If your shield is broken – if your roof is not in tip-top condition – nothing in your house is as safe as you think it is. Fall rains? Winter snows? Flying and crawling insects, looking for somewhere to hide, to nest, and to call home? Birds, even, finding themselves a sheltered indoor space to hatch their eggs, to eat, and to leave their waste behind. Without a well-maintained roof, everything else in your house is on borrowed time.
Why Would You Need To Repair Your Roof?
Almost anything can damage your roof and make it lose its integrity. The list of potential sources of roof-damage can seem daunting, but don’t panic – there are solutions to them all, and we’ll cover them here. But you have to know what the problems could be before the solutions make any sense. So here’s just a whirlwind (or on land a tornado) tour of some of the things that can mess with your roof. Oh, and yes – whirlwinds and/or tornadoes are definitely roof-damagers, though if they hit, chances are the roof will be the least of your repair worries.
High winds have a way of getting under your roof tiles, shingles or other coverings and acting like a lever, prizing them free and opening up weak spots in your roof’s defences. You know the saying: you’re only as good as your weakest link. Strong winds can give you a weak link in your roof’s weather defences. And as if that’s not annoying enough, once there is a weak link or gap, it works like tooth decay – wind and anything else has a greater likelihood of loosening or attacking surrounding slates or shingles. Once you have a weak spot, you’re going to have to act fast to stop the rot.
Rain is a classic enemy of roofs. Seems harmless. Seems the very thing your roof is there to protect you from.
Get enough rain and heavy winds together though and what you have is a recipe for erosion. Erosion at cements, tars, sealants, you name it rain will weaken it, given enough time and persistence. Never underestimate the power of rain to damage your roof – it’s the bird that sharpens its beak on the mountain. Leave it to do its thing for long enough, and you have no more mountain. Likewise, if you don’t check your roof after really heavy downpours, you’re practically putting a neon sign on the roof, saying “That’s OK, dryness and security are overrated.”
Snow And Ice
Where rain and wind do damage by attrition and erosion, snow and ice are rather more heavyweight in their action. Snow that settles heavily on a roof can be a risk to roof tiles and shingles if too much snow accumulates, as it can then cause a mini-avalanche – and take tiles with it. Ice works on a different level, chilling down any latent moisture in the surface of the roof. The chilling to ice has an odd but technical expansion effect, meaning anywhere that was just wet can be forced open, forced to crack, or even forced in two. All of which is potentially bad news for your poor roof. Check out this Winter Home Maintenance guide.
Sometimes, it feels like your roof just can’t win. If it’s not under attack from the insidious, gap-finding, hole-enlarging, tile-loosening rain, it’s snow, putting it under undue pressure. And if it’s not the snow, it’s the sun.
Wait, what damage can the sun do, right? It’s 96 million miles away, it’s going to send energy all the way to Earth just to mess with your roof?
It’s not personal, it’s strictly business. Ultraviolet light coming from the sun has no vendetta against your roof or your house, but nevertheless, its nature is such that it can cause the materials in your roof to heat up during ultra-hot days. Then, at night, when the cool down comes, the contraction that mirrors the expansion in the heat can crack your roof like a spoon through eggshell.
If you have a flat roof, it can also cause a condition called ‘alligatoring’ – the same stretch and contraction action leaving your flat roof with the texture of alligator hide – complete with weak spots. Leave it to its own devices for too long and what you have is a chronically compromised roof.
Sunshine as a type of weather is usually equated to happiness, but if your UV protection isn’t up to its job, sunny days can be smiling assassins for your roof.
What now? That fuzzy green stuff that can give a lovely lived-in look to your property? That’s a danger to your roof somehow?
You’d better believe it. Moss may look pretty in certain circumstances, it’s soft to the touch, which means it absorbs water more or less like a sponge. A sponge which, under the right circumstances, doubles as a water balloon, creating small but powerful water bursts to add to any existing water damage.
The thing you have in your favour with moss is that it’s the sloth of the plant world. It’s non-vascular and non-flowering, which means the energy it has to do anything at all other than be alive and mess with your roof is very small. So, like annoying coughs and rumors, deal with moss early and it will never gain the size or momentum to damage your roof.
