Wood shingle roof, Key West Florida (C) Daniel Friedman Asphalt Shingle Roof Installation Procedures
Best Roofing Practices Guide

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Asphalt shingle installation:

This article discusses best roofing practices for the installation of asphalt roof shingles, including installation temperature, shingle sealing methods, shingle course offsets, asphalt shingle nailing location and specifications, low slope and steep slope limits for asphalt shingles, and roof flashing at building eaves and around skylights.

We describe asphalt shingle nailing spacing and locations. Use of staples for asphalt shingle installation. Asphalt roof shingle course offset requirements. Low slope and steep slope limits for asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingle roof flashing at eaves & skylights. Best practices for roofing material installation, flashing, ventilation, nailing, underlayment.

This article series discusses best practices in the selection and installation of residential roofing.

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Installation Recommendations for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

/BestPractices/Figure 2-7 Shingle Sealing Details (C) Wiley and Sons, S Bliss

Installation Temperature Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Ideally, shingles should be installed at temperatures ranging from 40°F to 85°F. Below 40°F, shingles are brittle and crack easily when hammered or bent.

Above 85°F, it is easy to tear the shingles or mar the granular coating. In hot temperatures, roofers often start very early in the morning and break at midday. In cold temperatures, it is best to store the shingles in a heated enclosure until they are installed.

Details about shingle temperatures in manufacture and on-roof are at ASPHALT SHINGLE TEMPERATURES

[Click to enlarge any image]

Adapted/paraphrased with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, chapter on BEST ROOFING PRACTICES:

Manual Sealing Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Details about the sealing recommendations from asphalt shingle roofing experts are at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS

at ASPHALT SHINGLE CELLOPHANE STRIP REMOVAL we include an exhaustive review of the argument around whether or not one should remove the cellophane strips from the back of asphalt roof shingles before they are installed [basically, no provided they are secure and in place].

Here is what the GAF Materials Corporation, Grand Timberline™ Premium Architectural Shingle Application Instructions say about the glue strips and cellophane. You'll note that we are to leave the cellophane in place, but if site conditions (high wind) require immediate shingle sealing, an extra step, using additional shingle tab adhesive, is permitted.

WIND RESISTANCE/HAND SEALING: These shingles have a special thermal sealant that firmly bonds the shingles together after application when exposed to sun and warm temperatures. Shingles installed in Fall or Winter may not seal until the following Spring.

If shingles are damaged by winds before sealing or are not exposed to adequate surface temperatures, or if the self sealant gets dirty, the shingles may never seal. Failure to seal under these circumstances results from the nature of self-sealing shingles and is not a manufacturing defect.

To insure immediate sealing, apply 4 quarter-sized dabs of shingle tab adhesive on the back of the shingle 1" (25mm) and 13" (330mm) in from each side and 1" (25mm) up from bottom of the shingle. Press shingle firmly into the adhesive.

For maximum wind resistance along rakes, cement shingles to underlayment and each other in a 4" (102mm) width of asphalt plastic roof cement.

NOTE: Excess tab adhesive can cause blistering of the shingle.

[The company is referring to the use of additional roof shingle adhesive, not the factory-applied glue strip. Also see BLISTERS on ASPHALT SHINGLES - Ed.]

The film strips on the back of each shingle are to prevent sticking together of the shingles while in the bundle and to keep dirt and debris out of the adhesive material so that after installation the adhesive will work. Their removal is NOT required during application.

In cold climates, the asphalt shingle sealant strip may not set up properly and may require manual sealing.

For three-tab shingles, place two quarter-size spots of plastic roof cement under the lower corners of each tab (as shown in Figure 2-7).

With laminated shingles, place four to six quarter-sized dots, spaced evenly, about one inch above the bottom of the overlapping shingle.

/BestPractices/Figure 2-8 shingle offsets (C) Wiley and Sons, S Bliss

Our page top photo shows the standard sealant strips [image] found on asphalt shingles, in this case a GAF® product we photographed at a Home Depot® store.

Details about the sealing recommendations from asphalt shingle roofing experts are at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS.

Starter Course Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

After the underlayment and drip edge are installed, a starter course of asphalt shingles, with the tabs removed, is nailed along the eaves so its sealant strip seals down the first course.

Offsets Between Shingle Courses, Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Successive courses are typically offset 6 inches (half a tab) on a 36-inch shingle in a stepped fashion, making cutouts align every other course and butt joints align every seventh course (Figure 2-8).

