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Putting a Roof on Your House - You Can Do It Yourself

Updated on June 1, 2009
A conveyor belt lifted the shingles to the roof for catching.
A conveyor belt lifted the shingles to the roof for catching.
There was lots of hammering involved.
There was lots of hammering involved.

We just completed what I think is the ultimate "do it yourself" project, reroofing our house. By "we", you realize I really mean my husband right? In actuality it was my husband, father, brother and brother-in-law. But between those four men they tore off two layers of roof and put on a new one in five days. While it was extremely hard work, there really wasn't much hard about it. With the right tools and a good roofing book, you can roof your house yourself too.

There isn't space to write a complete tutorial, but I wanted to give some tips to make roofing your house easier and I wanted to show you that it can be done by an average person. What might seem like a monumental task is really very doable. I also want to show how we saved money along the way and how that can add up to big savings in the end.  Labor costs a lot and if you have the time it will be worth it to do it yourself.

The first thing you need is a dumpster; a large one. Any company you talk to will be able to tell you just how big you need for your size roof. We were right between two dumpster sizes, so we went with the larger size to make sure it would all fit. We could have easily used the smaller size and saved $20 though. Roofing materials are very flat. There is nothing bulky about them, therefore you can get away with a smaller dumpster than if you were throwing out kitchen cabinets or something else bulky. No matter how you look at it though, you need a dumpster, so call around to find the best prices in your area.

There are certain roofing tools that you should have to make your job easier. Some of these tools though, can't be used for much else besides roofing. Try to borrow or buy second hand the tools you need. We were able to borrow three shingle rakes to tear off the old roof and save $120 in the process. We found that a couple of staple guns worked great in putting down the tar paper. A roofing hammer, while not that much different from a regular hammer, was very helpful. It is the right size to space the nails the right distance apart, saving lots of time along the way. They also have a larger head than a regular hammer making the nailing in go smoother. Look on Craigslist or ask around with friends and neighbors. They just might have what you need lying around. By using manual hammers rather than power hammers, we saved $240 over the weekend.

One of the best things we did to save money on the materials was to shop around. My husband made one trip to a roofing supply store to determine exactly what shingle we wanted. Then we called around and found the cheapest place. Having the shingles delivered right to your rooftop will save a lot of time and your back. It costs a little more, but was very much worth it. Don't just order exactly enough to cover your roof. Have some extra delivered because shingles will need to be cut to fit certain areas and you will have some loss due to this. We ended up having to make a run to a more expensive store to get seven more packs of shingles, at $3 more per pack. Plan for extra and you will save money in the long run.

Having all the materials needed ahead of time will make the job go faster and will prevent extra runs to the hardware store. Buy more than you think you need, you can always return it later. Having to stop in the middle to go buy more nails will really slow you down. Check and double check your measurements and keep in mind linear feet versus square feet so that you get enough of everything. Having plywood and 2 x 4s on hand to replace anything rotted will also make the work go faster.

Borrow or buy a large magnet (hardware stores carry them for about $15) to make nail collecting easier. Paying your children to pick up nails is optional of course, but don't pay too much per nail or you will go broke. There are a lot of nails that will be flying all over your yard. A magnet will make finding them much easier. Plan to start early and take a long mid-day break. The sun will heat up the shingles to the point of scuffing easily when very hot. Resting during the hottest part of the day will prevent this scuffing from happening.

Ask around for tips and tricks ahead of time to try to be prepared for anything. Read as much as you can and talk to whoever you can - this will make things go much smoother. The more people you can recruit to help you the better. Roofing is a very physically demanding job, and the more people that you have roofing the easier it is on everyone involved. While physically hard, mentally it isn't that hard to figure out. It is a step by step process that anyone can follow. In the end we saved about $3000 roofing our house ourselves and it was totally worth it. Honestly I don't think it could have gone much quicker if we had paid someone else to do it.


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    • Jeffn19 profile image


      5 years ago from Boston, MA

      We get people all the time asking how to perform a Massachusetts roof fix. Even though it may seem like it could be a quick hour long fix. Most DIY people end up missing a significant amount of the issue and the problems persist into the future. We just had a guy in Burlington ask us how to install a full metal roof. I mean........

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Woah! It's certainly not rocket surgery to re-roof a 1 story low-pitch roof that's walkable, but more than half of homes have a roof that is NOT walkable. Please be careful, and know what you're getting into. Also-- a professional roofing company can do up to 2500 square feet of roofing in 1 day (much faster than a group of homeowners). I'd personally save money on something other than a roof--it's the first line of defense from the weather. Last winter in Massachusetts there were over 300 roof collapses and over 200,000 serious roof leaks due to ice dams which lead to over 1 billion dollars in damage. A roof is nothing to take lightly.