Yes. Yes, we’re recommending you get regularly on ladders and scrub moss off your roof. Before the big green carpet of roof-death explodes and takes your house with it.*
*Moss may not actually explode. Sequences may have been dramatized for effect. It can still damage your roof though, honest.
Yep, seriously. Blue-green algae, the most common form found on roofs, is mostly an unsightly thing while it’s alive.
When it dies, and unless you get rid of it, it creates patches of darkness on your roof.
So what, right?
So those dark patches make your UV reflection less effective, which means…you read the thing about the sun, yes? Giant sky-ball of roof-killing UV beams? Think of algae as the guard the sun pays off to break into your castle.
While we’re here, let’s talk about roof-mold. Go on, you know you want us to.
Mold is more the result of pre-existing roof problems. At least, it is in the beginning. But when it gets in, this moisture problem is the herald of decay. It can slime its rancid, noxious, potentially dangerous way through any and all wood it comes into contact with. It will seep and slime on down from exposed or vulnerable roof beams into every room unless it’s stopped.
Mold is one of the many insidious things that can damage the framing of your roof, rather than just the outside coverings.
Yes, we know – we love trees too, in their own place. Trees overhanging your roof are not in their right place, because wind, rot, lightning, even sometimes simple gravity can snap a branch off and send it hurtling through your roof at an alarming speed and leave you with a hefty repair bill – or a hefty repair job.
You’re getting the picture, aren’t you? It’s absolutely a privilege to have your own room, but like all privileges, a roof also comes with responsibilities. Each issue we’ve mentioned can be fixed – but whether you call a professional roofer in to repair your roof for you, or whether you do it yourself is a matter between you, your toolbox and your bank balance.
Let us help you out with that decision.
How Much Does Roof Repair Cost?
Ever wondered what it would cost to totally re-cover your roof? How much are we talking about for materials and professional labor.
Complete Replacement Cost
Figures will vary of course, depending on the size of your roof, but these are fairly typical costs for different roofing options:
- Three-tab asphalt shingles: $7,000 to $12,000
- 30-year shingles: $9,000 to $15,000
- 50-year shingles: $11,000 to $20,000
- EPDM rubber: $8,000 to $14,000
- TPO or PVC membrane: $10,000 to $15,000
- Wood shingles: $14,000 to $25,000
- Steel shingles: $14,000 to $25,000
- Aluminum shingles: $15,000 to $28,000
- Standing-seam steel roofing: $23,000 to $30,000
- Natural slate: $25,000 to $50,000
- Concrete tile: $20,000 to $40,000
- Clay tiles: $25,000 to $50,000
This is why we argue for remedial roof repair, piece by piece, tile by tile, rather than putting it off until there’s a big enough problem to require a whole new roof. Even if you’re only talking three-tab asphalt shingle, nobody wants to suddenly face a bill for $7,000 for materials.
Professional roofers though are surprisingly reasonable for their time and the potential hassle they take out of your life.
The national average cost for a roof repair is around $900 (with highs and lows between $300-$1,500). Again, the average costs reflect the wisdom of dealing with roof repairs as and when they’re first noticed, rather than waiting until there’s more to do.
If you’re replacing a full asphalt roof on a typical 2,000 sq. ft. single story ranch house, with materials and labor, you’re looking at between $8,500-$16,500 fully installed. The larger your property and the more complex the roof, not to mention the more expensive the roofing material of course, the more you’ll pay.
If you know what you’re doing, that’s a solid incentive to try and fix your roof yourself, though it’s obviously less daunting to fix small problems as they arise than it would be to fix or replace a whole roof by yourself. There’s also the matter of time – on your own, you’re more at the mercy of daylight and seasonal safety, and you’re in a race with the potential issues of all those sorts of weather we mentioned. Which brings us to another question.
When Should You Repair Your Roof?
It probably doesn’t take a genius to work out that some times are better than others for roof repair. Nobody wants to be repairing a roof in howling gale force winds, a torrential downpour or an incoming blizzard. Sure, there might be an extra satisfaction in battling against the odds and getting it done.
