How to Remove Cedar Roofing Shingles

What You'll Need
Flat pry bar
Roofing shovel
Hack saw
Work gloves
Claw hammer
Roofing hammer
Utility knife
Rented dumpster (optional)
Protective tarp

Cedar roofing shingles are sturdy wood material, though they eventually do need repairs and replacement. Removing these types of shingles needs a few specialized roofing tools. A few steps also need to be taken to remove each shingle without damage to the underlying structure, though the overall process is fairly straightforward.

Step 1 -- Remove the Ridge Cap

The ridge cap refers to the row of roofing shingles that has been installed at the highest point of the roof. Starting at the top and working downward along the roof creates less mess and makes each subsequent row of cedar shingle easier to remove. Use the edge of your flat pry bar to pull up each shingle at its nail location.

Step 2 -- Tear off Felt and Shingles

Use your roofing shovel to lift each of the cedar shingles until you have enough room to cut through each of the roofing nails with your hack saw. Cutting the nails instead of prying them up with the claw end of a hammer is less labor-intensive, takes less time overall, and creates less of a chance of accidentally damaging the underlying roofing material. Once you have removed all shingles, tear off and remove the felt paper backing if your shingles were installed with one. Felt paper backing is usually easy to remove by hand, but you can use your utility knife to cut loose any resistant sections.

Step 3 -- Remove Flashing

Unless your metal roof flashing is in very good condition, chances are you will need to remove and replace this as well for most new roof shingle installation projects. Locate the roofing cement that holds the flashing to the shingles and slice through it with your utility knife until you can pull it free. You may be able to salvage and reuse some pieces of flashing if they are free from corrosion or dents.

Step 4 -- Remove Any Nails

Inspect the entire roof surface for any remaining nails or pieces of nails that may be sticking up. Pry out and remove them with your claw hammer. You can also use the edge of your roofing shovel for any especially stubborn nails. As an alternative, look for a nail release magnet at your local roofing supplier; these are designed to help pull up nails and keep them from rolling off the roof and getting lost.    

Step 5 -- Clean Up Roof

Sweep up all dirt and debris from the roof with your broom and a dust pan. If you will not be salvaging or reusing the old cedar shingles, be sure to dispose of them properly. Rent a dumpster for them if you do not normally have access to one. A pile of old roofing material left on your property can lead to fines in some areas, and neglecting the clean-up is not worth the added expense.

If you need to leave your shingle removing project overnight or need to take a break due to bad weather, you will need to cover any unshingled sections of your roof with a protective roof tarp, available at hardware stores. Weigh down the tarp with bricks or with the packages of your new roofing shingles if you have already purchased them.