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Tips on repairing a leaky roof

It’s not unusual for a roof to spring a leak long before the whole roof needs to be replaced, these leaks are often localized damage, perhaps caused by a storm, a missing shingle or, if the roof is flat, a blistered surface. After the leak has been localized and identified, which by the way is often the hardest part of the repair, a roof coating can be applied.

Before we discuss ways of repairing a leak, let’s turn our attention to safety:

  • Don’t work on a wet roof, wait until a sunny day when the roof is dry.
  • Always use safety ropes.
  • If the roof is steep, use a ladder type framework for security.
  • Always wear rubber soled shoes.
  • Keep a sharp eye out for power lines and tree limbs.

Most homes in America have shingles on the roof. They are amongst the easiest to repair. Locating the leak is usually quite simple, you will probably notice a missing shingle or a shingle that has curled edges or appears broken. If the leak is not on the shingled portion of the roof, chances are it will be where the shingles butt up to the chimney or a vent. There may be breaks in the flashing or lines where the roof coating has cracked.

Once the location of the leak has been found, repair is simple. If the shingle has simply curled back, flatten it and hold it down with nails or adhesive. It is difficult to fold down a curled shingle in cold weather as the shingle gets brittle. It can be softened by careful use of a propane torch with a flame spreader nozzle attachment. Be very careful just to heat the shingle enough to relax the curl, do not start it on fire.

If the problem is shingles which are torn, rotten or missing a new shingle must be installed. Many contractors leave a few spare shingles with the home owner so that if a replacement is needed, a matching spare is instantly available. If this is not the case you have to try and match the existing roof as best you can but in an emergency, any shingle will suffice.

To replace a shingle, carefully lift the edges of the overlapping shingles and remove the nails from the broken shingle. If there is a loose roof coating under the shingle, scrape it away and replace it with a liquid rubber compound. To make replacement easier, round the back corners of the replacement shingle, it makes sliding it into place easier. Once the new shingle is in place, lift the overlapping shingles once more and nail the new shingle with 6d galvanized nails.

Once you have repaired the obvious leak, have a look around the roof and see if you can spot any potential problems, now is a good time to take corrective action.

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