Friday, June 14, 2013

10 Lessons from DIY Roofing on the Fly

The roof. Is. Complete.

It took over a week of hard, long hours, and a group of incredible friends, but for the love of all things sacred, it is done.

Could not have come at a better time.

We survived our first storm earlier this water damage, no random wooden beams falling on my head, no horrific moment of failure. She is a big, strong roof :)

For those who missed my earlier post, Why My Roof Makes Me Smile, Part I, here's a picture of the roof before we decided to lose our minds and rip it off:

And now:

Nice right?

Would you like to know what I learned during this process? Please allow me to share, if for no other reason than to give you a good laugh or two.

1. Friends are Key
Good friends are incredibly important. Many won't help, and that's ok, but the few that do are like golden nuggets of love powder and should be treated with the utmost care. I fed them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We kept a cooler stocked with water and beer. I picked the rug up off the bathroom floor. They were kings in this castle of momentary pain.

***Added Bonus: Guys on a roof in hot weather are, well, hot.

2. Good Supplies Mean More than Expected
We originally priced our supplies at a few big-box stores. They were cheaper, yes, but we had to essentially split our supplies in groups........the underlayment, for example, was cheapest at Menards, but Lowe's had the best shingle prices, and Home Depot had a sale on roofing nails and lumber. We could've saved about $500 ordering individual supplies at three different stores....but our time, as I mentioned in my previous post, was limited. We chose to get everything from Copley Roofing in Crystal Lake, Illinois. They are a small, but growing business run by an incredible people. We were given top-of-the-line supplies and shingles, but even more importantly, we were blessed with invaluable time from a professional roofer who assisted us with our flashing, shingle placement, and measurements.

***Added Bonus: I have a "guy" now. You know, like when you're talking to someone and they say, "Oh man, I really need a plumber, or a baker, or a roofer." Now I can reply with, "I've got a guy." Cool points!

3. Demo is Not Just Ripping Off Shingles
Once the shingles are off, you need to replace any loose or rotted boards, and you need to remove nails. Hundreds upon hundreds of nails. Give yourself plenty of time to get your roof clean and remember to....

Demo is a fickle thing. It starts off daunting, teasing almost. Then you develop a niche, a habit, a procedure. Before you know it half the roof is uncovered and you've only been up there for a couple hours. It can be rewarding to see all you've done. Now get over yourself. Clean the half you've uncovered. Put down your ice and water barrier. Put down your felt or paper. Make it watertight. Then move along with your demo.

***Flawed Moment: We did not do this. Once the guys started rippin, they didn't stop. They were animals. It is intense, very manual labor. It rained. Oh boy did it rain. Right into my attic. Do number 4. DO NUMBER 4.

5. Never Underestimate the Power of a Smartphone
We have a beautiful, architectural mini "dormer" on top of the garage. I love it, it's so cute. Not so cute when it creates four valleys you need to shingle. Even uglier when you realize you have no idea how to use architectural shingles on a valley. Shingling valleys was just one of the things we YouTubed from the roof. Having something at your fingertips was highly helpful.

***Added Bonus (courtesy of Aaron): You have something to call your wife with when you need beer or food. Yep, he's all mine.

6. Chalk Lines Rule
With the six valleys and one long stretch of roof near the back of our home, we needed to really plan out how the shingles would lay. It took some careful planning. I watched the planning process. Got a little bored. Kinda listened. Started nail-gunning the crap out of some shingles. To correct my mistakes, the guys would draw a new chalk line.

***Added Bonus: Chalk lines are FUN to use. You get to snap a little string and your line pops right onto your surface. Very entertaining stuff when you've been looking at the same brown shingles for about 6 hours!

7. Call 911 for Flashing Assistance
When I have an emergency, I call the pros. When your roof comes into contact with your actual house, you want to ensure it is sealed properly. If you can afford to pay a trusted pro to check your flashing, do it. We were lucky to have Mr. Copley. We wouldn't have completed the chimney correctly without him.

