A long overdue update, but it’s finally here: it’s time to shingle the roof. There are quite a few steps in preparation to this, so that’s why it took me so long. With that, let’s begin!
Tools needed: hammer, roofing nailer (optional), roofing nails, collated roofing nails (optional), tool belt (optional, but highly recommended), kneepads (optional, but highly recommended), utility knife, spare heavy duty or roofing blades, siding nailer (optional), miter saw.
Materials needed: trim boards, roofing felt paper or synthetic roofing felt (recommended), shingles, tack nails, finish nails, roofing nails or collated roofing nails (if using nailer), metal drip edge.
First, we need to put fascia on top of sub-fascia and run the trim under the roof on eve and rake ends. Get your trim boards, measure and cut. Use finish nails to put them in place, because we don’t want ugly nail caps shining through pretty trim. Besides, finish nails allow the trim to move as it expands and contracts with weather.
When working with trim, you need to be a little more precise with measurements and cuts than rough material. Every misalignment will now be visible, and every fuck-up will cost quite a bit more than getting another 2×4 and cutting it right.
Now that trim is installed, the next step is to put the metal drip edge on the eves to divert the water running down the roof away from the underside of the trim and the soffit. Metal doesn’t mind contact with water, but wood does.
Everything you do on the roof follows one simple principle: never let the water run under. So at the end of the eves, snip the edge, fold it up and nail to the sheathing board below.
Rule #1: Don’t fall off the fucking roof
Now it’s time to really get on the roof, so we need to gear up accordingly. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one major rule when working on the roof: don’t fall off the fucking roof. As a corollary to that, rule #2 is: don’t let your tools or materials fall off the fucking roof.
So, put on shoes with maximum friction and get a good tool belt with pockets for your nails, blades, tape measure, and, most importantly, a loop for your hammer (or your roofing nailer). Kneepads are optional, but recommended if you care about your knees or can’t squat for prolonged periods of time. By this time I went through my first pair of gloves that I purchased at the start of the project, so here’s a pro-tip: don’t buy expensive gloves, they will turn to shreds almost as quickly as cheap $10/pair ones. Luckily, Home Despot was running a sale on gloves, so I stocked up on three pairs for $10, which should see me through the end of this build.
We are going to lay out roofing felt as underlayment for the shingles.
This is FeltBuster – a new synthetic alternative to traditional asphalt and tar felt paper. It is $50 more than the paper, which is still available, but paper is slick as fuck, heavy as shit, and tears like fucking crazy if you aren’t careful where you are stepping. Fifty bucks for a chance not to fly off the roof and break my neck? Shut up and take my money. Synthetic felt is a lot less heavy, has excellent traction, practically impossible to tear, and it has all lines drawn up: both for the tack nails and shingles.
Start by laying the roll on the edge of the roof and continue to roll it out as you attach it to the sheathing with tack nails. This is where I discovered why sheathing should be placed with the grid facing up. I put some of the sheathing boards with the grid facing down, because it helped me align the rafters as I was nailing them in place. Professional contractors who were adding our new bathroom at a time checked my project out and quipped: “should have put them with the grid upside, man”. They decided not to elaborate on it seeing my perplexed face and left me with this: “in the end it does not matter, but you’ll see”.
Indeed, I saw. One side of sheathing boards – the one that does not have a grid on it – is waxed. I don’t know the reasons why they do it, but when I put my sheathing with the waxed side up, my roof became slick as fresh ice on a skating rink. I don’t handle heights, and standing on a slick roof, eight feet off the ground trying to roll out felt and align it with the very edge of the roof was the stuff of nightmares.
After felt is rolled out, we need to put rake drip edge over the felt and the edge of the roof. The idea is the same: divert water away from the trim boards and ultimately from seeping under the roof. Rake drip edge goes over the eve drip edge following a simple rule: always over, never under.
Stop! Hammer Time!
