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Rolled Roofing Essentials: From Selection to Installation for DIY Enthusiasts

Rolled roofing, an often unsung hero in the world of roofing materials, offers a practical and affordable solution for many homeowners and builders. This material, a staple in the toolbox of savvy DIYers and professional roofers alike, brings to the table a unique blend of versatility and economy. It’s particularly well-suited for those projects where traditional shingles might be overkill, like on a simple workshop or garden shed roof.

What is Rolled Roofing?

Imagine a roll of material, easy to handle, yet robust enough to stand up to the elements. That’s rolled roofing for you. Available typically in 36-inch-wide rolls covering about 100 square feet each, it’s a no-nonsense, straightforward solution for covering low-slope roofs. The real magic lies in its construction: a base mat (either organic or fiberglass) saturated with asphalt and then coated with mineral granules. This combination results in a lightweight yet durable material that’s ready to take on rain, sun, and wind.

Advantages of Rolled Roofing


  • In the grand scheme of roofing materials, rolled roofing stands out for its affordability. It’s an economical alternative to traditional shingles, especially for structures where high-end aesthetics are not a priority.
  • It’s the go-to choice for secondary buildings such as outbuildings or workshops, where you want reliable protection without a hefty price tag.

Ease of Installation

  • The real beauty of rolled roofing lies in its simplicity of installation. It’s a feasible weekend project for a DIY enthusiast, and a quick job for a professional.
  • With basic tools like a utility knife, a hammer, and some roofing nails, you can lay down a rolled roof with minimal fuss. This accessibility makes it ideal for urgent repairs and straightforward roofing jobs.


  • Don’t let its simplicity fool you, rolled roofing is built to last. When installed correctly and with proper care, it can serve you well for a decade or more.
  • Designed for low-slope roofs, it excels in water-shedding and can withstand a fair amount of foot traffic, which is often a requirement for rooftop maintenance.

Types of Rolled Roofing

In the world of rolled roofing, your choices boil down to two main types: single-ply and double-ply. Think of single-ply as your basic, lightweight option. It’s perfect for those smaller projects where you need a quick, effective solution without too much fuss. It’s a single layer of asphalt-saturated material, making it easy to work with and ideal for less demanding situations.

On the other hand, double-ply rolled roofing is the heavy-duty alternative. Comprising two bonded layers, it offers enhanced durability and is better suited for areas that will experience more wear or harsher weather conditions. This type is what you’d choose for larger projects or when longevity is a key concern.

When it comes to textures and colors, rolled roofing offers a surprising range. From smooth finishes to more rugged, mineral-surfaced options, there’s a variety to suit different needs and aesthetic preferences. The color palette available can complement various architectural styles, especially for buildings with low-slope roofs where choices might seem limited.

Installation Basics

Tools and Materials

  • Essential tools include a utility knife for cutting, a hammer for nailing, galvanized roofing nails for fastening, and a chalk line for alignment.
  • Alongside the rolled roofing, consider an underlayment for additional leak protection, especially in a comprehensive roofing project.

Installation Steps

  • Begin by preparing the roof deck. It should be clean, dry, and smooth to ensure a solid foundation.
  • If using underlayment, roll it out and securely nail it down.
  • Start the first roll of roofing at the edge of the roof, ensuring it’s perfectly aligned for a neat finish.
  • Nail down the edges at regular intervals, about every 8 to 10 inches. This ensures the material is securely attached to the roof.
  • Overlap subsequent rolls over the initial one by about 2 to 4 inches or as recommended by the manufacturer. This overlapping is crucial for creating a waterproof barrier.
  • Continue this process across the entire roof surface, trimming excess material with a utility knife for a clean, professional finish.

Pro Tips

  • Opt for a warm day for installation. Cold weather can make rolled roofing brittle and difficult to work with.
  • Apply roofing cement at the edges and overlaps for a watertight seal, preventing future leaks.
  • Be generous and precise with your nailing. A well-nailed roof is a long-lasting roof.

Maintenance and Repair

Maintaining a rolled roof is about vigilance and timely action. From my years in the trenches, I can tell you that small, consistent efforts can greatly extend the life of your roof.

Routine Maintenance Tips

  • Keep the roof clear of debris like leaves and twigs. A broom or a blower does the job well. Remember, a clean roof is less prone to damage.
  • Inspect regularly for cracks or splits. These often start small but can quickly become problematic. A tube of roofing cement can be a quick fix for minor issues.
  • Pay special attention to the seams and edges. These areas are prone to wear and are often the first places where leaks can develop.

Identifying Common Issues

  • Blisters or bubbles indicate trapped moisture. If left unaddressed, they can lead to splits in the roofing material.
  • Cracks or tears often occur after extreme weather events. They can be small but are gateways for water ingress.
  • Watch out for loose seams. Over time, the adhesive can fail, particularly in harsh weather conditions.

Repair Guidelines

  • Small issues like cracks or blisters? A bit of roofing cement and reinforcing fabric can work wonders.
  • For larger problems, you might need to cut out the damaged section and replace it with a new piece of rolled roofing. This is a bit more involved but absolutely doable with some basic roofing tools.
  • If you’re facing extensive damage or feel out of your depth, it’s time to call a professional. Proper repair by an experienced hand can save you money and headaches in the long run.

FAQ Section

How long does rolled roofing typically last?

Rolled roofing, when properly installed and maintained, can last around 10 years. Its longevity depends on factors like the quality of installation, local climate conditions, and regular maintenance. Like any roofing material, it has its lifespan, but with the right care, it can serve you well for a decade.

Can rolled roofing be installed over existing shingles?

It’s possible to install rolled roofing over existing shingles, but it requires careful consideration. The existing shingles should be flat and in good condition. If they’re curled, buckled, or deteriorated, it’s better to remove them first to ensure a smooth, stable base for your rolled roofing.

Is rolled roofing suitable for all climates?

Rolled roofing is quite adaptable, but it performs best in moderate climates. In areas with extreme heat, cold, or heavy precipitation, it may have a shorter lifespan and require more frequent maintenance.

How does rolled roofing compare to traditional shingles in terms of cost?

One of the main advantages of rolled roofing is its cost-effectiveness. It’s generally less expensive than traditional shingles, both in terms of material cost and installation expenses. For those on a budget, it offers a viable and practical solution.

Can I install rolled roofing myself, or do I need a professional?

Rolled roofing is very DIY-friendly, especially for smaller projects or straightforward roofs. However, for larger areas or more complex installations, professional help is advisable. Proper installation is key to the longevity of any roof, and sometimes a professional’s experience and expertise can make a significant difference.