Roof Repair - What You Need to Know

A well-maintained roof is your home's best defense against damage from wind, rain and snow. Regular inspections can help you catch problems before they cause major damage.

Look for visible signs of a problem like wet spots in your ceiling, shingle granules in your gutters and wear around chimneys or roof windows. Then fix the problem before it gets worse.

Repairing a Leak

One of the most common Roof Repair projects is to seal leaks. Water spots and stains on the ceiling are telltale signs of a leaky roof. It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact spot where a leak originates, however, as water travels downhill. The spot where the leak appears on the ceiling may not be close to where it enters the roof, for example.

To find a leak, start by inspecting your attic. Look for dark mold on the sheathing or rafters, and water-stained areas in the insulation. Also check the area around roof penetrations such as chimneys, vent pipes, and dormers.

If you suspect a leak, soak the roof with a hose to mimic heavy rains. Have someone on the inside watch for drips, and inform the person holding the hose to move the hose in different directions around the rooftop until they yell that they see a drip. Wet surfaces don’t adhere well, so allow the area to dry before sealing. Before applying the sealant, scuff up the surface with steel wool or another abrasive material to ensure proper adherence.

Repairing a Damaged Shingle

A missing shingle is a hole in your roof, leaving the underlayment and roof deck vulnerable to rain. Replacing a single damaged shingle is relatively simple, but it’s a good idea to check the surrounding area for any other damage or potential leak sources.

Start with a new shingle cut to the right size for your roof. Place it on top of the undamaged shingles and nail through both sides with roofing nails. Work carefully to avoid ripping the shingles or puncturing them with the flat bar edge.

Shingles are fastened with eight nails—four in the tab slots and four through the shingle above (Photo 1). Remove the tabs and pull up the old shingle to expose the nails.

Repeat this process on the shingle above, but be careful not to break the seal under or around it. Remove the old nails and replace the shingle.

Repairing a Torn Shingle

A broken shingle looks unsightly and can be a leak-waiting-to-happen. But repairing it is relatively easy if you have the right tools, and the weather is moderate (too cold and shingles can crack, too warm and shingle sealants are tough to break).

Start by loosening the shingle tabs below the damaged shingle and the next two courses above it. Slide the flat pry bar between each nail and shingle strip to free them. Then remove the nails and lift up the damaged shingle.

When you're ready to replace the shingle, apply a dab of roofing cement beneath the new one to help it adhere to the roof. You may also want to apply a bead of sealant around the edges of the shingle to hold down any cracks or gaps that have formed. You should also consider squeezing a bead of sealant at any penetration points (vents, skylights) to add a second layer of water protection to the roof deck.

Repairing a Damaged Flashing

Flashing may not get as much attention as the shingles, but it is crucial for protecting the roof and the home. Made of strips of aluminum (or steel or other metal), it is placed around the edges and seams of the roof and at certain features, such as chimneys. Flashing is designed to route water away from these areas of the roof and keep moisture from damaging the structure.

However, as flashing is exposed to the elements it can become damaged and begin to leak. This can happen due to extreme weather changes that cause it to warp, rust or develop other problems. It can also be caused by human error, such as incorrect installation or steps taken during roof maintenance.

It is best to have flashing repaired by a professional roofing contractor. They will have the experience and tools necessary to remove any shingles that are covering the flashing to expose it. They can then replace the flashing and make sure it is sealed properly to prevent further damage. This repair will usually involve using caulking that is designed for use on roofs, and roofing cement to fill in nail holes or cover exposed nails.

Repairing a Damaged Roof Deck

The roof deck (also called sheathing) is the inner layer that connects the “bones” of the roof (the rafters and trusses) with the shingles. It’s also the anchor for shingle nails and the moisture barrier that protects the interior of your home from harmful water damage, mildew, mold and other contaminants.

A healthy roof deck is essential for a long-lasting roofing system, but consistent exposure to rain and snow can cause the wooden components of your roof to deteriorate. This can lead to rot and other serious problems, including leaks, sagging sections of the roofline and visible signs of mold and mildew inside your home or business.

To prevent rotting roof decking, you should have your roof regularly inspected by a local roofer. Roofers will inspect the underlying structure of your roof and repair any sheathing that is damaged or showing signs of wear. In addition, they will install a strip of adhesive ice-and-water barrier under the soffit and main roof joint where sheathing meets to help protect against water intrusion. This step is also an opportunity for them to apply protective treatments to any nearby wood, such as staining or sealing the area where the new sheathing meets the existing sheathing.

Lenora Suoboda
Lenora Suoboda

Extreme coffee trailblazer. Hipster-friendly internet junkie. Lifelong travel aficionado. Lifelong music geek. Hipster-friendly beer specialist. Bacon geek.

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