What Does a Roofer Do?

Lori Kilchermann

A roofer makes repairs to roofs including the re-shingling of older roofs and installation of shingles on newly constructed buildings. The job of a roofer is often difficult when the old roof requires removal prior to installing the new roof. Along with asphalt shingles, a roofer typically installs wood or tile shingles, metal roofs and rubber roofs. A roof worker can have no fear of heights as this type of work commonly places the worker several stories up in the air. While power nailing guns make the task of laying a roof much faster than the earlier hammer and nail process, many companies continue to offer the standard hammer service as a quality control type of service.

Roofers must be comfortable walking on elevated or slanted surfaces.
Roofers must be comfortable walking on elevated or slanted surfaces.

While most of these types of jobs are completed by a roofer working for a roofing company, work on a typical newly constructed building is completed by the crew that also built the building. On the typical commercial roofing job, the building requires a rubber roof. This commonly requires the roofer to remove stone from the roof prior to removing the heavy rubber cover. The stone is placed on the rubber roof to aid in holding it down during high wind periods. Rubber sheeting commonly requires cutting around all roof protrusions, such as vent pipes, air conditioning and heating units, as well as sky lights.

A roofer is responsible for the installation and repair of roof shingles.
A roofer is responsible for the installation and repair of roof shingles.

In some rubber roof repair jobs, it is the job of the roofer to mop the entire roof with a coat of hot, melted tar. The roof must first be cleared of stone and other debris before being swept clean. Once the tar has been mopped out, the roof might receive small patches of fresh rubber to seal any cracks or worn areas. For tiles, shingles and metal roofing, the old roofing materials are typically removed down to the wooden roof materials before a base of fresh tar paper is laid down and secured with either nails or staples.

Carpenters are often enlisted for roof rebuilding projects.
Carpenters are often enlisted for roof rebuilding projects.

Occasionally, a roofer is required to replace the wood on the roof due to rot. This is commonly plywood or particle board sheeting that is secured to the rafters by nails. Once the base wood is safe and secured, the roofers cover it with tar paper and then the shingles, tiles or steel panels of a metal roof. Power nailers in the form of air or electric nailing/stapling guns are used to secure the roofing materials to the roof. Some roofing companies prefer to use hammer and nail roofing rather than power nailing devices for the additional control that the hammer offers the installer.

Roofers use nails or staples to secure tar paper on roofs.
Roofers use nails or staples to secure tar paper on roofs.

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Discussion Comments


@Animandel - You are right that some roofers only do big jobs, but what they are willing to do basically depends on how busy they are. Not too many contractors are going to turn down work when they have nothing else to do. In some places, there aren't enough roofing jobs to go around, so as a roofing contractor the more you can do, the more likely you are to keep working year around and actually earn a decent living,


I didn't know roofers did small repairs and patch work. I thought they were only called roofers when they put on new roofs. I thought the repair guys were just general contractors or home repair guys.

Still, I imagine there are many roofers who don't want to do the smaller repair jobs because they can make more money putting on an entire new roof, and they don't have to move from one site to the next as often when they are doing the entire roof.


This article mentions that the roofers sometimes have to cover the roof with a hot tar before they put down the roofing material. This might not be so bad during the winter, but I would not want to be spreading that tar during the middle of summer. Installing and repairing roofing has to be one of the hottest jobs known to man.

Think about it. You're on a roof with the heat from the sun beating down on you and then it hits you again once it hits the top of the house and bounces back up. There is no shade, and you're working with hot tar. I have nothing but respect for these guys.

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