How to Shingle a Shed With 3 Tab and Architectural Shingles

Last Update: October 9, 2019

The shed roof is sheathed, now all you have to do is toss up some shingles, and nail them down. Sounds easy, so why do they have all that other stuff in the roofing section at the building supply store? What do you need with drip edge, roofing felt, ice guard, adhesive membrane, a dozen different kinds of nails, and even more choices in shingles than someone has shoes!? Maybe there’s more to it than you thought? How do you shingle a shed?

How to shingle a shed with 3 tab and architectural shingles:

  • Roll out and staple down roofing felt in overlapping rows.
  • Install the drip edge over the gable end felt and under the eaves felt.
  • Attach the starter strip
  • Nail down the shingles in an overlapping pattern that covers seams and nails.

There are several essential steps to follow when shingling a roof, especially if you want it to last and be weatherproof. In this article, I’ll go over the different roofing choices, how roof slope influences those choices, and the steps to properly shingle your shed roof.

How to Shingle a Shed With Three Tab and Architectural Shingles

The Function of Roof Shingles

The most common way to weatherproof a roof is with shingles. Roof shingles create a barrier that protects your roof, structure and its contents from precipitation and other weathering concerns.

If moisture gets under the shingles, it will cause rot, mold, and leaks. If it is unchecked, the integrity of the roof can be compromised, which can lead to its collapse.

The better the shingle, the longer and better protected your investment will be. Shingles can affect your utility consumption. Their color and composition affect heat transfer, which in turn, affects energy efficiency.

Shingles also improve the aesthetics of your shed. They can make it look like a shack or Cinderella’s castle, or something in between.

Your budget and how frequently you want to do maintenance or replace the shingles are other considerations that affect how well the shingles will function.

What Are Shingles Made of?

The most common roofing material is asphalt shingles. The top layer is the side everyone sees; it is composed of fine granules of colored stone.

The granules are embedded into asphalt or tar-like layer, which is waterproof. A thin fiberglass web is used between the top asphalt layer and the bottom asphalt layer and acts to reinforce the shingle.

The bottom layer has a fine stone or mineral powder or dust embedded into it to prevent the asphalt from sticking to everything. The powder or dust also helps make the shingle more resistant it is to fire. Additionally, there is a sealant strip on the top and bottom later to help stick the shingle in place.

Types of Roof Shingle Materials

  • Asphalt Roof Shingles
    An inexpensive and waterproof sheet made of flexible asphalt material. It is available in a multitude of colors and numerous profiles. The more limited the color and profile, the more expensive.
    Note: Most asphalt shingles have a fiberglass web and are also known as a composite shingle. Organic shingles are asphalt shingles without a fiberglass web.
  • Cedar Roof Shingles
    Cedar shingles are sawn to form a wedge, and cedar shakes are split to form a wedge and often thicker. They are made from 200 plus year-old trees, so there are fewer knotholes. They are waterproof but require more maintenance, and are more expensive than asphalt shingles. Unless treated they are not fire resistant.
  • Metal Roof Shingles
    Water and fireproof interlocking galvanized steel or aluminum shingles which are available in a variety of enameled or baked on colors. They are available in a variety of profiles and sizes. More expensive initially, but last longer.
  • Synthetic Roof Shingles
    A synthetic shingle product made from plastic polymers, dyes and resins that are more durable than asphalt or cedar. They are available in profiles that resemble asphalt shingles, clay, concrete or slate tile, cedar and metal shingles, plus others.
  • Rubber Roof Shingles
    A shingle made from recycled rubber, mostly tires. Like Composite or synthetic, it is manufactured to resemble cedar, slate, or asphalt shingles.

Shed Roof Shingle Types

3-Tab Roof Shingles

The most common asphalt shingle and have 1/4” slots cut out to form three 12-inch rectangular tabs in their bottom half. They have a regular or repetitive pattern.

