Updated Jan 12, 2023
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In many cases, roof leaks fall under the umbrella of basic roofing repairs. Depending on the extent of your damage, you may be able to attempt a DIY repair and avoid the hassle of calling a professional roofer. Here, we’ve broken down exactly how to detect leaks, how to attempt simple roof repairs with a step-by-step guide, and how much roof repairs cost.
As a homeowner, the first step towards any home repair is diagnosis. You’ll have to find the exact location of your roof leak before you commence with repairs. Sometimes, this is fairly easy to see from your home’s exterior. If you’ve had a severe rainstorm and debris has damaged your roof shingles or panels, then a simple walkaround of your home may be enough to spot weak points in your roof.
Common points for roof leaks include roof valleys and roofing sections where debris commonly collects. Any flashing along the apex of your roof, under your gutters, and along dormer windows are also prone to leakage.
Beyond external weak points, you may be able to see water damage from the inside of your home in certain instances. Water spots on your ceiling, dripping sounds, wet spots around your fireplace, and more could be telltale signs of a roof leak. If you have a vague idea of where a leak may be, then you could see wet spots in your roof decking from the inside of your attic. You may need to peel insulation away from the damaged area, but most large or small holes should be easy to spot.
You’ll employ slightly different techniques and processes to repair each major kind of roof. As a home improvement task, handling roofing repairs properly when you first detect leaks is important if you want to prevent further damage.
Asphalt or architectural shingles can be repaired with simple silicone caulk, but this is never recommended. In most cases, you’ll have to tear away the entire defective row of shingles and secure a new one with roofing nails and caulk. This video from Drew’s Roofing and Home Repair in Southport, North Carolina, gives a fairly concise yet thorough breakdown of the process, which is as follows:
Metal roofing repairs are somewhat more involved than repairs for asphalt shingles but are within the abilities of many handy homeowners to complete. Here, we’ve detailed a step-by-step guide to fixing a small leak. If you suspect that your roof decking is damaged, or if this repair is in a readily-visible area, you may be better served going to a roofing contractor.
You’ll need a few things to start:
For your small metal roof leak, you should follow these steps:
Roofing membranes are far more common on commercial or flat roofs, but if your residence has a TPO roof, it should be easy to patch. You’ll need a section of matching roof material, as well as a hot air welder, to complete this roof patch.
In many cases, repairs will be more than sufficient. Full-scale roof replacement will not be necessary to ensure the long-term health of your home. For reference, we’ve listed the life expectancies of each major roofing type here:
The most commonly-used fix for roof leaks involves thoroughly applying roofing cement or silicone caulk. Whether you’re repairing a small leak on a shingle roof or repairing flashing around a skylight or vent boot, you’ll be able to conduct this repair with a caulk gun.
Here, we’ve listed a few helpful factors to consider before embarking on any roofing repair. Be sure to consider these before you begin tearing off defective sections of your roof.
Having a roof leak is already bad enough without further lasting damage being done to your roof sheathing or substrate. Tearing down leaking roof sections on a rainy day could lead to your roof sustaining even worse damage, which will require further repairs.
Additionally, conducting repairs in warmer weather — if possible — will make membrane and shingle roofs far easier to work with and bend into shape.
Falling injuries are the leading risk for construction workers across the U.S., according to OSHA.
If this is true for properly trained and experienced laborers, it should come as little surprise that your relative risk of injuring yourself due to a fall while roofing is elevated. Be sure to review the following safety regulations for construction workers before undertaking your roofing project. Even though much of this is tailored to professionals, you should find some value here.
Most roofing materials and professionally-installed roofs, in general, will come with some form of warranty attached. When you get a new roof installed, you should remember to keep copies of any manufacturer and labor warranties. This will keep you informed on what your financial responsibilities are in the event of roof leakages.
Hiring a professional roofing contractor for a minor repair will usually cost between $175 and $450. Labor costs for such a task will fall between $45 and $80 per hour. You should expect to pay markups for supplies, such as new flashing, new shingles, fasteners and roofing nails, and sealants. Here are a few factors which will dictate your costs if you elect to hire a contractor:
Unless you have a single-story home with a low-pitch roof, we’ll always recommend hiring a local roofing contractor to handle your roof repairs. Contacting pros in your area before a home renovation is always a good idea, even if you plan on completing the job on your own. Having an expert appraise the damage could alert you to potential problems that you may not have been aware of when you first detected your roof leak. The simple patches we’ve outlined above are ideal for DIY roofing work but should be done with the utmost care. Rushing through a roof patch could have long-term effects on your roof’s lifespan and home health.
The most basic of roof repairs — placing a new shingle or single roof panel and other similar repairs — will take between two and five hours in ideal conditions. However, if you’re repairing or replacing large sections of old roofing, then you may want to block off an entire weekend or longer for the project to be fully finished.
Professional roofers will charge between $400 and $1,000 for most roofing repairs. Small leaks around roof vents or replacing missing shingles will fall on the lower end of this range while replacing several square feet of roofing will cost more.
Most roofing leaks are caused by the elements over time. New roofs are far less prone to leaks unless installer error is a factor. Over many years, roofing nails and nailheads or fasteners can degrade. Damaged shingles can allow for water to pool against your underlayment or substrate, which can lead to expensive repairs if you don’t conduct routine roof inspections.
In most cases, you can purchase all that you’ll need from your local hardware store. For large repairs, you may need to go to a large big-box store like Home Depot or Lowe’s, but all that you’ll need should be readily accessible, including:
More Roofing Resources