Roof Repair: Things You Can Do Yourself

If you live in an area that experiences a lot of summer storms, it’s important to inspect the roof before the rain starts falling. This helps prevent damage caused by high winds, heavy rain, or hail.Roof Repair

Water stains on the ceiling or walls are common indicators of a leaky roof. Inspect the shingles and flashing around skylights, chimneys, and plumbing vent pipes.

A good roof repair job starts with a full inspection by a roofing contractor. But if you’re concerned about damaged shingles, there are things you can do yourself. First, find the broken shingle. It’s usually obvious because it’s either curled or torn in the middle, with the corners pulled up from the edges. It’s also a good idea to inspect the entire roof for any signs of damage.

If a whole row of shingles has been torn, it’s probably best to replace the entire roof section. You’ll need a pry bar, hammer, utility knife, ladder, and replacement shingles. Accessing the roof for shingle repair should be done on a sunny, warm day, not in rain, snow, or ice; you could fall and hurt yourself.

Once you’ve located the damaged shingle, use the pry bar to loosen the adhesive under the tabs two rows above it (Photo 1). If all goes well, you can pull up the shingles and expose the nails underneath. It’s important to get all the nails up because if any are left exposed, they will leak or even rust.

After the old shingle is removed, slather the exposed nail heads and cracks with roofing sealant. A putty knife works well for spreading the sealant. For a more natural look, gather some of the colored shingle granules in the rain gutter and sprinkle them over wet sealant to camouflage the repairs.

Once the roof is dry, you can replace the missing shingle by cutting the new shingle to fit and sliding it over the nails. Then nail down the replacement with four roofing nails. For an extra layer of protection, slather the top of the replacement shingle with more roofing sealant.

Leaks

Leaks are the bane of every homeowner. They’re incredibly frustrating, difficult to locate, and can cause serious damage. If left untreated, a leak can balloon into a full roof replacement and cost you a fortune. So, if you find water leaking through your ceiling, don’t panic. Instead, enlist the help of a friend and go up on the roof with a garden hose to test for a leak. Begin by running the hose low, then work your way up, soaking each area and waiting for the drips to appear in the house. This will pinpoint the area where the leak is coming from.

The best place to look for a leak on your roof is around the pipes that enter and exit your home. This includes anything from the venting system to plumbing fixtures and any other penetrations in your roof. Look for areas where the pipe meets your soffit and where your flashing is located. This is especially important if you have gutters, since a leak in this area can cause them to drain incorrectly and lead to leaks in your home.

Another common leak location is where a chimney flashing or chimney cap has failed. This is particularly common in older homes and may be due to poor installation or corrosion of the metal components. A roofer will need to remove and re-flash this area to repair the leaks.

Leaks can also show up where a poorly driven nail or screw has pierced the underside of the shingle or through a crack in the soffit. Depending on the extent of the damage, this can require a roof replacement or be simply fixed by a roofer who can apply roofing cement to seal the hole.

Rust

Rust occurs when iron combines with oxygen and moisture in the air to form a red or orange discoloration on metal roof surfaces. It’s common on metal chimney flashing, dampers, and chase covers but can also affect chimney exteriors and other roof features that contain metal components. If left untreated, rust will attract additional moisture and cause progressive damage to the roof over time.

If you notice a patch of rust staining on a metal roof, try to remove it with a wire brush or steel wool before it spreads. If that’s too much work, you can use a power washer or light sandblasting to clean the area. This will also strip dirt, mildew, and flaking paint, leaving the metal bare but free of rust. If the rust persists, use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove stubborn spots of rust. This chemical is available at hardware and home improvement stores and works the same way it strips rust from auto body parts.

It’s recommended that you rinse the rust-free surface of the roof to prevent further corrosion and re-clean any areas that were scraped or blasted. Afterwards, you should apply a rust inhibitor designed for your roofing material to protect the surface. Many different types of sealants are available for this purpose and can be found at home improvement and hardware stores.

Be sure to wear protective gear when working on a roof, especially during warm weather. Consider hiring an aerial work platform, or “cherry picker,” to save yourself from having to scale a ladder and risk falling off the roof. Also, it’s best to work on a roof in the early morning or late evening, when the temperature is cooler.

Damaged Flashing

Flashing is designed to be tough, but it can still get damaged. It can be damaged by wind, acid rain, hail, and, in coastal neighborhoods, exposure to salt air. It can also deteriorate or rust over time, and it may develop holes. When it is damaged, water seeps behind it and into the roof, which can cause leaks in the home.

A roofing professional can repair a damaged flashing by first removing the shingles at the point of the damage and exposing the flashing beneath. The roofing contractor can replace the damaged flashing and apply an appropriate sealant to keep the water out.

While it is not a good idea to attempt flashing repairs on your own (as the roofers do), you can look for signs of damage to the flashing, such as visible dents or indentations in the metal or small holes. These holes are caused when the flashing is damaged by weather, and they should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent leaking into your home.

Roof flashing is typically made of rust-resistant metal and is placed at points on the roof prone to leaks, such as the junction of a skylight and the roof or the joints around chimneys, vent pipes, dormers, and other structures on the roof. Roof flashing directs water away from these leak-prone areas, directing it down the gutters or off the roof. When flashing becomes damaged, it allows water to enter the shingles and wood roof deck, which can rot or buckle the roof. While it may seem like a minor issue, damaged flashing should always be repaired by an experienced roofer to avoid costly leaks and other problems.

Damaged Gutters

Gutters are troughs that sit at the edge of your roof and facilitate rainwater flow, bringing it to the ground and diverting water away from the structure. When these gutters become clogged with debris, they can cause long-term, costly damage to your home.

Gutter clogs can result in water spilling over the sides of your home, which can affect walls, ceilings, and electrical systems. This can also erode the soil around your foundation, leading to cracks and other structural issues. If the clog isn’t fixed, it can cause your gutter system to become warped and weighted, eventually becoming detached from your home.

Homeowners Insurance

Gutters play an important role in protecting your home’s exterior, siding, and foundation from expensive water damage repairs. They drain rainwater and move it away from your home’s foundation to prevent soil erosion, basement flooding, discolored siding, and other problems. However, gutters can be damaged by storms, wind, falling branches, and other natural events. If your gutters are damaged, you may wonder if homeowners’ insurance will cover the repair or replacement costs. Unfortunately, many insurers don’t include coverage for gutters or gutter damage. This is because these repairs are considered homeowner responsibility due to their preventable nature. However, there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of having your gutters covered by homeowners insurance.

Stephanie Gerber