***Flawed Moment: We still have one piece of flashing we need to fix. The house is officially watertight, but the weak flashing poses a leaving a window cracked. Could have perfect conditions to leak, could not. We are risking it at the moment, because frankly, we are tired of the roof. It's on the list.

8. Circling the House Like a Buzzard is Good
You will get trash and debris all. Over. The. Place. Put on some good shoes and walk the perimeter of your house every few hours to collect debris. I pushed a wheelbarrow around with me to help collect everything. A magnetic strip on a stick helped with the nails, but my eyes and ears were even better. I found you needed to get the strip really close to the nail for it to alternative method? I kicked the stuff around and listed for a "tink tink" sound. It worked quite well, actually.

***Flawed Moment: I did not circle every few hours. I circled twice. I am now paying the price, as I continue to find little pieces of shingle and felt in my yard. Try to keep up on it if you can!

9. Pet and Kid Sitters are Glorious Angels from Heaven
A roofing job is no place for animals or kids. The nails get everywhere, there is dust and asphalt in the air, and you have no time to keep them entertained or safe. I had my youngest with me on Day 1, demo day. Naps were hard because of the pounding. Feeding was hard because I was cooking for huge friggin guys. Bath time was hard because I didn't want the guys to be forced to use the downstairs bathroom. I was very lucky to have my in-laws available for Day 2. They watched both the kids from sunup to sundown, like a boss.

***Added Bonus: You get some time to be an adult. I drank a couple beers, nailed some shingles, got some sun, and talked with the guys. It was refreshing.

10. Don't Be Afraid to Try
If I had listened to the many, many people who doubted our ability to complete this job, I would've never gone through with what is, to date, our proudest homeowner moment. You CAN do it. Yes, you will run into problems. Yes, it may cost more than you think. Yes, you will owe your friends big time. It is absolutely worth it.

 ***I'm serious. Do it.

If you have any specific questions about the materials we used, prices, measurements, or anything else you wouldn't mind gambling on this DIY Newbie, please leave a comment below. As a side note, we were not paid anything for mentioning Copley Roofing. They really are just that good.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much! We are very happy with it...and no leaks!!

  2. Wow! You sound like a real pro in roofing, Jennifer! Great job! Well, congratulations on finishing your roofing project. These tips and lessons you shared with us are definitely going to be helpful to other homeowners who want to brave doing roofing projects on their own. It is still ideal to hire professional roofers for best results. But if you're the type who wants to do it on your own, make sure to exact proper caution to avoid accidents. Either way, thank you for sharing your story with us!
    Karen @ O.N. Andrew & Son

    1. Thank you Karen! We worked our tails off and were lucky to have the help of our friends and community professionals. It is no joke and made me appreciate the exhausting work roofers do on a daily basis. Thank you for reading!

  3. Great advice, Jennifer! A roofing project is never an easy task, but with reliable friends around, everything will work out just fine. Keep in mind not to push your luck much and know when it's time to ask for professional help. Safety should be your priority as well. Knowing there are kids and pets in the house, it is highly required to install safety equipment in the vicinity and for you to wear safety gear.

    1. Thank you Allyson! Agreed, safety is always important. Roofing nails in particular are challenging to see on the ground. We lost a few good car tires to those things!! Thank you so much for reading! :)

  4. Thanks for your tips, Jennifer! Though it's a challenge but fulfilling to get a roofing project done by yourself, you should still consider hiring professionals to do it for you. And learning how you lost your tires to those roofing nails emphasizes how much we need to install protective equipment such as tarps to catch falling debris. I hope you didn't incur injury during the project!

    1. Hi Dewey, thanks for reading! Wow, it seems my posts have caught the attention of quite a few roofing professionals! Unfortunately, we needed a new roof and could not afford to hire someone to do it for us. We spent a little over $3k for our entire project and it's beautiful, well-executed, and made with the highest-quality material. We did really, really well for first-timers!

      I agree professionals are always the best. Nobody ever wants to do their own labor! But for a family of four who faced a long winter with a crappy roof, we needed to do something. It can be done and I know this because, well, I did it! :)

      Thanks again for reading!