DIY Roofing
July 20, 2004 3:26 AM   Subscribe

Roofing filter day

My wife has decided that we need a new roof and that we're going to do it ourselves. I'm not opposed to this, well, okay I am, but stilll....

How do we price this out for ourselves? Any denizens or askmefi have any experience in this? We have asphalt shingles now and will stick with same.

My wife says thanks in advance.
posted by damnitkage to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just spent a weekend helping a friend install shingles. I can tell you what not to do because of this experience :P

Spend money on good quality shingles, not seconds. Many of the shingles he got were no good, many of the no good ones ended up being installed anyway. He'll need to redo it in several years. I won't help again.

If you have a steep roof make sure that you're really comfortable working on it. My friends place has a steep roof, because of the previously mentioned cheap shingles it was more treacherous than normal. The grains on the shingles were not at all well adhered and once you start slipping on a steep roof, well, stopping is difficult. Strained muscles are easy and if you don't manage to stop in time you'll be in even worse shape.

Spend some money on knee pads, you'll be thankful after you're done.

If it's a really large job you'll have to break it up into sections. Make sure that the sections are in chunks conveniently sized to be finished before the rain comes. My friend didn't do this, he started working on the roof over his house, then moved to the garage for some stupid reason and the rain came. Since he stored a lot of stuff in his attic there was a lot of water damage.

My number one gripe with helping friends: Have everything ready, jobs take many times longer when you run out of shingles, nails and plywood or have to root around for the hammer or if the ladder is insanely unsafe and you have to make a "quick run" to get a new one.
posted by substrate at 4:49 AM on July 20, 2004

Response by poster: So noted. We're just beginning to explore this sisyphean task, so we'll use your suggestions and hints as a primer. Thanks substrate.
posted by damnitkage at 5:08 AM on July 20, 2004

Are you sure you still wanna go with asphalt? There are some metal roofing systems nowadays that look like asphalt, but are hella easier to install and last longer too.
posted by aramaic at 7:11 AM on July 20, 2004

rope, secure attachment point, climbing harness.

my dad fell off a roof (it's his job) and smashed his heel. it's not pleasant.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:25 AM on July 20, 2004

I did roofing for my father from the age of 6 to 18.

To price it, take your roof's measurements to your equivalent of a lumber yard and let them tell you.

How deep do you need to go? Just paper and shingles? Any deeper and you should hire a pro.

With your inexperience, time and the weather will be your biggest problems. I don't know the size of your roof, but if average, and just you two working, I would plan for about 80 to 100 man-hours.

Rain and sun will be your biggest enemies. Rain is obvious, but too hot a sun will make new shingles difficult to walk on. Your shoes will scuff them easily.

To remove the old shingles: Each of you need a good pair of heavy work gloves. While you can buy flat-bladed scrapers, I found a flat-end shovel works better because you can get more leverage. Place a tarp on the ground to catch the old shingles.

To install: Try to rent an air stapler; Few things are funnier (to me) than amateur nail-pounders. Minimum tools needed are a hammer (even if you use a stapler), a rule, a utility knife and a chalkline. I may be forgetting something, so consult the lumberyard.

For safety, I strongly recommed you invest in some roofing brackets. They are fairly inexpensive compared to the expense of falling off a roof. These nail to the roof under shingles already installed, and you lay 2x6s across them to walk on. If you look, you may find the larger ones that support 2x8s.

Wear a hat and long jeans. If you do wear shorts, don't come crying to me. Shoes are your call; for me, work shoes seemed to have more traction than sneakers.

Oh, and did I mention flashing? No, I guess I haven't. Add flashing tin, shears, and sealer to the list. And starter strip. This would be a good time to consider cap vents.

Finally, before you decide to tackle this, go to the lumber yard and hoist a bundle of shingles on your shoulder. If your roof requires 20 yards, you will be toting 60 bundles up a ladder. Even if you think you are in good shape, you will be using new muscles. By the time this is finished, your back and your ankles will be howling.

PS: Divorce lawyers LOVE do-it-yourself home projects like this. ;-P
posted by mischief at 7:59 AM on July 20, 2004

Just be careful not to end up like that guy who took some nail gun rounds to the skull.

