load at least three bundles on the roof at a time. When finished with the last bundle, add three more. This will help you make sure you’re not going to run out of shingles accidentally .
  • Begin at the ridge cap and snap a chalk line for the first row of shingles.
  • Nail in one row all the way across on both sides of the cap.
  • Make sure your roofing nails are penetrating three-quarters of the way into the wood.
  • Add two extra nails in each shingle for these first rows.
  • Follow the nail line on shingles, because it is reinforced to hold each shingle securely.
  • Shingles have a mark to make sure you overlap each shingle. Follow this pattern precisely to avoid the consequences of wind and weather damage.
  • Work your way across and down the roof. Finish one row at a time.
  • Cut around and finish all roof vents and chimneys as you go. Finish a row as you go.
  • You will work your way down to the final row. You will need to measure the width of the last row and cut these shingles so they can follow the recommended overlap.
  • Follow the instructions for installing ridge vent end caps on your roof. However, this step is not obligatory in your goal to learn how to shingle a roof.


Once you’ve cleaned up the leftover shingles and cuttings, take a step back and admire your work. You should have a roof with perfect lines, which will protect the building underneath for years.

A final walkover inspection is always a good idea. However, if you followed these steps precisely, everything should be perfect. If this is a one-time project, you’ve saved yourself a lot of money. If you’re planning on offering your knowledge and expertise to others, now you know how to shingle a roof – and become your own handyman.

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