A fiberglass asphalt roof does the best when it is disturbed the least. The shingles do “cure out” after they have been laid a few months. The grit is less likely to scuff off after the roof has aged a little.

However, every time you walk on it, a little bit of grit lets go and a little bit of cracking might occur at the edges of the tabs. It’s not disastrous and it’s not usually noticeable. But you don’t want to get in the habit of taking a daily walk on your new shingle roof.

When you do get up there, don’t step or stand on your caps. You have them double-overlapped and securely fastened, but why ask for trouble. (I got one reroofing job because the youngster in that house watched parades while standing on the peak of the lower roof. Several buckets were strategically placed in their family room when I got there.)

Don’t step in your double weave valleys and risk cracking a shingle. Don’t step in your metal valleys; your print might stay in the metal as a reminder.


I have already mentioned the roof leak caused by pine needles blocking a valley. Leaks can also occur because of clogged gutters and/or downspouts. If the roof is not too steep, clean the gutters from the roof. If you hose the gutters out, try to keep the shingles above the gutters as dry as possible. If you get careless on wet shingles, they will throw you in a heartbeat. If you’re standing above the gutter and you slip, there is no room to recover.


You can unclog a downspout by pushing a garden hose down through the outlet from the gutter into the top of the downspout. Pack around the hose with rags and hold everything in place. Have someone on the ground turn the hose on full blast. The pressure should clear the downspout. If it doesn’t clear, beat on the side of the downspout with the heel of your hand. That, combined with the water pressure, should break the clog loose. If that fails, try the same procedure from the bottom of the downspout. Sometimes the upward pressure works.

If water pressure fails, you will have to disassemble the downspout to clear it. If the sections are held together with rivets, you can drill out the rivets, clear the blockage, and re-rivet the downspout together.


Gutter screens cover the tops of your gutters. They run down the gutters lengthwise and fit beneath the lip on the front of the gutters and beneath the overhanging bottom edge of shingles. Screens do some good and may keep your gutters open an extra year. You will pay for it in aggravation and nicked hands when you do finally have to clean the gutters.

I’ve seen enough of gutter screens to last me forever. But I shouldn’t complain. I got some roofing jobs because the customers had small trees growing up through their gutter screens.


I had one tab delaminate and go bad in ninety roofs. Sometimes a tab is damaged by a limb. To replace a tab lift up the tabs above the damaged tab. You can usually raise a tab with your fingers. However, if a tab is sealed down tight, slide a bricklayer’s mortar trowel (or similar flat blade) under the tab to break it loose. Pull the nails out of the tabs above the damaged tab. (This will let you slide the replacement tab in place.) Once the tabs above the damaged tab are raised, pull the nails from the damaged tab.

Use a hook blade to cut the damaged tab loose. Start the cut as near the top of the damaged shingle as you can, and cut down to the center of the keys of the damaged tab. You will probably end up pulling the loose pieces free with your fingers. Slide the new tab in place, nail it, and re-nail the old shingle you left in place above the damaged tab. You should mastic down all the disturbed tabs.


Shingles crack and tear and can get nail pops toward the end of their useful life. Don’t try to replace tabs in a very old roof. Drive the nails back down flush and mastic over these nails, also mastic the cracks in the shingles. Check the caps and mastic any cracks that are developing directly over the ridge. If leaking is occurring along a wall or at the comer of a chimney, careful application of mastic may carry the roof a little longer. Cracks in a cement chimney cap can also be sealed with mastic. If you have a collection of these kinds of problems, you know you have waited too long to replace your roof.


There are some coatings available for shingle roofs. These might buy you some time, but you can probably guess how I feel about them. The coatings generally are going to make it harder to tear your roof off when the inevitable time comes. You are going to pay for the coating, and you are going to pay a premium again if you hire someone to tear off and reroof your home.


If you keep trash from accumulating on your roof and keep branches cut back so they don’t rub the roof, your fiberglass/asphalt shingle roof should be virtually maintenance free. Keep the gutters and downspouts clear and the spikes driven in snug.


Remember, if your house only has one roof on it, you can overlay it. An overlay works best when the old shingles are still lying flat and haven’t started to crunch underfoot like cornflakes and crumble into tiny pieces. It is better to overlay two years too early than to wait one year too long and have to do a complete tear-off.


You need a new roof when:

1.   The shingles are brittle and crumbling underfoot.

2.   The shingles are cracking, and you see extensive nail pops.

3.   You find pieces of shingle in your yard.

4.   You can see extensive areas that look swollen at the comers, or the shingles have obvious “bear claw” curling.

5.   You have a leak or leaks showing inside the house, and your roof is getting toward the end of its life. Often, your roof will leak for awhile before it shows up inside. Check your attic. Don’t be surprised if you find rotted sheathing.

6.   Sections of shingles have lost most of then-protective grit.

7.   You notice recurring leaking around potential trouble spots, such as valleys, chimneys, or vent flashing.

There may be some other troubles peculiar to your specific roof that, make you think you need to replace it. If you have that feeling, follow your instincts. You are now knowledgeable about roofing, and you are probably right to think you need a new roof.

Summary of Sequence of Work

The following are step-by-step condensed lists of the sequence of work for (1) a tear-off, and (2) an overlay.


