DIY Roofing With Asphalt Shingles: Advice

Let me state the obvious that it is easier to blog than to roof. Roofing is hard work and dangerous. My south exposure roof was looking tattered, with shingles curling and losing a lot of small particulate. As I have not found a steady full-time job and could not afford the +$6,000 CAD fee for a professional roofer, and fearing a roof leak, I decided to DIY a large section of my roof. The roof job is progressing very well, though I have not gotten used to the hard physical labour.

Heed advice on Safety. If you fall off the roof, you will break a leg or arm if you at best. If you have a two story house you might also kill yourself. Gravity is a hard mistress. While I have very good balance, a couple of issues can conspire against you. First and foremost is the heat. Who would have thought that even at a seemingly balmy 22C, it would be too hot to roof. There is no shade on the roof, so you really need a hat. I quickly noticed that roof shingles, particularly white or grey, reflect the sun back to you, further heating you up. I am an IT project manager and business analyst and cannot take this much heat. I admit I am soft and would rather use my brains than brawn. A couple of hours roofing and you can dehydrate very quickly. As this progresses seemingly slowly you really do not notice much, until you find yourself a little dizzy from heat exposure. Alarm bells ring and my inner self orders me off the roof, for fear of falling off. Dizzy and on the roof is a bad situation.

Roofing is also bad for your skin. Asphalt shingles are rough by design and quickly scratches up your skin. I have learned in the past to wear gloves and knee pads. The knee pads are turned 90 degrees to the outside so that when you sit sideways the pads protrude and protect your upper legs and knees. Boots with good grip are mandatory. I use rubber rain boots as these have better grip than my steel toed boots.

Shingles are sold in sets of 21, called a “bundle“. A bundle is quite heavy, around 60 lbs. You need to carry these bundles up the ladder to your roof. I open the bundle and carry up three at a time. Shingles are awkward to carry, scratch your skin and damage your eaves trough if you are careless. The old shingles are simply dropped off your roof to the ground, to be cleaned up later. It would be better to have a large garbage bin.

I bought my shingle bundles from the Depot of Roofing Supplies, 3820 Midland Ave in Scarborough. They seem to serve largely Chinese contractors. One young girl speaks English, but it is much easier speaking to them in Mandarin. Cash will give you a small discount. I would deal with them again. They were honest and easy to work with. They sell Iko brand.

The general theory of using shingles to waterproof your roof is not complex. You put down tar paper first, which is waterproof but fragile. Shingles are placed upper one above lower ones, in a staggered pattern. As water runs downhill, from the upper shingle down to the lower shingle, it is transported to the eaves trough, to the downspout and safely away from the house. Flashing are thin metal pieces used to further strengthen roof stressors, such as where two roof surfaces meet. A concave meeting is called a “valley”, a convex meeting is called a “peak” or “ridge”. Thankfully there are numerous helpful sources on the internet on properly installing flashing. Take care to do your valley flashing well and not puncture the galvalized steel with nails, and the valley will be waterproof.

To remove an individual shingle start removing the nails two rows up, then the nails one row up, then the nails for the shingle. Slowly and carefully remove the shingle. Old shingles will be brittle, so take care when removing nails. I used a small pry bar and a hammer. Professional roofers use a metal tool that looks like a spade. This is fast and applicable if you want to remove the whole roof. To do a section and to keep the roofing felt in good condition you need to remove shingles individually.

Disposal of the old shingles is problematic. I need to take them to the city disposal station, only open to the public between 6-8am or on Mondays. The disposal fee will be about $20. Hauling my old shingles to the dump will finish the job for this year.

I know I am not a roofer. I know the theory of how a roofing system works but the physicality of reroofing is something I would rather leave to someone else. It is best to know your limitations. While I have been repairing the odd broken shingle for about 10 years, this in no way qualifies me for doing the whole job.

Other possible roofing supply companies in Scarborough include: Danforth Roofing Supply and Roofer’s Edge (Warden/Lawrence).

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