Check the weather beforehand. Nothing worse than scattered thunderstorms while climbing ladders.

Make sure you get the dumpster fairly close.

Tarps with some saw horses to cover the shrubs, and AC unit.

Shingle removing shovels work well if you can get larger segments to stay pieced together rather than thousands of smaller pieces. Makes clean up a little easier.

Pace yourself. Know what can be done given the conditions. 130 degrees on a roof at 10am can make you wish you slept in.
posted by brent at 8:08 AM on July 20, 2004

Heh. I was about to say...

Aaah, roofing. The only time I've had to do roofing work, I'm not sure how hot it was because my thermometer only went up to 140F. At 9 or 10 AM. In ~100% humidity. Luckily I had no skills whatsoever and was just the Shingle Monkey.

Finally, before you decide to tackle this, go to the lumber yard and hoist a bundle of shingles on your shoulder

I'd suggest buying a 50-pound bag of ready-mix and taking that up to the roof. Lug it around for an hour or two in 120+ degrees. Get down on all fours and shove it to and fro for an hour or two while the shingles cook your knees. More to the point, get your wife to do this, since it's her idea.

Only if you're okay with doing that for a solid week, or more, should you try it yourself.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:25 AM on July 20, 2004

Response by poster: Good lord, Thanks everyone for the advice. I'm thinking that since it was her damn idea, I should just mill around and drink beer. We've had friends that have done it, but one of them was in fact, a roofer at some point in his life. "It's easy" she says....
posted by damnitkage at 8:32 AM on July 20, 2004

Think twice about asphalt. Run-off from your roof will result in tar-water in your garden, not, if you are growing any vegatables or fruits, what you want to eat. Try a metal roof or metal shingles instead.
posted by zia at 8:34 AM on July 20, 2004

I re-roofed my garage a couple of years ago. It reminded me why I went to University.
posted by Daddio at 9:49 AM on July 20, 2004

I think the beer-drinking idea is the way to go.

There are jobs well worth paying for. Gyprocing and roofing are two of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2004

Shingle removal. I've done this with a pitchfork and a helper. Work horizontally across the roof, starting at one end. Ram the pitchfork under the shingles at the end under the tar paper and along the ply, hopefully you can lever them up using the handle end of the pitchfork. Once you get a couple of feet loose, the other person, who is standing faces you, reaches down and grabs the free end of the shingle/tarpaper sandwich, lifts and gently pulls it towards themselves, taking care not to snap the shingles. This gives you more space to ram the pitchfork further under.

After a couple of goes, the person facing you should be able to start 'rolling up' the shingle/tarpaper mix. Kind of difficult to get going, but when it works, its beautiful, as you just walk forward with the pitchfork, and your mate walks backwards rolling up the shingles. Get to the other end, and just toss it into the yard.

Other stuff: nail small horizontal battens at two-three foot intervals; this can give you something to step on, and will hold your hammer and nails as you work (rather than seeing them slide down and off of the edge of the roof).

Laying tarps on the ground is good unless you want to spend ages raking small bits of shingle and nails out of your lawn.

Get the dumpster as close as possible to the house, hopefully you can toss the shingles straight in. Every lift-carry-drop will cause removed shingles to disintegrate into thousands of increasingly smaller pieces.
posted by carter at 10:00 AM on July 20, 2004

More thoughts:

This may not sound like much but use two ladders, more if you have access to them.

BTW, how many tools do you currently own?

Don't skimp on changing blades in the utility knife. Dull blades are a recipe for personal wounds. Also, cut the shingles fully through; scoring and breaking (ripping) looks like shit.

Check the warranty on the shingles. Installation by an amateur could void it.

If you can put this off until September, the heat may not be so bad.

Two jobs I would leave to professionals are drywalling and roofing.
posted by mischief at 10:37 AM on July 20, 2004

"It's easy" she says....


Seriously. Flee.