But the negative experience of actually having to be up on a roof, making adjustments and repairs, in unremittingly unpleasant weather is quite enough to make most people huddle indoors with a hot chocolate. The same is true whether you fix your roof yourself, or get professionals in. Sure, they’d love to take the money for fixing your roof in extremis – but you may well need to pay a consideration for their greater danger while they do it.
You might think it would be natural then for summer to be the best time of year to tackle your roof repair. The truth of that depends where you live. In some parts of the US, high summer is as dangerous a time as midwinter to be up on a roof, relentless glaring heat being less fun than you might imagine.
For most of the continental US though, late spring through summer to early fall is optimum roof repair time. If nothing else, they’re the months when you can be most certain that your roof having gaps in it, or even being completely absent, won’t leave you open to sudden rainstorms and snowstorms.
Nobody wants to take a roof off only to have the rains come down – it’s a soulcrusher, not to mention a roof-ruiner and a potentially doubled expense.
So, late spring, all summer and early fall give you the best chance of successfully fixing your roof.
That said, this is a reckoner that depends on there being a large amount of work to do. If you have a few tiles or slates or shingles blow off in late fall, don’t wait till the spring sunshine before you tackle it – every day of bad weather between the first and the fix will do more damage to the roof covering, and potentially the timbers and rooms underneath.
That’s perhaps one of the most important differences between doing it yourself and getting a professional roofer out to do the work for you. Professional roofers will come during the off-season, they’ll come perfectly equipped, and they’ll come with far more perfect knowledge than even we can give you about how to effect the repair. So unless you’re very sure of yourself, if you get roof damage in the off-season, it may well be in everyone’s best interests for you to call a professional roofer in.
Also, consider that speed factor again. If you call professionals in during the off-season, the likelihood is that there will be whole teams available, due to the relatively slim pickings for business in that season. Two or three professional roofers working on a job will get it done far faster than you alone will be able to do. The faster the job is done, the less damage the initial issue will cause, and the less remedial work you’ll be called on to do as the year rolls around.
When looking at roof repair of course, you might as well be a zookeeper, tasked with feeding the animals in a zoo. How you repair a roof will depend entirely on what roof you have, just as feeding the animals in a zoo (or at least, doing it correctly without getting your hand bitten off) depends on understanding what each animal eats.
Let’s take a look at the different kinds of roofing materials in common use across the US.
A Material World: A Word On Roof Materials
The thing about your choice of roofing material is that sometimes it…isn’t…your choice. Or not wholly your choice, at any rate.
Geography counts for something in roof-choices – if every house around you has one style and you decide to go completely against that grain, there may be city ordinances you’ll run into. If the nature of the area calls for a classic Spanish look, and you try to go with an ultra-modern vibe, you may not be allowed to go for the roof of your choice. There may also be practical concerns – roofs might all look the same in certain areas due to the presence of common hazards – fire-retardation might be must-have in some areas, for instance. The pitch of your roof angle will affect which coverings you can use too. Wood shake shingles, for example, are good on steeper roofs, but get you nowhere if you have a lower-pitched, flatter roof.
With all that said, you can probably find your roofing material somewhere in this list:
Asphalt composition shingles
These are your entry-level roof coverings – unfussy and inexpensive.
Available most everywhere, they’re probably the most recognizable kind of roof covering, because they often come as standard on new houses to keep the build and sale price low, and you frequently have to actively dislike them with a passion to make them worth the expense and hassle of replacing entirely.
Wood shakes or shingles
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll pay handsomely for wood shingles, but they’ll give an unusual, classic look to your roof. They’re perhaps surprisingly durable in most weather conditions. Fire danger areas though – nnnnnot so great. With the whole…made of wood…thing.
For the longest time, metal roofs existed in two extremes – urban farm housing, and commercial buildings. Then they caught on in high-end, architecturally-designed homes, giving them a certain gunmetal chic.
But metal roofs have come on a lot in the last decade, in style, accessibility and popularity. Fireproof, durable and now stylish too, they’re a viable option for your home. What they’re not however is either easy or cheap. They need specialty contractors to put them on, and the chances are, they’ll need specialty contractors to repair them too.