1.   Order materials and have all materials on the job before tearing off the first shingle.

2.   Check to make sure you received the correct materials, including the type and quality of shingles and the color.

3.   Check blend numbers on the ends of the bundles to make sure they are all the same. If you have a few odd-numbered bundles, move them to the least visible roof now.

4.   Cut away any overhanging limbs.

5.   Paint any walls or trim above a section of roof.

6.   Repair or replace cement cap on brick/stone chimney.

7.   Wire brush and spray (high heat paint) metal chimneys.

8.   Rough clean the gutters.

9.   Tear off the roof of a free-standing garage or shed and reroof it first to gain the experience.

10.  Start on the section of roof on the house that is farthest from your truck or trash pile.

11.  Start tearing off on the other side of the ridge of the roof you want to remove. Work up the other side to tear off the two courses, felt and caps.

12.  Standing on the ridge, get your “shingle eater” or spade under the top of the felt and shingles on the section of roof you are working on. Work your way back and forth across the roof, raising the shingles and working them free. Stay up on the clean sheathing to have the safest footing. Keep the trash cleaned up and sweep the sheathing and old sections of roof to keep the grit off.

13.  “Roll” up the old roof as you tear off along the gutter.

14.  Remove old roofing nails or drive them down flush. Remove any old scrap pieces of roofing.

15.  Replace or add sheathing nails (8d nails) and drive down any that are pulled partway out.

16.  Replace rotted sheathing and repair or replace sagging or rotted rafters.

17.  Rough clean the gutters again.

18.  Take a break and drink lots of water!

19.  (Optional) Install aluminum drip edge along the fascia or lower edge of the roof. Mark and notch the short leg of the drip edge and bend the notches up to make room for the spikes and ferrules of the gutter.

20.  (Optional) Roll out and adhere “ice shield” to the sheathing along the lower edge of the roof. The ice shield should cover the upper leg of the aluminum drip edge.

21.  Roll the first run of No. 15 felt out along the lower edge of the roof. The lower edge of the felt should extend over the lower edge of the sheathing. If you used drip edge, the felt should extend over the edge of the drip edge over the gutter.

22.  If you use ice shield, cover it with the first run of felt so you don’t have to work on the slick surface.

23.  Start the felt with a “pivot point” of staples. Keep the staples set horizontally for maximum strength. Bump the roll on the far rake to get a mark for a straight cut. Turn the roll and come back across the roof, making sure you maintain a 2-inch vertical overlap. When the roll ends, the new roll should start with a 6-inch horizontal overlap of the old roll.

24.  Shape all-lead flashing to fit down over the plumbing vents. In the event of a sudden storm, you can mastic a “donut” around the pipe and seat the flashing down into place.

25.  Slice and patch any large wrinkles in the felt.

26.  Overlap the ridge of the roof with the felt, making sure the felt extends down over the tops of the old shingles on the roof on the other side.

27.  If rain is threatening, move the piles of shingles from the ridge down to the old section of roof on the side opposite the one you are working on. Now overlap the felts over the ridge.

28.  Pop verticals — base line and offset. Get them toward the center of the roof. Stay away from piles of stocked shingles so you can pop the lines all the way to the ridge.

29.  Pop horizontal lines.

30.  Stock the roof by spacing the bundles of shingles on the roof. Drop one end to break the bundles. Naturally, you want the finished side up and the tabs pointing down the roof.

31.  (Optional) If you are using an air gun, tie your hose off to a plumbing vent, chimney or a pile of bundles so you aren’t pulling against the weight of the hose all day. Stock a coil of nails above each bundle.

32.  Begin the “starter course” at the baseline. The tabs point up the roof and the top of the shingle hangs out over the fascia board or gutter. Carry the starter course completely across the roof.

33.  Start the “first course” at the offset line and lay the shingles directly over top of the “starter course.”

34.  Lay your second course starting at the base line again.

35.  Cut off some of the extra weight of shingle hanging over the rake. Trim the rake once this section of roof is completed.

36.  Have a spotter on the ground direct you to any “fish mouths.” Snug the nails flush with the shingle and remove any grit or scrap that is keeping the shingles from lying flat

37.  Get a good night’s sleep.


1.   See steps 1 through 8 on the above list.

2.   Don’t disturb the old caps until you have shingled both sides of the roof up close to the caps. Don’t disturb the old plumbing vents until you are ready to replace them.

3.   Notch the rakes top and bottom and pop a line. Cut off the old shingles overhanging the rakes.

4.   Pop a line above the fascia and cut off the old shingles overhanging the fascia (gutter).

5.   Measure 11 inches above the fascia and cut off the old shingles overhanging the fascia (gutter).

6.   Measure 1OV2 inches above the fascia and pop a line across the old shingles. This is the line for the top of the starter/first course.

7.   Pop verticals — the base line and offset.

8.   Lay the starter course shingles from the base line. The tabs point up the roof and the top of the shingle lies out over the fascia or above the gutter. Lay the starter course all the way across the roof.

9.   Lay the first course directly over the starter course, beginning at the offset line.

10. Lay the second course beginning back at the base line.

11. Cut excess weight off the shingles at the rake. Trim the rake when the section of roof is finished.

12. Have a spotter on the ground direct you to any “fish mouths.” Snug the nails flush with the shingle and remove any grit or scrap that is keeping the shingles from lying flat.

When the roof is done, be sure to send the warranty information to the manufacturer. If you tore off a cedar shake roof, notify your insurance company so they can lower your premiums.