How To Shingle A House Or Barn Gambrel Roof (Do This!)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Houses with gambrel roofs are a lovely sight to behold. The image evokes feelings of home, the countryside, and sunsets on the porch. But romanticizing aside, gambrel roofs can sometimes be a pain to maintain and even harder to shingle, so how do you shingle a gambrel roof?

To shingle a gambrel roof, measure the area of each sloping section individually and add together to determine the overall square footage. Start at the bottom corner of the lower roof section and install asphalt shingles across the bottom row using galvanized roofing nails. Stagger the next row of shingles so the tab gaps are offset. Nail, bend, and glue shingles over the transitions and continue singling as you would a standard roof.

Because of its four sides, shingling a gambrel roof takes a bit more effort and preparation compared to a standard two-sided roof. Despite the seeming challenges, shingling a gambrel roof doesn’t have to be left to the experts. If you are handy with a nail gun and steady on your feet, you can accomplish this task yourself. You will need to gather a few things before getting up on your roof.

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Tools You Need To Shingle A Gambrel Roof:

  • Roofing felt
  • Nail gun
  • Roofing nails
  • Roofing stapler and staples
  • Three-tab shingles
  • Ridge caps / square shingles
  • Ladder
  • Measuring tape
  • Utility knife
  • Crowbar
  • Rubber-soled shoes
  • Protective glasses
  • An extra pair of hands

Preparations Before You Shingle A Gambrel Roof

Step One: Clear the Surface

Before you shingle a gambrel roof, remove all old shingles with a crowbar and clean the roof surface from any debris. Also, remove old nails and staples as best you can to ensure a smooth surface. Once cleared, inspect the roof sheathing, trusses, and frame, then repair if necessary.

Step Two: Determine the Number of Shingles Needed

Measure the length and width of each slope of your roof, count, then add them all up. A square of shingles should cover a hundred square feet. Account for waste and add about 5% more than what you need.

Besides your three-tab shingles, remember to count how many ridge caps you need for the peak. You don’t want to get into the thick of the job and realize you’re missing necessary supplies.

Step Three: Choose a Sunny Day to Shingle a Gambrel Roof

As with any roofing repair, a warm sunny day is the best time to shingle a roof. The sun’s heat allows the tarred side of the shingles to adhere better to the roof surface. Not only that, but it also improves the flexibility and workability of the shingle itself.

Now that you’ve made the necessary preparations and gathered the needed materials, it is time to shingle your gambrel roof.

How to Shingle a Gambrel Roof

Step One: Install the Roofing Felt

The roofing felt provides extra roofing protection from the elements. Ensure that the roof and the felt are dry before installation to ensure its effectiveness.

Drape the roofing felt over your roof, smoothing it down and tightening as you go. Staple in place and trim the edges with your utility knife. Allow at least two to six inches of material to overlap and do not leave any exposed gaps.

Step Two: Choose a Side

Determine which side of the roof to work on, and start at the very bottom slope. The best side would be where the sun is shining at the moment. The heat helps with laying tar-backed shingles in place.

Step Three: Lay the First Shingle

Begin laying your shingles at an outermost corner of the lowest slope on your roof. Align the first shingle squarely on the roof and lay it in place. Secure in place by nailing three evenly spaced nails on the topmost part of the shingle.

Step Four: Complete the First Row

Once the first shingle is in place, simply work your way down the line until you have completed your first row. A row of finished shingles is called a course. Once done with your first course, use your utility knife to score and snap off excess shingle material.

Step Five: Start on the Second Tier

To start on your second row, trim off the first shingle in half. Place this shingle on the left-most or right-most side over the first course and nail it in place. Remember to overlap the second row over the first course according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Continue laying shingles down and nail each one accordingly until you finish the course. Once you reach the last shingle, score and cut again with your knife to remove excess material.

Step Six: Start on the Third Tier

Start the third row by following the shingle placement of the first row. Repeat the process as with the first and second tiers.

