How To Create A Roofing-Nail Removal Tool To Make Tar Paper Pull Up Simpler And Faster

14 August 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles


Installing a new roof on a home can be a time-consuming process, and removal of the old roof can take a while in and of itself. One frustrating aspect for many do-it-yourself and commercial roofing contractors alike, is the the removal of the old tar paper underlayment. Attempting to pull it up without removing all the roofing nails can cause the brittle paper to rip and break into pieces. Cleaning up the mess can take a lot of time, especially if the paper ends up scattered all over the lawn. That's why advance removal of the nails is important, but getting down on hands and knees and pulling nails one-by-one is not easy. Fortunately, you can make your own roofing nail removal tool using just a few basic hand tools. Below is how you can do it:

What you will need

  • Long-handled transfer shovel - a transfer shovel has a flat-edged blade and also has a flat bottom. Digging shovels use a rounded blade tip and are concave in shape.

  • Hacksaw with bi-metal blade containing at least 18 teeth per inch - bi-metal blades are designed for rigidity and cutting strength. In addition, fine-tooth blades are best suited for cutting steel as opposed to coarse-tooth blades used primarily for wood, plastic or other soft materials.

  • Multipurpose light machine oil

  • Double-cut flat file

  • Ruler

  • Wax pencil

  • Bench vise

  • Eye protection

Step-by-step procedure

1. Lay out the cut-out areas on the shovel - measure one inch down from the edge of the shovel blade with a ruler and draw a parallel line across the shovel blade at that point. A wax pencil works well for drawing lines on the metal surface of the shovel.

Next, from one end of the line, measure and make marks along the line at every inch. Then, beginning at the end of the front edge of the shovel, measure one-and-a-half inches and make a mark; thereafter, measure and make marks every inch along the edge of the shovel blade.

After the marks have been made, draw straight lines between the marks along the line and marks along the edge of the shovel blade; this will form a "saw-tooth" pattern of lines across the edge of the shovel blade.

2. Cut out the shovel blade teeth - once you have finishing laying out the saw-tooth pattern on the shovel blade, you are ready to cut the teeth. Be sure to put on your eye protection before beginning to protect your eyes from metal shavings.

Start by placing the shovel blade in a bench vise so the saw-tooth pattern is fully visible. You may need to adjust the vise and shovel in order to obtain the best working angle, so move them around until you are comfortable with the set-up. Fasten the vise so its jaws are tight and won't slip during cutting.

Once the shovel is secured, place a few drops of light machine oil on the hacksaw blade and spread it out along the blade with your finger. Position the saw over the first line you made and begin to slowly start cutting while grasping the saw with both hands. If the blade wobbles while cutting, then stop sawing and tighten it to reduce flexing. Keep your strokes even while applying light pressure on the saw. If the blade dries out, then place a few more drops of oil on it as needed. Continue sawing until you have removed all the teeth from the shovel edge.

3. File the shovel blade teeth - after cutting the teeth from the shovel blade, use a double-cut flat file to eliminate sharp or jagged edges. Don't remove too much material from the shovel and be careful not to bend the teeth while working.

How to use the tool

Using the roofing nail removal tool is not difficult, but it make take a small amount of practice to become fully proficient. To use, slide the flat bottom of the shovel on top of the tar paper while keeping the teeth elevated just a fraction of an inch above the paper. Slide the teeth sharply into the roofing nails and they should pop free from the plywood decking. If you encounter a stubborn nail, hold the teeth of the tool against the nail and push the handle downward; the leveraged force should push the nail up and out of its position.


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