Lasts 15 to 20 years
Least expensive
Lots of color choices
Easy to install
Can shingle over top of one existing layer

Poor durability
Granules fall off
Edges curl and break off

Architectural Roof Shingles

Architectural shingles are asphalt shingles that have tabs of different sizes and shapes. The shingle also tends to be thicker and have a textured look.

Lasts 25 to 30 years
Look better than 3-tab
Thicker so less likely to curl at edges

Costs 25% more than 3-tab shingles
Color stone particles wash off

Dimensional (or Laminate) Shingles

Dimensional asphalt shingles are thicker Architectural shingles that have two lower layers bonded together to give a 3-dimensional look.

Lasts 30 to 50 years
Withstand winds up to 110 mph
Thicker, more durable, and more water-resistant

Costs 20% more than architectural shingles
Heavier than 3-tab
More susceptible to moss, mold and mildew growth between layers

Wood Roof Shingles

Cut from softwood rounds of set lengths with unique colors and texture. Can be painted or stained. Usually not of uniform width, so the pattern is often irregular. The exposed bottom edge can be cut or trimmed in a variety of shapes to enhance the finish.

Lasts 30 or more years
Great curb appeal
Easy to customize
Natural and environmentally friendly

Expensive and time consuming to install
Moss and algae can grow and damage shingles
From old growth softwood
Attractive to insects

How to Pick the Right Type and Color of Roofing Shingles

Picking the right roofing shingle for your shed depends on several factors. Your budget is often the main consideration.

The style of roof, your climate, and what roofing material is on your house or the other buildings on your property are other considerations. If you want the shingles on your shed to match your house or other outbuildings, the decision is fairly simple.

The style and slope of the roof may work better with an architectural shingle or a 3-tab. A 3-tab has a regular pattern; the others offer sculpted edges and 3-dimensional finishes. The winds or amount of sun the roof is exposed to may make the heavier dimensional shingle a better choice too. Expect to re-shingle more frequently with a 3-tab than with a higher quality shingle.

The color of shingle you pick is also important. Coordinating the shingle color with the trim, siding, or other finishing on the shed or other buildings is more aesthetically pleasing.

Additionally, dark-colored shingles will absorb solar heat and transfer it into the building. Lighter colors reflect more of the heat. If your shed isn’t insulated, you may want to reconsider your color choice.

Basic Planning and Preparation Before Installing Roof Shingles

I helped shingle my first roof almost 50 years ago. The biggest change is safety. The steeper the roof, the greater the risk, and the need for a roof harness.

Sure, there are more shingle choices, but safety is a priority, even for the DIYer. Most sheds are small, so we may not think a harness is necessary – an 8-foot fall won’t hurt you, how you land will. Remember, the smaller the roof, the closer to the edges you always are.

Ideally, pick a calm, clear dry day that isn’t too hot or cold (40°F to 85°F). Be aware that moisture makes a roof slippery. I once stepped from the dry, sunny side of a roof onto the shady side which still had dew on it.

Roof surfing may be your idea of fun; it’s not on my list to repeat. Asphalt shingles are more flexible in warmer temperatures and more brittle in cold temps. Also, the sealing strip doesn’t stick if it’s cold.

A helper or two can make the task go faster, and easier. You can rent safety harnesses, roof jacks, and planks, even ladder lifts. Having the rented tools ready for the right weather conditions may be a problem. You can make your own jacks and ladder lifts if you want.

To calculate the number of shingles you need, multiply the length x the width of the roof deck(s) to get the area. Divide the area by the area a bundle of shingles will cover. A bundle covers about 33sqft, or 1/3 of a square, which is 100sqft.

For example, a 10’x12’ roof deck is 120sqft. Divided by 33sqft, and I’ll need 3.63 or 4 full bundles.

Install Roof Sheathing

You can sheath the roof in either OSB or plywood. OSB is less expensive, and I prefer 19/32” T&G. I tacked the fascia on the rafter ends so I overlap enough.