That said, they can be laid over existing roofs – think of them as a bike helmet for your house, if you like. And with relatively few weak points, the likelihood of having to repair them with any frequency is much smaller than with some other roof-coverings. Metal roofs come in a range of types, including raised-seam panels. Oh, and no, before you think it – you’re no more likely to be struck by lightning if you have a metal roof.
Slate is some seriously high-end roofing with a price-tag to match. And guaranteed, while you have it, it will look entirely awesome. With slate though, it’s a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other – there are downsides to take into account. Slate is like buttered ice to stand on, especially if it happens to be wet. It’s also uber-heavy compared to some other roof coverings.
Heaviness and slipperiness – it’s an interesting combination when it comes to something in which to cover your roof. What it means is that while slate looks beautiful on your roof, if and when you get damage to a slate roof, it’s more difficult to repair than most others.
When you love the look of slate, but don’t want to slip, fall and die while repairing it, Composition Slate might be made with your name on it. Looks like slate, but synthetic, it’s made from up to 95% recycled materials.
So – eco-slate, if you like. Extra bonus? It’s much lighter, less susceptible to damage in the first place and – with the whole ‘not feeling like buttered ice’ thing, easier to repair if and when you do get damage.
Clay or ceramic tile
Hello, the surface of the sun! Or more specifically, hello, Southern California and Florida, you gorgeous hot people with your gorgeous hot houses. Spanish-style red tile roofs are the signature style of houses in these states, and there’s something historic and glorious about that.
But this far into the 21st century, clay and ceramic tiles are more and more often being replaced by metal or composite materials that look like Spanish tile, but are less likely to crack, don’t put as much weight or stress on the roof, but still retain the fire retardant grooviness of the original
The Spanish-style tile is known as a half-barrel style, for the logical reason that it’s basically a cylinder (or barrel) cut in half lengthwise. Is it a shame that Florida and SoCal are gradually ditching real Spanish tile? Sure, but on the other hand, the Hot Zones have rarely been sentimental about their history.
Unlike New Orleans or Boston, they’re places that have always seen fit to tear down and rebuild for the needs of today, rather than preserving the vibe of days gone by.
For information on fibreglass shingles check out redriverroofing.com’s guide.
The Process Of Roof Repair
Your roof is one of the most important areas of your home. There are things you should be doing to ensure you have as few repairs to do as possible.
- Make regular inspections, inside and out.
- Check your gutters after rain, and more often during the fall.
- Ensure there’s good ventilation of your roof space or attic, so any moisture that does come through into the house is quickly evaporated before it has the chance to do damage.
- Regularly inspect your flashings – around chimneys, roof windows, etc. They’re potential weak spots in the integrity of your roof, but they’re also potentially easy to fix when they’re compromised – as long as you know you need to fix them.
- If you spot any issues, act immediately, don’t wait.
Identifying Problems With Your Roof
First, find your problem. Any roof repairer, electrician, plumber or accountant will tell you that before you can set to and solve a problem…you have to know it’s there, and what it is, and the extent of what you’re dealing with.
This might sound like an oversimplification, but it’s really the bones of what you need to do.
First, check outside.
If you have any reason to suspect you might have roofing issues – after severe weather, for instance, or just because you know it’s good practice to check the roof semi-regularly – check outside.
Any fallen tiles or shingles? Red alert!
Beyond that though, step as far back as you can, take pictures with your super-duper 21st century smartphone. Use the selfie stick your millennial relative got you two years ago, that’s been buried in a junk pile ever since. Get as wide a shot as you can of the roof. The joy of this is that you can plug it in to your computer, and zoom, baby, zoom.
Another expert tip, If you still can’t see it with your zoomed in smartphone camera try looking at your roof from the ground with binoculars. You’ll have a smaller field of view but you may be able to see super details.
Get high quality images of the roof and scan it inch by inch if you need to, looking for irregularities, dark spots, moss, algae, missing or broken tiles. Again, the things you’re looking for will depend on the type of roof you have.
But the golden rule of outside inspection is the rule that Sesame Street taught you – one of these things does not belong here. Look for anything out of the ordinary. Chances are, where there’s irregularity, there will be roof trouble.
