Roofing Work

Cleaning up the job is more than just a matter of aesthetics. Gently sweep down the roof as you finish each section. You won’t be able to see all of the flaws in the shingles or the “fish mouths” while you are standing on the roof.
Have someone on the ground sight up the slope of the roof and direct you to the raised shingles. You can help the person on the ground by holding your hammer vertically down on the roof and standing to one side. Lift the raised tab and remove any trash or loose grit and drive down the nail if it isn’t seated flush with the surface of the shingle. Remove all scrap pieces so they don’t stick down to or get stepped down into your new shingles. Don’t wait until you have done the whole roof to do the detail cleanup. If you wait, you may discover that the tabs are already sealed down, and some scraps have stuck to and stained your new shingles.


Clean the gutters and downspouts well. Clean the gutters using a narrow horsehair brush and a piece of step flashing. Flush the gutters out with a garden hose. The hose gets all the dirt out of the gutter and guarantees that the downspouts are clear. Scoop up any grit, nails, and scraps at the bottom of the downspout.

If the downspouts are blocked with leaves or dirt, there is one very effective way to clean them out. Stuff the nozzle of the hose down the top of the downspout and jam rags in around the hose to seal the top of the downspout tight. Then have someone on the ground turn the hose on full force. You will get wet and spattered with dirt, but the water pressure will blow the crud out of the bottom of the downspout. If water pressure won’t clear the blockage, hold the hose and rags with one hand and beat on the side of the downspout with the heel of your other hand. That, combined with the water pressure, should shake things loose. If that fails, try a plumbing snake. If that fails, get ready to take the down spout apart.

Nail: Some roofers will clean your gutters down far enough that you can’t see any trash sticking up from the ground. The first heavy rain shifts that trash to the outlet into the downspout and your gutters flood. Some blocked gutters back the water up over the fascia and into the house.

Nail: I have heard roofers say they cleaned up any shingle scraps or nails that they caused to roll into the gutter. They left anything else where it was. If the gutter was loaded with dirt and rotten leaves, it wasn’t their problem. They had cleaned up their own mess and left the gutters the way they found them. If I told them what I thought, they said, “I never said I’d clean out no gutters.”

Nail: Several years ago, a guy I was training did an amazingly fast job of cleaning some heavily loaded gutters. I checked his work. The gutters looked good. When I washed out the first gutter, water spilled out everywhere. He had jammed as much of the shingle scrap and nails as he could down the downspouts rather than taking the trouble to lift the trash from the gutter into the bucket. I had to take a few of the downspouts apart, but I finally got every-thing cleaned out.

Tighten the spikes and ferrules on your gutter. Use the flat side of your hammer to drive the spikes down snug. It will save you dinging the gutter. If your roof was a tear-off and there are scrap and nails behind your gutter, partially loosen the entire gutter by tapping out on the inside top of the gutter with the side of your hammer. Shake the gutter vigorously so the trash will fall out from behind it. You may have to run a screwdriver up in behind the gutter to loosen the roofing nails that have wedged into the wood of your fascia. Now tighten the spikes.


Clean the ground thoroughly. If you had to throw tear-off on the ground, you will never clean up all of the loose grit. The grit will eventually work into the ground. However, you don’t want to step on an old piece of self-sealing strip on a sweltering summer day and then walk across the light carpet in your living room.

Pick up every nail you can find. A yard rake will turn up nails you missed the first time. There is also a tool called a nail rake, which you might want to rent. It is a heavy-duty 30-inch bar magnet suspended on wheels. Mine worked great at picking up galvanized nails, but of course it won’t help you with aluminum or copper nails.

Nail: A poor roofer will often ignore a loose nail on the ground or try to stomp a nail down into the grass or dirt. The roofing nails from your old roof are galvanized. They aren’t going to rust away. The blade speed on a rotary power mower is approximately 3,000 rpm. When your mower blade sucks up that nail and fires it, the top of your foot or shin may suffer the most painful “nail” of all.