How to Shingle a Gambrel Roof?

How to Shingle a Gambrel Roof?

Shingling a roof can be daunting for many, but with the right approach, it can be a manageable process. If you are planning to shingle a gambrel roof known for its double slopes on each side, you should keep some unique considerations in mind. First and foremost, you must understand the process involved and prepare adequately to ensure the successful completion of the task. Let’s learn how to shingle a gambrel roof.

Begin laying the thing at the bottom of the roof and working your way up. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the appropriate number of nails for each shingle. Finally, finish the job by adding ridge caps to seal off the roof’s top. By following these steps and taking your time, you can successfully shingle your gambrel roof and enjoy a sturdy and reliable roof for years.

What is a Gambrel Roof?

What is a Gambrel Roof?

A gambrel roof has two slopes on each side – a steeper lower slope and a flatter upper slope. This design allows for more space on the upper floor than a traditional gabled roof. The name comes from the resemblance to the hind leg of a horse. Gambrel roofs are most commonly seen on barns, sheds, and cottages.

When shingling a gambrel roof, the goal is to install the shingles smoothly across the transition from the steeper lower slope to the flatter upper slope. The shingles should look seamless with the careful layout and strategic starter courses.

Benefits of Asphalt Shingles

For most gambrel roofs, asphalt shingles are the best option. Asphalt shingles have several advantages:

  • Cost Effective – Asphalt shingles are one of the most budget-friendly roofing materials. They provide an affordable way to protect your roof.
  • Durable – Modern asphalt shingles are designed to last 30-50 years, depending on the quality. The materials stand up well to weather, wind, and rain.
  • Fire Resistant – Asphalt shingles are Class A fire resistant. They can help protect a home from wildfires.
  • Customizable Looks – Asphalt shingles come in various colors and styles. You can choose an option to complement your home’s aesthetic.
  • Easy Installation – Asphalt shingles use a standard installation technique that most DIYers can tackle successfully.

For a gambrel roof, the dimensional style of asphalt shingle with staggered layers is recommended for the best visual appeal.

Getting Started with Preparation

Proper preparation is critical to shingling a roof quickly and efficiently with high-quality results. Here are some tips on getting set up:

Safety First

  • Wear shoes with grip and good traction to avoid slipping on the roof.
  • Use a fall arrest system – a rope anchor and harness to avoid falls.
  • Work with a partner for safety and to have help passing up materials.
  • Use scaffolding or roof jacks to create a stable work surface.
  • Wear protective gear like gloves, eye protection, and a hard hat.

Remove Existing Roofing

  • Tear off and dispose of all existing shingles and underlayment.
  • Remove nails, flashing, and roof accessories like vents.
  • Repair any damaged or rotten roof decking as needed.

Have Supplies Ready

  • Stock up on all required shingles, nails, flashing, underlayment, and tools.
  • Staging the materials on the ground for easy lifting is critical.
  • You’ll also need a pneumatic roofing gun, hammer, utility knife, tin snips, and more. Don’t start until you have everything you need.

Check the Weather

  • Choose a dry, mild weather window of at least 2-3 days for the project.
  • Avoid attempting to shingle in rain, high wind, or snow which can damage the process. Checking the forecast is mandatory.

With prep work complete, you’re ready to get shingling!

Installing Underlayment

Underlayment is the first layer that gets installed on the roof decking. Follow these tips:

  • Use synthetic underlayment for the best water protection. Traditional felt paper can also work.
  • Start by cutting sheets to length with scissors or a utility knife.
  • On the lower roof slope, lay horizontally. On the upper slope, lay vertically. This makes for better overlap.
  • Use staples or roofing nails to hold it until shingles go on top temporarily.
  • Overlap seams by at least 6 inches. At valleys, use a double layer.
  • Extend at least 6 inches up (preferably 12 inches or more) at roof edges.
  • Around vents or chimneys, cut neatly to fit tight.

Take care here for a watertight base layer.

Installing Drip Edge Flashing

Drip edge flashing is an L-shaped metal piece that goes around roof edges. Follow these tips:

  • Cut pieces to length for each edge with tin snips.
  • Bend slightly lengthwise to fit over the curvature of the roof.
  • Overlap pieces a minimum of 2 inches.
  • Use color-matched galvanized nails to attach to the roof deck.

The drip edge goes over the underlayment around the entire perimeter before shingling. This helps guide runoff water into gutters.

Laying Shingle Starter Course

The starter course is the first row of shingles you’ll install. Follow these tips:

  • Use starter shingles if available – they are designed for the first course.
  • If only using full shingles, cut off the tabs so they lay flat.
  • Start at the bottom edge in line with your drip edge.
  • Overhang the starter shingles 1/4-3/4 inches over the drip edge.
  • Nail approximately 1 inch up from the lower edge so subsequent courses cover nail heads. Go just below the seal strip line.
  • Continue across the entire first course.

This starter course gives the rest of the shingles something to seal against.

Installing First Course of Shingles

With your starter complete, you’re ready for the real deal. Follow these tips:

  • Begin again at the lower left edge, just above the starter.
  • Lay an entire shingle with seal strip facing down, overlapping the starter by 1/4-3/4 inches.
  • Align shingles horizontally using chalk lines for a consistent look.
  • Hammer nails just above the seal strip, exposing 1/2 inch of the nail head.
  • Leave a 1/4-3/8 inch gap between shingles for expansion.
  • Use at least four nails per shingle placed randomly so they don’t line up.
  • Continue the first course across and up to the roof ridge.

