Roof Repair Guide: How to Repair a Roof

By: Debbie Wolfe

Regular roof maintenance protects your home and keeps it looking great. The average lifespan of an asphalt roof is 15 to 18 years. During that lifespan, you roof may sustain damage from high winds and hail and endure other common roofing problems, like broken shingles or tree damage. However, this doesn’t mean you have to replace the entire roof.

When to repair vs. replace your roof

Whether you repair or replace your roof depends on several factors, including the type of damage and the overall percentage of the total roof surface in need of repair. Here are some signs that your roof needs to be repaired:

  • Curled, cracked, or missing shingles—This indicates that the shingles are nearing the end of their lifespan and need to be replaced. This is typically a problem with older roofs.
  • Dirty or dark shingles—This usually indicates trapped moisture on your roof and may be a sign of mold or mildew.
  • Shingle pieces or granules in gutters—As asphalt and composite shingles start to wear out, they will shed their granules. These granules will look like coarse, black sand laying in your gutter. 
  • Deteriorated flashings—Check the flashing at the edges of the roof and around skylights, chimneys, and plumbing vent pipes for any signs of damage or deterioration. 
  • Water stains on interior ceilings or walls—Water stains on interior walls or ceilings are common signs of a leaky roof. This may be caused by water trapped in your roof’s underlayment. 
  • Damage in the attic—This includes any signs of water damage, visible light in the roof, or sagging decking or rafters.
  • Higher energy bills—If your monthly energy bills are higher than normal, it’s time to inspect your roof for damage.

How much does roof repair cost?

Keeping your roof in good repair can prolong the need for full roof replacement. On a moderate-sized home of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, the average homeowner can spend between $300 and $1,100 to repair an asphalt-shingled roof. There are several other factors that impact the final cost of a roof repair:

  • Where you live, zip code
  • Type of roof
  • Size of roof
  • Pitch and slope of the roof
  • Underlayments and flashing
  • Existing water damage
  • Chimneys and skylights
  • Cost of permits

As with any DIY home repair, the full extent of damage can not always be determined before you start the job. The biggest hidden cost is extensive water damage. Often, water damage isn’t noticed until after the shingles are removed and the deck is exposed.

Before you tackle a repair, conduct a thorough inspection of the damaged area. Do you see flashing? Are shingles missing or damaged? Look in your attic and check for signs of leaks.

Taking the time to access the damage will determine if the job needs to be completed by a professional or not.

The final cost or a roof repair will depend on the type of roof and other architectural elements. Here are the common repairs and average costs for popular roofing materials:

Roof type Common repairs Cost
Slate Broken roof tiles $200–$300 per square foot
Metal Cracked flashings and/or loose seams $400 for flashing

$45–$75 per hour to repair seams

Asphalt (3-tab or architectural)  Wind and hail damage, loose nails, and curling $150–$400 
Wooden and shakes Rot, moss build up, splitting, and leaks $650–$1,100 per square foot
Composite, synthetic, or plastic polymer Color fading and brittleness due to UV rays $450 
Solar glass Broken glass $400–$600

How to repair your roof

A roof will experience natural wear and tear over the course of its lifespan. By keeping up with roof repair maintenance, you can prevent major structural problems to your home. However, there are some repairs that are best for professionals to handle. Slate, composite or rubber roof, wood, and metal roofs require additional tools and skills and it’s recommended that you hire a professional to make repairs to those roofing types.

Asphalt shingles are the most popular used material in residential roofing. The good news is there are several minor DIY roof repairs you can do on an asphalt roof. For minor repairs like replacing a shingle or patching a hole, you’ll only need an afternoon to complete the job.

Before you begin any repair work, have a professional inspect your roof. This will help determine if the underlayment or decking is damaged. If the damage is extensive, it’s more cost effective to replace the entire roof.

Materials

  • Ladder
  • Roof jack and harness
  • Tool belt
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar or shingle ripper
  • Asphalt shingles
  • Shingle/roof cement
  • Cement adhesive

Safety tips

  • Never do roof work alone.
  • Wear the proper safety gear to prevent injury.
  • Have your tools within reach to avoid awkward body positions.
  • Use a secure, sturdy ladder when you’re climbing up to the roof and have a helper secure the ladder at the base while you’re standing on it.
  • Always walk slowly on a roof and secure your footing before taking another step.
  • It’s hot on the roof—pick a cool morning (or find time when the weather is cool) to work if you can.

