How To Cut Architectural Shingles For Ridge Cap

Architectural shingles look great and are one way to keep moisture out and protect your investment. The shingles are thicker and heavier than regular 3-tab shingles which can pose some difficulties when capping the ridge. However, once you know how to cut architectural shingles for ridge cap use, the job is quickly done and looks perfect.

Some architectural shingles can be cut like 3-tab shingles into 3 or 4 ridge shingles. For thicker dimensional shingles, cut the shingle lengthways between the lamination weld and the middle adhesive strip. The non-laminated strip can then be cut into 3 or 4 ridge shingles.

In this guide, we’ll explain what a ridge cap is and what architectural shingles are. We’ll discuss how to cut, install, and nail laminated shingles to cap a ridge and explore some other ridge cap shingle options. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to shingle a ridge cap like a pro.

How to cut architectural shingles for ridge cap

What Is a Ridge Cap?

A ridge cap is used to cover and close the seam where two roof slopes meet to form a ridge or roof apex. It prevents moisture from leaking in and causing damage and helps prevent wind damage too. It is the last part of the roof covering to be completed and ‘caps’ a gable or hip roof. Roofs that do not have two or more decks meeting to form a ridge or hip do not require a ridge cap.

Most shingle roofs have a ridge cap made of overlapping shingle tabs cut from roofing shingles. They wrap the ridge and cover nail heads holding the top course or row of shingles on both sides of the ridge. Roof peak shingles are also offered by some manufacturers as an alternative to those crafted onsite. The ridge cap may be made in sections on the ground and installed or formed shingle by shingle on the roof.

A ridge cap made of metal and colored to match roofing material is commonly used with metal roofing. Metal ridge caps frequently are 10’-6” long sections that overlap 6” and span the length of the ridge to seal out the weather. They are formed to fit the ridge and roofing profile and are also available in vented formats.

What are Architectural Shingles?

Architectural shingles are also called dimensional or laminated shingles. They are a thicker, high-quality asphalt shingle with a heavy fiberglass base mat and ceramic-coated granules embedded into water-resistant asphalt. They are designed to enhance the roof’s appearance and often look like cedar shakes or slate tiles without the weight or expense.

Laminated shingles are manufactured using two or more 3-tab shingles to form a multiple tab effect for a more creative roof finish. Although available in many colors, those fashioned to look like slate or cedar shakes have a limited more earthy pallet to mimic natural colors. The cut, coloring, and thickness provide a high-definition profile of depth and contour to individual shingles.

Like everything else, architectural shingles are divided into different categories that affect the price-point. Designer, premium, or luxury tend to top the price list, look truer in color and texture to slate or shakes, and often offer greater resistance to weather phenomena. Regardless of the category, architectural shingles offer a more varied finish than the standard brick look of 3-tab shingles.

Can You Use Architectural Shingles for Ridge Cap?

Architectural or dimensional shingles are highly resistant to weather elements and offer great protection to roof decks and ridge while enhancing the look and style. The ridge is a highly visible component of a building’s construction and should highlight the roof. Using the same type of shingles for the ridge cap as are on the rest of the roof deck blends and provides a uniform finished look to the roof.

Laminated architectural shingles are thicker than regular 3-tab shingles and more difficult to cut and form to the ridge. However, they can be shaped on-site to wrap the ridge, or special ridge shingles offered by most manufacturers can be used. The traditional method used with 3-tab shingles to form ridge shingles works for most dimensional shingles.

Some laminate shingles, such as Cambridge shingles are thicker and the tabs don’t bend over hips and ridges easily and may crack or break. Depending on the slope of the roof decks, roofers may prefer to use more expensive pre-formed ridge shingles that match or use the thinner, non-tab part of the shingle to craft a matching ridge shingle.

How To Cut Architectural Shingles For A Ridge Cap

The traditional method of cutting 3-tab shingles along tab lines and using them to form 12”x12” ridge shingles works for most dimensional shingles. The tabbed third is bent over the ridge to overlap the top course of shingles of opposing decks and nailed into place. Ridge shingles overlap like feathers with 5” to 6” of the colored tab portion exposed to match and blend with the roof.