Install the bottom row first, and work your way up the roof to the ridge. Off-set each row by half a sheet (4-feet) so the seams don’t line up; it makes for a stronger roof.

If it’s a lean-to shed like mine, I clamped the bottom piece into place and measured the piece that fit tight to the wall. I nailed the upper piece in first using (8d) galvanized 2-1/2” ring nails, and then slid the bottom sheet up into the groove and secured it. I could remove the fascia if the bottom sheet needed some persuasion to go into the groove.

Install Roof Sheathing


Staple Roofing Felt to the Sheathing

The size of your shed influences the roof membrane selection. 30-pound roofing felt is less expensive than self-adhering water and ice shield. It’s a shed, so I use roofing felt.

The roof deck is small, so I roll the felt out on the ground to the length of the roof, plus 1-foot. The extra foot allows for a 6-inch overhang at each end.

Roll the first piece out, so it overhangs at both ends and the front edge. Use stainless steel staples to hold it in place. Roll out the next piece, so it overlaps the first; this will help to shed moisture better.

Repeat until the roof is covered. Use the lines on the felt to keep the rolls straight and aligned.

Installing Roofing Felt

Install Fascia

Measure, cut, and install the rake fascia – the fascia on the gable ends. Use a speed square for the angles. Attach the rake fascia, so it is flush with the top of the sheathing using galvanized 8d nails (2-1/2”). Once all the rake fascia are in place, measure and cut the fascia and nail it to the rafter ends.

Install the Drip Edge

Use aluminum nails to attach the drip edge to the front fascia; it should overlap at the ends by an inch. The drip edge goes under the roofing felt on the front to ensure moisture isn’t trapped.

On the rake fascia, the drip edge goes over the felt to prevent windblown moisture from getting to the wooden deck. Trim the front overlap, wrap it around the rake edge, and nail in place.


How to Nail Asphalt Shingles

I use 1-1/4” galvanized roofing nails with a 3/8” head. They are long enough to hold on to and will go through the shingle, roofing felt, and the OSB decking.

Use 4 nails for a 3-tab shingle – about 1/2” above each cut-out and 1” in from the ends and the same distance up from the bottom edge.

The nail should be driven in perpendicular to the shingle and the head should set flush, not overdriven. It is easier to nail properly by hand than with a nail gun.

shingles nailing

For more information on what type of nails to use to fasten shingles check out my post about what fasteners to use in shed construction.

Roofing Shingles Installation

Shingling a roof can be a daunting task if you don’t like heights. But, if you feel up to the challenge, you can save on the cost of hiring someone to do it for you. Shingling your shed might be good practice before tackling a bigger job like your house too.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the shingles – some direct that you begin shingling from the middle and work left and right from there; others that you begin at the left edge and work to the right.

Measure up the rake edge from the drip edge 12-inches less 3/4”, and make a mark (the 3/4” allows for the starter strip overhang the drip edge). Measure up the rest of the rake edge to the peak and make a mark every 5 inches.

Repeat this on the other rake edge. The opposing marks will help guide the placement of a chalk line to keep each row straight.

Pro Note: Remember to nail perpendicular to the roof deck, and only drive the nails so they are flush with the shingle, not embedded into it.

Why Use Starter Shingles

Starter shingles are shingles that have no tabs. They are used to form a starter row with a continuous line of sealant. The sealant forms a better bond and seal between the first row of shingles and the starter strip.

It provides a strong waterproof and wind seal at the roof edges. A bundle of 16 starter shingles will do 105-feet of lineal edge.

How to Install 3 Tab Shingles on a Shed

You can make your own starter shingles by removing the tabs and installing the tab-less shingles with the cut edge down. Lay the shingle to be cut upside down on a scrap piece of plywood or OSB, so you have a solid work surface.