    • profile image

      kandalló nyíregyháza 

      7 years ago

      Hi there!

      I will do it myself also.

      kandalló nyíregyháza

    • Dave Framer profile image

      Dave Framer 

      7 years ago

      Nice job detailing some of the aspects of roofing, but I am with Mark, I used to roof for a living to, as well as framing, you did not mention anything about flashing either, that goes along your rakes and flat walls where they meet angles, roofng is a tough job very physically demanding, take your time and rest during the hot part of the day, don't damage your shingles,Mark's response about if they don't speak english don't hire them is off base, I had a few non-english speaking employees that were completely legal and worked for me for over ten years

    • profile image

      Phoenix Roofing 

      7 years ago

      Great hub! Putting in your own roof can be hard and time consuming, especially when doing Arizona roofing projects. But this is a great hub detailing what to expect, and I wish anyone who does their own roofing good luck!

    • profile image

      roof restoration 

      7 years ago

      Hey Jennifer,

      A great hub! You are right that you can definitely do it yourself. But if you do decide to do it, you need to make sure you do it well. I've been repairing roofs for over ten years now and believe me I've seen some disasters in my time. It looks like your family did a great job however and hats off to you.

      It is a very physically demanding job but a rewarding one at that.


      Mick (from sydney, Australia)

    • profile image

      Certified roofing contractors 

      8 years ago

      I hope it's easy as it looks.I can do it myself!

    • MoneyCreator24 profile image


      8 years ago

      For roofing always follow the major rule as there is: Make, that water disappears from the roof as fast as possible. This not only helps to keep your house dry. It even makes your roof itself last longer.

    • profile image

      Albama Roofing Company 

      8 years ago

      Really I can do it myself..thanks for sharing the knowledge.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      We did this when we were first married. My mandate to my husband was to have a strong, muscle person carry the heavy shingles up - the compromise was great - and while he wouldn't admit it - it streamlined the process for him tremendously. Teaming is great - especially for this large of a project.

    • profile image

      Home Remodeling 

      8 years ago

      If you don`t want to roof your house on your won but save a lot of money try Post your project and let professionals bid on it. Save time and money

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello I am a professional roofer. I have been doing it for 12 yrs. I was just looking up roofing articles to see what sorts of things our customers are reading so I can be prepared when I get asked to do crazy things that someone read online was a good idea. I not trying to brag, but I am as good a roofer as you will ever find, and I feel that I have to say that every article I found was innacurate, full of bad information, or just completely ignorant on the subject. This article doesn't actually try to tell anyone how to roof so everything I saw was accurate for a do it yourselfer(except that my crew would have got your roof done in two days). I would also like to point out that we can tell immediately when we tear into a roof if it was done by a professional, a do it yourselfer, or a low quality "professional". Many articles I saw said that hand nailing was better than with a pneumatic nailer. They say this because they are inexperianced with the nailer and shoot crooked nails. A quality roofer has had years with that roofing gun in his hand and will shoot the nails in perfectly. When we go to tear of a hand nailed roof we grab a tab and yank. It pulls off a huge section very easily. The wind could do the same thing if it got under just one tab. To tear off a roof that was nailed with the roofing gun tools must be used because the nails that it fires are barbed and much more secure into the roof. ....I could go on and on i guess with good info, but Ill just summarize. If you want an asphalt roof that will truly last as long as the shingles say they will(25yr-50yr), your best bet is hiring A well respected local roofer and shelling out the money for the expensive tar paper(30Lbs), weathergaurd, dripedge, and ridgevent. Check your roofer on the better business bureau. And if none of the crew speaks english fire them because they are illegal immigrants stealing american jobs. Sorry if that offends anyone, but we can spot the roofs they do too.

    • ASFA123 profile image


      8 years ago


    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      This hub took me back to when "we," added on to our house. Hard work, satisfying to say that we did it ourselves. Thanks for sharing "your" experience Jennifer.

    • profile image

      aluminium gutters 

      9 years ago

      Very good information on the subject. My take is, hope anyone who has no experience on this job will not take lightly and start fixing their own roof themselves. Need to have plan B in case something goes wrong.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very informative, interesting, and fine Hub; but I have to say, maybe YOU could do it yourself, and maybe other people could do it themselves. As for me, I think if I need a roof and can't get someone else to do it, I'll be living with buckets. :)

    • thelesleyshow profile image


      9 years ago from US

      I still don't think I could do it myself....but that's why we have men. Great article. Thumbs up!

    • evelynsaenz profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      9 years ago from Vermont

      We redid the porch roof last year and you are right. It is certainly a doable project. You were lucky to have the conveyor belt to help move the materials up onto the roof. We carried them up the ladder. One tip I would add to your wonderful suggestions would be to have use a safety rope whenever you are working on a roof.


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