How to Replace a Roof: Expert Guide

By Amanda Lutz Updated January 30, 2024

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Before you replace your roof, assess how different variables—such as the type of materials you use—will impact costs. Installing a new roof is a complex process with many steps that you will need to meticulously complete to avoid water damage in your home. Read on to learn more about how the process works, as well as the benefits of working with an experienced roofing contractor.


How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Roof?

The cost of a new roof depends on many factors, including the type of roof shingles you choose, the roof’s size in square feet, and whether you’ll need to replace the underlayment. Take a look at the price per square foot of different materials to better estimate your potential roof replacement cost. The cost of installation is separate, and that can vary depending on whether you hire a roofing contractor or tackle a DIY roof project. The material type you pick will also impact roof installation prices.

MaterialCost / Square Foot
Asphalt shingles$4.25-$8.25
Flat roofing materials$5.50-$7.5
Corrugated metal$5.50-11.50
Aluminum shingles$6-$16
Cedar shingles or shakes$8-$14.30
Standing seam metal panels$10-$17.05
Steel shingles$10-$20
Concrete tiles$12-$20
Slate tiles$12-$22
Clay or cermaic tiles$12-$24.75

Roof Materials


Do You Have to Remove Your Existing Roof First?

Depending on your existing and new roof materials, you may be able to skip the removal process and lay a new roof directly over the old one. But it’s important to only do so if both the roof and underlayment are in good condition.

When to leave shingles in place:

When to remove old shingles:


When Is the Best Time to Replace a Roof?

Fall is the busiest time of year for roofing professionals because the weather is ideal for roofing projects; the cooler temperatures make it easier to work on a hot rooftop. There’s a lower risk of thunderstorms or rainfall compared to the spring or summer, and daylight hours aren’t too short to get in a full day of roofing work. Plus, completing your roof by the end of fall has your home sealed and ready for any winter weather. If you do opt to tackle a roof replacement in the fall, schedule your project early to ensure availability with your preferred roofing company.


9 Steps to Replace a Roof

Replacing a roof requires a fairly sophisticated level of skill, as well as some specialized materials and tools. Below, we outline what you’ll need and the steps you should take to replace your roof.

Materials:

Tools:

Step 1: Check Permit Requirements

Most local jurisdictions require a permit for replacing an entire roof. Before you start the project, find out how long the permit process takes, how much it costs, and when inspections are required. A professional roofing contractor may take care of these steps for you. 

Step 2: Remove the Old Roof if Necessary

Before installing a new roof, you must remove the entire old roof first. Rent a dumpster to simplify the cleanup process as you tear off old shingles. A roofing shovel makes the job easier and you can take off gutters and ridge vents at the same time. 

Step 3: Repair Damaged Sheathing

Check for any watermarks, rot, or other signs of damage on the framing under the shingles. You may also need new sheathing, which you must attach to the roof deck to serve as a foundation for your new shingles. 

Step 4: Install a Drip Edge and Ice Barriers

If you’re installing shingles on eaves or gables, you may need a drip edge to help direct water to the gutters. In areas with extreme winters, you may also be required to install ice barriers. These go on before the shingles. 

Step 5: Lay Paper

The next step is to install felt paper, which captures moisture between the shingles and the sheathing. Tack down the paper with either a stapler or roofing nail every foot, then overlap the felt sheets by four inches to maximize protection. 

Step 6: Add Flashing

You’ll need to add flashing in areas where there are peaks or valleys in your roof line, such as around chimneys or dormers. Use metal flashing, and seal it with caulk to prevent leaks.

Step 7: Install Shingles

Now it’s time to lay the roof shingles. Measure your roof in advance to make sure you have enough material. Then get started by installing a strip of starter shingles from the edge of the roof, moving your way up with the next layer of shingles. Use a chalk line to ensure straight lines. Most professional roofers use a pneumatic nailer to quickly get the job done. 

Step 8: Create a Roof Ridge

Once you reach a peak, create a ridge cap or vent. This is the final touch for a completely waterproof roof. 

Step 9: Finish Permit Inspection Process

The final step is to clean up and finalize the permit process. An inspector from your city or county will come by to evaluate the work before giving a final stamp of approval.


New Roof Care

After you install a new roof, take the proper measures to protect your investment. Here are three things to do each year to keep your roof in the best shape possible. 

Clean the Gutters

Gutters prevent water from damaging the structure of your roof and home. But if they get clogged with leaves or other debris, rainwater can’t move through and ends up sitting or backing up onto the roof. That can damage the shingles and eventually lead to roof leaks, causing unseen water damage throughout your home’s interior. 

Clean out the gutters at least twice a year in the spring and fall. Wait until most leaves have fallen before taking on this project in the autumn months. Then do it again after winter storms have passed and any potential debris has settled. If your roof is high or you’re pressed for time, hire a contractor to complete the job for you. 

Trim Overhanging Trees

Overhanging tree branches are another hazard that can cause severe damage to your roof. Not only can fallen limbs impact the structure of your home, but also ongoing scraping against your shingles can damage your roof. Plus, deteriorating leaves that accumulate on your roof can rot and cause mold and water damage.

It’s best to hire an insured arborist to trim your trees each year. That way, you’re not liable for any bodily injuries or property damage. The arborist will also ensure your trees remain healthy and attractive to maintain your home’s curb appeal.

Get an Annual Inspection

Hiring a roofer for an annual inspection is a low-cost way to maintain your roof and address minor issues before they escalate. According to Angi.com, the average cost of an inspection is between $125 and $342, depending on where you live and your roof’s size. The contractor looks for issues and repairs cracked shingles or removes any mold that’s growing.


Can You Replace a Roof by Yourself?

While it is possible to replace a roof by yourself, we would not recommend doing so. Most people do not have the proper skills or equipment to safely execute the project. You may save money on installation costs, but you’ll also need to rent or purchase specialized equipment such as safety gear, an air compressor, shingle cutters, and more. Also factor in disposal costs of your old roof materials, which costs up to $800 per week for large projects (via Angi). You may need to take days off from work to complete the project within a reasonable time frame.

Plus, remember that a full roof replacement typically requires that you go through a local permitting and inspection process. By hiring a professional, you’ll take those time-consuming responsibilities off your plate. Finally, a professionally installed roof ensures your homeowners insurance policy covers any related future damage, which may not be the case for a DIY job.


Our Recommendation

Even if you’re an avid home improvement DIY’er, roofing requires a large amount of skill and experience. Not only are there additional personal risks because of the height, but also the potential for damaging your home’s structural integrity is high. Consequently, we recommend hiring a licensed and insured roofing contractor who has the expertise and specialized tools needed to do a quality job and protect the investment you’ve made in your home.

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Roof Replacement FAQ

What materials are needed to replace a roof?

The materials needed to replace a roof depend on the type of roofing material you choose to use. For a shingle roof, you’ll need things such as caulk, drip edge, flashing, roofing adhesive, nails, underlayment, and the shingles themselves.

How do you figure out if it’s time to replace a roof?

You can figure out if it’s time to replace your roof by its age as well as red flags that appear. Most roofs last between 20 and 30 years, so you can replace it once it hits that age range. Otherwise, look for red flags such as light coming through the attic, broken or curling shingles, or granules of shingles in your gutters.

How long should a roof last?

A roof should last between 20 and 30 years if it’s made from asphalt shingles. Metal roofs last between 40 and 70 years, and slate shingles may last well over 100 years.