The Proper Way to Remove Roof Shingles

Installing a new roof can be a challenging task, but if you are up to it, you can save a great deal of money. Before you can install new roofing shingles, however, you need to remove the old ones. Following the proper procedure to remove old shingles will set you up for installing the new ones, so take the time to do it right.

Before You Begin

The first step in any building or remodeling project is to make sure that you have a building permit. Restrictions and regulations vary from one region to another, so check your local building codes and get the required permit before you do any work. Next, plan when you will complete the project. You should check the weather forecast for a period of several clear days in a row – the last thing you want is for it to rain after you’ve removed half the shingles from your roof.

When you are ready to begin, spread tarps on the ground beneath the roof to catch nails and other debris so your task of cleanup is much easier at the end of the job. You may also want to rent a dumpster so you can throw the old shingles off the roof into it as you go along. The final preparation you need to make before you begin is to set up roof jacks about halfway down the roof slope at various points along the roof (no more than 4 feet apart) to give you solid footing while removing the shingles.

Remove Roof Shingles

Remove Roof Shingles

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Shingles

  1. After you’ve prepared the area and placed your dumpster, you will be ready to begin – start working in the area furthest from the dumpster and follow the steps outlined below:
    Stand just below the peak of the roof and work a large garden fork under the edge of the ridge caps and pry them loose.
  2. Remove all of the ridge caps, tossing them into the dumpster, then slide the fork under the first row of shingles (make sure you get it under the felt paper beneath the shingles as well).
  3. Pry up the shingles, working in a 2- to 3-foot section, moving all the way down the roof – if you keep sliding the fork down along the roof, the shingles should roll up like a ball.
  4. Remove all of the shingles down to the first roof jack, then start over with a new 2- to 3-foot section – throw all of the removed shingles into the dumpster.
  5. Once you’ve removed all of the shingles from a section, carefully pull out the nails around skylight and chimney flashings.
  6. Evaluate the condition of the flashings – unless they are cracked or broken, you should try to reuse them.
  7. To remove the flashings, carefully remove the nails securing them to the shingles below and pry the flashing upward away from the shingle to remove it.
  8. Remove any shingles and felt paper from the area below the flashing, and pull out any remaining nails.
  9. Next, remove the roof jacks and continue removing the shingles and felt paper all the way down to the edge of the roof – work slowly and remove the shingles by hand to prevent them all from sliding off the roof at once.
  10. Use the garden fork to pry loose any flashing in the valleys of the roof and over any plumbing vents only after you’ve removed all of the shingles, then discard it.
  11. Sweep the roof clean and pull out any remaining nails, then check the roof for damage – cut out and replace any damaged sections.
  12. After you’ve removed all of the shingles and cleaned the roof, you should cover it right away with a self-sticking water and ice barrier.
  13. Finally, roll out the asphalt-saturated felt paper and staple it down to keep water out.
Way to Remove Roof Shingles

Way to Remove Roof Shingles

Depending on the size of your roof, you should be able to remove all of the shingles and flashing in a single day. Install the felt paper immediately after removing the shingles and make an effort to install the new shingles and flashing in one day – once you start, you will need to keep going. As long as you follow the steps outlined above, you shouldn’t have any trouble removing the shingles from your roof.

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