How to Cut and Install Starter Shingles

roofer installing starter shingles
  • 8-24 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 4,000-6,000
What You'll Need
Asphalt shingles
Roofing nails
Roofing hammer
Utility knife
What You'll Need
Asphalt shingles
Roofing nails
Roofing hammer
Utility knife

Before you can begin setting asphalt shingles on your roof, you must install a row of starter shingles. These shingles are instrumental in making sure the asphalt shingles are correctly laid out on your roof. If these first shingles are not installed correctly, there will be problems with the entire set of shingles. In addition, this starter course protects the roof by filling in any gaps. Here’s a short guide to cutting and installing these starter shingles on your roof.

Preparing the Roof for Shingles

Because this guide is about the starter row of shingles, it’s assumed the preparation work has already been completed. You should already know where the middle of the roof is, and there should be a piece of drip edge flashing that goes along the length of the entire roof.

After the drip edge is installed, you should install a No. 15 asphalt saturated-felt underlayment over the roof’s entire surface.

Snapping off Shingle Tabs

To begin installing the first shingles on your roof, cut off the three tabs on the shingle. Using a utility knife, cut them off at the bottom of the adhesive strip. This should leave you with about 1/2 of the shingle left.

Following the Manufacturer’s Directions

There are generally two ways that manufacturers suggest installing the first shingles.

Starting at the Center

One way is to start at the center and begin laying out the shingles to the left and the right of the centerline, working your way toward the rake edge.

Starting at the Left

The other way is to begin at the far left edge of the roof and go across. The method you follow should depend on the specific directions from your shingle’s manufacturer.

SLaying the First Roof Shingle

Lay the first shingle on the roof with the adhesive section at the bottom of the roof. It should overhang the drip edge about 1/4 inch.

Securing the First Shingle

Using four roofing nails, or up to six in high-wind areas, secure the starter shingle to the surface of the roof. Do not penetrate the shingles with the hammer.

Continuing With the Starter Shingles

After the first shingle has been placed on the roof, set the second starter shingle next to it. Butt the edges together instead of overlapping them. Because this is the starter course, the second course will be placed directly on top of it. If there is any overlap, the second course will not seal correctly to the adhesive strip. Use the same number of roofing nails on each successive shingle until you finish the first row.

Starting the Second Course

The second course should be placed directly over the top of the starter shingles, as the adhesive strip bonds with the bottom of the shingle for a waterproof seal. From here, you can then continue upward to finish laying out the roof.