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How to Roof a House (Safely and Correctly)

December 15th, 2021 BY First American Roofing

Roofing a house is not something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s also something that is entirely within reach—even for DIYers.

Whether you are roofing a house for the first time or have done it many times before, it’s always good to review the proper way to roof a house, plus take into account best practices for safety and quality. This guide will go over how to roof a house safely and correctly so you can do it right the first time.

Tools and Materials Required to Roof a House

Amateurs and professionals alike are only as good as the tools they have. So before you get started, make sure to collect all of the tools, materials, and safety gear you’ll need to get your house roofed appropriately. The last thing you want to do is make a last-minute run to the hardware store because you don’t have something you need. This list we’ll provide is a great jumping-off point and a great guideline to what you may need or find helpful while roofing a house.

roofing tools lying on asphalt shingle roof

Safety Considerations When Roofing (DIY or Professional)

Staying safe while roofing a house should be your top priority. Did you know that the leading cause of death or injury among roofers is falls? The safest way to protect yourself is to hire a professional roofing contractor, but if you are determined to do it yourself, then follow these safety tips for DIYers.

man wearing a harness and other safety equipment while roofing a house

How to Roof a House (Step-by-Step)

Once you’ve gone over the tools, materials, and safety considerations of roofing a house, it’s time to get started! There’s no doubt that roofing a house is hard work—especially for the untrained homeowner. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

We’ll lay out some clear, concise steps to follow, and you should be able to get the job done in no time. Call the pros at First American Roofing and Siding when in doubt—we’ll be happy to tackle a roofing project for you.

Step 1: Obtain the Proper Permits

If you’re going to be roofing a house, make sure to get the proper permits. Permits are required by law in most states to ensure things are up to code, and a permit will save you from potential fines if done without one.

Step 2: Tear Off the Old Roof

To get started on a new roof, you have to take off the old one. This is called “tearing off” and can be done using a roof shovel or pry bar. The best way to go about this is to start at the top and go layer by layer. Make sure to rent a dumpster or a catch-all screen for the debris tossed off the roof.

Man standing on a residential homes roof removing the shingles, a step of how to roof a house

Step 3: Make any Necessary Repairs or Reinforcements

Your roof deck will now be exposed after tearing off the shingles and should be inspected for any water stains, cracks, or other damage. The integrity of your roof relies on a solid foundation, and this is your chance to ensure the roof deck is nice and ready for a new roof.

Step 4: Lay the Underlayment

Now that your roof deck is ready to go, it’s time for the underlayment. Underlayment acts as a protective barrier between the elements and your home. The most common type of underlayment is felt paper which should be nailed down on all sides with nails every 12 inches or so.

underlayment on roof of suburban house surrounded by trees

Step 5: Install the Drip Edge

Now you’ll need to install your drip edge. This metal or plastic strip helps guide water off the roof and away from your house near the gutters. It should be installed at an angle slightly below 45 degrees with all nails tapped in flush, so they don’t protrude through the shingles above it.

Man standing on a residential homes roof removing the shingles.

Step 6: Install Your Valley Flashing

If you have valleys on your roof, you’ll want to take this time to install valley flashing. Valleys are one of the few susceptible spots to leaks on your roof. Flashing keeps them nice and watertight and should be installed before laying the new shingles.

Step 7: Install Your Starter Shingles

Now for the starter shingles. This is a layer of asphalt that runs along the eaves and helps to seal off any gaps between your new shingles and the roof edge. These will get things going and help measure how many rows and pieces of shingle you may need.

Step 8: Row by Row, Nail Down Shingles

Now you can get started laying shingles. Be sure to overlap your shingles over the ones before and nail down each row as you lay them, going from left to right and only nailing in the nail zone to ensure they go all the way through and don’t protrude under the next layer on top.

Step 9: Install Step and Dormer Flashing Where Needed

If you have any dormers or other spots where your roof meets a wall, you’ll need to install step flashing. Step flashing goes up along that wall and will seal those edges to ensure no water gets between your shingles and the siding in those places. Make sure to install the flashing first before layering the proper shingles over.

Step 10: Add the Vents

Replace or cut new vents into your roof at this time. If you tore off an existing roof, simply replace the same vents or boots you removed prior, or replace them new. These spots will also require flashing and sealant to prevent water leaks.

Step 11: Install Your Ridge Cap

When you get all your shingles installed up to the point of the roof, you’ll need to install a ridge cap. The ridge cap is installed with shingles going the opposite way, so they lay over the cap of the roof. This creates a tight seal that allows for water and ice to go down either side of the roof, rather than sitting on top and leaking through where the two peaks meet.

Residential ridge cap on a shingle roof

Step 12: Replace Your Gutters

Re-attach your gutters if you removed them, or be sure to clean them of any nails or debris that fell during installation. This is also an excellent opportunity to install gutter guards that can help keep your roof free of leaks in the future.

Step 13: Final Checks and Clean Up

Once you believe you’ve completed all the shingle installation, it’s time for one final check. Make sure there are no shingles crooked or missing and that you’ve sealed all areas requiring flashing, plus your ridge cap looks seamless. Make sure there aren’t any exposed nails or underlayment. Then, clean up the area and ensure no debris or nails are left in the yard.

If you followed these steps and took your time to follow manufacturer-specific instructions for installation, congratulations—you’ve successfully roofed a house! That wasn’t so bad, was it? And after installing a new roof on the house, you also know how the entire system works together, which makes repairs and replacement easier don’t the line.

In addition, DIYers can save a lot of money by doing their own roofing work, which puts you at risk of unseen damages or repairs due to poor workmanship.

We believe the one true way to avoid any issues with your roof is to call a professional contractor. The pros at First American Roofing, for example, are highly trained and always up to date on licenses, installation tactics, and the most recent best practices in roofing.

If you find yourself in the market for a new roof, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a FREE estimate! We can walk you through the steps it may take to install your new roof and offer you an estimate for us to get it done within a day. So let us take a load off your plate and roof your house for you. We’re here to help!