Are Starter Shingles Necessary? - Digital Roofing Innovations

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Are Starter Shingles Necessary?

Are Starter Shingles Necessary?

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Every roof needs a proper foundation and structure – a starter course.

For something as essential as keeping you safe from bad weather, specific steps are needed to follow the right order.
That’s where starter shingles come in. They lay the foundation of what will protect you for 30+ years and more.

Before we dive in, here’s a guide of what to expect from this article:

• Video “How To Install Starter Shingles”
• What are Starter Shingles
• The Importance of Starter Shingles
• Where to Apply Starter Shingles?
• Shingle Installation Mistakes to Avoid

What are Starter Shingles?

A Starter shingle is not to be confused with 3-Tab or architectural shingles. 3-Tab, Laminated, and Architectural shingles are your roof shingles and are placed above your starter strips/shingles.

Some manufacturers refer to starter shingles as starter strips because this also avoids confusion between a starter shingle and roof shingle.

Starter strips also don’t have a specific color system, unlike roof shingles. Since your starter strip will be placed below your roof shingles, aesthetics don’t matter as much.

Starter strips follow a rectangular design and appear generic; however, they’re made of the same material as asphalt shingles: fiberglass.

The Importance of Starter Shingles

Starter shingles act as a barrier for your roof to protect your eaves and rake edges from water leaks.

Mainly, starter strips provide the overlap function so that water can flow seamlessly on your roof without penetrating into your home.

Without this starter course of shingles, your roof will lack the foundation needed to prevent water leaks and uplifts from strong winds.

The most vulnerable parts of your roof that lack starter strips would be your eaves and rake edges.

Installing a starter strip on your roof edges (over underlayment and/or ice and water shield) will also have a tar adhesive strip to prevent your shingles from blowing off in harsh weather conditions.

For homeowners who live in high-wind zone areas, a starter strip is even more crucial to the effectiveness and performance of your roof.

starter shingles

Where to Apply Starter Shingles

Applying starter strip shingles should fall on your roof’s eaves and gables or rake edges.

Applying it on the eaves helps cover the joints between the finished shingles to provide waterproofing. Installing a starter shingle on your gables carries a different function from using it to the eaves.

Specifically, a starter shingle on your gables improves your roof’s wind resistance.

Finally, one of the benefits of applying a starter shingle on your eaves and gables is it gives your roofer a straight line to follow as a guide. This guide is particularly useful when you end each course of the field shingles.

Considerations When Applying a Starter Shingle

Typically, roofing materials are measured by how much square feet they cover on your roof. When determining the total area of your roof, you might say per bundle of 3-Tab shingles, this will cover 33.3 square feet.

However, finished shingles follow a different measurement compared to starter strips/shingles.

A starter shingle follows a linear measurement, meaning we measure this shingle in terms of how many meters or linear feet you get from one bundle. Depending on the manufacturer, this is around 33.33 lineal feet.

Before you start canvassing for any starter shingle, get the total length of your eaves and rake edge first.

For example, if a bundle of 10 shingles is equivalent to 60 meters/linear feet of coverage, you can use the total length of your eaves and rake edge to see how much you’ll need for the installation.

Finally, make sure that the joints of your starter shingle are not coincidental with the joints of your finished shingle. This can lead to misalignment during the installation, which causes water penetration.

The weight of a Starter Shingle is not normally a factor, but you can always use a ladder hoist if the weight is too much for you.

How To Install Starter Shingles

Shingle Installation Mistakes to Avoid

Nail Placement

Driving nails down your starter strip shingle is vital to your overall roof installation. Improper placement is one of the reasons why harsh winds can easily blow off your shingles.

In addition, your roof will become more prone to water penetration if you don’t install them properly. It’s easier to nail your finished shingle since laminated shingles have a “common bond” area that indicates the proper nailing area.

