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How Long Does It Take to Tear Off a Roof?

September 27th, 2023 | 7 min. read

How Long Does It Take to Tear Off a Roof?

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Tearing off an old roof is an intense project with a lot of moving parts. It requires hard work both on the roof and the ground. 

But while ripping off your old roof seems all over the place, it’s not without order. That’s why most homeowners ask, “How long does it take to tear off my old roof before installing my new one?”

Can it be done in a few hours? In a day? Over multiple days?

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has taken pride in helping homeowners understand all aspects of the roof replacement process. That’s why I’ll break down everything you need to know about tearing off an old roof.

This article answers the following questions:

  • How long does it take to tear off a roof?
  • How does a roofing contractor tear off a roof?
  • Can you save money by skipping the tear-off process?

How long does it take to tear off a roof?

How long it takes to tear off your roof depends on the size, complexity, and accessibility of your roof. It also depends on how many crew members are tearing off the old roof. 

roofers tearing off old asphalt shingle roof

With that in mind, it usually takes 4-6 hours to tear off a roof from start to finish on most homes. A large roof with a lot of complexity and a steep pitch could even take a day. 

In extreme cases, different sections of the roof could be torn off over multiple days. However, most homes fit into the 4 to 6-hour range. 

How does a roofing contractor tear off a roof?

Now you know how long it takes to tear off a roof. But you may be wondering how it can take that long to rip off shingles. 

Well, much more that goes into the entire tear off process. Let’s break down the steps a reputable roofing contractor takes to complete a roof tear-off.

Setting up precautions around your property

The first thing a roofing contractor will do is set up precautions to protect your property. After choosing an access point, they’ll begin unrolling protective tarps from the gutters to the ground. 

protective tarps over pool and property during roof replacement

These tarps are used to cover landscaping and foliage that’s close to or under the roofline around your home. This prevents the roofing debris from getting in the bushes or yard while also creating a landing zone so the debris can be taken to the dump trailer.

If you have a pool, it must be covered with a brand-new tarp to prevent fiberglass from ruining the filter. Once they cover everything, any outdoor furniture that could get damaged will be moved to a safe spot.

Tearing off your old roofing materials and components

Now that the proper precautions are taken, it’s time to begin the actual tear-off process. To tear off an old roof, a roofing contractor uses a “tear-off” fork. 

tearing off old asphalt shingle roof

These forks easily slide under shingles and lift them right up. The tear-off process begins at the end of the roof furthest away from the dump trailer, and works back towards the access point. 

CarryingDebrisinWheelbarrow(Crew member taking debris to dump trailer)

Most of the crew goes section to section tearing off the shingles and other components, while others stay on the ground making sure the debris gets to a tarped area or dump trailer. Unfortunately, stopping some debris or trash from getting away is impossible. 

However, the crew on the ground will be cleaning up throughout the entire roof replacement process. So, it’ll all get picked up before the day is over.  

Taking care of your old roof’s nail

After tearing off the shingles and components down to your roof decking, something has to be done with your roof’s old nails. If you have an exposed ceiling or overhang, the nails must be pulled out. 

roofer hammering down nails to check the integrity of roof decking

If the roof decking is plywood, they’ll hammer down the nails to ensure they’re straight and flush into the wood. This keeps the old nail heads from sticking up and out of the way for your new roof to be installed.

While hammering the nails, they’re also testing the integrity of your roof decking. If the wood can handle the nails being knocked down, it can handle the weight of your new roof. 

On the other hand, every compromised board must be replaced before installing your new roof if the decking is rotten or damaged. Once the deck is clean and solid, there’s one last check to ensure the nails are knocked down, and now your new roof is ready to be installed.

Can you save money by skipping the tear-off process?

Yes, you can save money by skipping the tear-off process and nail over your old asphalt roof. However, I don’t recommend a nail-over reroof instead of a full roof replacement. 

The main reason is that you don't get to replace crucial material because the new roof is installed over a failing roof. This also makes future leaks harder to find, and you won't get the same material warranties

But even if you want to nail over your old roof, it doesn’t mean it’s in the right condition. To get a nail-over reroof, your current roof must be near the end of its lifespan and lying down completely flat. 

The roof also must have only a few penetrations, a little amount of flashing, and no walls that have to butt up against your shingles. Most states also only allow 2 layers of shingles on a roof, so you'll have to get a full roof replacement if it already has multiple layers. 

The truth is most roofs won’t be good candidates for a nail-over reroof. While I don’t recommend it, you’ll find roofers out there willing to do it, no matter the state of the roof. 

What does the entire roof replacement process look like?

Now you know what you need to know about tearing off a roof. The truth is, the tear-off process is chaos and looks all over the place. 

But with a reputable roofing contractor, it’s controlled chaos. While tearing off your old roof is a crucial piece of your roof replacement, it’s just one part of the process. 

The last thing I want is for you to be surprised by something when the roofers show up on the big day. That’s why I wrote another article breaking down the entire roof replacement process. 

Check out this article on the 8-step Process to Replace Your roof to know what to expect on the day of your roof replacement.

prepare for your roof replacement checklist

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