Most laminated shingles can be cut into thirds like 3-tab shingles and are pliable enough to form over ridges and hips. If the shingles are 12” wide by 36” long there will be three 12” x12” ridge shingles, 13-1/4” by 39-3/8” produce three 13-1/4” x 13-1/8” sections, and 13-1/4” by 40-7/8” become 13-1/4” x 13-5/8” or 13-1/4” x 10” ridge shingles.

The exposed portion, like roof deck shingles, is still between 5” and 6”. Some roofers trim or angle the non-tabbed portion which is hidden under successive layers to make a tighter seal with the next overlapping shingle.

Pre-formed or perforated architectural ridge cap shingles are manufactured in different sizes to match laminated shingle profiles and colors. Ranging from 9-3/4” to 13-1/8” widths with lengths of 12” to 13-1/4”, the exposed ridge portion is also between 5” and 6”. The ridge shingles are installed similarly to cut 3-tab thirds and attach to the roof deck on either side of the ridge, or to plastic or metal ridge vents.

Shingles that are too thick to bend for use on hips or ridge, such as Cambridge shingles, can still be used to shingle the ridge. The non-tab portion of the shingle is not as thick as the tabbed section, is more pliable, and the granules are the same color as the upper tabs.

Use quality snips or a sharp utility knife and straightedge to cut the shingles just above where the layers attach and parallel to the medial adhesive strip. The resulting strip is between 6” and 7” wide and 36” and 40-7/8” long, and can be cut into three or four shingle pieces. The shingle pieces work well to cap the ridge or cover ridge vents.

Pro Note: Shingles are more pliable and easier to cut and bend when warm.

Roof peak shingles

Use the non-tabbed portion of the shingle which is more pliable and the same color as the top tab layer.

How to cut shingles for ridge cap

Cut the shingles along the medial adhesive strip.

How to make ridge cap shingles

Shingling ridge cap

Cut the strip into three or four pieces for ridge cap shingles.

How to Install Ridge Cap Shingles

Manufacturer’s instructions for shingling the ridge are similar. Measure the ridge for the required length to overlap the last course on each slope, commonly 5” to 6’ from the ridge centerline. Use a string or chalk line to keep the shingle edge straight.

Score or mark the dimensions on the shingles accurately, use large snips or a utility knife to make the cuts, and attach with one nail with (or without) a plastic cap per side. The basic tools are a hammer, recommended roofing nails, large snips and/or utility knife, and roofing cement.

Ridge Cap Direction

The starting end for laying ridge cap shingles is often determined by the direction of the strongest winds. Install the shingles with the nailed end facing the strongest winds. Sheds with a ridge that orients north to south in an area that experiences the strongest winds from the south, should have ridge shingles starting at the north end.

The tar strip would be at the north end and the nails at the south end for stronger adhesion against the wind. Shingles on an east-west ridge are more of a judgment call based on where stronger winds occur.

Cutting ridge cap shingles

Where Do You Nail Ridge Cap Shingles?

Ridge cap shingles have one nail per ridge face except the last, which has 2 per side. Nails are 5” to 6” in from the tab edge or end that will be exposed and an inch up from the widest part or edge of the tab cutout centerline. The distance depends on the amount of shingle left exposed. The nailing area usually has a dab of black asphalt on the back of the shingle. The next shingle overlaps to cover the nail heads.

What Size Nails for Ridge Cap?

Many manufacturers recommend that architectural shingles used for the ridge cap be secured with 2” galvanized nails. The building code states that roofing nails must penetrate 3/4″ into the roof sheathing, or through it. The thickness of the roof sheathing, underlayment(s), and other shingles may allow for shorter nails which are less costly.

Roofs with only a felt underlayment need a 1” to 1-1/4” roofing nail to penetrate 3/4” into the roof deck. Attaching dimensional shingles atop another shingle layer usually requires a 1-1/2” roofing nail for 3/4″ or plank decking.

Roofers often use 1-1/4” to 1-3/4” galvanized coil roofing nails for shingling. Some roofers use plastic caps when fastening ridge shingles. The caps provide a broader fastening surface and are less susceptible to wind damage.

