How to Install a Roof: From a Roofing Expert

Cliff Hudson
10 Minute Read
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How to Install a Roof: From an Expert

I have been in the roofing and contracting industry for almost 7years. If there is anything that I have learned over the years, it's that Installing a roof is an endeavor that requires genuine precision, skill, and expertise if done correctly. A professional roofer must be able to do many things; from knowing the right materials and tools needed (these can vary widely), knowing how weather can change an install, to knowing how to install different kinds of roofs. In this article, we will take a closer look at what it takes to install a roof, including the steps involved, the tools required, and the different types of roofs available. Read on to learn about the art of roof installation from the perspective of a seasoned roofing professional.

What You Need to Know Before Installing a Roof

Before you begin installing a roof, there are several important things that you need to know. Firstly, roof installation is dangerous, there is no doubt about it. If you Google the most dangerous jobs in the country, you'll find roofing at the unenviable #6 spot. Roofing should only be carried out by professionals who have the necessary training and experience. Roofers die every year on the job. I repeat, roofers die every year on the job. Perhaps obviously, working at heights can be extremely dangerous and falls from roofs often result in serious injuries. Professional roofers have the necessary safety equipment and training to ensure that the job is carried out safely and efficiently.

Now let's talk about the actual roofs. The type of roof you choose will have a significant impact on the cost, durability, and aesthetics of your home. If it is a commercial property, you may use what is called TPO or rubber. More common are the materials used on residential roofs.

There are several types of roofing materials to choose from, including asphalt shingles, modified bitumen (typically used on flat roofs), metal, tile, cedar shake, and slate. Each type of material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and in my experience as a home improvement consultant and roofing sales expert, it is important to carefully consider all of your options before making a decision. For example, asphalt shingles are a popular choice because they are affordable and easy to install, but they may not be as durable as other materials and may need to be replaced more frequently. Also, if you live in a big city in the northeast like Philadelphia, D.C., or Baltimore, you may have a flat roof, which should not have shingles installed on them to begin with.

Another important factor to consider when choosing a roofing material is the climate in your area. Certain materials, such as metal and tile, are better suited for areas with high winds or heavy rainfall, while others, such as asphalt shingles, may not hold up as well in these conditions. That being said, some shingles have a higher wind resistance than others, such as architectural shingles. "3-tab" or traditional flat shingles often only have a 50-60 mph wind resistance. When I was selling roofs, I would always suggest home owners purchase architectural shingles for this very reason.

In addition to choosing the right roofing material, it is also important to ensure that your roof is properly installed. This includes ensuring that the roof is properly ventilated, that the flashing is installed correctly, and that the shingles or tiles are properly glued, nailed, and secured. Improper installation can lead to leaks, water damage, and other issues that can be costly to repair. Often, homeowners can't see how their roof is installed, so the industry is rife with low quality workmanship and poor installation, which leads to damage to homes down the line.

For these reasons, it is important to choose a reputable roofing contractor to carry out the installation. Look for a contractor who is licensed, insured, and has a good reputation in your community. You can also ask for references and check online reviews to ensure that you are choosing a contractor who will provide quality workmanship and excellent customer service. Google reviews typically can be trusted, so do your due diligence before choosing a roofing contractor.

The Installation

First underlayment is put in place, which are the materials placed underneath the shingles. Synthetic underlayment, ice and water shield, and a start strip shingle typically are laid down on top on the roof decking. Then, a roofer will begin installing the chosen roofing material. Again, this can include asphalt shingles, metal roofing, wood (typically called cedar shake) or even clay tiles. Each material requires a different installation process, and a skilled roofer will have experience working with a variety of materials to ensure the best possible outcome.

During the installation process, the roofer will pay close attention to the details. They will make sure that each shingle or tile is properly aligned and that there are no gaps or spaces between them. A roofer will also take into account the pitch/slope of the roof and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the roofing material is properly installed and will not be prone to leaks or other issues.

Once the roofing material is in place, a roofer will then focus on sealing the roof. This involves adding flashing around any openings, such as chimneys, pipe penetrations, or vents, and sealing the edges of the roof to prevent water from seeping in. Most roofing leaks typically happen around these penetrations that come out of the roof. A professional roofer should high-quality sealants and materials to ensure that the roof is fully protected from the elements.

Often, I have found that people think installing a roof is simple, and admittedly, so did I when I first came into the roofing industry. But the process of installing a new roof is complex and requires a high level of skill, danger, and attention to detail. By working with a professional roofer, homeowners can ensure that their roof is installed properly and will provide many years of reliable protection for their home.

Understanding the Costs of Professional Roof Installation

When it comes to installing a new roof, there are a lot of factors that can affect the cost. One of the biggest factors is the type of material used. As mentioned, metal roofing tends to be the most expensive option, while asphalt shingles are typically the most affordable. However, there are other options to consider as well, such as tile, slate, modified bitumen and wood shingles.

