How to do a Roof Tear Off

There are a lot of reasons to replace your roof. A particularly brutal storm could have sent shingles flying–or sent a huge branch crashing down on your home. Maybe you want to update the look of your home, or the roof could just be at the end of its lifespan and you want some peace of mind. If you’re considering replacing the roof on your own, you’ll need to know how to do a roof tear-off.

If you’re considering a roof tear-off as a do-it-yourself project, remember you’ll need to replace the roofing material as soon as possible. You don’t want to leave your decking materials exposed to the elements for too long. Make sure you have tarps big enough to cover your roof during inclement weather.

How To Do a Roof Tear Off

Just like any job, planning and preparing are key when it comes to tearing off the shingles of your existing roof. Here are a few things to think about when doing a roof tear-off:

  • Get the right tools
  • Prepare the surrounding area
  • Safety Precautions
  • Remove the shingles
  • Clear the roofing debris
  • Inspect the decking

Get the right tools

We’ll discuss the safety items you’ll need for a replacement later, but here are the tools you’ll need to actually remove the roof shingles: tear-off shovel/garden fork, pry bar, utility knife, chisel, and hammer. There are several types of shovels you can buy in various sizes. These will help pry up the shingles and remove the nails holding them into place.

The pry bar, utility knife, chisel, and hammer are needed for those tough nails, hard-to-reach areas, and removing any flashing around attics, eaves, valleys, and other areas. The more roofing material you can shovel, the better. But there will be times you’ll need to get down and dirty to remove fasteners.

Prepare the surrounding area

With all of those asphalt shingles and underlayment and nails flying around, you don’t want to damage surrounding bushes, lawn furniture, grills, or anything else. Either lay down tarps to catch falling debris or designate an area to dump the debris. These steps will protect your property around the edges of your home.

Safety Precautions

Before starting a roof tear-off, take a look at the roof slope–do you feel confident enough to walk around? If not, we really encourage you to contact a professional roofing contractor. They’ll have all of the safety straps and other gear to do the job safely. Otherwise, a hard hat, goggles, gloves, a mask or respiratory protection, and some kind of fall protection should be secured.

Remove the shingles

Starting from the top, remove the ridge caps so you can get your shovel or garden fork under the shingles. Slide the shovel/fork under the shingles and work downward in a three-foot column. Installing a roof jack near the bottom of the roof will catch asphalts and other refuse.

Then go back to the top and start the next column. There will be a lot of nails that won’t come up during the process, but you’ll go back and get those after all the layers of shingles have been removed. Once all of the shingles and underlayment have been removed, then go back with the pry bar or hammer and get those loose nails.

Be careful around the flashing: anything that gets torn, ripped, or otherwise damaged will need to be replaced. Consider using a small scraper to get around vents, skylights, chimneys, and other protuberances. Not having to remove flashing will save you loads of time.

Clear the roofing debris

Occasionally, you’ll want to take a break from shoveling and remove the debris. We recommend renting a dumpster and placing it as near the edge of the roof as you can. Then you can just toss everything into the dumpster from the roof instead of going around the house picking everything up. The roof jacks are a handy way to keep debris from falling off the roof or into the gutter.

Inspect the decking

During the tear off process, you may have noticed soft spots in the roof deck. There could be damage to the decking, so you’ll definitely want to consider replacing that material, too. Look at the underside of the roofing (if you can) and look for any water damage caused by years of ice and water that may have occurred.

After the tear-off is complete, perform one last roof inspection to make sure there are no problems areas that need extra attention, especially around the flashing and edges of the roof to make sure there isn’t any damage. Now you can move on to the roof replacement part of the project!

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