The basic act of tearing off old roofing doesn’t require an exceptional skill level. Tearing off a roof is easy to do by using a shovel or pitchfork to pry off old shingles. Depending upon the time and tools you have available, you may choose to include roof tear off in your own DIY project and hire a professional contractor for roof installation.

To complete a successful roof tear off, you will need:

  • Tear off tools – i.e., pitchfork or shovel
  • Construction dumpster or pickup truck
  • Safety gear  – i.e. goggles and work gloves

A large construction dumpster or pickup truck should be placed next to the property. As roof shingles are torn off, they can be thrown directly into the container to prevent lengthy cleanup on the roof after tear off is complete. Many roof contractors also take the time to construct a temporary chute that will funnel old shingles directly into a trash container.

Although it may take extra time and attention to detail, it’s important to pull out all exposed nails instead of hammering them back into a roof.

Removing old nails will give you the opportunity to start fresh in roof installation. If old nails are pounded back down into a housing structure, they can easily work their way back up over time to corrupt or imbalance new roofing materials.

To protect the internal structure of a house, especially in bad weather conditions, a roofing company may choose to tear off a roof in sections, followed by replacement.

This will prevent an entire home from being exposed to the elements when a roof is torn off completely. Otherwise, a temporary tarp may be fastened over roof peaks to protect a home or business from rain if a roof is torn off at once.

Depending upon the current state of a roof, a tear off may be necessary if multiple layers are found under the roofing materials. Today, it is fairly common to find second roofing layers that were installed 20 to 30 years ago under newer roofing materials. If a roof tear off isn’t done thoroughly, a property could accumulate up to three layers at the same time.

While some city codes may allow for roof overlay applications, many local permits will require that old roofing materials are removed before new roof installation.

Most states will allow two roofing layers within local building codes. Some states like New York may permit as many as three, although three layers of roofing materials are considered to be a hazard that could cause a roof to collapse on the second floor of a property.

Here are the basic guidelines for when you should consider a complete roof tear off on your property:

  • Your roof has too many layers. As outlined above, multiple roofing layers could violate local building codes.
  • Your roof is saggy or spongy. These surface issues can indicate bad decking with possible damage or deterioration underneath roofing materials. In this case, a full tear off is recommended to correct dry rot or delamination.
  • Your roof has ice dams. In cold seasons with freezing temperatures, ice dams that accumulate over several months can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. A new roof may be necessary to provide a more resistant water protection membrane.
  • Your shingles are incompatible. While it may be possible to cover light shingles with heavy shingles, heavy shingles will need to be removed before applying light shingles on top.
  • Your roof is in poor condition. If existing roof materials show signs of visible damage, like curling or splitting, a complete tear off before replacement is the best bet.

In short, a roof tear off will be recommended by most roofing companies since shingle life expectancy can decrease considerably when roofing materials are installed as an overlay. While estimates vary, shingle life span could be reduced by anywhere from 10% to 20% in a roof layover.