Another factor that can impact the cost of roof installation is the size of the roof. Obviously, a larger roof will require more materials and more labor, which will increase the overall cost. However, even a small roof can be expensive if it is particularly complex. For example, if your roof has a lot of angles and corners, and has a very steep slope, it may require more work to install, which can drive up the cost.

In addition to the cost of materials and labor, there may be other expenses to consider as well. For example, if your roof has any damage to the underlying plywood, or structural issues, those will need to be addressed before the new roof can be installed. I have seen many small and seemingly simple roofs balloon in price due to the homeowner waiting until numerous leaks throughout their home, ultimately leading to dozens of sheets of plywood needing to be replaced. Companies charge anywhere from $60-$120 per sheet of plywood, which can add up very fast.

It is important to get a comprehensive quote from a professional roofing contractor before beginning any work. This will ensure that you know the full cost of your project and can budget realistically. A good roofer will be able to provide you with a detailed breakdown of the condition of your roof, the costs, including materials, labor, and any additional expenses, so you can make an informed decision about your project.

By taking the time to research your options and get a comprehensive quote, you can ensure that your roof installation project goes smoothly and stays within your budget.

Types of Roofs: Flat, Shingled, Metal, and More

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are one of the most popular roofing materials in the United States. They are made from a fiberglass mat that is coated with asphalt and then covered with ceramic granules. These shingles are affordable, easy to install, and can last up to 30 years.

However, there are some downsides to asphalt shingles. They are not as durable as some other roofing materials, such as metal or slate, and they can be prone to damage from high winds and hail.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to its durability and energy efficiency. Metal roofs can last up to 50 years or more, and they are resistant to fire, rot, and insect damage.

In addition, metal roofs can help keep your home cooler in the summer by reflecting sunlight away from the roof. This can lead to lower energy bills and a more comfortable living environment.

Clay and Concrete Tiles

Clay and concrete tiles are popular in areas with a Mediterranean or Spanish-style architecture. These tiles are extremely durable and can last up to 100 years or more.

However, clay and concrete tiles are also some of the most expensive roofing materials available. They are heavy, which can make installation more difficult, and they may require additional support to ensure that your roof can handle the weight.

Cedar Shakes

Cedar shakes are a natural roofing material that can add a rustic, charming look to your home. These shingles are made from split logs and can last up to 30 years.

However, cedar shakes require more maintenance than other roofing materials. They need to be treated regularly to prevent rot and insect damage, and they may not be suitable for areas with a high risk of wildfires.


Slate is a natural stone that is quarried and then cut into thin tiles for use as roofing material. Slate roofs can last up to 100 years or more, making them one of the most durable roofing options available. They are often favored not only for it's durability, but also for its beauty.

However, slate is also one of the most expensive roofing materials. It is heavy, which can make installation much more difficult, and it may not be suitable for all types of homes.

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen roofs are a type of roofing material commonly used in the construction of low-slope or flat roofs for commercial and industrial buildings. These roofs are made by combining a special type of asphalt with modifiers such as plastic or rubber. The modifiers help to increase the asphalt's strength and flexibility, making it more resistant to damage from weathering, UV radiation, and thermal expansion and contraction. Having worked in the roofing business in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, I saw a ton of modified bitumen roofs.

Mod-Bit, as its affectionately called, is favored for its durability, longevity, and versatility. It can be customized to fit various roofing requirements, including resistance to fire, wind, and impact, as well as reflectivity and energy efficiency.

Understanding the Proper Method of Installing Shingles

Installing shingles is a crucial part of constructing a roof that will protect your home from the elements. A professional roofer will follow specific techniques to ensure that the shingles are installed correctly and will provide maximum protection for your home.

One of the essential techniques that a professional roofer will use is staggering the shingles. This technique involves installing each row of shingles in such a way that the seams are not lined up with the seams of the row below it. This helps to prevent water from seeping through the seams and causing damage to the roof.

Another vital technique that a professional roofer will use is ensuring proper ventilation. Proper ventilation is essential to prevent moisture buildup in the attic, which can lead to mold and mildew growth. A professional roofer will ensure that the attic has adequate ventilation by installing vents in the roof and soffit.

Using flashing around vents and other roof objects is another technique that a professional roofer will use to ensure that the roof is protected from the elements. Flashing is a thin piece of metal that is installed around vents, chimneys, and other objects that protrude from the roof. It helps to prevent water from seeping in around these objects and causing damage to the roof.

When it comes to shingle installation, careful attention to detail is required to ensure that the shingles are installed correctly and will effectively protect the home from the elements. A professional roofer will take the time to ensure that each shingle is installed correctly and that all of the necessary techniques are used to provide maximum protection for your home.