I did roofing work for 2 summers in college, and it is NOT "easy". Once you get the hang of it, it's not devastatingly difficult, but it is still very hard work. Others have alluded to it, but I will state it flatly: the temperature on the roof can range from 50-75 degrees above the ambient temperature. Take your average summer temp and do the math. Whatever the resulting number, it's really, really hot. Be sure to drink lots and lots of water - it's easy to get dehydrated (with all that entails).

Finally, part of "getting the hang of it" includes (at least it did for me) ripping up the first couple of rows you put down because you didn't know how to properly align the shingles. My foreman pulled me off the roof and made me look at my attempt from the ground - my 1st try looked like some Parkinson's victim's attempt to draw parallel lines. Not much fun, even if you are getting paid by the hour (I was, you aren't).
posted by Irontom at 11:02 AM on July 20, 2004

What ROU_Xenophobe and mischief and Irontom said, to the letter. Roofing sucks. S. U. X. Sucks.
posted by furiousthought at 11:45 AM on July 20, 2004

You might also point out that if you do start on this endeavor and find out that it's beyond your skills, there is really no worse position to negotiate with a professional roofing outfit than when half your roof is torn up, you clearly don't know what you're doing (and there's probably a thunderstorm on the way). You better just _hope_ the first guy you call is a nice, honest guy, or otherwise you're screwed.

(If there's no way you're getting out of this, I'd seriously recommend researching roofing outfits in your area anyway, and by reference if you can, so you at least know who you'd call if you have to without getting totally screwed.)
posted by LairBob at 12:25 PM on July 20, 2004

I'll me too the roofing is hard miserable work. If you really want to do this yourself metal roofing is wildly easier, especially if you have a simple roof geometry. Often you can put it right over the existing bad shingles saving all the stripping work. Seriously consider it if local regulations allow.
posted by Mitheral at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2004

Response by poster: You guys rock. Seriously.

While I'm handy with tools and have experience inside, I do not have any experience roofing. Nor did I want to frankly.

Looks like we'll be calling someone on this!

(tipping my cold beer to the swell people at askmefi)
posted by damnitkage at 12:54 PM on July 20, 2004

I roofed a small section of my house with a friend who used to do it for a living. The hard part is the wear and tear on your body. The actual skill level needed is pretty minimal, if you have someone who knows what they are doing.

The biggest problem for us was what we found under the shingles. I bought all the materials I thought I needed and priced the whole thing out, and after the shingles came off found a lot of dry rot in the structure underneath. It took us a day just to rebuild the roofing structure before we even got to the shingles. So just be aware that you don't know what you are going to find underneath.

Oh, did I mention all the hornet nests that had to be "exterminated"??
posted by archimago at 1:04 PM on July 20, 2004

I hear you can get cheap, fast divorces in Las Vegas...
posted by Kwantsar at 3:04 PM on July 20, 2004

I have done small amounts of both roofing and drywall work while in college, and aside from the fact that remodelling work convinced me that education was the way to go, I have to say that roofing is definitely best left to professionals, while drywall is actually kinda fun (I do my own drywall work to this day). Two imprtant parts of the roofing experience that I have not seen mentioned yet are that if you hire a reputable roofing contractor, you will get a guarantee so that if your roof starts leaking (always at the most awkward time) you can get a team of pros out quickly to fix it, usually at no charge; also, don't forget to invest in or borrow/rent a large magnetic roller to get the nails out of your yard (that invariably follow a roofing job) or you will be dealing with flat tires for years to come; once again, this is the sort of detail a pro roofer does routinely that do-it yourselfers miss. And then there is flashing, gutters, boots for vent pipes, and so on; unless your roof is very simple and you live in a cool climate, stick to something like wallpaper as a husband and wife project.
posted by TedW at 7:38 PM on July 20, 2004

Don't start a five-day fast before you start your roofing job. I tried this once while helping a friend out with his slate roof business. It caused tensions. I didn't fall off or anything either, nor did I mess up any slate.

Eat a good breakfast.
posted by troutfishing at 8:12 PM on July 20, 2004

hey troutfishing - this fasting thing is really starting to emerge as an obsessive topic with you.
posted by Irontom at 6:20 AM on July 21, 2004

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