Step Seven: Finish All the Tiers

The fourth tier shingle placement should follow the second tier, the fifth after the third, etc. Nail each shingle three times and cut off excess shingle material upon reaching each row’s end. Complete all rows on either side of the roof.

When you reach a slope change on the gambrel roof, just keep going as usual. Do not worry if it is sticking up and out. Over time, roof shingles follow the slope and shape of a roof.

Step Eight: Cap Off the Ridge

Once you get to the ridge or horizontal peak, you are done with the three-tab shingles. Bend your square shingles over the ridge and nail them securely in place until you have covered the entire ridge.

Options When You Shingle A Gambrel Roof

Asphalt Shingles

If only for its affordability, asphalt shingles are by far the most popular option for shingling a gambrel roof. Asphalt shingles are simple to install, easy to maintain, and readily available anywhere. However, asphalt shingles are also the least durable when faced with a high-wind situation.

Due to the material’s lightness, asphalt shingles tend to get damaged easily or even blow off when facing strong winds. Unless you have a natural windbreak around your home, such as tall trees or neighboring houses, asphalt shingles may not be your best option.

Architectural Shingles

Architectural shingles are the younger, sturdier, modern cousins of the asphalt shingle. These feature a fiber-glass mat base with ceramic-coated minerals embedded in water-resistant asphalt. Architectural shingles are twice the thickness of asphalt shingles, but they also cost 40%-50% more than the latter.

Architectural shingles come in a dazzling array of styles and colors. They simulate the look of cedar shakes or natural slate tiles. Architectural shingles mimic the aesthetic qualities of wood or stone minus cost, weight, and installation issues.

Wood Shakes

The one obvious similarity between wood shakes and wood shingles is that they are both made from wood. However, wood shakes are twice as thick as regular wood shingles. They are sawed on one side and hand-split on the other, making them more durable than regular wood shingles.

Wood shakes require more maintenance if your house is in an area known for drastic temperature changes. However, the roof’s gambrel style provides much visual appeal when you pair it with the rustic beauty of wood.

Slate Tiles

Slate tiles are classically beautiful, last practically forever, but cost drastically more than asphalt, metal, or wood shingles. Yes, you can tile your gambrel roof with slate, but professional roofers suggest otherwise. Due to its weight, slate tiles can burden the already careful bracing of a gambrel roof and cause structural damage.

Slate tiles also become a liability when installed by contractors without slate roofing experience. If you decide on slate, ensure that the contractor you hire for the job has experience in this matter.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is fantastic for weather-proofing a gambrel roof, which can be a big concern owing to its distinct shape. Metal roofing segments snap together, thereby forming watertight seams. These protruding seams then create channels that allow for faster water flow from the upper slopes down to the ground.

Concerned that putting metal on your roof will make your home look like a barn on a farm? There is no need to fret. Metal roofs have advanced much over the years to include designs that hide the fact that they are indeed metal.

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Related Questions

What are the pros and cons of a gambrel roof?

The gambrel roof offers a design that appeals to many homeowners. Despite its shape, it is relatively easy to build and uses fewer materials than a standard two-sided roof.  It also adds more interior space, hence its popularity with barns and storage sheds.One distinct disadvantage of a gambrel roof is its inability to prevent snow accumulation. Also, due to its relatively bulky, non-aerodynamic shape, this design does not work well with high wind events. Simply put, gambrel roofs do not hold up well in extreme weather. 

What is the lifespan of a gambrel roof?

The life expectancy of any roof depends on installation, the materials used, climate conditions, and the right care and maintenance.  A properly installed gambrel roof constructed with high-quality materials can last well over a century.  

How do I take care of my gambrel roof?

Check your roof at least once a year and after every weather event, if possible.  Choose a sunny day and look for missing or damaged shingles, and sweep up any plant debris. After a heavy snowfall and when it is safe, get up on your roof and sweep away excess snow accumulation.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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