It is also important to note that the type of shingles used can have a significant impact on the longevity and effectiveness of the roof. A professional roofer will help you choose the right type of shingles for your home based on factors such as climate, budget, and personal preference.

In conclusion, if you want to ensure that your roof is installed correctly and will provide maximum protection for your home, it is essential to hire a professional roofer. A professional roofer will follow specific techniques to ensure that the shingles are installed correctly and will provide long-lasting protection for your home.

Roofing Underlayment

Roofing underlayment is a crucial element in protecting your home from the elements. It is installed between the roof deck and the shingles to provide an extra layer of protection against moisture, wind, and other weather conditions. Without proper underlayment, your roof may be vulnerable to leaks, mold, and rot.

One of the most commonly used types of underlayment is asphalt-saturated felt. This material is made from a combination of asphalt and felt, which is a type of fabric made from natural or synthetic fibers. Asphalt-saturated felt is relatively inexpensive and easy to install, making it a popular choice for many homeowners. However, it is not as durable as some other types of underlayment and may need to be replaced more frequently.

Synthetic underlayment is another option that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This type of underlayment is made from materials such as polypropylene or polyester and is designed to be more durable and long-lasting than asphalt-saturated felt. Synthetic underlayment is also more resistant to moisture and can help prevent mold and rot from developing in your roof.

When choosing an underlayment for your roof, it is important to consider the specific needs of your home and the roofing material being installed. For example, if you live in an area with heavy rainfall or snow, you may want to choose a more durable and moisture-resistant underlayment. Similarly, if you are installing a metal roof, you may need to use a specific type of underlayment that is designed to work with metal roofing materials.

In addition to protecting your home from the elements, roofing underlayment can also help improve the energy efficiency of your home. Some types of underlayment are designed to reflect heat, which can help keep your home cooler in the summer and reduce your energy bills.

Overall, roofing underlayment is an essential component of any roofing system. It provides an extra layer of protection against the elements and can help improve the durability and energy efficiency of your home. When choosing an underlayment, be sure to consider the specific needs of your home and consult with a roofing professional to ensure that you are using the right type of underlayment for your roof.

Sealing Your Roof: A Step-by-Step Guide

Roof sealing is an essential part of the roofing process that ensures your roof is protected from the elements. It is a process that involves applying a special sealant material to the roof surface to create a waterproof barrier that prevents water from getting into your home. The sealant material is usually applied after the roofing material has been installed and is an important step in ensuring that your roof lasts for many years to come.

Before you begin the process of sealing your roof, it is important to make sure that the roof is clean and free of any debris or dirt. This will ensure that the sealant adheres properly to the roof surface, providing maximum protection. You can clean your roof using a pressure washer or a garden hose and a soft-bristled brush. Make sure to remove any dirt, leaves or debris from the roof and gutters before you start the sealing process.

Once your roof is clean, the next step is to apply the sealant. The type of sealant you use will depend on the type of roofing material you have. For example, if you have a metal roof, you will need a sealant that is specifically designed for metal roofs. If you have a shingle roof, you will need a sealant that is designed for shingle roofs.

When applying the sealant, it is important to pay attention to any areas where leaks or water damage could occur. These areas include the edges of the roof, the valleys, and any areas around chimneys or vents. Apply the sealant generously to these areas, making sure to cover them completely.

After you have applied the sealant, allow it to dry completely before you begin using your roof again. This may take several hours or even a full day depending on the type of sealant you used and the weather conditions in your area.

Overall, sealing your roof is an important step in ensuring that your home is protected from the elements. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your roof is properly sealed and will last for many years to come.

Maintaining Your Roof After Installation

Maintaining your roof after installation is essential for ensuring its longevity and effectiveness. This includes regular inspections to identify any damage or deterioration and promptly repairing any issues that arise. It also involves cleaning the roof regularly to remove any debris or build-up that could cause damage over time. A professional roofer can provide guidance on best practices for maintaining your roof and ensuring its continued effectiveness.

When it comes to roofing shingles, there are several top brands to choose from. These include GAF, Owens Corning, and CertainTeed. Each brand offers a range of shingle options, including asphalt, fiberglass, and architectural shingles. Choosing the right brand and type of shingles is important for ensuring the longevity and effectiveness of your roof.


In conclusion, installing a roof is a significant undertaking that requires skill, precision, and expertise. By understanding the steps involved, the costs associated with the installation, and the different roofing materials available, homeowners can make an informed decision about their roofing needs. Consulting with a professional roofer for advice and guidance can help ensure a successful and effective roof installation that will provide years of protection and durability. I hope my experience was helpful in helping you understand what goes into roofing, and perhaps that you may appreciate the art of roofing just a bit more.

Cliff Hudson