Understanding the Different Styles of Shingle Installation

If you plan to re-shingle your roof yourself, there are a few key decisions you need to make. In addition to choosing a type of shingle, you also need to think about how you are going to install them. There are several different methods for shingle installation, each with its own unique list of pros and cons. Before you decide on a shingle installation method, take the time to learn about your options so you can make an educated decision.

Step Shingling vs. Racking

The two most common methods of shingle installation are step shingling and racking. Racking, or vertical racking, is the process of installing shingles in a vertical line from the ledge to the top of the roof. Using this method, you would install a single column of shingles at a time, offsetting each row so the center of one shingle lines up with the edge of the shingles above and below it. Each shingle is installed so that the bottom edge overlaps the top of the shingle below it to create a smooth barrier against water.

Step shingling involves installing a row of starter shingles along the ledge all the way across the roof starting with a full shingle on the left side. You then cut five shingles of proportionally decreasing size (starting with a shingle that is 5/6 size) to install in a vertical column above the full starter shingle. After installing this column of starter shingles, you then install new rows of shingles in a stair-step pattern with the bottom of each shingle slightly overlapping the top of the shingle below it.

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The racking method of shingle installation is typically the easier method of the two, because you can work steadily along the roof from left to right without having to go back and forth filling several rows at a time. When using the racking method, you can also form a pile of shingles right beside you so you can draw from it as you work – with the stair-step method, you’ll have to move further to get new shingles unless you have several piles. Both of these installation methods will create a watertight barrier, and, as long as you follow the procedure correctly, your shingle warranty should be valid. One thing to be wary of with the racking installation method is a problem called “shadowing.” This is a patchwork appearance caused by mixing different bundles of shingles that have slightly different colors – the stair-step method distributes the shingles from different bundles more evenly to prevent this problem.

Hand Nailing vs. Nail Gun

After you’ve chosen between the racking and stair-step installation methods, you have to decide how you are actually going to install the shingles. Your two options are to nail down the shingles by hand or to use a nail gun – both options have pros and cons. To help you make your decision, you will need to examine the roof sheathing – the surface under the shingles. If there are a lot of gaps in the sheathing, shingles installed using a nail gun might not be attached properly. However, if the sheathing is in good condition, using a nail gun is the faster and more efficient option.

Install Shingles by using Nail gun

Install Shingles by using Nail gun

The type of shingle you use will also determine whether you install the shingles by hand or use a nail gun. High-quality shingles are designed to prevent nails from nail guns from blowing all the way through the shingle. Top-quality shingles often include SureNail technology, which consists of a heavy strip of woven fabric embedded in the shingle – these shingles can provide 130 mph wind resistance with only 4 nails per shingle. Standard shingles that do not have a SureNail strip are best installed by hand – you will need to use 6 nails per shingle to ensure 130 mph wind resistance.

install the shingles by hand

install the shingles by hand

If you plan to install new shingles on your roof yourself, you need to make sure that you have the proper materials to work with. You also need to think carefully about the installation method you will use and whether you will install the shingles by hand or with a nail gun. The decisions you make will have a significant impact on the results of your project, so do not take these decisions lightly.

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