How to Repair a Leaking Roof

Here are simple instructions to replace shingles, repair metal roofing and fix leaks around a chimney.

  • Repair roof
    Replacing a few shingles can quickly repair a leaking roof.

  • Repair roof

If your roof hasn’t leaked yet, it probably will someday. But there’s no need to panic. It’s easier to repair a leaking roof than you might think. Sometimes a small, skillful repair delivered in the right location can extend the useful life of your roof by years. And if you can fix a leaking roof yourself, you’ll never have to wait for someone else to pull you out of a leaky roof jam. Simple tools and basic knowledge can save you hundreds of dollars in professional repairs while also extending the working life of the roof. Here are four typical old-roof problems and how to fix them.

Replacing Broken Asphalt Shingles

Necessary tools and supplies:

  • 6- to 8-inch thin-blade pry bar
  • claw hammer
  • roofing tar in caulking tubes
  • 1- to 1 1/2-inch-long roofing nails

About three-quarters of all homes in the United States are covered in asphalt shingles, and there are two reasons why you might need to replace individual shingles or groups of them: storm damage and localized deterioration. It’s not unusual for a few shingles to break off here and there in a strong wind. Sometimes pockets of shingles also go bad in specific areas because of manufacturing defects within just a few bundles, while the rest of the roof looks fine. Regardless of the culprit, shingle replacement is easier than it looks.

Start repair work with a thin-bladed pry bar, lifting the sealed edges of undamaged neighboring shingles so you can pull out the broken ones. Carefully bend back the good shingles along the top of the damaged area, removing the remains of any dead shingles as far up as you can reach. Pull all visible nails. You should be left with the damaged area now completely free of bad shingles, ready for new ones.

Start re-shingling at the bottom of the trouble zone, nailing new shingles in the space between the old. Continue working your way up until you get to the top. The final course of new shingles needs to slide up into place underneath the existing ones, and this is the tricky part. You’ll need to do some trimming to make it all work. Existing nails driven further up the roof always get into the way if you don’t.

For the last (top) row of replacement shingles, start by slicing 2 inches off the entire back edge of the shingles. Slide them up to test the fit. Do they go all the way up? Are the bottom edges of the new shingles even with the bottom edges of the old ones? If not, slice a little more off, but only as far as necessary to get the right alignment. When all looks good, it’s time to anchor this last row of replacement shingles.

11/13/2009 4:18:51 PM

I am trying to repair an old roof that leaks (as I type). We gutted the house, exposing the innards of the roof, knowing that one of the houses' problems was that it leaked, but not knowing exactly where, and since the previous owner had put on new shingles, it is next to impossible to see any problem from on top. We applied roof tar around where the chimney meets the shingles. It finally rained so we could see a few places to "fix" that we could get to from inside. Now we have used roof tar on the inside of the roof, mashing it into those spot and surrounding areas. And we wait for another hard rain to see what will happen... Any other suggestions? We can't replace the roof until next year; just want to get thru' the winter and next spring as dry as possible, i.e. no ruined new sheetrock! Thanks!

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