While you’re there, check out your gutters for rust, holes, decay or clogging, because while they’re there to help siphon off rainwater, if they get clogged or rusted, they can become an issue in themselves.
Imagine them filling up with water that can’t go anywhere. Imagine the weight. Imagine the weight pulling at the roof, and eventually ripping free. Instant repair job right there. Ignore your gutters at your peril.
If you complete your outdoor inspection and find nothing that needs your further attention, congratulations! Now it’s time to get up close and personal – from the inside.
Get up into the attic, crawlspace, whatever you have that’s closest to the inside of your roof. Take your phone with you. You know the deal – take as many high-res pictures as you can, but make sure there’s a sequential sense to them. You should be able to instantly identify what you’re looking at. And as with the outside examination, you’re looking for anything out of the ordinary – damp stains, peeling paint, any sign of standing water? Red alert. Damp beams? Red alert – they didn’t get that way from the intense workout they’ve been doing to get fit for Christmas. They got that way because water from outside has somehow found its way inside. Verdict? Roof repair!
Whatever you see, whatever your images reveal, as bad as it is when you see it is as good as it’s going to get. Waiting gains you nothing. In fact, you could think of it as the start of a stopwatch. If you’ve got a compromised roof, every day it’s not getting better, the likelihood is that it’s getting worse. More moisture equals more trouble. More trouble equals probably less money in the value of your property.
Get it fixed, and do it now.
Whether you do it yourself or get a professional crew in, you need to understand the hows, whys and wherefores of roof repair.
The Work It Takes
Let’s take a medium-sized roofing job. The sort of thing a pro crew could complete in 2-4 days, but which would take you on your own a week or more, praying every day for good weather. What might that involve?
- Hire a dumpster for the job. You’re going to need one in all probability, to throw the damaged or worn material into, and for convenient storage of undamaged roof material while you do the job.
- Take off all the existing shingles. Yes, all of them. If you don’t do this, roof repair becomes similar to trying to change your bedsheets while keeping the comforter on the bed. Doable, but time-consuming, delicate and an ultimately uncertain prospect. Take them off for now, so you can see what you’re dealing with. Hey, luckily you hired that dumpster – you can put the existing shingles in there for now. Exhausted yet? No? OK, keep going.
- Check out the valley flashing and drip edging. Any that’s old, worn, thinning or actively damaged, you can get rid of. Again, how fortunate that there’s a handy dumpster right there. It’s worth noting that a pro crew would be using tarps right about now to protect any foundation plantings and shrubs down below. Oh, they’d also have magnetic tools to pick up any discarded nails and metal objects from the lawn, so go ahead and get yourself all that – tarps, magnetic gear, all that fun stuff. You can figure out where to store it later. In your attic, maybe, close to the newly repaired roof.
- Assess, assess, assess. Does it look like the roof is in basically good condition? If so, make any minor repairs you can see need making. Of course technically, we’re assuming this isn’t what you do for a living, so you have to be fairly confident in your judgment here, and fairly sure you know how to make the repairs so they’re up to code. But go ahead and do that.
- If the roof doesn’t look like it’s basically sound…well, then you’re in the business of replacing the bad wood with new plywood sheathing or 1 x 6 sheathing boards, whichever is applicable to your type of roof. You’ll know which is applicable to your type of roof. Right? OK, pause here for a quick trip to Home Depot or your local equivalent, to pick up all the plywood sheathing or sheathing boards you need. How’s the weather looking? Just curious.
- Oh, we’re also curious – do you live in a region where you need an ice guard to be up to code? Again, you know that, right? If you just asked “What’s an ice guard,” get a roofer in, this is beyond your level of expertise, caveman. As it happens, an ice guard membrane is a synthetic waterproof barrier, used to stop ice melt from collecting and getting into your home. You knew that? And you knew whether or not you needed one? Cool – onward.
- Bring on the asphalt roofing paper. The paper creates an extra inner barrier to stop outside water getting in. You’re probably going to need to overlap layers of the asphalt paper the closer you get to the peak of the roof, then tack them or staple thin into position, so the whole thing doesn’t unravel like a badly-wrapped Christmas present the moment you step away from it. Now you’re getting somewhere.
