DIY: Putting a New Roof on a House


Putting a new roof on a house is one of the more difficult do-it-yourself projects. You will usually need a building permit before you start and an inspection once you are finished. Check your local laws to determine the requirements for your area. Because of the complexity of this project, always make a thorough plan before you begin.

Tools and Equipment

  • The basic tools you will need in roof replacement are a 16-ounce claw hammer, a heavy-duty stapler and a tool belt, because anything you lay on the roof will inevitably slide off. You will also need a carpenter's level, a retractable measuring tape and a chalk line once the roof deck is in place. To install the new roof deck, you will need a power circular saw or a carpenter's handsaw to trim the deck material and a keyhole saw or similar tool to cut openings for vents and other obstructions. When you are finishing the roof, you will need a caulking gun and a putty knife to apply sealants and other filling or waterproofing compounds. If you are installing roll roofing or asphalt shingles, you need a roofing knife or a quality utility knife. Other roof coverings may require specialty tools. A sturdy ladder is a necessity, and a safety line will help prevent injury from falls.

Roof Deck

  • The roof deck is typically three-eights- to one-half-inch plywood roof sheathing, depending on roof spacing. Solid wood sheathing boards, which are usually one by eight inches, are also available. Although more expensive, solid sheathing boards with tongue in groove joints create a sturdier deck than non-jointed boards. Regardless of the decking material, stagger the end joints and center them on the rafters where they meet. Allow one-sixteenth-inch space in between plywood panels for expansion and contraction.

Underlayment and Flashing

  • Lay asphalt-treated roofing felt over the roof decking, starting at the top of the roof. Roll roofing does not need an underlayment. Unless you have a ridge vent, allow a two-inch overlap over the ridge. Overlap each layer by at least four inches, stapling or nailing the felt down as you go. Roofing felt is much more difficult to walk on the sheathing, so double check your safety line. Once the underlayment is in place, install your flashing. Start with the drip edge around the roof edges and then add flashing to any valleys or vertical surfaces, such as dormers. Finally, install flashing on any chimneys, vent pipes, skylights or other openings or protrusions.

Roof Covering

  • The most common roof covering is asphalt shingles. Wood shakes, slate or concrete tiles, clay tiles or even metal are all possible alternatives, depending on your climate and local building codes. Wood shakes, for example, are not permitted under many building codes in areas susceptible to wildfire. For flat roofs, roll roofing if the most common covering. Unlike underlayment felt, which starts at the peak of the roof, most coverings start at the eaves. You will usually have to cut a starter course, which varies depending on the type of covering. Roll roofing is normally installed parallel to the eaves, or horizontally, but some types can be installed vertically.

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  • The Complete Roofing Handbook; James E. Brumbaugh; 1992
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