How to Nail Shingles

Replacing the shingles on your roof is a relatively simple do-it-yourself job.
If you've never installed shingles on a roof before, you may think that it requires special skills or knowledge. Fortunately, neither are required. You can nail shingles on a roof with nothing more than a hammer, roofing nails and a chalk line.

Step 1

Measure the height of the shingles you are using. Use the chalk to make a mark at either end of the roof at this height.

Step 2

Hold one end of the snap chalkline's string at one marking, and the other end at the other marking. Then snap the chalkline by lifting the string in the middle several inches off the surface of the roof deck and letting go. The resulting line will show you the height of the first course of shingles and will help you keep the shingles aligned.

Step 3

Check the manufacturer's directions on the shingle package to see how many nails are required for each shingle, as well as where the nails should be placed. These factors will differ according to the shingles you are using. For example, if you are using Owens Corning standard shingles, you should use five nails per shingle, starting between two-to-three inches up from the edge of the shingle.

Step 4

Place the first shingle at the bottom corner of the roof deck, using the chalk line as a guide. Use the information you discovered in Step 3 to nail the shingle to the roof deck.

Step 5

Lay another shingle next to the first, and repeat the previous procedure to nail it in. If you are using wood shingles (such as cedar), leave 1/4 inch between each shingle to allow for expansion due to moisture. Continue until you finish the first course, or row, of shingles.

Step 6

Snap a chalk line after each row to keep the shingles aligned horizontally. You can also snap vertical chalklines up the roof deck between each pair of shingles in the first course to keep the shingles aligned vertically all the way up the roof.

Things You Will Need

  • Chalk
  • Snap chalkline
  • Shingles
  • Galvanized roofing nails
  • Hammer


  • At the peak of the roof, or at either end, you may need to trim the shingles so they will fit correctly. You can use almost any cutting implement, such as switchblades or shears, to trim the shingles.
  • Nail shingles on a warmer day for maximum adhesiveness. Avoid installing shingles during the coldest days of winter.


  • Do not nail shingles on a windy, rainy or snowy day to avoid roofing accidents.
  • Do not nail shingles yourself on a steeply sloping roof unless you are an experienced roofer.

About the Author

Keren (Carrie) Perles is a freelance writer with professional experience in publishing since 2004. Perles has written, edited and developed curriculum for educational publishers. She writes online articles about various topics, mostly about education or parenting, and has been a mother, teacher and tutor for various ages. Perles holds a Bachelor of Arts in English communications from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.