How to Repair Shingles on a Roof

Have you noticed a leak in your roof? Are shingles missing or damaged? If so, you may be wondering how much it will cost to repair your roof.

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Roof repairs can be a stressful and unexpected expense for homeowners. However, it's important to address any issues as soon as possible to prevent further damage and costly repairs down the road.

In this article, we will explore the process of repairing a roof, the factors that affect the cost of roof repair and provide an estimate, and what you can expect to pay for common repairs.

How to Repair Shingles on a Roof

There are three common reasons for fixing roof shingles: 1) replacing asphalt shingles, 2) shingles have curled corners, and 3) damaged shingles.

Types of Roof Shingles

In this article, we will look at five types of roof shingles and the unique characteristics of each.

NJ New roof installation

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roof shingle. Asphalt shingles are composed of fiberglass or paper mats covered with a layer of tar and granules.

Some of the characteristics of asphalt roofing that make it the leading type of shingle include:

  • Weather Resistance
  • Fire Resistance
  • Wind Resistance
  • Economy
  • Ease of Application
  • Adaptability
  • Aesthetics
  • Style Suitability

Wood Shingles

There are wood shingles and wood shakes. A wood shingle is thinner than a wood shakes, are sawn smooth on both sides and cut tapered, giving them a tailored appearance. Wood shingles have several thicknesses from which to choose. 

Metal Shingles

Metal shingles are sturdy and durable, allowing them to last a very long time. There are three common types of metal roofing materials: 1) standing seam, 2) ironwood, and 3) metal shake.

Tile Shingles

A tile shingle is made of slate, clay, terracotta, or concrete. They are resistant to fire and have a long lifespan because of their durability.

Concrete tile shingle roofs offer benefits that include:

  • Versatility in design and color
  • Energy efficiency
  • Greater protection against high winds than asphalt shingles

Slate Shingles

Slate shingles are made from natural stone quarried directly from the earth. Slate shingles have existed for a very long time; they are one of the oldest types of roofing tiles. Slate shingles are durable, waterproof, and insect proof. And, they are one of the most expensive roofing products on the market.

Identifying Damaged Shingles

It is important to know what a damaged shingle looks like in order to catch potential leaks before they become expensive repairs. Annual roof inspections will pinpoint any areas that need attention. Many times, just the shingle needs to be repaired or replaced and doesn't involve extensive work. Other times, the surrounding area needs attention. Here are some tell-tale signs of a shingle that needs to be repaired.

Cracked or Broken Shingles

Over time, a shingle can become worn and results in cracks on the surface. Cracked and split shingles can cause damage to the underlayment, decking, and will eventually cause leaking in the attic. If you see that a shingle has a crack in it or is broken, pay attention. Both a cracked shingle and a split shingle will show a line along the surface. A split shingle will have deep gaps that go all the way through the shingle whereas a cracked shingle usually has cracks that are just surface-deep. 

Curling or Buckling Shingles

Most of the time, curling and/or buckling shingles are caused by moisture in the roof decking or underlayment. A buckling shingle looks like it is being pushed up from beneath the shingle. This results from either a lack of insulation or poor attic ventilation or even from improper installation.

Missing Shingles

Sometimes shingles go missing from heavy winds, rain downpours, or hail storms. Windblown debris or fallen trees will also cause missing shingles. Depending on the location of the missing shingle(s), it may or may not cause a leak. Places such as the roof valleys and the intersection/overlapping areas between two shingles are prime areas for leaks. An expert roofer can determine whether the exposure will cause a leak or not.

Discolored or Stained Shingles

When you see dark streaks and discoloration on roof shingles, it more than likely is from blue-green algae that has planted itself on the roof, except for the metal flashing. By the time the discoloration is evident, the algae has probably been growing for a few months. Moss and algae can be cleaned off using a mixture of bleach and water. A professional roof repair company can assess the draining system, which may be causing the algae to attach to and grow on the shingles.

Granule Loss on Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles have granules on the surface that provide extra protection. The granules prevent the underlying layers of the roof shingles, the asphalt and fiberglass mat, from being exposed to the elements. These granules can become loose and fall off over time due to normal weathering. As shingles lose granules, the gutters can become full of granules and the shingles can blister, causing the shingles to be ineffective.