For starter shingles, it requires more experience and precision. The standard nail measurements to follow for a starter strip should be 3 to 4 inches from the edge of the shingle and 1 inch from each end of the shingle.

For low-wind zone areas, 4 nails are the standard number to use, but for high-wind zone areas, you should use 6.

Building codes in your state will also vary, so be sure to consult your roofing manufacturer or company about this.

Finally, if you plan on using a pneumatic nail gun, make sure to use the appropriate pressure when driving nails through the shingle.

Over-driving a nail onto the shingle or under-driving, it will cause your shingle to blow off easily. In the long run, this will also decrease your shingle’s performance and longevity.

Shingle alignment

Shingle alignment should follow a certain course or pattern as specified by the manufacturer’s instructions. A proper shingle alignment typically follows the profile of a staircase or a staggered, stepped pattern.

If these aren’t lined up properly, water will easily seep onto your roof deck. Also, installing a shingle too high or too low will only make matters worse.

This won’t just affect the aesthetics of your roof. Your roof’s wind-resistance and seal strength will be compromised in the process.

Absent Starter Shingle

As mentioned earlier, using a starter strip/shingle lays the foundation for your roof and home.

While this may be a standard to follow, some still prefer to go straight into installing 3-Tab shingles or finished shingles right off the bat.

Even with a drip edge, your roof is still one step shy of preventing water and wind damage.

The point of installing starter strips is so they can overhang your roof edge slightly and allow for water runoff instead of seeping into your roof deck.

Installing shingle layers on your rake edge and eaves, all in all, are just as critical to nail placement and the alignment of your starter & finished shingles.


Aren't Starter Shingles an Upside-down shingle?

Back in the day, 3-Tab shingle products dominated the market, and because of this, they were commonly used as starter strips as well.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why some still think using 3-Tab shingles are sufficient for protection. Also, if you proceed straight to installing 3-Tab shingles, this will be faster and is considered a shortcut process.

Although you save on time and effort, you only sacrifice quality and cost long-term.

Starter strips nowadays are different from your 3-Tab or laminated shingles. While both are still made of fiberglass asphalt material, both carry different functions that are essential for protecting your home from wind uplift.
Finally, starter shingles come with a tar adhesive strip that allows for a natural stick on your eaves and rakes. Using the upside-down method will not stick to your rakes or eaves as effectively.

Can you install a drip edge after the shingles?

We don’t recommend installing a drip edge after your starter shingles. In fact, the proper order to follow should be your drip edge first, along with an underlayment such as an ice and water shield.

Roofing felt should also go before installing starter shingles. The material used for underlayment is far thinner than your starter strips, which also acts as another barrier against any water leaks, wind uplift, and ice dams.

Can you install rolled roofing over shingles?

Rolled roofing or roll on shingles is an alternative roofing material that’s extremely easy to install, affordable, and adaptable.

One shingle roll shouldn’t cost you much since rolled roofing is also used as a re-roofing technique rather than installing it on its own for houses.

Rolled roofing comes in rolls of 100 square feet and, overall, is the least expensive roofing material.

If removing your current shingles is a problem or a hassle, you can use rolled roofing. Alternatively, you can install a second layer of asphalt shingles, but this will also cost you more and require more time & labor.

Before you proceed with any re-roofing, make sure you talk to your roofing company about any potential plans you have.

Final Thoughts

When installing or replacing your roof, you should always think long-term, especially when it comes down to maintenance fees and replacement costs. A starter shingle is normally a necessary component for all roofing warranties.

Expenses like these can easily cost you $300 to $500 for a single replacement. Worse, if your roofer finds water leaks and improperly installed shingles, you might have to tear off your shingles and install new ones.

Seeing as how expensive this can all amount to, it’s clear that your roofing foundation and structure are critical stages during the installation and planning process.

Even if you had high-quality shingles absent any starters, the result would still be the same.

As a final tip, always insist on having your starter shingles installed and making sure your roofing foundation is set properly before proceeding to any other installation.

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