Is your roof in disrepair? You might be able to lay new shingles over existing shingles and avoid the cost of tear-off.

By BH&G Editors
Updated June 30, 2020
white home front exterior
Anthony Masterson Photography

If conditions are right, new shingles laid over old shingles can be just as attractive and durable as shingles laid on bare sheathing. Installation is easier than for a tear-off job because you can use the existing shingles as guides for laying the new ones. But you must take care to install shingles correctly so they lie flat. And a good job involves installing new flashings rather than relying on the existing ones.

Reroof jobs are sometimes done without replacing flashings. However installing new flashings, including special drip-edge flashings made for reroofing, will ensure a tight seal and a long life. Some roofers install a layer of waterproof shingle underlayment (WSU) over the existing shingles at the eave end, as would be done for a roof laid on bare sheathing. This provides added protection against ice dams.

Asphalt shingles can be laid over cedar shakes or shingles, however, this is a roofing project best left to pros. Beveled wood pieces called "horsefeathers" must be laid along the thick edges of the shakes to make a fairly flat surface. Before you reshingle a roof, read our step-by-step guide for adding new shingles over old ones.

  • Working time 1 day
  • Start to finish 1 day
  • Difficulty Hard

What you need


How to do it

Part 1

man removing ridge caps
Step 1

Remove Caps

Remove the ridge caps. Doing it now will make it easier to keep the reroofing job clean. Use a flat pry bar or roofing shovel to pry out and remove the ridge shingles. Remove all nails.

removing air vent pipe flashing
Step 2

Remove Obstructions

Remove air vents and pipe flashings by prying out or unscrewing the fasteners holding the fixture. If you damage shingles while doing this, repair the shingles (see next step). Reuse a vent or flashing only if it is like new; otherwise, replace it with a new one that will fit the hole or pipe.

attach replacement shingle
Step 3

Repair Broken Shingles

If a shingle is torn or cracked, glue the broken piece back in place using roofing cement. If the broken piece is lost, cut a new piece to fit the existing shingle. The goal is to provide a reasonably flat surface for the new shingles to lie over, with no gaps greater than 1/2 inch.

sweeping roof top
Step 4

Sweep the Roof

Using a large broom, brush away all broken shingle pieces, twigs, and any other debris that could become trapped under the new shingles that you install. Keep the roof clean as you work.

installing drip edge flashing
Step 5

Install Flashing

At the eave and the rake, install U-shape drip-edge flashing made for reroof jobs. Install the eave piece first, then the rake piece over it. The two pieces should meet neatly at the corners. Drive nails at high points on the underlying roof, the bottoms of the shingles.

installing new metal valley
Step 6

Install Valley Flashing

If you have an open valley, install new W-shape metal or vinyl valley flashing to fit directly over the old flashing. Attach it by driving nails into the outside edges only. Do not drive nails less than 6 inches from the center of the flashing.

starter strip course
Step 7

Install Starter Strip

Use a starter strip or cut pieces for a starter course. Rip-cut the starter strip or starter pieces so that they butt up against the second course of existing shingles and are even with the front edge of the existing roofing. Attach with nails along the top edge of the strip.

Editor's Tip
new old shingles illustration
What to Do If the Old Roof Is Not Straight

If the existing roof has wavy horizontal lines, you can take out the waves by snapping a horizontal line 1/2 inch below the shingle bottoms of one course. Install a course along the snapped line, then install succeeding courses using a guide or a snapped line.

install first course shingles
Step 8

Cut and Install Shingles

Rip-cut the shingles for the first course so they butt up against the third course of existing shingles and are even with the front edge of the starter course. Their tab slots should not line up with the tab slots of the starter course, if there are any. Nail the shingles just above the tab slots.

Editor's Tip: The thicker the new shingle, the better it will hide any imperfections in the roofing below. It's a good idea to use at least 40-year shingles; architectural shingles are an even better choice.

roofing over existing shingles
Step 9

Continue Installing Shingles

Butt the succeeding courses of shingles against the bottoms of existing shingles and apply them by driving nails above the tab slots. Snap vertical control lines; there is no need to snap horizontal lines. Be sure the new tab slots do not align with the old ones.

Editor's Tip
aligning layover shingles
Aligning Layover Shingles

In a reroof job, the starter course (or strip) is rip-cut so it butts up against the third courseof the existing shingles; its front edge is even with the front edge of the drip edge. The rest of the shingles are full-width.

cutting flashing piece
Step 10

Work Around Vent

Once you have installed shingles just past a plumbing vent, install the flashing piece so it will lie on top of roofing at its bottom but be covered with roofing at its top. Depending on the width of the pipe, you may need to tear away a segment or two of the rubber boot. Apply roofing cement, slide the flashing over the pipe, and push so it lies flat on the roof.

cut shingle above air vent
Step 11

Install Air Vents

Install air vents in a similar manner. For both plumbing-vent flashing and air vents, you'll need to cut the shingle above to go around the flashing and then install the shingle.

installing step flashing
Step 12

Work Around Walls

Where you meet a chimney or side wall, install step flashing. Apply a shingle, then a piece of flashing, then a shingle, and so on, so that each piece of flashing rests on top of the lower course and is covered by the upper course. You'll need to pry the siding outward to slip in the flashing; in some cases, you'll have to remove the siding.

Credit: Dave Toht
apply mortar chimney flashing
Credit: Dave Toht
Step 13

Install Counterflashing

Protect the step flashing with counterflashing. On a chimney, use a grinder to cut an indentation into the mortar. Cut and bend the counterflashing to fit snugly into the cut mortar and to cover at least 3 inches of the step flashing. Apply mortar with a caulking gun and set the flashing into the mortar.

attaching ridge caps
Step 14

Cover Ridge

Install roofing on both sides of a ridge and cut them so they butt closely together but do not overlap. Cut shingles into ridgecaps. Snap lines on either side and install the caps.

cutting existing shingles
Step 15

Cut Shingles

At the rake, snap a line directly above the edge of the existing shingles. Cut with a utility knife; you might want to use a straightedge. You might find it easier if you first cut from below using the existing shingles as a cutting guide.

Comments (1)

How difficult was this project?
April 28, 2020
Difficulty: Kind of Hard
THE APPLICATION OF WINTERGUARD OVER OLD SHINGLES WinterGuard must be applied over a clean, dry deck. Any other application, such as over old shingles, will void the WinterGuard warranty.

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