Can you repair or replace shingles on a roof?

Household 4 min read

If the latest windstorm damaged or blew off some of your shingles, it’s important to act quickly to repair the roof. A couple of damaged or missing shingles may not seem like a big deal. However, if your roof deck is exposed, moisture can get under the roof, causing a roof leak which can create an interior leak, which can be a much bigger headache than fixing a few shingles.

If you’re a savvy DIYer, you may be able to repair or replace a couple of shingles, but most homeowners should call in a professional. Repairing a damaged shingle requires precision. If you try to repair one and don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up causing more damage to the area you’re trying to fix.

When can you repair or replace roof shingles?

Before grabbing your ladder and climbing on top of the roof to repair or replace a damaged or missing shingle, there are some things you need to know. We spoke with Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, to get his take on when you might be able to handle the repairs yourself, when you should call in a professional, and how to fix your roof the right way.

Replacing shingles doesn’t require as much precision and may be easier for the DIY homeowner. But it isn’t always possible if the manufacturer discontinued the shingle you need to replace. “In some cases, there’s a good replacement product that’s the same size, but sometimes there’s not,” Shirley says. He goes on to explain that if you can’t find a product that’s the right size, your best bet is to replace the whole roof. Cutting a wrong-size product to fit your roof is risky because it can cause other shingles to buckle and nails to pop.

You may also need an entire roof replacement if the wood underneath the shingles is rotten or there’s a large volume of work. “If the wind blows off a couple of shingles, we can probably repair [it]. But if the wind blows off 15 or 20 shingles … at that point, it’s probably more cost-effective to replace the whole roof,” Shirley says.

Weigh your options thoughtfully – you can consider the cost to replace a new roof, and also explore whether your homeowners insurance may cover a new roof.

How long do roof shingles last?

The durability of your roof shingles can vary depending on the material they are made from and the climate where you live. According to Angi, asphalt shingles – which are found on more than 80% of homes in the U.S. – typically last between 20 to 30 years. Asphalt shingles are typically very durable, weather-resistant, and require little maintenance. But keep in mind they can be prone to damage from extreme heat and sun, however, so homes where this is a factor may have shingles with a shorter lifespan.

How to repair roof shingles

Shirley says that repairing an existing shingle isn’t something he usually advises. However, if you don’t care what your roof looks like and you’re trying to eke out another season because soon you’ll need to replace it, you can use a tar sealant on a shingle or two. That’ll seal it back down for a while, but it’s not a long-term solution. Shirley recommends replacing damaged shingles rather than repairing them.

How to replace roof shingles

If you’re like most homeowners and you have an asphalt shingle roof, here are the steps to replace a damaged roof shingle:

  1. Asphalt shingles seal onto each other, so you need to break the seal.
  2. You can tap it with the back end of a hammer but be careful not to bang too hard.
  3. Gently lift the damaged shingle to break the seal on the shingle above the one you’re replacing.
  4. That’ll give you access to the nails keeping the damaged shingle in place.
  5. Carefully remove the nails from the damaged shingle.
  6. There are usually four to six nails per shingle, and it can take an experienced roofer 30 minutes to get the nails out.
  7. Remove the damaged shingle.
  8. Slide the new shingle into place. Make sure it fits properly.
  9. Fasten the new shingle to the roof using new nails. Be sure not to reuse the old nails.
  10. Re-adhere the shingle above with a spray adhesive or silicone caulking to ensure it sticks back down.

If repairing or replacing roof shingles isn’t the best option, you’ll likely have to replace your entire roof. It’s essential to understand your roof type and how to pick the best roof shingles for your home. Learn more about how much a new roof costs.

What are common roof shingle problems?

While standard asphalt shingles are generally quite durable, over time you may need to repair or replace roof shingles due to damage. Some common causes of roof shingle problems include:

  • Prolonged heat and/or sun exposure
  • Standing water
  • Freezing and thawing
  • High winds
  • Tree damage
  • Poor construction materials

A roofing professional can help you to decide if making a few repairs will address the problem, or if the entire roof needs to be replaced.

How long does it take to repair a roof?

The amount of time it takes to repair a roof will vary, depending on the type of fix that is being done. If you’re just having a few shingles repaired or replaced, professional roofers could handle the job in as little as an hour. But if you have more substantial roof shingle problems, or need to have your entire roof replaced, the process could last an entire day or several days. Reputable roofing companies should be able to provide you with reasonable estimates for both time and expense for your roof repair work.

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