What Is the Roof Installation Process?

By Amanda Lutz Updated May 1, 2024

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Understanding the roof installation process is important, whether you’re considering doing the work yourself or you want to ensure you know what a professional roofing contractor is doing when they install your new roof. Our comprehensive guide walks you through the required tools and safety precautions, different materials for various regions and roof types, and the step-by-step roof installation process.

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Ribbed metal roof under a blue cloudy sky
Metal Roof

Metal roofs cost, on average, between $7,081 and $110,150.

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Brown concrete tile roof against a cloudy sky.
Tile Roof

The NRCIA reports that the average tile roof cost is $8,000 to $23,000.

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Dark asphalt tiles on the roof on a sunny day.
Shingle Roof

Shingle-style roofs cost, on average, $5,000 to $18,000.

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Safety Precautions

Installing a new roof can be dangerous. Two-story homes can be up to 30 feet high, and roofs may be steep depending on the roof style, making the surface difficult to walk on without falling. We recommend wearing safety gear and a harness while walking on your roof to reduce the risk of falls

The tools and roofing materials also require adequate safety precautions. We recommend wearing gloves and protective eyewear when handling shingles, as the cut edges can be sharp and the surfaces are coarse. Shingles may also release granules that can get in your eyes.

At a minimum, ensure you have gloves, protective eyewear, safety harnesses for walking on the roof, and kneepads for working on your roof.


Necessary Tools

The roof installation process requires tools, some of which you may already have in your garage. The necessary tools for installing a new roof include the following: 


Roofing Materials

Many roofing materials are available, and you should choose one based on your budget, location, and style preferences. For example, an asphalt shingle roof is a budget-friendly option, or you can install a clay tile roof for long-lasting protection against the sun and strong winds. 

Use the table below to compare common roofing materials’ benefits and drawbacks, cost, and life span.

Asphalt ShinglesMetal RoofingConcrete TilesSlate Roofing Clay Tiles
Average Cost (per square foot)$4–$15$4–$30$7–$9$7–$30$8–$22
Benefits– Many color and style options
– Cost-effective with a low initial cost and budget-friendly maintenance
– Built to withstand rain, wind, and sun exposure
– Lightweight and can be installed without the additional supports tile roofs require
– Energy efficient and eco-friendly because of materials’ ability to reflect heat energy
– Can increase a home’s value because of the demand for metal roofs
– Can last up to 60 years with routine maintenance
– Many design options, colors, and patterns available
– Low-cost alternative to clay tile
– Long life span of 100+ years
– Environmentally friendly materials that can often be recycled or reused
– Fire-resistant
– Durable, even with snow, high winds, and sunlight
– Can last up to 100 years (or longer with proper maintenance)
– Aesthetically pleasing red color
Drawbacks– Can crack, tear, rip, and break down over the years
– Less popular compared to more aesthetically pleasing, longer-lasting options
– Can dent, bend, and crack over time
– Can be vulnerable to damage depending on type, such as aluminum and copper 
– Heavy and will likely require additional supports built into the roof
– Can damage your home’s roof structure over time if installed incorrectly
– Not suitable in areas with hail storms due to direct impact damage
– Lengthy installation process
– Brittle and sensitive to impact damage
– Can be cost-prohibitive
Life Span 15–30 years40–70 years50–100+ years50–200 years50–100 years

You will also need underlayment materials such as water-resistant felt, decking if part of the underlying roof is water-damaged, and new flashing.


Installation Steps

The roof installation process can be completed within two days or take approximately one week, depending on the size and complexity of your roof. The process involves these steps: 

1. Assess Your Roof

This step involves inspecting your existing roof for water damage, damaged flashing, and other potential problems. You should measure your roof and calculate the number of roof squares to order materials. 

2. Obtain Necessary Permits

You will need a local city-level permit before you install a new roof. Your homeowners association (HOA) may also have specific rules and restrictions regarding what roofing materials and styles are allowed. A roofing contractor will handle this process for you and ensure your project complies with local building codes.

3. Prepare Worksite

Follow these steps to prepare the worksite: 

4. Remove Old Roofing Material

Remove the old materials before you install the new roof. This process is called a roof tear-off. Remove the flashing (and set it aside if you’re reusing it), the old shingles or tiles, and the underlayment. 

Take this opportunity to inspect the sheathing or roof decking, the edges of the roof, and the edges around the chimney and vents for damage. Replace the boards as needed before moving on to the next step. 

5. Install Underlayment

Underlayment is a supplemental layer of material, such as felt paper, between the wood roof deck and the exterior roofing material. The entire surface of your roof should be covered with underlayment nailed or stapled into place, and the edges should overlap to reduce the risk of leaks.

6. Install New Roofing Material

Start installing the new materials, moving from the bottom of the roof up through each subsequent row. Each row of material should cover the fasteners of the row below so there are no holes for rain to get through.

Installing the shingles along valley edges is tricky. There are different styles that roofers can use to create a seamless look or provide maximum protection against leaks.

Ensure each edge is sealed and held in place as you lay down the materials.

7. Perform Final Checks and Cleanup

Once the entire roof is covered, inspect each roof face for gaps, missed sections, or loose pieces. Then, gather up and dispose of excess material and trash. Whenever possible, keep a small amount of leftover materials to use in the event of future breakage. Also, reinstall the gutters and drip edges.


Professional Assistance

Installing a roof is hard work, and any mistakes can lead to leaks, expensive water damage, or pest infestations. We recommend hiring a professional roofing service unless you have DIY experience installing roofs. Call a roofing company to provide an inspection if your roof is old or has significant damage.

Roofing services can manage the entire roof replacement project on your behalf, including measuring your roof and ordering materials, removing the old roof, making repairs, and installing the new materials. 

Professional roofers also have liability insurance in case of a problem and can provide long-lasting warranties. The most valuable advantages of hiring a professional roofer for your roofing project are convenience, increased safety, and peace of mind.


Our Recommendation

When it’s time to install a new roof, you have choices. We recommend comparing the available roofing materials to pick the right one for your climate, typical weather, and budget. While some homeowners can install their roofs on their own, it’s generally best to work with a licensed, experienced contractor who can handle the entire process.


Roof Installation FAQ

How much does roof repair cost?

Roof repair costs between $400 and $2,000 on average. Repair costs vary depending on the roofing material and the extent of the damage.

What is the first step in the roofing process?

The first step in the roofing process is assessing your current roof. Look for signs of damage, measure the roof’s surface area, and consider any fixtures, such as flashing and vents, that may need replacement. Once you have assessed the roof, you can order materials or hire a contractor.

How many days does it take to install a roof?

It takes at least two days to install a new roof. Small, asphalt shingle roofs with no underlying damage are the fastest to install. Concrete tile roof installation can take much longer. Factors such as roof complexity, underlying damage, and the time it takes to order materials can stretch out the project.

Is installing a roof easy?

Installing a roof is not easy. It involves complex processes for removing the old roofing material, adding sheathing, installing the new materials, and ensuring the entire surface is watertight. We recommend hiring a professional roofing service to manage the project.

What are the best materials for roofing?

The best materials for roofing vary based on your climate. For example, clay tiles are durable, energy efficient, and strong but can crack if your area has hail storms. Asphalt shingles are less brittle and easy to replace but have a shorter life span than other materials. Homeowners should evaluate their options based on their property and location.