Roof Repairs – How to Handle Them
You would think that repairs would generally be easier than installing a new roof – well sometimes they are – but often they can be very tricky indeed. Most are temporary in nature but they can be done properly.
The first step in fixing a leak is to find out exactly what is causing the leak. Finding this can sometimes take longer than doing the actual repair! Basically, if the roofing contractor is not totally sure he found the cause – he probably didn’t and any work that was done was done in vain.
Finding the exact cause of the leak cannot be understated in importance. But doing the repairs properly is also very important. Non-standard repairs such as waterproofing materials or loads of sealant on metal roofs is a bad idea and can often end up making the problem worse or create a new problem. Sealants have their place, but the average roof repair man or handyman will tend to go overboard so it is important to get someone who knows what they are doing.
The other thing to consider is cost. Yes, a roof repair will generally be cheaper than a roof replacement or but why not get a quote for both. You may find that a roof replacement or re-roofing is only the cost of a few repairs – and given that most repairs only last a few years, and a new roof will actually add value to your home, it may be worth just changing the whole thing and never worrying when it rains anymore.
How to Find Roof Leaks
When you’re trying to track down a leak, start by looking at the roof uphill from the stains. (Plus: here’s how to clean roof stains.) The first thing to look for is any roof penetrations. Items that penetrate the roof are by far the most common source of leaks. In fact, it’s rare for leaks to develop in open areas of uninterrupted shingles, even on older roofs. Penetrations can include plumbing and roof vents, chimneys, dormers or anything else that projects through the roof. They can be several feet above the leak or to the right or left of it.
If you have attic access, the easiest way to track down a leak is to go up there with a flashlight and look for the evidence. There will be water stains, black marks or mold. But if access is a problem or you have a vaulted ceiling, you’ll have to go up onto the roof and examine the suspect(s).
What type of situations require a roof leak repair?
In most instances, the roofing system was compromised due to a weather event, animal or fire. Mother Nature is an incredibly strong opponent for roofing systems. Winds that exceed 50 mph have the force to tear shingles from the roof and expose the substrate. Trees limbs will be torn off trees and tossed about like toothpicks, penetrating the structure. Lightning can strike and literally blow a hole through the roof. Raccoons and squirrels love to chew through rotted wood and create sizable holes in the roof. Fire, of course, will decimate anything in its path.
The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide to Roof Repair
Working on a roof is very dangerous and must be handled with extreme caution. If you are uncomfortable and don’t feel safe, it is always worth it to hire a contractor.
Take a look at the following guide to mendable roof damage, then check for yourself or call a professional to see if yours is an easy fix.
Flashing is the material that protects the crease between fixtures like chimneys or skylights and the roof. It is usually made of sheet metal or plastic. There is also flashing for the venting pipes under your roofing material. If the flashing is cracked, loose or worn, the area around these fixtures will be vulnerable to rain and moisture.
Solution: ($20) Remove and replace with new flashing. Some surrounding materials, such as shingles, will need to be lifted away for removal and installation.
A sealant is used with flashing and around the edges of skylights. Cracked and aged sealant will not be able to do its job, resulting in a leak.
Solution: ($6 per tube of flashing sealant) Re-caulk or apply new tar. You will likely need to remove surrounding materials temporarily, to effectively apply the sealant.
Weather, falling branches and animals can create significant holes and punctures in your roofing material. These repairs are best handled by professional roofers, as they involve more steps and may demand reframing part of the roof itself.
Solution: ($300-$1,000 labor and materials) After your roofer has done any necessary reframing, they will install a layer of sheathing, then felt paper followed by shingles. You may be tempted to cover the hole with a temporary material or, if it is small enough, seal it up with roofing caulk, but this will only allow moisture to seep through and create larger problems.
Damaged Vent Boot
This component seals the area around your vents against moisture, much like flashing seals other parts of your roof. A damaged vent boot could be the source of your leak.
Solution: ($10-$20 materials) Remove and replace the vent boot. This will involve lifting away surrounding materials, as well as nailing and caulking the boot.
Damaged or Missing Shingles
It is common to discover a few damaged or missing shingles, as a number of external factors act against them.
- Strong weather blows them off or pries them loose.
- Their protective surface granules wear away.
- Animal activity cracks and breaks them.
- Hail cracks and breaks them.
- Ice dams and pooling water weigh on them.
Solution: ($30 per bundle) Remove the old shingles and replace them with new ones. In the case of ice dams and pooling water, once you have replaced your shingles, you’ll want to be proactive to prevent future damage. Remove snow to prevent ice dams and keep your gutters clean for proper drainage.
Corroded Vertical Slits
The slit between each roofing tile is a vulnerable area and can easily corrode. As water runs through these slits, it exposes the underlying roofing materials more and more.
Solution: ($30 per bundle) Replace the corroded shingles as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Leaks and aesthetic damage can usually be fixed without overhauling your entire roof. However, there are times when installing a new roof is a wise investment—such as before listing your home. You should have your roof inspected for quality if it is 20 to 25 years old or if it is leaking in multiple places.
Protect as Best You Can
If your home has been damaged during a storm, you will want to minimize damage to the interior as much as you can. Try to cover any holes in the living area with plastic tarps or other waterproof materials. If the hole is vast, you may need to place buckets or other containers under the hole to collect water until the storm subsides. You should call a professional roofer as most of them have 24/7 emergency lines, but keep in mind they will not send someone out during the storm as that would be unsafe for their employees. Do not try to climb on the roof yourself to repair the damage.