How to install plywood roof sheathing

Written by keith allen
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How to install plywood roof sheathing
Cover the plywood roof with roofing felt as soon as possible to avoid weather damage. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Plywood is a commonly used sheathing material in roof projects that will ultimately be shingled. Proper installation is vital, especially in areas that are prone to high winds, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The installation procedures for plywood and oriented strand board are identical. The process requires working at rooftop heights, as well as familiarity with and access to common power tools. These procedures fall within the abilities of most do-it-yourselfers with adequate equipment.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 8d nails

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  1. 1

    Place a sheet of plywood at one corner of the roof. Flush the plywood with the ends of the rafters and the edge of the end rafter. Tack the sheet in place with nails at the corners. Complete nailing with 8d nails placed approximately 6 inches apart along the end edges of the sheet and every 12 inches in the interior of the sheet.

  2. 2

    Place the next plywood sheet along the edge of the roof. Leave a gap of 1/8 inch between sheets. Nail the sheet in place in the same manner as described in Step 1. Continue adding sheets along the entire length of the building.

  3. 3

    Start the next course up the roof with a half-sheet. This will offset the seams running up the roof, thus adding strength to the roof. Leave a 1/8-inch gap between the plywood sheets of the second course of roofing and the previous course. Nail the sheets in place with the same spacing as described in Step 1.

Tips and warnings

  • Use ring- or screw-shank nails on roof edges and ridges if winds of more than 110mph are possible in the area, according to FEMA. Deck screws can be used, but staples are not recommended.
  • "The more nails, the stronger the roof" is true --- within limits. FEMA recommendations indicate closer nailing patterns in high-wind areas but suggests that nails placed closer than 3 inches may cause splitting and reduce the overall holding capacity of the roof.
  • Confirm that all nails are hitting the rafters. Nails that miss the rafter provide no holding capacity.

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