Ask Your Question

Angie's List Answers is the trusted spot to ask home improvement and health questions and get answers from service companies, health providers and consumers. For ratings and reviews on companies in your area, search Angie's List.

Top 30 Days Experts
Rank Leader Points*
1 kstreett 240
2 Guest_9020487 110
3 Guest_9190926 105
4 GoldenKid 100
5 ahowell 95
6 KnowledgeBase 95
7 skbloom 80
8 Guest_98024861 70
9 Guest_9311297 70
10 Guest_9400529 70

*Updates every 4 hours

Browse Projects By Category

Question DetailsAsked on 7/13/2016

How to unstick shingle from plywood?

Last time (15 years ago) when I hired a contractor to reroof our house, the contractor didn't install the feld paper beneath the shingles, with time and heat, the tar on the back of the shingles has melted and stuck to the membrane above the plywood . Now it's time to reroof again, it's nearly impossible to unstick the shingles. How to unstick these shingles?

Do you have the same question? Follow this Question

2 Answers

Voted Best Answer

You may have to reply back with more details if I am not seeing the picture clearly, using the Answer This Question yellow button right below your question, because I may be having trouble visualizing the situation - normally you would have felt OR membrane, not both, because using both would be unnecessary plus likely to wrinkle during the work and make for a messy shingle job.

If the "membrane above the plywood" you are talking about is tarpaper or roof wrap - that comes off with the shingles - you just use pitchfork or icescraper or shingle removal prytool to peel up the shingles and membrane all at the same time, with the tool running in under the membrane. Some roofers prefer to take the shingles off first because you can get some horrendous large mats of shingles and membrane otherwise - saw one roof about 20 feet from ridge to eaves by about 50 feet long where the crew actually had fun and took the entire roof membrane and shingles and valley flashing from ridge to eaves in one piece and rolled it up and over the edge like a carpet. Probably a bit of an overload on the rafter tails with all that weight, but would have been a Youtube moment - had someone invented Youtube back in the days when we drove dinosaurs rather than pickups.

You do NOT want to leave an existing roof wrap (water barrier) membrane in place because it will be perforated with holes from the current shingles, making it a sieve after the new roof is on. This membrane is your backup protectsion against shingle loss or leaks - you do not want a sieve serving that purpose.

If you mean a membrane factory attached to the plywood sheathing - basically shrink wrapped [possibly metallic] polyethylene onto it - then that would just be peeled up too, taking the shingles with it - to the extent possible, leaving a smooth surface wWeyerhauser (or was it Pacific Lumber) as I recall to provide radiant heat protection (unsuccessfully) and to waterproof the sheathing better by factory wrapping the sheets - sort of a lost cause by the time all the fasteners for sheathing and shingles went through it, not to mention the tearing during transport, getting it on the roof, installation handling, walking on it, and at cutoff edges. Did not last on the market for long.

If you mean the glossy black or gray self-healing thick asphaltic or plastic ice and water shield (commonly in valleys and along eaves) some people try to get penny-wise and save it - but again the existing nail/staple holes will have perforated it - the last thing you want for an ice and water shield location. It commonly says self-healing - that means around penetrating fasteners, not for the holes left after the fasteners are pulled. So it comes off too - ice scraper usually best, with two men pulling the corner diagonally downhill to peel it off. There was one type (Owens Corning product as I recall) a couple of decades ago whjich used a sprayed-on contact cement activator during installation which will NOT come off by peeling - in that case takes heating of the back side during peeling to soften the glue to get it off, or if in smooth condition (without wrinkles) it is commonly just overlaid with new. Most contractors do not try to take that off, because the surface remains like contact cement afterwards, making walking a nuisance and dangerous - not to mention real gummy pants and knees.

Bottom line - unless this is a special foil membrane on top of insulation board (which does little good in that location anyway so no loss if it is peeled off without damaging the insulation) it should come off, down to bare sheathing, then new water barrier which can be roofing felt [tarpaper] but generally these days is synthetic roof wrap - plus new peel-and-stick ice and water shield in valley and eave areas needing that (under the roof wrap).

To remove peel-and-stick membrane - sometimes with a few brands takes a heat gun (being careful to keep temperature of gun well below flame point on the membrane because it commonly burns like crazy, and make sure they have fire-fighting equipment on roof and a charged hose nearby if using heat gun), but generally a couple of guys can just grab ahold and, with the assistance at sticky points from a fairly dull thin-bladed long-handled ice scraper, peel it off in good sized sheets.

BTW - if your current roofer did not know all this already, might be time to be looking for a new roofer - unless you are talking a DIY job this time.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Dear LCD,

I think my membrane is a kind of peel-and-stick membrane. My experience with the last roofer was terrible. This time I will try to do it myself. Thank you for answering. I will try what you have suggested: using a heat gun. I like this idea. Thanks again.

Answered 4 years ago by nexus14000


Note using the heat gun (while watching temp) to unstick the shingles is probably easier than unsticking the peel and stick because the shingles will only be stuck here and there (normally primarily along the adhesion strip near the tip of the tabs) - provided you can do so without blistering and bubbling the peel-and-stick. IF the membrane stays flat, you should just be able to put another layer of water barrier or ice and water shield over it as applicable to reestablish a waterproof layer, and build up from there. OF course, if not well affixed or wrinkled, then it has to come off.

Once you peel a few shingles you should see a brandname and product ID on the membrane - manufacturer website might have more hints on how to remove it if you need/want to, but commonly (especially on very cold or quite hot days when the adhesive it either brittle or weakened by heat) once you start an edge you can grab ahold with a couple of people (works best if you wrap the loosened corner a couple of wraps around a piece of 2x4 to give a handle to pull on) and then peel it of the roof by steadily walking backwards (being careful not to walk off the roof) at a 30-45 degree angle to the lay of the membrane, up-roof. Yes, down-roof movement gives you a stronger pull, but more dangerous in case the membrane or you let go - far better to fall uphill onto the roof than downhill. Pulling at roughly a 20-30 degree angle (vertically) to the roof surface works best usually, and sometimes wrenching it back and forth from side to side when it gets hard to peel helps too. Commonly a third person with heat gun or long-handled dull ice scraper to help peel up tenacious spots helps a lot too, but in most cases a couple of guys can just walk away with a strip of it. If very large sheets pre-score into about 3-6 foot wide strips with a utility knife to make it easier to pull.

You said nearly impossible to unstick the shingles - commonly if you use a dull ice-scraper (dull to prevent tearing into the membrane or cutting right through the shingles) or a shingle puller or roofers spade like this -

you can just slip in under them and pop them off, especially when the roof is cool. Works best from uphill to down - for safety (facing the roof edge), less tendency to dig into the membrane or the sheathing, and moving the loosened shingles in the downhill direction rather than trying to lift them uphill. Works best with one person scraping/lifting, and another grabbing hold by hand or with a rake to pull the freed-up edge back and downhill so the torn up shingles don't just lie back down in place. However, some crews work in uphill direction, pulling the loosed shingles out of the way and behind them as they go, to avoid having to continually rehandle the torn off shingles as you move down the roof, so whatever works best for you.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

Related Questions

Terms Of Use
Privacy Policy