How to Install Composite Roofing Shingles

roof shingles
  • 40-60 hours
  • Beginner
  • 3,000-25,000
What You'll Need
Asphalt composite roofing shingles
Metal drip edges
Tar paper
Roofing nails
Nail gun
Staple gun
Roofing staples
Utility knife
Tape measure

Composite roofing shingles are a superior product to use on your roof due to their durability and variety of both style and color. Although they may not last as long as copper or tile, they cost far less. Composite roofing shingles are the most common roofing material used today. When remodeling your roof, you will typically strip off the old shingles and tar paper and perhaps the plywood sheathing. After replacing the sheathing, you will finish the job with the bottom layer of tar paper, followed by the shingles, flashing and drip edges.

Step 1 - Staple the Tar Paper

When you staple the tar paper to the roof, make sure to start from the bottom and line it up with the side edge of the roof. When you encounter a hip or a ridge, overlap the paper 6 inches. Overlap the paper 4 inches sheet to sheet. Make sure the paper covers the sheathing fully at the eave edge of the roof. Use the staple gun to secure the tar paper to the sheathing, but ensure that the paper is smoothed out before you do.

Step 2 - Install the Drip Edge on the Eaves

Install the drip edge along the eaves first. This is a long piece of L-shaped tin or aluminum that prevents water from climbing back up under the shingles. At the eaves, the shingles will overlap it. On the sides (of a gable roof), it will cap the sheathing, paper, and shingles, and thus be installed last.

Step 3 - Place the Starter Row of Composite Roofing Shingles

The first row of shingles will be installed along the eaves. You want the first shingle flush against the side of the roof. If you are shingling a hip roof, start off the row with almost half of the shingle overlapping the hip. Make sure the shingle overhangs the eave edge by 1/2 inch along the entire starter row. With a pneumatic nail gun, the job goes a lot faster. Use four roofing nails per shingle. Put the nails only 3 inches above the eave.

Step 4 - Place the Second Layer of Composite Roofing Shingles

This second row will go directly over the first row. In effect, you will double the first row. Don’t place the tabs on the shingles directly over one another. Rather, offset them. Again, use 4 nails per shingle, but place them 5 3/4 inches above the bottom this time.

Step 5 - Work Your Way up the Roof

Now you are ready to start working your way up the roof. For the next row, cut one shingle in half and place it above the end (full-size) shingle on the first row. Make sure it is flush with the edge and attach it with three nails. This technique will ensure that the entire row is offset from the previous row so the tabs will be staggered. You do not need to cut another shingle. By the time you reach the opposite edge, you will likely be able to use the other half of the shingle you cut to finish the row. If not, cut another shingle to the appropriate size.

Step 6 - Follow This Pattern

Follow this same pattern all the way up to the ridge. Cut a shingle in half every other row to offset them. With hip roofs, let the shingle overlap the hip. You can cut them to size later. Always use four nails per shingle and always place them 5 3/4 inches above their bottom edge.

Step 7 - Install the Ridge Shingles

Once you have completed both faces of the gable roof, you can install the ridge shingles. Ridge shingles are one 12-inch tab of a full shingle and leave 6 inches of the previous shingle exposed. Do the hips in the same manner, with the ridge shingles overlapping the hips at the joints.

Step 8 - Install the Side Drip Edge (on Gable Roofs)

On a gable roof, you will install the side drip edge last. It is basically a metal cap that covers the sheathing, paper, and composite roofing shingles on the edges.