For a more random pattern where cutouts align only every eighth course, offset shingles only five inches.

Both of these patterns effectively resist leakage, but the 5-inch offset may provide longer wear since water will not be channeled down the cutouts thereby eroding the stone topping.

Shingle Laddering Not Recommended

Shingle course staggering (C) Wiley and Sons, S Bliss

As we discuss in detail at LADDERING vs STAIR STEPPING SHINGLES, for ease of installation some roofers install shingles straight up the roof, staggering shingles 6 inches or 18 inches back and forth (Figure 2-9).

Since this lines up butt joints every other course, this is considered a less watertight roof and may leak under extreme situations, such as windblown rain on a low pitch.

Ladder style application of asphalt roof shingles is not recommended by any roofing manufacturers. Manufacturers also claim that shingle color patterns may create splotches or stripes if laid this way.

Fastening (Nailing) Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Nailing schedule for asphalt shingles (C) J Wiley and Sons, S Bliss

The preferred fastener is galvanized roofing nails with a minimum 12-gauge shank and head diameter of at least 3/8 inch.

Although staples are allowed in some jurisdictions, they do not provide the same holding power.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Both nails and staples should be long enough to penetrate the roof sheathing by 3/4 inch or penetrate 1/4 inch through the sheathing if it is less than 3/4 inch thick.

Fasteners should be driven straight and flush with the shingle surface (Figure 2-10 above).

Overdriven nails or staples can cut into the shingle or crack it in cold weather.

Use Staples to Install Asphalt Roof Shingles?

Roof damage assessment (C) D Friedman R LeBlancWatch out: the following is an excerpt from a GAF Technical Advisory Bulletin warning about the use of staples to secure asphalt shingles:

Staples are not recommended by GAF and most industry organizations

…Staples made of at least 16-gauge galvanized steel with a minimum crown of 15/16” (24 mm) have been and continue to be used by some applicators to install shingles.

If staples are used to install GAF shingles, our limited shingle warranty will remain in effect.

However any problems resulting from the use of staples, including wind blow-off, are not covered by the warranty.

... Most local building codes do not permit the use of staples…

Details about stapling vs. nailing asphalt shingles including our list of the many ways to make a mistake when stapling shingles are at ASPHALT SHINGLE STAPLE vs NAIL

Fastener Location Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs - Where Do the Shingle Nails or Shingle Staples Go?

Shingle nail location (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Standard shingle nailing for three-tab shingles is four nails per shingle, about 1 inch in from either end and one over each slot.

Shingle nail placement should follow manufacturers specs, which typically require nailing or stapling just below the sealant strip (Figure 2-11 at left).

Nailing the roof shingle too high can allow wind to get under the shingles.

Nailing the roof shingle too low will expose nails to the weather and to view from below.

Nailing the shingle through the sealant strip can interfere with sealing.

Shingle Nailing in Areas of High winds

For areas subjected to high winds, use six nails as shown in Figure 2-11 or add two dabs of sealant at the bottom of each tab (as discussed
at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS and as shown in Figure 2-7).

Also special wind-rated shingles with heavier sealing strips are available by special order and may be required in some jurisdictions.

See our excerpt from the 2003 IRC R905.2.5 IRC (New Jersey Copy) included just below.

Nailing Requirements for Laminated or Architectural Asphalt Roof Shingles

Nailing details for laminated or architectural asphalt shingles (C) J Wiley, S BlissUse 4 or 6 roofing nails in architectural shingles, as shown here.

With laminated asphalt roof shingles, standard nailing is four fasteners spaced equidistant as shown in Figure 2-12, or six fasteners equidistant for heavy-duty installations.

It is important that fasteners go in the designated nail area where they will penetrate both laminations.

Nailing a laminated or architectural asphalt roof shingle too high will leave the bottom lamination loose and subject to slipping out of place.

R905.2.6 Attachment. Asphalt shingles shall have the minimum number of fasteners required by the manufacturer. For normal application, asphalt shingles shall be secured to the roof with not less than four fasteners per strip shingle or two fasteners per individual shingle.

Where the roof slope exceeds 20 units vertical in 12 units horizontal (167 percent slope), special methods of fastening are required. For roofs located where the basic wind speed per Figure R301.2(4) is  110 mph (49 m/s) or higher, special methods of fastening are required.