Here’s how to replace a damaged asphalt shingle:

  1. Secure your ladder and roof jack—Make sure your ladder is level and secure before climbing on to the roof. Secure your roof jack in place before you begin working. 
  2. Assess the damage—Find the damaged shingles to determine how many new shingles will be needed. Look around the roof to see if there are cracked or loose shingles. Secure these in place with a cement adhesive.
  3. Check the damaged area—Check the damaged area for signs of seepage or pooling water. 
  4. Loosen the adhesive—Start two rows above the damaged roof area. Use the pry bar to loosen under the tabs.
  5. Remove the exposed nails—Use the pry bar or hammer to loosen and remove the nails. 
  6. Work your way to the damage—Continue to loosen and remove shingles until you get to the ones that need to be replaced. Remove the damaged shingles until you’ve removed all the shingles that will need to be replaced.
  7. Inspect the underlayment—Make sure there’s no extensive water damage in the area under the shingle.
  8. Install the new shingle—Lay a new shingle in place of the shingle you removed. Glue or remove the adhesive strip from the back of the shingle and push it into place. Nail the shingle into the roof for optimal sturdiness (most shingles have pre-cut holes for nails.) 
  9. Seal the edges—Slightly lift each tab and apply a one-inch dab of shingle cement under each tab. Press the tabs to secure the shingle into place.
  10. Continue installing shingles—Repeat until you’ve installed all the damaged shingles and replaced the shingles in the two rows above that you removed.

Common roof repairs and costs

Repair Average cost
Broken or missing shingles $30 and up (depending on the type of shingles)
Skylight leaks $25–$80
Flashing around the chimney  $200–$500
Skylight  $300–$500

When to hire a roofing contractor

The decision to hire a roofing contractor isn’t always an easy choice. Whether you repair or hire depends on a variety of factors like where the damage is located, the time and skill needed to make the repair, and the overall percentage of damage. In general, most insurance companies advise that if more than 25% of your total roof surface is damaged, you need to replace the whole roof (which will require a contractor). 

Not taking the time to find the best contractor can result in a poor job and costly roof repairs. Consider these questions before making a hiring decision:

  • What is the roofing company’s full name and address? A reputable company will have physical location. 
  • Is the roofing company insured? The contractor should have both workman’s compensation and liability insurance to protect the homeowner in the case of an accident.
  • Does the contractor use subcontractors? Find out if any or part of the job will be performed by a subcontractor. If so, the subcontractor needs to be insured.
  • Does the roofing company have references? A reputable contractor will gladly give you as many references as needed.
  • Is there a roof warranty included? A good roofing company always guarantees their work.

How to keep your roof in good repair

Once your roof is repaired or replaced, you should carry out regularly scheduled roof inspections and maintenance to catch problems before they lead to major ones. Here are a few ways to maintain a healthy roof:

  • Look for missing or damaged shingles and repair as needed
  • Replace the roof sealant as needed
  • Keep branches away from the roof and trim them on a regular basis
  • Keep gutters clear and clean
  • Maintain your chimney and skylights
  • Prevent ice dams (ice build-up on the eaves of sloped roofs)
  • Look for any signs of rust on metal components

Frequently asked questions

What is the average cost to repair a roof?

The average cost for minor roof repairs ranges from $200 to $300 for an asphalt roof. Other materials such as metal, slate, wood, or glass solar panels can cost more.

How much does it cost to replace an entire roof?

The average national roofing cost to install a new asphalt roof is about $6,000–8,000 for 1,500 square feet.

How much does a roofer typically charge per hour?

The average hourly rate for roofers runs from $50 to $80 per hour, depending on the complexity of the job.

Is a roof leak considered an emergency?

Discolored ceilings and walls from water seeping into your home from the roof is a sign that your roof needs to be repaired. You need to take immediate action to avoid further damage to your home.

Can you fix a roof from the inside?

You can temporarily patch a hole in your roof from the inside (usually in the attic). This works only in the event of an emergency and is a temporary fix. You will need to hire a professional to inspect the leak to determine the extent of the damage.

What kind of roof damage is covered by insurance?

Most homeowner insurance policies provide coverage for roof damage caused by unpreventable reasons such as vandalism or fire. Other natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wind, rain, and hail are also covered. Coverage will depend on the age of your roof, the area you live in, and other factors—refer to your policy for the extent of coverage.

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