Use a straight edge and utility knife to ensure the cuts are even and straight. Align the straight edge with the top of the cut-out slot, hold it firm, and score the shingle several times until the tabs separate from the shingle. Save the cut-off tabs for use on the ridge; if you have one.

Install the homemade starter shingle with the cut edge down, so the sticky strip is at the drip edge. This will help seal the edge against moisture and wind. It should stick out past the drip and rake edge by 3/4”. Use four 1-1/4” galvanized roofing nails to secure the shingle (6 in high wind areas).

They should be in a straight line 1-1/2” to 3” up from the bottom edge. The outside two should be 1-1/2” in from the ends, and the middle two should be 10” to 12” from the edge nail, and each other. I use a shingle with tabs as a guide so the nails don’t line up with a slot in the first course.

Repeat until the starter strip row is installed. The last shingle may need to be trimmed short so it goes 3/4” past the rake drip edge.

Pro Note: For cold weather installs, steep slopes, or dusty areas use 6 nails to attach the shingles. The center tab nails are doubled up with one on either side of the top of the slot. It is also recommended that asphalt plastic cement is used under the tab corners to help secure the shingles.

For the first course of shingles, snap the chalk line at the 12-inch mark. Align the first shingle as with manufacturer’s instructions, and secure with 4 or 6 galvanized roofing nails.

The outside two nails are 1” in from the edge and 1/2” above the slot cut-outs. The inside two are 1/ 2” above the middle slot cut-outs. Complete the first row.

Pro Note: If you cut 6” off the left end of the shingle beginning the second row, and go by 6” increments on the next rows, the tab slots will align every other row. If you cut 4” off the left end instead, they tab slots will align every 4th row.

If you go by 5” increments though, they will align every 8th row. The less they slots align, the better the wind and moisture protection.

Snap the next chalk line 5-inches above the installed shingle. Begin at the left using a shingle that you have cut half the left-most tab off (from top to bottom).

Save the half tab to start the 6th row. Align the shingle and nail into place. The tabs cover the nails holding the lower row shingle protecting them from moisture. Complete the row.

To begin the third row, cut one full tab off and save for row 5. Align and install the 2-tab shingle aligned with the next 5-inch higher chalk line.

Complete the row with 3-tab shingles. Begin row 4 with a shingle cut in half (1 and ½ tabs), and complete that row.

Begin row 5 with the 1-tab shingle, and row 6 with the 1/2-tab shingle. Row 7 begins with a full 3-tab shingle. Continue until the roof deck is shingled.

Three tab shingles nailing pattern

How to Shingle a Shed with Architectural Shingles

Shingling a roof with architectural shingles is similar to using 3-tab shingles. Begin with a starter strip of shingles.

To make your own starter shingles, cut the shingle at the edge of the middle strip of adhesive. The part you want will have the two wider adhesive strips.

Begin at the left or middle, depending on manufacturer’s directions. Align the starter shingle so that 3/4” sticks past the drip edge.

The two adhesive strips face against the roof deck, with the cut edge at the drip edge. Nail the starter strip with 1-1/4” galvanized roofing nails in a line 1-1/2” to 3” from the drip edge.

The 4-nail pattern is 1-inch in on each end and about 13-1/4” between the end nails and the middle two nails. The nails should be in a line about 6-1/2” to 7” above the bottom of the tabs. This will ensure the nails catch the doubled shingle edge.

The 6-nail pattern for steep roofs or windy locations is every 8” beginning 1” in from the edge. The nails should be in a line about 6-1/4” up from the tab edges.

Align the first full shingle with the 12” chalk line. Line it up with the left rake edge. Secure with the 4 or 6 nail pattern. Complete the first row.

Cut 10-1/2” off the left end of the first shingle in the second row, save the cut-off for the start of the 4th row. Complete the row aligned to the chalk line 5-inches above the 12” line.

Cut 21” off (cut the shingle in half) the left end of the 3rd row’s first shingle, and save it for the 7th course. Align with the chalk line 5-inches higher up. Complete the row.

