Ask a roofing contractor how to fix most of the common shingle roof problems, and he’ll likely answer “New roof.” Sounds like the joke about how to cure a sick race horse, doesn’t it? (“Shoot horse”) Asphalt-based roofing wears out eventually. Fortunately for roofs and horses, however, some problems can indeed be fixed.

First, should YOU try fixing your own roof?

If any of these are true, call a professional roofing contractor:

  • Your roof is steep-sloped, more than about 25 degrees pitch.
  • Your roof is over 24′ above the ground.
  • You have a heart condition or other health concerns.
  • You’re afraid of heights.
  • Your DIY experience is limited.

In addition, is your homeowner’s insurance up to date? If not, no one should climb on your roof. Check your coverage. Next, let’s rule out…

Common shingle roof problems that usually cannot be repaired:

  • Excessive wear of shingle granules – replace roof.
  • Frayed or curling shingle tabs – also an “aging” or deep-rooted problem.
  • Sagging between rafters or trusses – re-shingling won’t fix this problem; it’s structural.
  • Major storm damage – call your insurance agent!

That covers the “shoot horse” roof issues. If you do decide to work on your own roof, follow all roofing safety precautions.

Some shingle roof repairs you CAN consider doing:

  • Wind damage – a few missing tabs or shingles.
  • Minor tree-branch tears that do not puncture the plywood.

How To Repair Wind Damaged Shingles On Your Roof:

Measure three tabs on your roof. 36″ is US standard, and 39 1/3″ (one meter) will be metric shingles. Take a sample tab to your roofing supplier to find the best match. You’ll have to buy at least one “bundle,” so figure how many shingles you’ll need. Three tabs = one shingle.

Use a basic pry bar (Stanley’s Wonder Bar is perfect) to release the glue under each tab. Start with the row above your problem area. Lift the tabs until you can see the entire damaged shingle. Slide the pry bar beneath the bad shingle’s tabs, directly under each nail, and pry the nails out. Now pry out the nails in the shingle(s) above it, until your can remove the whole shingle. Nail down replacement shingle(s) as needed. Use tab cement to seal new tabs in colder weather.

How To Repair Leaking Caused By Worn-out Roof Flanges.

Buy a new flange in advance. Take measurements or a photo to your retailer. Follow the procedure, above, to remove the failed flange and nearby shingles. Replace the lowest ones first, then seat the new flange in a bead of tab cement. Replace the next row(s), using a hook-blade knife to repeat the old cut-out. Use more cement as you go, under the shingles and next to the cut-out.

How To Repair Leaking Where The Roof Meets A Wall – Usually Involves Step-flashing

Ideally, you can re-use the existing flashing. Replacement can be tricky, involving siding removal or masonry work. If your flashing overlays all the shingles, repairs may require a pro. Otherwise, remove each shingle piece that abuts the wall, as described above. Work from the top, down. If the old flashing is usable, install new shingle cuts from the bottom, up. Add tab cement under each piece of step flashing as you go.

How To Repair Damaged or leaking valleys, where two roofs meet

This is an all-day job, but the basics are the same. For a leak-proof valley use a closed, overlaid pattern. Most shingle wrappers describe this method. Here’s the short version:

Expose about 20″ of roof deck on either side of the valley, top to bottom. Install a layer of 12″ flashing coil (color doesn’t matter) parallel and centered on the valley. Use only a few nails, never in the center, to securer the metal. Next, add a layer of 90# roll roofing (color still doesn’t matter), in the same manner. Be sure that both the metal and the asphalt layer conforms to the valley.

Now, lay new shingles on the leeward (or the smaller) roof surface – bottom to top. Add a bead of roofing cement under these shingles, parallel to the valley, as you go. Carry each shingle about 12″ past the valley center. Next, lay new shingles on the other roof surface the same way, over the first set. Once all shingles are down, mark the valley with a chalk-line. Using a hook-blade knife, cut ONLY the second group of overlaid shingles along the line. Add roof-cap tabs if needed.

Repairing minor roof shingle damage can be a manageable challenge if you master the basic techniques. Shingles are small and fairly easy to work with, as long as you’re aware of the inherent dangers. Handle the less difficult jobs yourself, and leave the larger problems to professional roofing specialists.