Leaky Roof Repair [A Complete DIY Guide]

rain causes surge in roof leaks


​As a roofing contractor in Phoenix, Arizona we’ve completed our share of roof repair projects. Since we don’t experience rain year-round, when storms hit, homeowners are left scrambling trying to find an available professional to repair a leak.  During these times, here at the office, we are flooded with calls from homes and businesses alike – the more rain we get, the more the phone rings off the hook.

That’s good for us, but not so good for you and all the other homeowners out there whose roofs may be in need of some major repair.

With summer here in the Phoenix area, we’re seeing quite a bit of rain (compared to the rest of the year). Summer thunderstorms and steady rain can both take quite their tool on a roof…and as we all know, what starts as minor leak can soon snowball into some major problems.

Here are a few tips to save yourself a few headaches when the rain hits hard.

What Causes a Leaking Roof?

heanding infographic

Leaking roofs can be attributed to any number of different causes; some more serious and harder to fix than others. Here’s a few of the most common:

Cracked Flashings:

Flashing are the thin pieces and strips of metal that are installed under your roof shingles. They serve as a barrier between the shingles and the roof itself, generally around seams and joints on the roof, and keep water from slipping between the cracks. They sometimes have rubber overcoatings, as well.

Flashings crack because the tar and rubber used to seal them gets worn down over time, due to exposure to the elements like rain and sun, as well as just due to age and drying out over time.

Broken Shingles:

asphalt shinglesThis is one of the most common causes of roof leaks. Shingles – especially asphalt shingles – will wear down, crack, curl and break over time…leaving parts of the roof exposed. While underlayment and flashing will help, cracked, broken or even missing shingles will eventually lead to leak – no matter what.

Sun, rain, wind, snow, hail and heat all causes asphalt shingles to break, crack or curl over time. You’ll be able to see broken shingles when they look like missing patches of roof.

Improperly Installed Vents or Skylights:

poorly installed skylightSkylights, vents and other unique parts of the roof must be carefully and properly installed, or leaks will spring up around the seams. Proper installation of windows and vents usually means plenty of flashing and rubber overcoating around all seams and edges. When these leaks do occur, however, they are usually pretty easy to spot; you’ll notice water dripping around your skylights or parts of the ceiling or attic directly underneath vents.

Problems with Your Valleys:

Valleys – the V-shaped region where two sloped parts of the roof meet – are common places for leaks and other problems to occur. Water sometimes builds up in these regions, as does debris. Over time, this can wear the shingles down or even damage them, and water can begin to seep through any cracks or breaks in the flashing or underlayment.

DIY to Fixing a Leaking Roof

If any leaks pop up in your home, it’s important to get it fixed as soon as possible. And not just because water dripping into your home is annoying…it can be also be quite dangerous. Once a roof becomes damaged and wet, it weakens…and a weakened roof is a hazard.

Try not to “fix the leak” with buckets. I know it sounds funny, but in locations like California homeowners try to get away with this method for a summer or two. It may only rain hard enough once or twice a year to actually cause a leak…and sticking a bucket underneath the leak is obviously the easiest “fix.”

roof leak repair

Some of the more basic roof repairs can easily be done on your own, provided you’re familiar and comfortable with some DIY tasks and a bit of elbow grease (and climbing the ladder).

First, Find the leak

You should have a general idea of where the roof is leaking based on where the water is seeping through the ceiling. But once you get on the roof, look for cracked, broken or -out-of-place shingles. It’s not always easy to locate the exact spot of the leak, especially if it’s coming from an opening such as an exhaust fan, skylight or chimney, so it may take some digging around. You may even need to spray the roof down with your hose to pinpoint exactly where the problem is.

Replacing Shingles

If missing or cracked shingles are the cause of your problems, you’re in luck. Replacing shingles by yourself is actually pretty easy. Just find shingles that match your roof in color, size and style, and replace the shingles in the area around your leak. To learn more about that, click here.