Tools and Materials Needed for Shingle Repair

Repairing a shingle roof requires the proper tools and materials. But, it also required some expertise and care. If you are extremely handy and like home projects, you may be able to take on the project of repairing your own roof. We recommend hiring a professional roofing company to do the work because of their experience, their expertise, and their knowledge of exactly what and how it needs to be done.

Basic Roofing Tools

If you are going to repair your own roof, you'll need a few basic tools.

These are the tools you need to do the work successfully:

  • Roofing nails and nail gun
  • Cordless drill
  • Roofing hammer
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Pry bar
  • Safety equipment
  • Protective workwear
  • Ladder
  • Roofing shovel
  • Tool belt
  • Shingle cutter

Safety Equipment

You need a good fall protection kit when getting up on your roof to make repairs. Usually this kit includes a reusable roof anchor, safety harness, rope lifeline, and shock-absorbing lanyard.

Replacement Shingles

Be sure you have an adequate number of replacement shingles for the amount of repair you are doing. The roofing contractor who installed your existing roof may have left you with replacement shingles. If so, that is great. If not, however, you will need to order shingles, and this requires knowing the specific shingle that is on your roof.

Roofing Nails

You can use either stainless steel nails or galvanized nails to attach shingles when making repairs. Stainless steel nails are best used for slate and ceramic roofs or asphalt shingle roofs in coastal climates. Otherwise, galvanized nails are best for asphalt roof shingles. Galvanized nails have a coating of zinc that does not rust. The International Building Code requires that roofing nails have a minimum 12-gauge shank and a 3/8-inch diameter head.

roofer showing how to repair shingles on a roof

Roofing Cement

You may be able to use roofing cement for patching surfaces. Roofing cement functions like an adhesive to repair holes and leaks in roofing systems. It is composed of a variety of different materials such as asphalt, refined mineral spirits, non-asbestos reinforcing fibers, and plasticizers. You must take care when using roofing cement because it can cause more leaks if you use it near walls, skylights, chimneys, and under shingles by restricting the water flow on the roof.

Repairing Asphalt Shingles

Here are general instructions for repairing asphalt shingles based on the type of damage.

Replacing a Single Damaged Shingle

When you have a single shingle that is damaged, it is possible to replace it. You will need the exact type and color of the shingles on your roof. 

Repairing Cracked or Curled Shingles

If a shingle, or just a few shingles, is (are) cracked or torn, you can just repair the shingle. Start by applying a thick bead of roofing sealant under the crack and then press the shingle down. Follow by applying a second bead of sealant on top of the crack. End with spreading the sealant with a putty knife.

You can repair a few curled shingles if the roof is not near the end of its life. To repair a curled shingle, first look under the shingle and brush away any loose debris by using a dry paintbrush. Next, spread a layer of roofing cement over the area below the shingle using a putty knife and firmly press the shingle flat. Place a brick on the shingle to weigh it down while the roofing cement dries, or nail it down by hammering a roofing nail through each corner and seal the nail heads with a small amount of roofing cement. After 24 hours, the cement should be dry and you can remove the weights.

Fixing Leaks Around Roof Penetrations

Roof penetrations come in all sizes and different areas require different types of repair techniques. A roof penetration is anything that requires a break in the roofing membrane and roof deck, for example, vent pipes and chimneys.

To fix a leaking rooftop vent pipe, use a pocket knife to scrape rough edges and sharp points from the upper end of the plastic vent pipe. Then, cut away the old caulk from around the vent pipe and apply a thick bead of lap-seal caulk around the seam between the vent pipe and old rubber gasket. Slide the replacement rubber gasket over the pipe and press it down tight to the flange.

Applying Roof Sealant to Prevent Future Damage

When you need to repair your roof, a sealant or coating can be an important tool to protect against leaks and water damage as well as to prevent future deterioration. A sealant is definitely helpful but can't be used as a substitute for maintenance and repair. 

