A roof is in use from the moment it is installed. Subjected to sun, wind, rain, hail and snow, the roofing materials begin to deteriorate immediately, and rafters and trusses show evidence of wear and tear. The most common roof problem in the U.S. is water damage, either in the form of a leaky section of roof, or in the mold and damp that develop as a result of moisture within the roof cavity.
Repairs should never be postponed, and biannual roof inspections help the homeowner ensure that problems are not aggravated by lack of attention. For homeowners without a roof maintenance program, some roofing contractors will conduct an inspection at no cost, followed by a report and a free, no-obligation quotation for the necessary repairs. Repairs may simply entail replacing a few shingles or a section of metal, or the roofing contractor might recommend a full roof replacement.
How to Repair Shingle Roofs
Roofs occasionally develop leaks caused by cracked or missing shingles or shakes, or a blistered and cracked section of a flat roof. Often, the best way to identify a leak in the roof is from water damage on the internal walls. Shingle roofs are simple to repair; first, locate the leak, then isolate the source by marking the damaged, curled or missing shingles, and then replace them. If the leak is close to a joint such as a chimney, breaks in the caulking or flashing may be the culprit. Shingles that are lifting or curling can easily be reattached in warm weather with asphalt roof cement or compound; in cold weather, the shingle must be warmed and softened using a propane torch flame, then straightened before reattaching it.
Shingles that are torn, rotten or missing must be replaced. If an area of roof shows signs of rot, it may be necessary to replace the entire section. Damaged shingles need to be removed carefully, and loose or brittle cement must be scraped out. Protruding nails should be removed, and new shingles should be placed carefully and aligned with the adjacent shingles. Overlapping corners should be fastened into place on top of the new shingles, and any remaining gaps should be filled with caulking or spray foam insulation material.
How to Repair Flat and Shake Roofs
To repair a blistered flat roof, the blistered area needs to be cut out, cleaned and dried thoroughly before recoating with roofing cement, tar and gravel. Wooden shake roofs are more complex: the wooden shingles are split using a hammer and a sharp chisel and then removed. The heads of the nails holding the shakes in place may need to be cut down if they cannot be removed, and a new shake must be cut to match the roofing materials. In all cases, the wooden supports should be examined to ensure that there is no water damage within the roof cavity.
How to Repair Metal Roofs
A metal roof can be repaired by cleaning and removing the damaged section of metal and covering the area with a section of metal large enough to overlap the hole. Butyl tape or another sealant is inserted under the edges of the new section, which is fasted with metal screws. The edges and screws are sealed with caulking, and a roof membrane may be added to ensure that the whole roof remains waterproof.
Most roof repairs occur as a result of water or weather damage. It is critical to conduct regular roof inspections and to repair any problems as soon as they are identified. Repair work should be thorough, using quality materials designed to withstand weather and moisture for the life span of the original roof.