Special fastening methods shall be tested in accordance with ASTM D 3161, Class F. Asphalt shingle wrappers shall bear a label indicating compliance with ASTM D 3161, Class F. - IRC 2006 Section R905.2.5 in IRC CHAPTER 9 ROOF ASSEMBLIES [PDF] (2006)

Low Slope Roof Specifications for Asphalt Shingle Roofs: Special Procedures

Asphalt shingles can be installed on roof slopes of 2:12 to 4:12 if special procedures are followed for underlayment (see details at ROOFING UNDERLAYMENT BEST PRACTICES or see comments on page 54 in the printed text Best Practices Guide).

Eaves flashing to a point at least 24 inches inside the interior wall is recommended if there is any possibility of ice dams or water backup from leaves or pine needles.

A conservative approach is to run self-adhering bituminous membrane over the entire low slope area.

Once the underlayment is complete, shingles are installed in the standard fashion. In cold weather, manual sealing may be required as wind uplift will be greater on shallow roofs.

See manual sealing discussed at “WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS,” or see page 57 in the printed text Best Practices Guide.

Steep Slope Limits & Shingle Nailing and Hand Sealing Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Steep slope limits for asphalt shingles (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Asphalt shingles should not be installed on vertical walls, but they can be used on steep slopes, such as mansard-style roofs.

For slopes greater than 21:12, apply underlayment in the normal fashion.

However, shingle sealing may be a problem, particularly on shaded portions of the roof.

For best performance, use the six-fasteners-per-shingle method (Figure 2-11 above) and manually seal the shingles with plastic roofing cement (see manual sealing discussed at “WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS” ).

Nailing & Sealing Asphalt Shingles on Near-Vertical Building Surfaces

Shingles lost on steep roof (C) Daniel Friedman

Our steep roof photo (left) shows quite a few shingles lost from this rather steep church roof slope.

Similar problems occur when asphalt shingles are nailed to the steep sides of mansard roofs unless proper nailing and sealing have been performed.

Flickinger cites the NRCA Roofing and Waterproofing Manual 4th Ed where, in referring to roof slopes of 18" rise in 12" of run (150%) or more, [note that this is more cautious than Bliss's advice above] the NRCA (Flickinger) points out that there are differing views within the roofing industry about the maximum slope on which asphalt shingles may be applied using typical methods.

We discuss the recommended installation details for installing asphalt roof shingles on very steep or near vertical roof slopes and also use of roof shingles or even roll roofing on vertical building walls separately at ASPHALT SHINGLES on VERY STEEP ROOFS

Flashing Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Flashings for asphalt shingles should be corrosion resistant metal with a minimum thickness of 0.019 inch. A cricket or saddle should be installed on any chimney greater than 30 inches wide and can be covered with flashing or the same materials used as a roof covering.

See these roof flashing articles:

Underlayment Requirements for Asphalt Roof Shingles

The roof deck should be sound and level before laying the underlayment. Fifteen-pound or heavier felt underlayment is required by code in some areas. Whether or not it is required, underlayment is cheap insurance against problems. There are several good reasons to install underlayment:

Details about the requirements and benefits of roofing underlayments are at these articles:

Underlayment On Standard Slopes where Asphalt Roof Shingles are Installed

/BestPractices/Figure 2-2 (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

On roofs with a slope of 4:12 or greater, use a single layer of 15 lb. asphalt-saturated felt, starting at the eaves and lapping upper courses over lower by a minimum of 2 inches. Vertical joints should lap a minimum of 4 inches and be offset by at least 6 feet in successive rows (see Figure 2-2 at left).

Secure each shingle course along seams and edges with enough corrosion-resistant nails to hold it in place until the roofing is installed.

In high-wind areas, apply fasteners a maximum of 36 inches on-center along overlaps.

For best protection against leaks, run felt 6 inches over ridges and hips, from each direction, and 6 inches up any adjoining walls. Valleys should be lined with a full width of roofing felt (or bituminous membrane) pushed tight into the valley so there is no slack.

Side courses of underlayment should run over the valley lining and extend 6 inches past its edge.


Underlayment Application of Asphalt Shingles on Low Slope Roofs

/BestPractices/Figure 2-3 (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Asphalt shingles can be used on roofs with a slope of 2:12 to 4:12 if double-coverage underlayment is used.

Start with a 19-inch strip of 15 lb. asphalt-saturated felt along the eaves, and lap succeeding courses by 19 inches as shown in Figure 2-3 at left.

