DIY Roofing: 15 Tips & Tricks

DIY Roofing: 15 Tips & Tricks

Roofing continues to be one of the highest-paying manual labor jobs in America, and it’s because nobody wants to do it.

It’s also why it’s one of – if not, the – most expensive thing to repair in just about any home.

You want to take the DIY roofing approach. Save some money, get your hands dirty, and sleep under a roof saying “I literally built this.”

You want to be able to do that for your family. There’s nothing quite like knowing you physically put a roof over everyone’s head.

Here, we’re going to show you what you need to get started, and go over the nitty gritty details about DIY roofing that people just aren’t talking about.

How Hard is it to Replace Your Roof?

three workers replacing roof

Well, it’s not exactly easy.

There’s a reason why you usually have a team of two to six roofers doing it. You’re on a timeline: you have to get it done before the weather gets bad and rain comes down to ruin everything you’ve been working on.

It’s difficult to approach on your own, but those difficulties are very much yours: how big is your roof? What materials are you using? Do you already have all the necessary tools? Will you need to rent tools? Are you replacing the entire roof, orare you just fixing a few dozen square feet?

While nobody thinks that the associated costs increase the difficulties, they do.

You want to have every necessary tool at your disposal so you aren’t on a timeclock to return rented tools, and so that you’re not stressing out about the cost of buying new tools instead of focusing on the task at hand.

While it’s not easy, it’s definitely doable. Don’t approach DIY roofing if you don’t have the confidence in your abilities, or if you’re new to the world of do-it-yourself tasks around the home.

It’s still pricey, just not as costly as hiring a contractor, but at the end of the day having a fully repaired or refurbished roof is much better than having a stack of receipts from wasted money.

Is it DIY Friendly?

Roofing is definitely a DIY-friendly experience, but I wouldn’t advise someone who has never done DIY work before to pursue roof repairs or replacement as their first task.

This isn’t something that you do to get your feet wet: you need to have a basic understanding of how this works.

There’s actually a lot of educational material that you should inspect before you decide to get into DIY roofing. The world of warranties on roofing materials and shingles are very intricate, and it’s something you want to know about.

Not all roofing tiles are DIY-friendly, because if you install them yourself without licensing, you could mitigate the warranty life or completely render it useless. These could be ten, twenty or thirty year warranties we’re talking about: know what you’re getting into.

Tools Needed

Tools needed for roof repair

If you’re going to put the pedal to the metal, you need to secure all of your tools first.

This is a list of the basic tools you’ll need, but keep in mind that it’s also important to have worked out the new roof materials needed (plus 5% for a buffer) so that you’re not leaving an unfinished roof to go to the hardware store over and over again.

We want this to be efficient.

  • Shingle tear-off tool
  • Crowbar
  • Scoop shovel
  • Necessary roofing nail guns
  • Utility knife
  • Hatchet
  • Caulking gun
  • Air compressor
  • Hammer tacker stapler
  • Chalk line (200+ ft)
  • Tin snips
  • Cordless electric drill
  • Sawhorses
  • Tape measure

This is just a brief list of additional items that you should have on-hand to make cleanup and roof demo easier.

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Hard hats
  • Tarps and coverings
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shop vac
  • Extension cord
  • Generator

How to Secure Yourself While Working on the Roof

three point safety harness for working on roof

While roofing, you should always use a three-point harness.

These are most effective because they secure so much of your body with a small amount of material, so you aren’t horribly restricted and hindered from performing your tasks.

Once you have your established anchor point, you want to position your rope on it and leave the anchor hook nearby. Secure the two leg straps of your harness and tighten the buckle across the chest to the point that you feel comfortable.

You will need the assistance of another person to secure the anchor point to your harness ring, which is generally located near the top of your harness in the middle of your upper back.

It’s a DIY Friendly Project

Is it involved?

Yes.

Is it still going to cost you a pretty penny?

Yes.

If you have the tools, the aptitude, and the time to get it done, you can still save money and ensure that everything is done 100% accurately.

Just be sure to inspect the warranties on any roof tiles you buy, because some may not cover DIY installation for nearly as long as professional, licensed installation.

DIY Roofing Tips

1. You Can Only Layer Once (Most Times)

removing roof tiles with shovel

You can have two layers of roof tiles, but you cannot just remove the top layer and repave over it: you’re going to get air, moisture, and eventually a bigger problem across more areas of your roof. This applies to re-roofing certain areas of your roof, and not the entire thing.

When replacing the tiles, you can do two layers if you’re using the exact same tiles, and you’re very careful and precise with your cuts. This can cause a ridge gap, which you will need to account for during sealing, or it can just cause a slight bump in the way the roof looks.

In most cases, you can only add one layer of tiles or shingles to replace the repair spot because of the way they line up. It’s unlikely that you’re going to have the exact same tiles handy that were used on your roof, which brings us to our next tip.

2. Remove Satellite Mounts

satellite dish mount replace

This is directly centered around roofing, because if you leave these up and reroof anyway, you could actually void your warranty. If you find shingles that allow for DIY installation with a warranty still intact, you want to do everything you can to abide by that warranty.

Mounts for HD antennas and satellite dishes are usually going to void that warranty.

If you’re still getting your satellite service through a cable provider, and they’re technically owners of the satellite, then you need to contact them to remove or move the satellite to a new location on your property where you can still get good reception.

3. Don’t Use a Pressure Washer

Rooftop shingles and tiles can get very dirty, but using a pressure washer is a surefire way to cause more problems.

I once saw a video of someone showing a DIY roof installation (about 35 minutes worth of content), and he even showed the cleanup… but he used a pressure washer, and damaged the roof tiles.

You’re removing part of the lifespan on the tiles, which voids the warranty, but also causes deep-rooted damages that can lead to leaks later on in your roof’s life.

