Periodically removing shingles and replacing them is necessary to extend the life of your roof and protect the interior of your home from water damage and more. Let’s get it out of the way right now: replacing shingles isn’t the cheapest home repair, but it’s worth every penny to avoid paying for the massively more expensive repairs that can result from a poorly maintained roof. And there are ways to make shingle replacement more affordable.
There are 2 phases to replacing shingles: removing the old shingles/prepping the roof and installing the new shingles. We recommend hiring professionals to put on your new shingles so that you can be sure they’ve been installed properly. But if you first remove the shingles yourself, you’ll pocket significant savings. Obviously, roofing prices vary widely by company and location, but on average you can expect to save between $1000-$3000 by removing shingles yourself.
But how to remove shingles? It’s hard work, but it’s completely doable if you plan right. We’ve laid it all out in a step-by-step guide that anyone can follow.
Step 1: Set a Date
It’s important to set a firm date for your shingle removal for two reasons. First, it’s important to lay new shingles as soon as possible after removing the old ones to prevent damage to your bare roof. So you’ll need to know when to tell your roofer to be there, if hiring a professional, or have several days free in a row if laying the new shingles yourself. Second, you’ll need a firm date to make sure the people you get to help you will actually be available on removal day.
Step 2: Decide Who Will Lay New Shingles
Before you remove your old shingles, you need to know whether you or a professional will be installing the new shingles. Again, we recommend going with a professional to make sure the job is done right, but it’s up to you.
If you’re going to hire a professional, now’s the time to start doing your research:
National Roofing Contractors Association: find roofing contractors in your area
Angie’s List: tips for choosing a roofing contractor
Step 3: Gather Your Crew
Even if you’re all amateurs, a small group (say 4 or 5 people) can remove an entire roof’s worth of shingles in a day if you get an early start and have planned everything out thoroughly ahead of time. Just make sure all the friends and family members you ask understand the hard work involved and are in good enough health to undertake that hard work. And be a good host—treat these Good Samaritans to some pizza for all their help! Save the beer for when the day’s work is done, though! You REALLY don’t want to take any chances when you’re working on a roof.
Step 4: Obtain Any Necessary Permits
Depending on your location and the size of the job, you may need to get a permit before moving forward with removing shingles and/or installing new shingles. Check with your city office to understand the requirements in your area. If a permit is required, getting it is usually a simple matter of going down to the city office with your plans for the project, having them looked over, and then paying the permit fee.
Step 5: Rent a Dumpster
Before you get to work you’ll want to rent a dumpster so you have an easy way to dispose of all your old shingles. Without a dumpster in place, you’ll make a huge extra job for yourself cleaning up your yard at the end of the day.
Before your dumpster arrives, clear a spot on your driveway where you will be able to toss shingles into it from the roof. The hauler may be able to place the dumpster in your yard if you want, but we strongly advise against this, since it’s very easy for a dumpster to cause damage to your lawn, especially when it’s being filled with heavy debris like shingles.
Resources for renting a dumpster:
Step 6: Assemble Your Tools & Materials
- Sturdy ladders
- Hammer (one per person)
- Hammer tacker (at least 2)
- Roofing nails
- Chalk line
- Pry bar (at least 2)
- Adjustable roof jacks (several)
- Ply wood sheets (enough to lean against roof jacks, plus several extra)
- Tarps (several)
- Garden fork and/or roofing shovel (one per person)
- Push brooms (at least 2)
- #30 Roofing felt
- Ice and water barrier
Step 7: Suit Up
Wear thick-soled shoes or boots with good grip to keep from slipping while moving around on the roof. Roofs get very hot, even on relatively mild summer days, so wear long pants and work gloves to protect skin. Because removing shingles will cause them to shed granules, you might also consider wearing goggles to protect your eyes. And of course, a safety harness is always a good idea when working in such a precarious environment.
Step 8: Prep Your Property
You want to ensure that any shingles or nails that miss the dumpster don’t cause damage to your property. Place plywood over your air conditioner (with the unit turned off) and against any windows near the dumpster. Lay tarps over shrubs or other landscaping elements around the perimeter of your house. Set up your ladders in the area where they are the most stable and the least likely to be bumped by anyone passing by. Finally, set up your roof jacks. Space them no more than 4 feet apart and drive nails through the roof sheathing into a rafter. Use at least 3 nails per jack. When the jacks are secured, add in plywood boards. This forms a barrier to keep removed shingles from sliding off the roof, and is also a safety measure.