Wherever there is a possibility of ice or snow buildup or the backup of water from leaves or pine needles, install a self-adhering bituminous membrane along the eaves that extends up the roof to a point at least 36 inches inside the interior wall line.

An alternative approach, not widely used anymore, is to seal all laps in the lower courses of roofing felt with lap cement or asphalt plastic cement.

/BestPractices/Figure 2-4 (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

In areas with extensive snowfall or windblown rain, the best protection against leakage is to cover the entire low-slope roof area with a bituminous membrane, as shown in Figure 2-4.

Vertical end laps should be at least 3 inches and horizontal laps 6 inches.

If the roof changes to a steeper slope, for example, where a shed dormer joins the main roof, extend the membrane 12 to 18 inches up the main roof slope.

Bituminous membranes are self-healing around nail holes, and because they bond fully to the sheathing, any leaks that occur cannot spread.

As a safeguard against expensive callbacks, many roofers now apply membrane to the entire surface of any roof with a slope of 4:12 or less.

Eaves Flashing Recommendations for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

/BestPractices/Figure 2-5 (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

The best defense against ice dams in cold climates is a so-called “cold roof,” consisting of high levels of ceiling insulation separated from the roof surface by a free-flowing vent space


Where a cold roof cannot be achieved due to complex roof shapes, unvented roofs, or retrofit constraints, ice dams may form during severe winters, in some cases, causing pooled water to wet wall cavities and interior finishes.

Where adequate insulation and ventilation cannot be assured, self-adhering bituminous eaves flashing should be installed. The membrane should go from the lower edge of the roof to a point at least 24 inches inside the interior wall line (Figure 2-5 at left).


Where two lengths of eaves flashing meet at a valley, run each across the valley, starting with the length from the roof with the lower slope or lesser height. The valley flashing should later lap over the eaves flashing.


Skylights and Ice Dams on Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Figure 2-5 (C) Wiley and Sons, S Bliss

With deep snow, melting water from above and around the skylight can lead to ice dams below.

For full protection, some contractors extend the eaves membrane up to the bottom of any skylights and continue it around the sides and top of the skylight.

By wrapping the skylight curb with membrane as well, any potential flashing leaks are also eliminated as shown in Figure 2-5 at left.

See also “Skylight Flashing,” page 127 in the printed text Best Practices Guide

Figure 2-6 (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

If it is impractical to install membrane all the way from eaves to skylight, install a 3-foot-wide band of membrane below the skylight, lapping the bottom edge of the membrane over the row of shingles where the membrane terminates.

Drip Edge. Drip edge should always be used along the eaves to kick water away from the fascia, and it is a good idea along rakes as well.

Drip edge should lap over the underlayment at the rakes and under it at the eaves (as shown in Figure 2-6 at left).

Overlap joints in the drip edge by 2 inches. Shingles can be set even the with the drip edge or overlap by up to 3/4 inch.

Some manufacturers of eaves membranes specify that the drip edge be installed on top of the membrane along the eaves, violating the principle that upper layers of flashing should overlap lower layers.

To remedy the problem, the manufacturers suggest using a second strip of membrane to seal the top of the drip edge to the eaves membrane. In practice, however, most installers place the drip edge first and lap the eaves membrane over it, consistent with good building practice.

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

Asphalt Roof Shingle Exposure

Asphalt shingle tab exposure amount (C) InspectAPedia Pam L

Reader Question: is this shingle exposure correct?

8 Sept. 2014 Pam said:

Is anyone familiar with this type of roofing installation? We could be wrong, but it seems as if the rows are too far apart? We would be very grateful for any information or insights. Thanks in advance!


Pam I took a look at your photo and will also post it here for others to comment. It looks as if there was a deliberate effort to expose a black shadow-line between courses. I can't know if this is a shingle appearance feature or if the roofer separated the courses by more space than the usual 4-5" of asphalt shingle exposure.

Make some measurements and tell us the shingle exposure amount: that is, the distance from the lower edge of a course of shingle tabs down to the lower edge of the successive course below.

If you know the shingle brand and model number that would also be useful.

Watch out: on typical 3-tab asphalt roof shingles, using an exposure amount greater than 5 5/8" risks leaving the shingle nails exposed to the weather - asking for roof leaks.


Resources: List of Roofing Materials & Equipment Suppliers


Asphalt Shingles

Low-Slope Roofing Membranes

Ridge Vents

Venting Underlayments

More Information about Roofing Materials, Methods, Standards

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.


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