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DIY Tips For Roof Repair

Your roof. It’s your house’s hat, right? The crown that completes your palace. It’s important and as a homeowner, you definitely know this. When you were shopping around for a house (assuming you didn’t have one built), you probably looked into the roof right away, because we instinctively know that the roof is so important. We talk about a “roof over our heads” when referring to a solid home, and that’s for a reason.

Still, do you really, fully appreciate the importance of your roof, and the hard work it has to do, to preserve your home and all the contents therein? Do you know how crucial it is to your safety? You probably have some idea, but leave it to we roofing experts to really spell it out for you in no uncertain terms, right? After all, roofs are what we do, and while not every company would agree with us on this, we believe knowledge is important, and something that homeowners should have, not just ourselves.

Your roof has to work very hard against the tribulations of the sun, which is endlessly putting out intense UV radiation and heat. If this burns your skin, you can imagine what your roof must endure, deflecting, absorbing and releasing this energy on a daily basis.

Temperature fluctuations try the structural integrity of your roof, and your individual shingles and flashing, everything involved. This is called thermal expansion, and it will lay ruin to anything, even granite and steel, over enough time.

Constant precipitation in the form of rain and snow test your roof’s integrity, and require a tight seal and good drainage, because water damage is in fact the most insidious thing that can happen. Water damage causes your home to deteriorate at an accelerated rate, your structural integrity to begin to fail quickly, and it cultivates nasty molds, mildews and other fungi, some of which are toxic. Black mold especially can even kill you.

If a roof is in bad enough shape, you can lose your resale value pretty quickly, and your curb appeal can begin to fade, which will earn the ire of your neighbors whose resale value is impacted by this. If it’s bad enough, code enforcement can legally condemn your home, leaving you on the street and with a vastly increased cost in salvaging your home, if you even can.

Knowing all of this, keeping your roof in ship shape is clearly crucial. The trick is, this can be a costly prospect, and owning a home does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make one wealthy. In fact, home ownership can be a detriment to the accumulation of wealth specifically because maintenance is an ongoing battle, and a costly one at that.

So, this leads handier people less afraid of some elbow grease, to consider a DIY approach to roof repair. Well, this certainly beats the kind of mentality many have, of going “I’ll leave this to a time when I’m a little more financially-ahead”. That mentality is unattainable and a bad idea, because this damage will just spread and worsen.

Is DIY a good idea? If so, what’re some good things to know, when tackling this? We’re going to give you a simple crash course, but first, let’s talk about whether or not it is truly a good idea – in some cases it definitely isn’t.

To DIY or not to DIY, that is the question!

So, there are really three good questions to ask yourself, the answers to which will be good answers to if DIY is a particularly good idea. First and foremost, how severe is the damage? Does the entire roof need to be redone? Because if this is the case, it’s not a good idea to do this yourself unless you have a bit of experience under your belt. In these cases, it’s definitely a better idea to have a professional roofer replace your roof, because they can do it safely, properly and more efficiently.

Second, what state is the roof in, itself? Is it “superficial” damage merely needing shingles or flashing, etc. to be reworked? If not, then again, you should have a professional handle it, as they can avoid hurting themselves, knowing where to step on a less than solid roof. This is also something your homeowners’ insurance and your personal health insurance will be quick to reiterate as well, with self-imposed foolishness often resulting in compromised coverage and increased premium costs.

Finally, how’s your health? Are you fit enough for this? Because even if it’s fairly mild, it’s a lot of work to get up there, balance yourself on a precarious slope, and work under what’s likely the hot sun, with hot shingles and possibly hot tar or adhesive adding to all of that.

If you feel you’re up to it, you know it’s safe, and the scope is reasonable enough to do yourself, then by all means, let’s talk about how to tackle this!

Your Gutters

So, the first thing you think of when considering roof repairs are your shingles and perhaps your flashing if your knowledge is a little more advanced. This is understandable, because a lot of people don’t think of the gutters as part of the roof, but a separate system all together.

However, if you have gradually mounting water damage problems, your gutters are going to be one of the first culprits with which to contend. They like to get clogged by leaves, debris, and bits of detritus from your shingles. Of course, do this safely, with a stable ladder, preferably one that can be fastened so that you can’t fall backwards or easily off of it. You should probably have someone help you by holding the ladder and standing by, able to call for help should you fall off anyhow.

It’s important to note that if you have a lot of granule buildup in your gutters, your shingles may also need addressed next, as over time, they will begin to lose their granules and thus their effectiveness will begin to be diminished.