Repairing Wood Shingles

It's possible to repair wood shingles on the roof when you have leaks. Even though this type of roof can last from 15 to 40 years, you may still experience damage to the shingles from the climate and exposure to weather as well as the slope of the roof. The steeper the roof, the longer the material will last because rain doesn't pool and ice and snow won't accumulate.

Replacing Damaged or Split Shingles

If your roof is leaking and you think you may have split or damaged shingles resulting from a severe storm, check for curled, broken, or split shingles. Don't go onto the roof if it is damp or steeply pitched. Work the flat bar under the damaged shingle and gently pop the shingle up. Work it out and off the roof without taking out the nails. Get a shingle that fits in the open space and tap it in place. Nail it in a place where the upper shingle will cover it.

Sealing Small Cracks with Wood Filler

As the wood shingles on a roof contract and expand from moisture give-and-take, the hardened filler will pop out. Flexible caulk is the best product to use on small cracks.

Applying Wood Preservative to Prolong Shingle Life

A wood preservative helps to repel water that can damage the shingles as well as protect them from lichens, algae, moss, fungus, and other vegetation that can cling to the shingles and grow. 

Repairing Metal Shingles

A metal roof lasts a long time with the proper care and maintenance. Yet, even metal shingles can suffer damage as a result of severe weather. Additionally, when water ponds on the roof or heat from direct sunlight continues over time, the metal roof's protection can wear away over time.

Identifying and Repairing Minor Damages

The first step in repairing metal shingles is identifying the damages.

Some common metal roof issues are:

  • Open seams
  • Open penetration flashings
  • Metal roof oxidation
  • Fastener backout
  • Open ridge/headwall flashing
  • Loose counterflashing
  • Improper installation methods
  • Panel damage

Minor damages can be repaired by sealing holes and gaps. 

Replacing Severely Damaged Shingles

You may be able to seal small holes in the metal roof, but more extensive damage requires the replacement of a larger section of the roof where you need to order certain specialty materials to complete the metal roof repair. 

severely damaged shingles on a roof

Sealing Seams and Fasteners to Prevent Leaks

Use a metal roof sealant to cover seams and fasteners. These are areas that cause holes and gaps where water can penetrate and lead to leaking that causes overall damage outside and inside. Using a sealant will prevent leaks from these places on the roof. Silicone sealants are frequently recommended for metal roofs because they offer good protection against moisture and UV rays. 

Repairing Tile Shingles

Tile shingles are made from an artificial product, which can become damaged from severe weather and sun exposure over time. Depending on the damage, you may be able to repair the tile shingle, or you may need to replace it. If the shingle is cracked, a temporary solution is to repair it with roofing cement or silicone caulking. More than likely, the tile shingle will need to be replaced.

Replacing Broken or Cracked Tiles

Most roofs are constructed using interlocking tiles made from concrete. The interlocking creates a watertight joint. Sudden changes in temperature can damage concrete tiles by degrading the material and thereby causing minor splits. These minor splits can then become larger cracks. At this point the tile should be replaced.

Reattaching Loose Tiles

You can use several methods to adhere loose tiles on your roof. Nails, screws, mortar, and wire tie systems can all be used. However, adhesives offer additional benefits such as superior water and wind resistance compared to mechanical fastening systems.

Applying Sealant to Prevent Water Infiltration

The porous nature of a concrete tile roof, allows quick growth of moss and algae. A penetrating concrete sealer keeps out moisture and prevents organic growth like mold, mildew, moss, and algae.

Repairing Slate Shingles

Slate shingles have been used as a roofing material for centuries in Europe and has been a preferred choice in the U.S. since the nineteenth century. While slate shingles last a very long time, the fasteners and metal flashing do not. Flashings are the metalwork used to prevent the penetration of water where there is an abrupt angle or opening in the roof, such as chimneys, valleys, and dormers. It is possible to repair slate shingles, if done properly.

Identifying Damaged Slates

Though you may find some damaged slate shingles on your roof, it is more likely to find that a leak is caused by faulty flashing that can require a full restoration.

