Homeowners rarely go on their own rooftops. When roofing problems arise, most homeowners just rent the job to a professional. The reality is that roofing jobs don’t have to be as intimidating as they are thought to be. Minor repairs are possible for most DIY enthusiasts once they’re prepared and have the right tools.
Preparation is key, so knowing what roofing tools to use for a repair is the first step. Aside from a ladder, a proper roofing tool requires certain equipment. Trying to fix your roof without properly preparing can be lousy or even dangerous. However, if you’re well prepared and equipped with the right roofing tools, you’ll always stay up to date – and on the roof.
1. Fall protection
Safety must be a priority when venturing onto your roof. Even single-story, low roofs can be dangerous. It is invaluable to have a lightweight harness that will not obstruct your movement while also allowing you to strap your nail pockets over it.
Editor’s Choice: The Qualcraft Guardian fall protection kit (available on Amazon) has everything you need to safely get on a roof and get your job done.
2. Shingle remover
Tearing down the existing shingles on a roof is not an easy task, and it’s better to tackle them with some leverage. Shingle removers slide between shingles and pry them open to strip them of the roofing (the layer of plywood that the shingles are nailed to). These removal tools have long handles that you can use to stop while applying lots of leverage. In short, they quickly take care of removing old roofs.
Editor’s Choice: Qualcraft’s 54-inch scoop removal shovel (available on Amazon) is a lightweight and sturdy option for quickly and safely getting a roof onto plywood.
Climbing up and down a tool ladder all day is neither convenient nor practical. Leaving tools on a roof surface is also a bad idea for safety reasons. Carpenter’s nail pouches, also known as tool belts, provide a convenient place for a few hand tools and a pouch of roofing nails. These bags increase efficiency, safety and speed and reduce fatigue.
Buy bags that sit on the back of your hips with a hammer loop. The roof requires a lot of stooping, and pockets sitting on your lap are inconvenient for removing nails and tools.
Editor’s Choice: Lightweight nail bags like this set from BucketBoss (available on Amazon) are perfect for roofing work. It has a lot of storage space on board without weighing the user down too much.
4. Retractable utility knife
A retractable utility knife is key to successfully repairing or installing roofs. Retractable knives allow you to open and close them with one hand. This promotes security by allowing you to stabilize yourself in unbalanced positions with your free hand. Some models get extra points if they have a quick release button to release the blade to make it easier to replace blunt blades.
Editor’s Choice: Lenox Gold quick-change utility knives (available at Amazon) are ergonomically designed to increase leverage and comfort while being slim enough to hide in a carpenter’s nail pockets.
5. Hammer tacker
A properly installed roofing system begins with rolling felt paper over the sheath. This paper needs to be stapled before you can install shingles, and a hammer stapler is the quickest way to get some staples knocked home. The Hammer Tacker is swung over the hand like a hammer and quickly snaps a staple into the casing, so that you can insert a layer of felt paper in no time.
Buy a streamlined model without a wide, heavy head. Lightweight, streamlined models fit better in nail pockets and place far less strain on them.
Editor’s Choice: The BOSTITCH Hammer Stacker (available from Amazon) shoots a variety of staple sizes and comes with a storage pouch.
6. Tape measure
The importance of a permanent tape measure cannot be emphasized enough, especially when it comes to roofing work. You should look for a model that has a long ledge (the length of a tape measure can be extended without assistance before it clicks into place) and a large hook for gripping on surfaces that are hands-free. You will use it to lay out straight, even rows of shingles with even reveals. A 25-foot model works well for most roofing jobs without being too big or heavy in a nail bag.
Editor’s Choice: The 25-foot Stanley FatMax (available on Amazon) is a construction site favorite among all industries.
7. Chalk box (or chalk line)
The key to even shingle is proper layout, and a chalk box is the most reliable way to achieve this. Snapping chalk lines between measurements on either side of the roof gives you a clear guideline and blueprint for a perfect roofing job.
Editor’s Choice: The Irwin Strait-Line Chalk Line (available from Amazon) is a light and reliable model that can be easily stowed in a bag. It contains enough chalk to get through a roofing job without being too big or awkward.
When you’re on the roof, having a trustworthy crowbar on hand can save you time. Not all that needs to be used up has to climb down the ladder to get the clapboard remover. Sometimes it just takes a little leverage to get the job done. Rugged models may be heavy, but this is an area where it is absolutely worth sacrificing some weight for strength.
Editor’s Choice: The Stanley Wonderbar (available on Amazon) is an age-old construction site setup and small enough to be carried around on a roof all day.
A sturdy hammer is another need for roofing work. Hammers are useful for nailing off drip edges, driving in roof nails, and prying things up or apart. They come in a variety of weights and sizes, but an all-round 16 ounce model is a lot of hammer for driving roofing nails while still being light enough to carry around.
Steel-handled hammers are usually heavy and lack vibration absorption, which can devastate a roofer’s swing arm after a long day. Wood and fiberglass models are lightweight and will eat up some of that shock before it gets into your hand and arm.
Editor’s Choice: Don’t let the name fool you: the Vaughan & Bushnell 16-ounce hammer (available on Amazon) has a wide striking face that is perfect for roofing jobs.
10. Roofing nailer
If speed and convenience are important to you, a quality nail gun may be the roofing tool for you. You can quickly nail down a range of clapboards using these air powered tools. In two-man jobs, they are almost essential for an optimal workflow. One roofer can put down shingles while the other follows with the nailer to nail them down. This flow can drastically reduce the time it takes for a roofer to work.
Editor favorites: The BOSTITCH Coil Roofing Nailer (available from Amazon) is a favorite on the roofing construction site due to its reliability.
11. Air compressor
If you’re doing a roofing nailer, you need some air. Medium-sized compressors are lightweight and don’t use too much power. This is important if you are at the end of a long extension cord. Large models may hold more volume, but are more likely to trip circuit breakers when connected to an extension cord.
Buy an extra hose and proceed with caution. Putting a compressor on a roof is a recipe for disaster. The vibration can cause them to walk straight off the edge of the roof, potentially taking someone away, falling on someone under it, or damaging the house.
Editor’s Choice: This DEWALT 6 gallon air compressor (available from Amazon) has enough volume to run one nailer constantly, but can connect up to two nailers if necessary.
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