How to Roof a House (2024 Guide)

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 6, 2024

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There are many roofing materials to choose from, but asphalt shingles are the most popular. These shingles are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, making them the best option for do-it-yourself (DIY) roof installations. Other materials, such as metal or tile, require a professional installer. However, your roof is critical to your home’s structural integrity, so even basic roofing materials need to be carefully installed. We’ve provided step-by-step instructions for replacing a shingle roof as well as reasons why you might want to hire a pro.



Can You Roof a House Yourself?

About 60% of a new roof’s cost goes toward labor, so some homeowners may be tempted to take this project on themselves. Experienced DIYers may be up to the task, but this is a complicated home improvement project with a substantial safety risk. You must be comfortable spending several days working on your roof, climbing up and down a ladder, and carrying materials such as shingle bundles with you. Think carefully about whether this is a project you can take on.



Tools and Materials Required to Roof a House

Here are some of the tools and materials you’ll need to roof a house.


Air compressor


Caulking gun

Drip edge

Chalk line


Fall safety kit

Ice dam protection (optional)


Powdered chalk


Roofing adhesive

Nail gun

Roofing nails

Pry bar


Roof shovel


Shingle cutter

Tape measure

Tin snips

Utility knife



Safety Guidelines

If you’re thinking about attempting this project, read about roof and ladder safety before beginning. These are some basic guidelines to get you started; however, your project’s specifics may require additional safety measures.



Step-by-Step Roofing Instructions

The following steps apply to replacing asphalt shingles. Other roofing materials may require a different process.

1. Assess Your Roof

Begin by determining your existing roof’s condition to see whether you need repair or a full replacement. Minor damage and leaks can often be fixed, but widespread weathered, curled, or missing roof shingles are often signs that roof replacement is necessary. Roof sagging is typically a symptom of a roof deck structural problem. You’ll need to remove and replace the roof surface to fix it.

2. Obtain Necessary Permits

Replacing a roof involves making structural changes to a house, so you’ll need to get the proper building permits before you begin. Permit specifics and costs are location-dependent, so check with your local municipal building office to see what you need.

3. Tear Off the Old Roof

Once you have the proper permits, you can begin removing and disposing of the old shingles and underlayment. You can use a pry bar, but a roofing shovel will make this step faster. We recommend renting a dumpster and parking it beside your home so you can shovel old roofing materials directly into it. Remove ridge vents or gutters as you go. If they’re still in good condition, set them aside to reinstall later.

4. Make Any Necessary Repairs

Inspect the exposed decking for cracks, sagging, and water damage, which must be repaired before your roofing project can continue. Even if you’re tackling the project yourself, you may want a roofing contractor for this step since covering up structural damage with new shingles will only worsen the problem over time.

5. Install the Drip Edge and Ice Barriers

Not all roofs require drip edges and ice barriers, but they must be installed before anything else if you do need them. The metal drip edge helps direct water away from the roof and should extend out about 3/4 inches over the fascia. Secure the drip edge with roofing nails every 2 to 3 feet, ensuring the nails are hammered flush with the roof. If you live in a cold climate, you may need an extra barrier to prevent ice dams from forming in winter. This barrier is usually sold as self-adhesive sheeting that sticks directly to the roof deck under the flashing and shingles.

6. Lay the Felt Paper

Underlayment, such as felt paper, acts as sheathing between the roof deck and any moisture that creeps beneath the shingles. Start the first row about 1/2 inch up from the drip edge and tack the paper down with a roofing nail or stapler about every 12 inches. Overlap each row by about 4 inches to prevent gaps.

7. Install Flashing

The roof areas where edges meet—such as in valleys and around chimneys, dormers, and vents—are most likely to leak. You’ll need to line these areas with metal flashing and seal the edges with a caulk gun. Pieces of valley flashing can be cut to shape with tin snips, overlapped, and finished with sealant from roof peak to edge.

8. Install Starter Shingles

To lay the first shingles, you’ll start at the roof’s edge and work up. First, measure 11.75 inches from the drip edge, and drop a chalk line across the roof’s length. Since the first row of shingles won’t be visible, you can use a premade starter strip or make your own with a shingle cutter. To make your own, cut the tabs off enough shingles to make up the first row. Line up your starter strip or shingles so they overhang the drip edge by 1/4 inch and nail them down.

9. Install Second Shingle Strip

Move up to the next shingle row, offsetting the shingles horizontally by about 6 inches so that the tabs are staggered. Each three-tab shingle requires four nails, one above each tab groove. The nails should be inserted 3 to 4 inches from the shingle’s bottom edge, and the nails on either end should be no closer than 1 inch to the side edges. If you aren’t using a pneumatic nailer with an air compressor, then make sure you hammer each nail straight and flush so it won’t poke up into the next layer of shingles.

10. Nail Down Shingles

Keep working upward row by row, staggering tabs, until you reach but don’t exceed the roof peak. You’ll need to shingle both sides of any peak before moving on to step 12.

11. Add Ventilation

As you reach any ridge vents, replace and enclose them with flashing and sealant. Carefully cut the shingles to fit around them.

12. Create Roof Ridge

For the ridge cap at the top of a shingled peak, you can use the tabs you cut from the starter shingles or cut new shingles into tabs. Each tab will lay over the roof peak, overlapping the final row of shingles on both sides. The tabs should also overlap each other, from the roof’s center out to the edges.

13. Final Checks and Cleanup

Once the shingles have been installed, double-check that there are no gaps or exposed nails that could potentially form leaks. As you do, bag up any debris, scraps, and loose nails from the roof and the ground. Now, you can reinstall gutters and gutter guards. Consider hiring a roof inspector to ensure you’ve met all necessary building codes.



When to Roof a House

Unless you live in a very hot climate, the best season to roof a house is typically summer, when the weather is warm and the days are long. The weather should also be as dry as possible because the roof deck is susceptible to water damage when the shingles are removed. Check the 10-day forecast, and cover open areas with tarps when not working on them.



Professional vs. DIY Roofing Projects

Your roof is incredibly important to your home’s durability and value. Because of this, we recommend hiring professional roofers for any extensive roof work. Your roof needs to be able to withstand storms and high winds. Pro contractors have the expertise and tools to do the job correctly and quickly. Additionally, many roofing materials must be installed by a licensed contractor to preserve the warranty. Even if you’re handy, we recommend hiring a roofing company and factoring labor into your total cost.



How to Hire a Professional

Here’s what to look for when comparing roofing contractors.



Our Recommendation

You may be tempted to save money by roofing your house yourself, but professional installation is best to preserve your home’s structural integrity and resale value. We recommend getting at least three quotes from local contractors before hiring one. Start your search by filling out the form below to get an expert quote.

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Roofing a House FAQ

What is the easiest house roof to build?

Gable roofs, which have a simple design and a triangular shape, are the easiest to build. Asphalt shingles are the easiest roofing material to install.

What is the cheapest season to replace a roof?

Roofing contractors tend to charge less for labor during winter because it’s the offseason. However, you’ll need to live in a climate with mild winters to take advantage of this.

What type of roof lasts the longest?

Slate and copper roof tiles can last 100 years or more if properly maintained. However, the cost of a metal roof or a slate roof is far higher than an asphalt shingle roof, which lasts about 15 to 30 years.