Using Slate Hooks for Repairs

If you have some missing or damaged slate shingles, you will probably use slate hooks to repair and replace the slate. Once a piece of slate is removed, line up the hook with the course below and then hammer into the decking. A new piece is then inserted into the slate and slid down onto the hook. Copper and stainless are material options, but stainless hooks are stronger and work better for harder decking.

Replacing Broken or Missing Slates

You will need to use a slate ripper to get under a broken or damaged slate shingle in order to locate the nails that are keeping the shingle in place. Once you find the nail, pull down sharply to hold onto the nail and use a hammer to free the shingle. Use chalk to mark the bottom of the shingle and then nail a hall hook into the position of the nails. Always use nails to attach the shingles next to each other and preferably two nails in order to prevent the shingle from swinging.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Roof

How can you keep your roof, regardless of the type of shingle, in top shape and healthy so it will last a long time? Here are some tips:

Regular Roof Inspections

Have your roof inspected on a regular basis. Annual inspections done at the same time each year, such as in the fall, will ensure that you catch any potential weak spots where a leak can develop.

Cleaning Gutters and Downspouts

Keeping gutters and downspouts open and free of debris is critical to maintaining a healthy roof. We recommend that you get your roof and gutters cleaned at least once a year. However, if you live near trees that drop debris throughout the year, you may want to have gutter cleaning done twice a year.

Preventing Ice Dams

Since most ice dams form at the edge of the roof, there must be a heat source that warms the roof elsewhere. Usually, this heat source is coming from the inside of the house. Ice dams can be prevented by controlling the heat loss from the home. Using an insulation with a high R-value per inch will reduce heat loss caused by conduction. Finding areas that are causing air to leak out and fixing them also prevents ice dams from forming. Additionally, exhaust systems from bathrooms and kitchens that terminate just above the roof may be contributing to snow melting. These exhaust systems may have to be moved or extended.

Removing Debris from the Roof

When you clear debris from your roof, you are keeping the roof in good shape. Debris on your roof can impede the flow of water off of the roof. It is a good idea to have debris removed by a professional who knows how to do so without damaging shingles.

When to Call a Professional Roofer

How do you know when you can handle repairs yourself and when you should contact a professional roofer? Here are some guidelines.

Extensive or Complicated Repairs

When the assessment of repair work requires extensive or complicated repairs, you should call a professional. An experienced roof repair contractor has the knowledge to get the work done correctly. If roof work is done in a shoddy manner, it can result in damage to the inside of your home that is expensive to correct.

light coming into attic through hole in roof

Structural Damage

If the damage on your roof or inside your home includes the house's structure being compromised, you should call a professional roof contractor. He/she can properly identify and diagnose the problem causation and then recommend the correct solutions.

Unsafe Working Conditions

When the working conditions on your roof are unsafe due to high pitches or other complexities, you should call a professional. Repairing roof shingles can be a treacherous endeavor that you should not engage in. A professional roof contractor has the safety equipment and the experience to be able to operate on most any roof safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should I Inspect My Roof?

It is a good idea to have your roof inspected annually by a competent, experienced roof repair contractor. However, if you have a severe weather event, such as a hailstorm, and your roof has some age on it, you may want to have the roof inspected afterward.

How Do I Know If My Shingles Need to be Replaced?

If you suspect that you have some damaged shingles, it is best to call a professional roof inspector to identify problem areas. He/she will be able to recommend whether you have shingles that need to be replaced, repaired, or need a total roof replacement.

How Long Do Different Types of Shingles Last?

As stated in this article, different types of shingles and roofs have different lifespans. Refer to the information in our guide to roof lifespans for guidance.

In Conclusion

Even though you may have confidence in your ability to repair shingles on your roof, it is still a good idea to contact a professional like Allied Roofing Solutions. Repairing roofs is a process that requires a specific skill set that an experienced roofing contractor provides. Doing an inadequate job can cost you in the long run.

Contact Allied Roofing Solutions for a Free Estimate

If you think you may need to repair your roof, contact us. Our team of professional roofers can perform a roof inspection to see exactly what will be involved. Whether you need a roof repair or replacement, we will provide a premium level of service. Call us at  (201) 773-0633 or complete the free estimate form to schedule an appointment.