Replacing Shingles

Replacing shingles sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it? After all, this is what professional roofers do, and there must be a trick for it. Well, if you need to re-shingle vast portions of your roof, or do an entire re-roofing, you should probably have an expert handle this, but replacing a handful of missing, curled, warped or worn down shingles is actually fairly trivial if you know how to do it. Let’s do this properly, one simple step at a time, starting with removing the remnants of the old one.

You will lift the shingle by its edges, prying it away from overlaps, and pulling the nails out from the battens (the struts that shingles should be attached to). You’ll want to clean away any mortar or other debris in this space as well. Do not shingle over chunks of stuck-on material.

Ready to apply the new shingle? Alright, carefully round the back corners of it with a knife, which makes placement easier, and allows you to align it properly. Make sure it lines up properly, as any major errors will compromise the whole concept. Once you’re lined up, use 6D hot-galvanized roofing nails near the corners in order to fasten it to the batten. Cover the nails with some putty or caulk, and maybe smooth it down a bit.

Flat Roof Repair

This is both a bigger pain and simpler at the same time. Flat roofs have a problem of getting pools of water, even though they’re never perfectly flat. To combat this, flat roofs usually have membrane structure material that can hold up against water pooling too much, without problems occurring.

However, you don’t want these pools of water present while you’re doing repairs, so pick a drier, sunny day, and mop and drain away these pools from the immediate area before beginning repairs. Really, you just need to slice into the blistered area, much like lancing a blister on anatomy. Make a big enough incision that you can lift it away, but not cut it completely off.

Apply a heavy layer of roofing cement, and reapply the material, following up with a new row of roofing nails along the edges of the cut, and covering the nails themselves with more cement.

If the blister (also called impregnation) is severe enough, you may need to cut it away entirely, and reapply a new layer of material altogether, which is really more of a job for professionals, but if you really want to handle this on your own, tutorials on this aren’t hard to come by, but a little too involved to discuss here.

Open Valley Flashings

Okay, so flashings are actually among the simplest problems to solve, for the most part. Metal flashings are a pain, and we’ll get to those in a moment, but first, open valley flashings. If the flashing is completely coming away (remember, your open valleys are going to be the biggest culprits for problems, rather than a puncture in the middle of a shingle, or other more solid components), you will simply need to reinstall the flashing, which again, is a simple fix honestly, but more than we’re trying to cover here at the moment.

Find the hole (you can usually do this with a visual inspection, or using a tiny amount of water, and tracking it down from your attic), and work away the bit of flashing and material around it. Clean up the debris and other junk that’s built up in the area, and apply a sheet of metal wider than the hole itself, with a very thick layer of cement, and apply pressure until the metal plate covers the hole and can even create a bit of a dip, ensuring that it’s blocked off. You can also protect the edges of your patch with some more cement, caulk or exterior-ready putty of some sort.

Metal Flashing

You really better be on a budget, or an avid DIY person, to tackle this one, because it’s a massive pain, and a lot more involved overall. Metal flashing like this tends to be around the mortar of chimneys, exterior walls of second or third stories, and sometimes around skylights or vents, though the latter two are somewhat rare in most cases.

You’ll need to pry the flashings away a bit, but do this gently, so you don’t rip it, badly crumple it, or severely damage the mortar and/or brick work that you want to reattach it to. You really only need it to be pulled a little bit away, to do what needs done to repair it.

Once you have room, take a hammer and chisel, and clean away any excess mortar that may be present. Don’t use a power tool, and don’t be overzealous or overaggressive, the excess mortar should honestly come away fairly easily with a little persistence.

Now, wet the space with some water and a brush – a paint brush will do fine, before applying fresh mortar, and pressing the flashing back where it belongs. Don’t push too hard, and wait for the mortar to dry. Now, take a caulk gun and apply caulk all around where the flashing meets the mortar, to create a completed seal.

If you have metal flashing around skylights and vent boots, you will apply the same basic practice, though metal collars will have to be contended with in the case of vents.

Some Safety Tips

Before we leave you to hopefully also watch some videos on each of these to get a better sense of them before attempting them, let us give you a couple important safety tips.
Always wear rubber gloves and shoes for traction and to avoid abrasion and laceration.
Always use a steady ladder you can readily climb up and down.
Do not get on a roof that’s sagging or otherwise has some compromised integrity.
Do not get on a roof during an icy period, or when it’s very wet, or if it’s very mossy.
Try not to do this alone, always have someone who can call for help!

To learn more DIY roofing tips, and to get more in-depth education on these and other processes, fill out our contact form today!

Ready to get started?

Our contractors have the knowledge and experience to handle any roofing project, no matter the size and scope. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experts.

We’ll begin by assessing the current condition of your roof and will develop the best plan based on your circumstances. We can help you decide if repairs will be an adequate fix or if it’s a better investment to re-roof.

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