Repeat the starter course steps on any other areas of the roof. Then, you can move on to the rest of the rows.

Installing Remaining Rows of Shingles

Here are some tips for installing subsequent shingle courses:

  • Start the second row offset by 6 inches so the seams don’t align.
  • Cut shingles as needed using a utility knife and snapping downward to avoid tearing the seal strip.
  • Alternate between 1/4 and 3/4 inch side overhangs between courses for offset pattern.
  • Align using horizontal chalk lines to keep courses straight and even.
  • Maintain 1/4-3/8 inch gap between shingles in each row.
  • Nail just above the seals 1/2 inch down from the top of the shingles.
  • Expose approximately 5-5/16 inches of each shingle. Adjust as needed based on manufacturer guidelines.

Stick with this pattern until you reach the roof peak.

Transitioning Between Slopes

Here are some methods for transitioning shingles from the lower slope up to the upper slope:

  • Option 1 is to lay perpendicular courses between slopes. This means installing shingles vertically up the lower slope, horizontally across the transition, and vertically again on the upper slope.
  • Option 2 is to cut shingles into 4-8 inch wide vertical pieces. Install these pieces across the transition bend in a stepping stone pattern.
  • Option 3 is to use pre-cut shim shingles made specifically for transitions. Just nail them across the bend.

Each course should extend at least 12 inches onto the upper slope to interlock the shingles. Take care to smooth any bulges and keep courses blending evenly.

Finishing at the Roof Peak

Completing the shingling at the roof peak takes some finesse. Here are a few tips:

  • Cut shingles to fit the decreasing space as you work upward.
  • The last shingle should be inverted with the seal strip at the top so it overlaps cleanly.
  • Leave a gap at the peak and use a ridge vent for ventilation.
  • For a finished look, use ridge cap shingles cut to size to cover the open gap.
  • Alternatively, you can cut standard shingles and overlap them across the peak.

With the peak finished off neatly, the shingle installation is completed!

Installing Other Roof Elements

Installing Other Roof Elements

A few final touches will finish off your new shingle roof:

  • Replace any flashing around chimneys, vents, or roof valleys that was removed. Cut to fit tightly to shingles.
  • Install drip edge along rake edges on gable ends if needed. The material should match the drip edge on the eaves for a cohesive look.
  • Reinstall any roof accessories like attic vents using non-corrosive screws into the decking. Carefully slide under loose shingles and make them watertight with roofing sealant.
  • Inspect for any missing, damaged, or improperly installed shingles. Make needed repairs and replace problematic shingles.
  • Use roofing cement sealant around flashing edges for added leak protection. Avoid getting sealant on the shingle surfaces.
  • Examine the roof for debris like nails or staples and remove anything that could puncture shingles.
  • If desired, consider applying ridge cap shingles along the roof hips for a finished look. Install following manufacturer instructions.
  • Install gutter guards along eaves if desired to prevent clogging from roof debris. Take care not to damage newly installed shingles.
  • Allow shingles to seal for a few days before walking on the finished roof. The heat from the sun will activate the sealant strip.
  • Inspect the roof annually and after significant storms. Repair any wind damage promptly to prevent leaks.
  • Plan to replace roofing nails after 10-15 years as they deteriorate. This maintains the integrity of the shingle attachment.

And that completes your gambrel roof shingle installation and finishing touches! With careful attention to detail during the process, you should have an attractive, watertight roof. Maintain it properly, and your new shingle roof should provide years of durable protection from the elements.


Q: How many shingle bundles will I need?

A: The rule of thumb is to divide the total square footage by 100 to determine the number of bundles. Add 5-10% extra to be safe. Always round up to the nearest bundle.

Q: Should I use roofing felt AND synthetic underlayment?

A: No, one or the other is sufficient. Roofing felt or synthetic underlayment provides the required base layer protection.

Q: How much of each shingle should be exposed?

A: Standard exposure is 5-5/16 inches. But check manufacturer guidelines as some shingles may vary. Adjust your reveal accordingly.

Q: Can I install shingles in cold weather?

A: Shingles should only be installed when temperatures remain above 45°F for several days. The self-sealing strips won’t correctly activate if it is too cold.

Q: What gauge nails should be used?

A: Roofing gun nails are recommended, typically in 1-1/4″ to 1-3/8″ sizes. Ring shank and spiral shank minimize pull-out. Stainless steel resists corrosion.


Shingling a gambrel roof requires careful attention to detail, safety precautions, organized underlayment installation, starter shingles, courses, transitions, and final touches. With the suitable materials, tools, and techniques outlined above, you can tackle this roofing project yourself and save thousands by hiring a contractor. Create a vibrant rooftop oasis by learning how to make a roof garden, and don’t forget to enhance the longevity of your DIY shingle roof by regularly inspecting and maintaining it once the project is complete.

When appropriately installed, your gambrel roof will protect your property from start to finish. Let me know if you have any other questions about gambrel roof shingling!

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