Q&A / 

Roof Repair

Roof repair is one issue just about every homeowner frets about. Water leaking into a home can cause serious damage in a short amount of time. Just one leak from one storm can cause an entire drywall ceiling to fall dropping mushy gypsum board and messy fiberglass insulation onto you and your possessions.

If you have a traditional asphalt shingle roof, roofing repair is often not that hard. Let’s say you have a damaged shingle that needs to be replaced. Watch my video to discover how a flat pry bar, a hammer and a few nails allow you to remove the old shingle and install a new one in minutes.

Roof repairs involving metal flashing are more problematic. You may have to call in a real professional to deal with these as it can be hard to get the new flashing to connect to the roof and the adjacent wall, chimney, skylight or plumbing vent pipe. Realize that 95 percent of roof leaks happen at flashings. Don’t ever underestimate the difficulty of installing flashings the correct way.

Flat roof repair can be as bewitching as a full moon on Halloween. The actual location of the leak in the roofing material can be many feet away from where you may see the leak manifest itself indoors. The same is true for leaks on sloped roofs. Flat roofs pose special problems for a number of reasons. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays strike the roof at a 90-degree angle at high noon when they pass through the least amount of atmosphere. These intense invisible rays can rapidly deteriorate roofing materials. Add to that the countless expansion / contraction cycles the roofing materials experience each day and you can see why the seams where layers of material meet can be stressed and stretched easily.

Roofing repairs attempted by a rookie homeowner should be done with great care. Not only is it dangerous to work on roofs, you can cause more harm than good, if you are not careful. When working on sloped roofs with asphalt shingles, note how one layer overlaps the other. This engineering principal is what allows the water to stay out of your home. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a plumbing vent flashing installed where the top edge is on top of the shingles, not under them. The rookie homeowner smeared roofing cement on the seam or caulked it hoping that would stop water from running under the flashing.

To repair a roof properly, take the time to do some research. Read many of my past columns to get a feel of how the different roofing materials connect and work together. You may be tempted to use aluminum flashing material on a masonry chimney because aluminum is so easy to work with. It’s a mistake as the alkaline chemicals in the mortar will corrode the aluminum over time. You may want to use caulk instead of soldering tin. Caulk, in my opinion, is not a permanent roofing material. There are some specialized commercial caulks used on flat roofs, but some of these are formulated to work only with special materials. Beware of caulk on residential roofs. They’re not needed as there are other time-tested methods that work and will keep your home dry.

Roof leak repair doesn’t have to be scary. There are tough roofs to work on no doubt. Attempting roof repairing on a steep slate roof repair should be left to the professionals. The same is true for metal roof repair or even tile roof repair. These are tricky materials to work with. But you should be able to successfully do home roof repair if you have a low-slope roof, a cool day and the right attitude.

As I stated earlier, shingle roof repair is by far the easiest. It’s best to attempt this task on a warm, but not hot day. Working with asphalt shingles on a cold day is not a great idea. Asphalt gets very brittle in cold weather, and it’s easy to crack the shingles. In warm weather, the asphalt shingles are very manageable. But beware of hot days. The shingles can get so hot you’ll burn your hands easily. You can also get dehydrated rapidly working on hot roofs. Dehydration can contribute or intensify vertigo causing you to become dizzy and possibly fall.

Remember that roof flashing repair is the most challenging and the most important one to have done correctly. If you don’t know exactly what to do, absolutely call in a professional to repair your leaking roof at the flashing location. The real pros who work with tin flashing will come with their charcoal pots, special soldering irons, ruby fluid and magic sticks of lead solder.

It’s craftsmanship at its best to see roofers who can carefully solder a vertical seam in tin flashing. I can do it, but not nearly as fast and as gorgeous as the late Bill Siegel. Bill was a talented roofer who could solder tin so it was watertight and looking like it was a work of art. We had to send Bill back to Heaven years ago because God needed a real pro to fix a few leaks up in the sky. Rest in Peace Bill!

Column Q&A


5 Responses to Roof Repair

  1. Roof leaks are definitely not a small matter. As you said, it can be a major issue for most homeowners. Leaks are not always easy to detect because they may be in unused parts of the house, and the damage can be very expensive to fix. If you see shingles loose or blown off after a major storm, you should have your roof checked right away. This is especially true for older houses.

  2. Wow those are some really interesting things about roof repair that I didn't know before! We just had a pretty big wind storm pass through the town, and the roof isn't looking too good after the fact. We've been looking for a good roof repair guy to help us do the job right. Thanks for sharing some tips!

  3. Thanks for the tips. I was really hoping that we would be able to fix the leak ourselves, but we have a sheet metal roof. I would rather have it done correctly and safely than to risk hurting myself, or completely messing up the repair.

  4. Thanks for the article! I was interested to read about how repairs shouldn't be handled by rookie homeowners. It can be dangerous and can cause more harm than goo if done incorrectly. I recently found a leak in my roof and my husband attempted to fix it and didn't do a very good job. The leak got so bad that eventually we just had to call in a professional to undo the damage that had been done. I really appreciate your advice, I will definitely be taking these tips into consideration next time I need the roof fixed.

  5. It was interesting to learn that the main source of the roof leak is different from the place you think it is on the roof. I've heard that a sign of a leak is discoloration on the ceiling. I haven't had to deal with a leak yet, but it's good to know that the roof problem and indoor problem can be feet away, so I'd probably benefit from having a professional take a look at it if it does ever happen.

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