Installing residential roof shingles

Now let’s move on to the actual installation of residential roof shingles. Shingles come in many different sizes, thicknesses, styles and colors. Local codes will determine the required weight of the shingles. Installing roof shingles is easy and fun.

Asphalt shingles are categorized by weight where the heavier the shingle, usually the better quality it is and the more expensive. The weight is calculated by how much a hundred square feet of coverage will weigh.

It also has different class ratings which is important where local fire codes matter. For instance, Class A shingles are made of noncombustible glass fibers which make them fire-resistant.

Class C, for example, only has a moderate resistance to fire because they are made of organic-based materials. All-in-all, the most popular style of residential roofing shingles is the 3-tab square butt shingles. They are really easy to work with also.

install shingles

The most important thing to remember about shingles is that they need to be offset so that the tabs don’t line up. So we need to have a starting point to begin.

We already know that we want to start at the bottom of the roof and work our way up, but some contractors like to start at one end of the roof while others like to make a centerline and start from there. Measure the halfway point and snap a chalk line for a reference point.

 asphalt shingles

The first row is called the starter course and it’s basically a buildup or reinforcement so the edge will have more strength.

You can buy starter course shingles if you want, but it’s just as easy to cut off the tabs so you have a straight shingle to start out. See the illustration above.

Now we’ll start out the actual shingle coverage by putting the first shingle in the center of the centerline and make sure to set the shingle at least 1 inch beyond the sheathing so that water and snow will fall away from the eave.

roof shingles

The first row of shingles should be laid out completely before you nail them in place so you can make sure they are even. It helps to snap a chalk line above the starter course to keep things in order.

Once all the shingles are laid out and nailed down, we can start our second row. The second course shingles need to be offset from the first course so the tabs don’t line up.

shingle nails

Each 3-tab shingle will need four nails to make it secure. The nailing assignment is manufacturer specific so it should be followed closely. The second row offsets the first row and so on until it’s finished.

replace shingles

You will want to put on all vent covers and lay the shingles accordingly. It’s important to use the proper nails and to drive them in straight.

shingle vents

Also, you don’t want to drive them in too far because that can damage the shingle.

The nailing position is important to prevent the shingle from buckling. You need to start from one side of the shingle and nail each slot across.


You will need a special type of roof shingle for the ridge called the ridge cap or ridge roll. You can make your own by bending shingles, but they can sometimes leak. It’s better to buy them because they are reinforced for that purpose.

ridge cap

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