Use the 10-1/2” cut-off to start the 4th row and complete. Use a full shingle to begin the 5th course and complete. Align each new row with the next 5” higher up chalk line. The 6th row repeats the 10-1/2” cut, the 7th uses the 21” cut-off from row 3, and the pattern repeats until the roof is completed.

Pro Note: There are other patterns recommended by other manufacturers of shingles. Follow their directions if different.

architectural shingles nailing pattern


Tools to shingle a roof

Tools to shingle a roof are simple and common.

Cutting starter strip

An Architectural shingle showing the nailing strip in chalked.

cut start strip

Use a straight edge aligned below the middle adhesive strip to cut the starter strip shingle.

shingle starter strip

A cut starter strip shingle.

installing starter strip

Starter strip overlaps 1/2” to 3/4”.

stater strip overhang

starter strip installed


installing first shingle

The first full shingle secured.

installed first row

One full row completed. How many more?

first shingles row overhang

1/2” to 3/4” overhang at drip and rake edge.

starting second row

Beginning the 2nd row, and using a 4-nail pattern. Tabs cover nails heads and the shingle is 10-1/2” shorter.

completing second row

Two shingles almost do a row!

starting third row

Beginning the 3rd row with a shingle cut 21-inches short.

starting fourth row

Use the 10-1/2” cut-off to begin the 4th row.

continue with four rows

Add one more full shingle to each row.

starting fifth row

Complete the first 4 rows, and then begin the 5th row with a full shingle.

starting sixth row

The 5th row begins the pattern all over again, and the 6th row starts with a shingle 10-1/2” shorter – which is used for the 8th row.

starting seventh row

The 7th row starts with a shingle 21” shorter (the half shingle cut-off from row 3), and a 10-1/2” cut-off begins the 8th row.

installing last row

The last row begins with a full shingle.

covering exposed nail heads

Cut a starter strip and use it to cover the exposed nail heads. Nail it down and cover the nail heads with asphalt plastic cement.

shingled roof

The roof is shingled!

How to Shingle a Shed Roof Ridge

The tabs of the last row of shingles should come within 5-1/2” of the ridge. Fold the top of the shingle over the ridge. Nail the fold-over to the other roof deck. Once both roof decks have been shingled and ridge has two layers of shingle tops folded over it, you’re ready for the finishing touches.

To shingle a roof ridge or hip, it is best to use the tabs from 3-tab shingles. The thicker tabs from architectural shingles tend to crack and not sit flat.

Cut the shingle into 3 equal pieces by extending the tab slot. Cut the upper corners at about 30 degrees, going from the slot indent to the top edge – about 2” in at that edge.

Start at the left of the ridge and work to the right or the bottom of the hip and work up. Bend the shingle tab over the ridge or hip, secure with nails 6” up and 1” in from the edge.

The next shingle tab over-laps so only 5-1/2” of the previous tab is exposed. Repeat until the ridge or hip is done.

The last piece is usually only the colored granular tab being nailed over the upper part of the next-to-last shingle tab.

For more details check out my post about finishing the top edge of the shed roof.

Use Roofing Cement and Caulking

Use roofing cement or caulking to waterproof any exposed nail heads. They are flexible and more durable than other fix-it products.

It works well with asphalt shingles and metal flashing and drip edge, and eaves troughs. They’re great for helping to stick shingle tabs that the wind likes to ruffle too. Roofing tar is not the same and tends to crack, unstick, and leak.

Trimming and Finishing

Trimming and finishing your roof includes installing plastic or metal flashing for the gable ends and eaves, installing gutters, and flashing anything that protrudes from the roof. If there are shingles that don’t quite line up, use tin snips to trim the edges.


The last major step in finishing a shed roof is the shingles. Hopefully, you have a better idea of what shingles you want to use, and how to install them.

Your comments are appreciated. If you know someone who is planning to shingle or re-shingle a shed, share the article.

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