- Next, you’re going to need to apply metal drip edging all the way around the edge of the roof. Yes, all sides of it, otherwise you’ll have weak links in your roof’s defences. Got your nail gun handy, with the extra-long extension cord? You’ll need to nail the edging in place, or it’ll be attached too flimsily to stand up to the weather.
- If you need to at this stage, add new valley flashing where two or more roof planes meet. Again, a job for the nail gun, but also, you’ll be sealing that flashing up with roofing caulk. You picked up the roofing caulk at Home Depot when you got the plywood sheathing, right?
- Ok, let’s assume you’re back from Home Depot. All caulked up and ready to go? Cool. Time to apply your tab shingles, then. Start at the eaves and work upward toward the peak. Easy.
- Got roof vents? Install as you go with the tab shingles.
- Identify every area where you might have leaks. Apply flashing everywhere it’s needed. Pay particular attention around chimneys, skylights, vents and the like. against the chimney, around skylights and stack vents, etc. If you want to do it this way, you can install flashing as part of the shingle application.
- Nearly there. Going to need a ridge vent around the peak of the house, so your attic gets the ventilation it needs, and is able to vent hot air to combat winter ice dams.
- Congratulations – you just did your own roof repair. Finish with a thorough cleanup, get the debris hauled away.
- Now you pray, call a building inspector and hope you don’t have to do any or all of it again.
- Or, if you’re not confident with any element of the process, you could always bite the bullet and call a professional roofing crew for significantly less hassle and a lot more certainty when it comes to the inspection.
The Onion Principle
In previous decades, you were allowed to lay whole new shingle roofs over pre-existing layers. Sometimes, you were even allowed to do it more than once, layering up the roofing shingles like levels in an onion.
There are some places which still allow you to do that, and some that don’t. In those areas, you now have to completely tear-off the previous roofing every single time you want to lay down a new roof.
Even in the areas where you’re still allowed to layer shingles, you still have to consider the pros and cons very carefully before you go for it, because not only do all the layers have to pass inspection, but layering gives you whole new ranges of things to think about.
Remember – the more layers of shingle you add, the more weight is lying on your roof, making it vulnerable to snow. It’s also an inherently dangerous thing to do if your framing is older, simply because putting excess weight on older or weaker framing is pressurising on the structure.
Then there’s telegraphing.
What’s telegraphing? Anyone remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? Put a pea under a mattress, and imagine you can still feel it through the cushioning.
Now imagine you can still see it through the mattress, the shape of the coming through, visible through however many layers you add. That’s telegraphing.
If your existing roof has issues, putting new shingles on top won’t disguise those issues well enough to give you the effect you want. What you’ll end up with is a heavier, more highly strained roof, that still shows the issues with the original roof to the world.
Correct as many of the original roofing issues as you possibly can before adding a new layer of shingle to minimize the telegraphing issue.
Naturally of course, one of the big pluses of adding layers is that you don’t have the work, the waste and the haul-away expense of stripping out the existing roof. Of course, if you get professionals in, you don’t have to worry about that at all, and it’s simply factored into the invoice.
DIY Or Go Pro?
If you have the skills, the tools and the confidence to do it safely, you can absolutely do your own roof repairs. It’s not by any means mystic sorcery.
But it is a lot of learning, theoretical knowledge, practical skill, confidence and structural understanding. If you can do it effectively, by all means do it and save yourself a lot of cash over time.
But most people who need roof repairs will undoubtedly go with a professional roofing crew. They’ll go that way because learning how to do roof repair is time-consuming, physically demanding, and only gets tested in the field, when the need is raw.
Many of the material manufacturers (like shingle manufacturers) require certain installation parameters to be met for the warranties to be valid. If there are any questions about performing installation of your particular materials it is best left to a professional. In addition, many of the professionals like our company are continually certified to ensure the highest quality of installation and extended warranties are added as a result of our continuing certifications.
Most people don’t have the necessary skills, and it’s not worth them investing the time they need to do it. Getting a team of professional roofers in takes the responsibility off your shoulders, and demands only that you pay the invoice.