Ridge Cap Shingles Installation

Architectural shingles can be used to shingle the ridge cap. Cut the shingles lengthways between the middle adhesive strip and where the dimensional portion of the shingles attach. Many installers use the cut off tab strip to narrow the gap between the last course or row and the ridge, fastening it with capped roofing nails in the prescribed pattern. A string or chalk line helps lay the shingles in a straight line.

The ridge itself is already protected by one or two layers of roofing felt or membrane. Use the 6” to 7” cut off non-tab strip of the dimensional shingle as the first ridge layer. The 36” to 40-7/8” strip is a single layer and will bend over the ridge.

Remove the cellophane that covers the adhesive strips on the back of the strips prior to installation. Butt the strips end-to-end without overlap and fasten with capped roofing nails 1” in from the ends and up from the edges, and every 6” to 8”. The strip should tightly wrap the ridge and overlap the last row of shingles to cover their nail heads.

Cut other non-tab strips into uniform 10” to 12” lengths for the second layer of ridge shingles. Remove the cellophane strip from the adhesive strip at the edge that won’t be nailed. Apply roofing cement in a ‘C’ pattern along the ends and over the adhesive strip.

Some roofers only use roofing cement on the first and last ridge shingle, others use it on all ridge shingles. Place and bend the shingle over the ridge and fasten with a capped roofing nail 1” up and in from the end and edges of the end without roofing cement.

Overlap successive shingles so the nail heads are covered and so that the exposed ridge shingle width is consistent along the ridge.

How to Install the Last Shingle on Ridge Cap

Prepare the last shingle by removing the cellophane from both adhesive strips. Apply roofing cement along both adhesive strips and the sides in a ‘D’ pattern. Place and bend the shingle over the ridge so it overlaps the previous shingle, covering the nail heads, and aligns with the shingles along the roof edge or eaves.

Use one or two roofing nails without caps per side 1” in from the ends and up from the edge. Cover the head of the nails with a dab of roofing cement after they are driven in to hide and protect them. Some roofers sprinkle and press colored granules collected from cutting shingles into the cement, making the dab almost invisible.

Installation Tips

Installing ridge caps made from laminated architectural shingles usually requires two layers cut from the non-tab part of the shingle. Many experienced roofers will share their knowledge and offer tips and suggestions to help newbies or DIYers. Here are some we’ve collected:

  • Shingles bend easier and won’t break or crack when warm. On frosty or cold days, a heat gun or blow-dryer may help.
  • Use shears to cut shingles or a sharp hook, box, or utility knife.
  • Use a string or chalk line to align shingles.
  • Roofing cement works better when warm.
  • Apply roofing cement in a ‘C’ near the tab edges to improve adhesion, especially for the first ridge shingle.
  • Use proper galvanized roofing nails with plastic caps or washers.
  • Use nails that will penetrate 3/4″ into the roof sheathing.
  • Apply roofing cement in a ‘D’ pattern on the last ridge shingle.
  • Use roofing cement to cover nails in the last row.

Other Ridge Cap Shingles Options

There are other options available than making ridge cap shingles using architectural or dimensional shingles. Much depends on matching shingle color, availability, and budget.

Hip & Ridge Roofing Shingles

Most shingle manufacturers offer formed hip and ridge shingles. Cambridge shingles and other thick shingles are available pre-bent to fit the hip or ridge and have the same profile and granular color as the roof deck shingles. Thinner laminate shingles have matching ridge shingles with perforation making it easier to cut into 3 or 4 ridge or hip shingles.

3-tab Shingles

Another alternative to using dimensional shingles for the ridge is to use 3-tab shingles with matching color granules. A standard 36”x12” 3-tab can be cut into three 12”x12” ridge cap shingles.


Architectural shingles with two layers may be cut into three or four uniform widths like 3-tab shingles and used to cap the ridge. The thinner non-laminated half of thicker dimensional shingles can be cut from the laminated portion to form 3 or 4 ridge or hip shingles.

Installation of ridge cap shingles is similar for 3-tab and architectural shingles. Hope you found our guide helpful and have a better understanding of how to cut and install architectural shingles to cap the ridge.

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