Every single nail up until to this point (excluding trim) was driven with a framing gun. Tacking nails (and roof in general) is a different beast, though. Driving nails into lumber is a hell of a job. I shot over a thousand nails while getting the frame up – my arms would fall off trying to get three-inch sinkers into wet studs. In roofing, however, there are tons of professional roofers who don’t use a roofing gun at all and nail everything by hand. You want to set nails just at the surface, not through felt or shingles, and at the right spot. A roofing gun requires expert handling, and what’s worse, it is contact-based, not trigger-based. Which means, every time you touch a surface – a nail is fired. Bad recoil and you let your gun bounce over the roof? Here are your twenty nails set in the same spot, next, please. So, all roofing was done with a good hammer and hands. No thumbs or other fingers were damaged in the process.
Tacking nails are set almost exclusively by hand. Out of curiosity, I found a tack nail gun on Amazon, but reviews were horrible. Of course, there’s also the cost of the tools involved. A good pneumatic nailer is $200. For a complete start-to-finish job you need four: framing, roofing, siding and finish nailer. That’s a thousand bucks right there. Unless you are a professional doing these jobs every day, you may want to consider swinging the hammer for a while to save on the tool that will only be used once. The most obvious candidates for cost savings here are roofing and siding nailers.
Once all drip edges are installed, we need to put starter shingles on eve and rake edges. Starter strips have adhesive on the bottom side that sticks to the drip edge and forms a seal that does not let water run under the roof edge if the wind is pushing it in.
Application is very simple: get the roll out align it with the edge to overhang 3/8 of an inch or so, and start rolling it out, while peeling away the backing plastic to expose sticky backside. Press firmly and let the strip settle. Done!
I love the small of asphalt in the morning. It smells like… end of project.
And now it is finally time to lay the shingles. I had two and a half packs of Elk Raised Profile shingles and a pack of Elk three-tab shingles left over from previous home owners, so onto the roof they go. Quite a bit of savings, too. I was able to cover one slope almost completely with the left-over shingles. Then I went to Home Depot… and went away empty-handed. As usual, when it comes to professional grade materials, your chances at Home Depot are 60/40. They may carry the good stuff, but in limited selection or out of stock. After all, they are 60/40 geared towards home owner repairs, not professional jobs. Luckily, my contractor guys left me with a full rolodex of pro-shops, so I purchased additional shingles at Western Roofing.
The shingles that were left by previous homeowners were a bit old: Elk does not exist anymore as a company, it was acquired by GAF that provides everything you need for roofing and water-proofing your home. Luckily, GAF retained most of the Elk product lineup, so the new shingles weren’t much different from the old ones except, there’s a lot less of them to a pack than in the old times. Just like with cereal, detergent and everything else, manufacturers keep the wrapping, but put a lot less into it. I covered one roof slope with two and a half old packs, and I needed five new packs to cover the other slope. What the what!
The smell of tar warmed up in the sun instantly brought memories of roofing our summer cottage back in Russia. Back then you would roll out asphalt-infused ruberoid (funny, this is actually a GAF product, I always knew it as a type of material), and then heat up tar in an old tea kettle over the fire until tar was liquid, and you would pour it over the seams on the roof to seal them in.
Shingles are laid out in a puzzle fashion so that there are no open seams and no exposed nails either: the next row completely covers the previous one. If you’ve done everything right, there are only two exposed nails on the whole roof: on the last ridge shingle. Those get covered with roofing mastic to prevent water seeping in.
When both slopes are done, it is time to do the ridge. I used the old three-tab shingles (that’s how they are supposed to be used) instead of purchasing special ridge shingles. Just tear up the tabs along perforated lines, fold and nail on the ridge.
Congratulations, your roof is complete! If you ever thought that you are overbuilding the rafters, all that thought will be gone by the time you are done. Shingles are heavy as rock (it’s asphalt, after all), so you get to appreciate the load your roof is carrying after you’ve done a hundred trips up and down the ladder carrying sheets of shingles to be nailed in place.
Now that the roof is done, we can move onto the next step: wrapping the shed in Tyvek tape for moisture control and installing windows and a door after that.