Look For Shiners

nail causing a leak     

Shiners are nails that missed the framing member and are popular spots for moisture and condensation to collect in a cold, damp attic. The water can then drip off onto your ceiling and drip right through. These are easy to fix, thankfully; just cut the rest of the nail off using pliers or cutters.

Fixing Vent Boots

If your leak is the result of cracks or broken seams in your roof’s vent boots – the rubber surrounding and creating a seal around pipes going into the roof – then you may be able to fix the problem at home. You’ll probably need to buy a new rubber boot, and then work the shingles around the old vent free (very carefully). From there, you can pry the old vent boot off and place the new one in (putting new shingles down or carefully putting the old shingles back) and seal it tight.

Fixing Flashing or Underlayment

Oftentimes, your shingles are totally fine…it’s the flashing or underlayment underneath the shingles that’s causing problems and needs to be repaired. This is a bit more labor intensive than just replacing some shingles, as you’ll need to remove ALL the old shingles, put in the new underlayment, and then put the shingles back.

Any time you reroof or partially reroof, you should replace the flashing in areas around the chimney, skylights or other vents.

Additional DIY Roof Leak Repair Tips:

  • You can flatten out curled asphalt shingles and then stick them back on the roof using caulk or roofing glue. It’s a good idea to gently heat up and soften shingles using a heat gun before handling them…to avoid breaking them.
  • Be sure to fill any joints around your flashing with roof cement…to make sure they are completely filled and sealed and won’t let any moisture drip in.
  • If any seam on the roof appears to be cracked or worn, go ahead and apply an extra layer of roofing cement or putty and prevent problems from popping up further down the road.
  • Be Safe. A wet roof is a dangerous roof. Don’t climb onto your roof if it is wet…and always wear rubber-soled shoes to give yourself maximum traction and stay as safe as possible when up on the roof.

When to Call The Roof Repair Pros

While the handier and DIY-experienced among us are certainly able to tackle some of those DIY roof repairs above…there are times when you need to call in the pros.

Anytime you’re not comfortable with the repairs that need to be done, or the project requires lots of flashing, sealing and underlayment around vents and skylights, you’ll probably want to call in the pros.

Likewise, if your roof uses metal or ceramic tiles or shingles, repairing and replacing them likely isn’t something you can do on your own. You’re better off leaving serious repairs like those to the experienced pros who have the know-how and equipment to handle those tasks.

If you do decide to call in the pros, remember: the worst time to have your roof repaired is right after a big storm. This is for a couple reasons.

First, you might find that every single roofing company is slammed with repairs and hard to pin down to come do work for you. Good roofing companies may need to schedule your project out upwards of a month or two.

Second…right after a big rainstorm might be a little too late. By then, the damage may already be done – and a small leak may have turned into a much bigger problem. If you start to see small leaks pop up, you want to get them fixed as soon as possible…before monsoon season comes and a single big rainstorm turns those small leaks into big, wet problems.

As an additional note…If you schedule your roof repair BEFORE monsoon season, you not only get your choice of legitimate roofing companies and competitive pricing, but it’s more likely that the owner of the company will be supervising your project.

That can make a big difference when you’re undergoing an entire re-roofing project. You are making a large investment in that new roof….and you want the job to be done right. A good roof can last upwards of 20-30 years…while one cheaply done may only make it 5-10 years.

How to get the best service for your next repair or re-roofing project

To obtain the best service, it is always wise to schedule your repairs or roofing projects before the monsoon season, or before storms are upon us. You get your choice of legitimate roofing companies, they are willing to provide good customer service, and best of all, you will get a competitive price. During slower times contractors are willing to give fast and free bids; giving your the luxury of comparing deliverables vs. cost.

Moreover, when roofing companies are slow, it is likely that the owner of the company (or someone higher-up) will be supervising your project. This makes a big difference, especially when you’re undergoing a re-roofing project: You are paying a good amount of money for your new roof, you want the job to be done right. A roof that lasts for 20 years, like it should, is much different than a roof that begins showing problems after 5 – 10 years.

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