How To Install Architectural Shingles

Roofing is hot, hard, and potentially dangerous work, but you can save thousands of dollars if you learn how to install architectural shingles. Architectural shingles are asphalt laminate shingles, similar in composition to the standard 3-tab asphalt shingle. The difference is the variation in pattern and texture, as well as the thicker, longer lasting composition of the architectural shingles. Some manufacturers guarantee their shingles for up to 40 years.

To install architectural shingles, you will need:

  • Architectural shingles
  • (Optional) starter shingles for the first row
  • Ridge cap shingles
  • Roofing nails long enough to go through your underlayment, any existing shingles and into the roof deck
  • Roofing nailer or hammer
  • Sharp knife or big shears
  • Broom
  • Chalk line
  1. Get a copy of your local building code for roofing. This should be available on your city or county website. Wind ratings, snow loads and roof pitch all contribute to the number of nails per shingle required. Prevailing wind will also dictate the direction in which your shingles overlap.
  2. If you are placing new architectural shingles over an existing roof, there should not be more than one layer of shingles on the roof. Inspect the existing shingles for any nails which have worked loose and pound them back in. Sweep the existing shingles to remove debris or loose roofing material.
  3. If there is more than one layer of shingles on the roof, or if the shingles are badly deteriorated, remove the existing shingles. The underlayment will probably be unusable if there were two layers of roofing or if you had existing leaks. Remove the underlayment.
  4. Check the roof deck for soundness. Make sure it is sturdy and without any signs of water damage or rot. Any damaged areas of roof decking should be replaced. Install new felt underlayment in overlapping rows, starting from the bottom and working up.
  5. Starting at the lower and outer edge of the roof, apply a layer of starter shingles. You can purchase starter shingles or cut the layered edge off the architectural shingles and use the flat piece as a starter shingle. Position the first architectural shingle and snap a chalk line across the roof to mark the top of the first layer. Mark chalk lines on subsequent layers working upward. Allow the shingles to overhang the roof about 1/8" inch.
  6. The big difference between installing tabbed shingles and architectural shingles is that you need longer nails to get through the thicker laminated portion of the shingle. You also need to make sure that you are nailing through the thicker portion rather than the upper portion. The manufacturer will provide instructions on each shingle or package of shingles as to the nail pattern.
  7. Overlap layouts may also be included with the shingles. If not, begin the second layer by cutting 6" off of the first shingle. The third shingle up on the outside will have 12" cut off. This will offset where the shingles join so that you don't have matching seams on overlapping rows.
  8. Work out and up in a diagonal pattern. You can use a nail gun, which is much faster than hand-nailing, but watch for too much pressure, which could crack the shingle. Too little pressure and crooked nail heads could damage the overlapping shingle.
  9. After all the standard shingles are installed, install ridge cap shingles along the peak. These run opposite the shingles and overlap the top of the shingles on each side. On a sloped peak, work from the bottom up. Enjoy your beautiful new architectural shingled roof.
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