Instead, use zinc strips on the peak of your roof if you’re dealing with moss (rainwater will drag it through the moss on your roof), or consider using a sanitizing solution of one part water, one part white distilled vinegar if you’re trying to return a luster to your roof.

4. Spray to Find Leaks

find leaks with water spraying on roof

Just because a leak is in the living room doesn’t mean it originates on the roof section located above your living room. In fact, it’s almost never that easy.

Take your garden hose, and provided you aren’t going to hit any power lines, send some water up onto your roof. Spray in different directions until you can see where water is seeping in underneath the tiles.

You’ll want to be harnessed properly and on the roof to inspect it closely while doing this. Your garden hose might be the very best way to detect a leak.

5. Roof Boots Come First

ventilation and plumbing boot

If you have a leak that’s centered around a chimney or a pipe, you have rubber roof boots that come up from the tiles to press against the item in question.

Check your roof boots by removing them and inspecting any dry rot underneath or moisture, and deal with that appropriately. You may only need to remove your roof boots instead of removing an entire section.

Again, you might have to use the spray trick up here since a skylight leak doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dripping near the skylight indoors.

6. Check for Cracks

worker cheking on roof repair

When you nail down a shingle, even if you do it properly with a powerful finish nailer, you might see some cracks.

This is normally due to faulty tiles, but this is a surefire way to endure further roof damage in the not-so-distant future. Remove the shingle, replace it with another, and inspect it thoroughly as you apply it.

In a pack of shingles, you’re bound to find one or two duds, or maybe hit them at an incorrect angle with your nailer. It happens, just be vigilant of it.

7. Seam Check

When you’re coming to a close and you’re adding cement putty to certain areas, check the seams of all your roof tiles. This is your last check: you’re just making sure everything lines up properly.

Apply extra putty as needed, and don’t be shy to do it. This isn’t about aesthetics: you just want everything to be sealed up tight, and a few seam splits are bound to happen during a DIY roof repair or replacement.

8. Clean Those Gutters

clean gutters with brush

Gutters can cause some major damage to your roof. This isn’t about actual roofing or replacing the tiles, but it’s still important to know because it can cause leaks in the roof.

When the gutters get very weighed down, they can create cracks or breaks in the side of your roof seams. Clear these out on a constant basis to ensure your DIY roof repair job doesn’t end up in shambles.

9. Wear Rubber Soled Shoes

Nothing builds great traction like rubber. It’s used in work boots, running shoes, and tons of footwear that people use when they want to get a job done right.

Rubber helps you stay put when you want to, which could either be on newly installed tiles or shingles, or on the wrap on your roof while you’re moving around.

During DIY roof repair, you might end up using tarps and sandbags to weigh them down (commonplace in Florida just before hurricane season), and that’s okay: rubber helps keep traction on these as well.

10. Rubber on Metal Flashes

rubber on metal flashes

Your flash around a chimney or pipe might actually be made of metal, not rubber. You’re going to see rubber around skylights more than anything else, but metal flashes can still provide leaks if they’re not screwed down properly.

You can use rubber washers on the screws you put into the corners of your metal flashes, but you can also use rubber just underneath the metal flash to keep it secure.

The problem with metal flashes in general, and why DIY roofers hate them, is that they can retain their shape with changes in the weather, but over time your roof shingles underneath can warp and create gaps between the metal.

It’s not a pretty sight, which is why you’ll commonly see people mention that they should inspect these at least once a year.

11. Curling Shingle Trick

Curling roof shingles can be a pain to work with. To help flatten them out and make them easier to position underneath other shingles, you can heat them first with a heating gun to actually soften them.

This works great if the shingles are thinner and very brittle, because they won’t crack or split when you do this.

During the process of flattening them out, you’re going to take your time. Heat guns are a whole different thing to learn, so take your time to ensure you’re having the shingles correctly and not overdoing it.

12. Pry Carefully

removing tile with pry bar

You don’t want to just start using your pry bar in a random spot. If you’re just reroofing a certain spot, you’ll actually want to start with a utility knife to start cutting out the specific spot.

This is where having a chalk line and tape measure are going to come in handy. When you pry, don’t do it with too much force, even if the shingles are giving you trouble.

They were installed to last, and even though you’re removing them to repair the area, the problem might not be the nails and cement that kept them down. You don’t want to damage your roof more by doing this, so take it slow.

13. Get Permits

Yes, you need them, even for a small repair that’s only supposed to take four hours. Even if you’re doing it on a Sunday when nobody really pays attention to that stuff.

You don’t know what nosy neighbor is going to poke and pry and say, “Hey, where’s your permit for that?” Some people have nothing better to do, and they’ll actually do this.

Worse: they’ll see that you haven’t posted a permit in your window or on your door, and just call the city instead.

14. Rent a Dumpster

big dumpster for roof material

For a full roof repair where you’re replacing the entire thing, you’re going to build up a lot of garbage from the debris, gutter garbage that you’re sure to clean out, and the tiles/shingles themselves.

It adds up, and you don’t need additional cleanup on top of everything else you’re doing. Instead, rent a dumpster and get it put in your driveway.

You can even get enormous cloth dumpsters that are cheaper to rent and haul away, and for these you just have to purchase them outright (about 30% the cost of a dumpster rental) and make a call for someone to pick it up with ramps at a later date.

That way you don’t have to worry about being on a rental time slot.

15. Take a 15-Hour OSHA Course

While you’re not going to use everything in it, it’s better to have this information handy.

You want to account for every potential problem, and if you have a friend or in-law helping you out on the weekend, you want to know that everything you’ve done to preserve safety is OSHA approved in the unfortunate event of them getting involved.

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