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Tearing off old asphalt roof shingles on a small one-story house.

Do-It-Yourself Roof Replacement:

Re-Roofing Part 1
Tearing Off Old Asphalt
Roof Shingles


In This Article:

Old shingles are torn off using shingle scrapers, shovels, and pitch forks. Nails are removed and the debris is hauled away.

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Skill Level:
2 (Basic)
Time Taken:
About 3 Hours
Project Date:
October 2000
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The house in this article was built around 1955. There were two layers of shingles on the roof. The low-pitched roof measured about 14' x 42' on each plane, or just under 1200 square feet. The roof is a simple gable design with no valleys.

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Our Starting Point:
Roof of small house with old asphalt shingles that need to be replaced.

The old roof had one leak, which was near the chimney, and many curled and broken shingles.

Although the leak could have been repaired, and the roof left alone for a few more years, the homeowner chose to reshingle it while the time and money was available.



Our Primary Shingle Removal Tool:

This tool is a shingle scraper. It is basically a flat-blade shovel with some big teeth. There is a triangular "heel" welded to the bottom, which acts like a ramp to pivot the scraper against and lift the shingles from the roof.

Roof shingle scraper, which is like a shovel with teeth.


Shingle scraper used to lift up roof shingles.

The scraper is simply pushed under the shingles and lifted. This tool does a decent job of prying up the roofing nails as well.



The red tool is a different form of shingle scraper, one that I don't prefer to use.

Another type of shingle removal tool.


3-foot wide strip of metal used at lower edge if roof to prevent ice buildup on roof.

Note the strip of sheet metal along the lower edge of the roof.

Either scraper was useful to get under the edge of this sheet metal and pry it up.

It was once common practice in Northern Michigan to attach galvanized steel sheets to the lower surface of residential roofs. Presumably this lets snow and ice just slip right off, reducing the chances of ice dams and roof leaks when the snow begins to melt. The reality is... the snow and ice don't always slip off.



Other Shingle Removal Tools:

This flat-blade garden shovel also works fairly well for removing shingles.

Flat blade garden shovel can be used to remove roof shingles.


Pitchfork makes a decent tool for removing shingles.
Other Shingle Removal Tools:

This garden pitch fork worked quite well for removing just the top layer of shingles, making it much easier to carry them to the edge of the roof for disposal.



Disposal Of Shingles:

One of the biggest drawbacks to reshingling a roof is disposing of the old shingles. Anyone who has never done roofing work, might be surprised at the weight of asphalt shingles. Even the cheapest grades of shingles weigh around 225 pounds per square (in the roofing and siding business, a "square" is 100 square feet). This roof had 2 layers of roofing, and about 12 squares of roof area, so all the old shingles should weigh about 5400 pounds. That's almost 3 tons!

The owner of this house had another project nearby that required a huge dumpster, so we simply dropped the waste shingles into two utility trailers parked below, and hauled the debris to the dumpster.


Shingles Removed... Mostly

It took about an hour to scrape the shingles from one side, with 4 people working. But there were still lots of tiny pieces of shingle stuck to the wood, and many roofing nails that needed to be removed or pounded down.

Roof of small house with shingles removed.


Plumbing vent pipe sticks up above roof.

The plumbing vent stack had an old metal flashing around it, and it was sealed with gobs of roofing tar. We removed that and scraped off the tar.



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Small Scraps Remain:

This is a typical scrap of shingle that was left behind by the shovels and scrapers.

Small pieces of asphalt shingle are left behind after tear-off.


Framing hammer is used to remove old roofing nails and bits of shingles.

I just used a rip-claw hammer to yank out the nails. I went over the roof on my hands and knees and wiped the small chunks of debris downhill with my gloves, and pulled out any nails I found. This process took about 30 minutes per side.



Loose Nails:

There were many boards with loose nails. This roof was sheathed with 1x10 planks, as was common before the widespread use of plywood for roof and floor sheathing. We hammered down the nails.

Nails in sheathing boards become loose.


Ends of sheathing boards indicate the location of rafters.
Locating The Rafters:

The ends of the roof boards told us where the rafters lay... not to mention the rusty nails that were popping out.



Adding More Nails:

I drove in some 8-penny nails to secure the roof sheathing boards to the rafters. I used one or two nails per 10 inch wide board, at each rafter.

Fastening the original sheathing boards with more nails.


Continue To The Roof "Dry-In" Phase.

More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Hammer
  • Pry Bar
  • Shingle Removal Scraper
  • Flat-Blade Shovel
  • Pitchfork
  • Utility Trailer, Tarps
Materials Used:
  • Nails, 8d, 2-1/2"
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