4 min read

What is a Roof Tear Off?

What is a Roof Tear Off?

Starting a roof replacement is a big undertaking. The project can be expensive, and it is a major construction project that occurs on top of your home. 

On Tops Roofing has been replacing and repairing roofs in the Raleigh area for over 30 years, so we’ve learned quite a bit about the best way to tear off a roof. We think it’s important for homeowners to learn about the projects they’re starting, and we want to use our experience to help! 

So, in an effort to help homeowners feel as comfortable as possible in starting their roof replacement project, we want to go over all of the steps of a roof replacement in more detail than we did in our previous blog on that topic. 

Today, we’re tackling the tear off! A roof tear off is when your roofing contractor removes the old materials from a roof, stripping it down to its decking, in order to inspect the decking and install new materials on top. 

After reading this blog, you will know: 

Let’s get started!

What is a Roof Tear Off?

tearing off roof 3_WebP

We already defined what a roof tear off is in the intro to this article, but in case you skipped ahead to this section: a roof tear off is the process of scraping off/ripping up/removing old materials from a roof, down to the roof decking, before a contractor can inspect the decking and begin installing new roofing materials. 


So, why is this step off the roofing process so important? 

Put simply, when you’re replacing a roof, you have to start from a clean slate. Some contractors will install a new roof on top of the existing one, but honestly, that’s something more veteran companies won’t recommend. We’ll compare the two methods in more detail later, but that’s what we call a roof overlay, or a roof-over. 

In order to get that clean slate, you have to get rid of the old materials, and make sure that your roof decking is in good enough shape to hold the new roof for the duration of its lifespan. If you don’t tear off the roof, you can’t know the condition of the decking, and you’d be putting your new roof on a faulty foundation without it. 

What are the Steps to Tear Off a Roof? 

tearing off roof_WebP

Now that you know what a roof tear off is, how does the process actually unfold? If you were to watch one conducted by a quality roofing company, you may be shocked by how quickly it all happens, and how disorganized it all looks. 

But really, a well-trained crew that does this everyday knows exactly what it is doing. It may look pretty messy at first, but after reading this next section, you’ll know what’s going on behind the scenes, too. 

Preparing & Protecting the House

In order to protect your property, roofing crews should put tarps over areas where old materials will be falling off of the roof, and over any areas that are sensitive to damage, like bushes, porches, or windows. 

tarp over roof_WebP

For this step, we also recommend you take some steps to be proactive about protecting your things. If you have any outdoor furniture, or decorations, it would be best to move them inside. The crew will always do what they can to protect your things, but ultimately, once the roof and surrounding area becomes a construction site, and the only way to guarantee something won’t be broken is to move it inside, or out of the area. 


Also, a tip for your own convenience, it’s best to move any vehicles out of your garage or driveway the night before your roof replacement is scheduled to start. The dumpster will have to go somewhere in your driveway, and it usually arrives pretty early in the morning. Having your vehicle moved the night before will allow for you to have access to your car, and your crew to get started on time. 

tearing off roof 2_WebP

Tearing The Roof Off

After everything is prepped and protected, the actual tear off is pretty simple. The crew uses shovels and other tools to scrape the old shingles off, peeling them up and off the roof. 

Then they will tear up any remaining nails, drip edge, and flashing that can’t be re-used for the new roof.


Cleaning up the Debris

clean up picture_WebP

After the old roof is completely torn off, one of the crew members will use a leaf blower to get the remaining debris off the roof decking, and out of your gutters. Down on the ground, the shingle clean-up will have started as the crew loads the debris off the tarp and into wheelbarrows before carting it over to the dumpster. The tarps will then be taken up, and magnets will be run over the yard to pick up any loose metal or nails. 


Average Cost to Tear Off and Replace a Roof

It’s hard to give an accurate assessment at how much it will cost to tear off and replace a roof without actually inspecting, and estimating the specific roof in question. Even then, once you tear off the old roof, issues with the decking may be revealed, which will add costs to the project. 

However, we still want you to feel as confident as you can going into your project, so we’ll do our best to give a range for the average roof replacement prices. 

Typically, asphalt shingle roof replacements cost between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on the size and complexity of the roof, as well as the choice of shingle. Most of the asphalt shingle roof replacements that we do in Raleigh cost around $10,000 for the full roof replacement. 

Roof Overlay vs Tear Off

exposed two layers of shingles_WebP

If you feel like that number sounds pretty expensive, an option you may consider is installing your new roofing material on top of the old one. Some roofers will do it, and some states allow for a roof to have two layers of material on it, if installed to manufacturer specifications. 

However, most quality roofing companies won’t install a roof in this manner, as it will only cause you trouble in the long run, and in turn hurt their credibility. Roof-overs only patch over any potential leaks, so if the new materials receive some damage or wear, those same areas will just pop back up again. 

Additionally, the nails that are used to install roofs are often not going to be long enough to penetrate all the way through new material, the old material, and the existing roof decking. That means that as the roof ages, those nails will start to back out of the shingles, breaking the roof seal and creating even more leaks. 

It may save you some money up front, but it is still only delaying an inevitable roof replacement, which will end up being even more expensive in the future. 

Want to Talk More About Your Roof Replacement?

Now that you’ve learned about this integral part of the roofing process, head back and check out the other steps in a roof replacement!

On Tops Roofing has replaced over 15,000 roofs in the Raleigh area, and with over 30 years of experience, we’re confident in the quality of our work, and the knowledge we are trying to share with homeowners. If you want to get started on your own roofing project, or talk more about roof tear offs, we’d be happy to help! 

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