Step 9: Go to Work
Start at the peak in the section of your roof farthest from the dumpster. Work your shovel or fork under the ridge caps and pry them loose. Allow them to slide down to the jacks.
Once you’ve pried up the caps, you’ll be working your way down the roof, removing shingles in 2-3 foot sections. Use the same method you did on the caps: work your tool under the shingles plus the felt paper beneath them, pry them up, and let them slide down to the jacks. For the moment, don’t worry if some nails get left behind in the roof. You’ll deal with those later.
When you’ve worked your way down to the jacks, gather the discarded shingles and toss them in the dumpster. Note: shingles are heavy. Especially if you had to remove multiple layers, even a small section’s worth of shingles will be very heavy. DO NOT overload yourself as you make your way to the dumpster. Take small armfuls in as many trips as necessary. You don’t want to risk stumbling and slipping as you move across the roof.
Now return to the peak and begin removing your next 2-3 foot section of shingles.
Step 10: Evaluate Flashings
Inspect flashings for signs of wear. If they are free of cracks and rust, you can reuse them with your new shingles. If they do show signs of wear, however, remove them and discard.
If you are keeping your flashing, remove the nails and bend it up and back with a pry bar to remove the shingles underneath.
Note: Flashing in valleys and around chimneys and plumbing vents usually has the same lifespan as your shingles, so you’ll want to remove it. Don’t do it just yet, though. You’ll return to this step after you’ve removed all shingles.
Step 11: Finish Removing Shingles
You’ve removed all the shingles down to the jacks on the part of the roof you’re currently working. Now it’s time to remove the jacks to remove the shingles under them. You can go about this in one of two ways.
Method 1: Spread a tarp beneath the roof section you’re working , allow the shingles to slide off the roof onto it as your pry them up, and then empty the tarp into the dumpster once you’re done.
Method 2: Loosen the shingles with your tool, pull them up by hand, and carry them immediately to the dumpster.
Step 12: Remove Valley and Vent Flashing
Once you’ve removed all the shingles on one part of the roof, it’s time to remove the flashing. Starting at the top of a valley, pry the flashing loose as you pull up, working your way downward. Pry the flashing from around all vents as well.
*Repeat steps 9-12 on all other parts of the roof. When your roof is completely bare, move on to the next step.
Step 13: Clean the Roof
Go back over each section of the roof, pulling out any protruding nails. As you go, inspect for damaged sheathing. If you come across any rotted or otherwise damaged sections, these will need to be replaced by the roofers (or you, if you’re particularly handy/ambitious) before new shingles go on. Next, sweep the roof clean with a push broom. Be careful: shingle granules are slippery. Move slowly and cautiously as you sweep.
Step 14: Install Ice & Water Barriers
Now it’s time to install ice and water barriers. To do this:
- Lay a chalk line 36 inches from the edge of the eaves. Note: if you have gutters, the barrier must cover all gutter flashing.
- Align the barrier with the chalk line and staple it every couple feet along the top edge.
- Lift up the bottom part and remove the backing.
- Let it fall back into place. The material will immediately adhere to the roof.
- Now lift the top section (the staples will easily pull free), remove the backing and lay it down carefully to avoid wrinkles.
- Move onto the next section, overlapping seams by 6 inches.
You’ll also lay barriers in all valleys and around chimneys, skylights, and other protruding roof features.
Step 15: Lay Felt
You’re in the home stretch now! Simply unroll your felt in sections and staple it down using lots of staples. Make sure you lay it flat, without bumps or ripples.
Step 16: Final Cleanup
Congratulations! You’ve succeeded in removing your shingles! Now, it’s just a matter of cleaning up. Check your gutters to make sure they’re not clogged with roofing debris. Remove the plywood and tarps that were protecting your property. Toss any stray shingles into the dumpster. If you rented a magnetic broom, run it systematically over your lawn to pick up any stray nails.
And that’s it. Now’s the time to have that beer with your helpers. You earned it!