Now that the rainy season is over (it says here), many homeowners are thinking about repairing those leaks that sprung over the last few months. But knowing where to make such repairs can be tricky because that wet spot in your bedroom ceiling probably isn’t directly under the leak on your roof.
Assuming you are not cursed with a flat roof, here are some of the basics of roof repair and some answers to your roofing questions—some of which you may not have asked.
Rainwater is meant to flow down to the edge of a roof and either roll off onto the ground or pour into a rain gutter that empties into a drain or, more likely, onto the ground. When there is damage to the roof, the water can run down rafters or trusses and show up inside the house, albeit a good distance away from the actual source of the problem. To find the damage and the true source of the leak, you have to search above your ceiling tiles—or in the attic if you have one--and look for water damage on the underside of the roof deck. This reveals the actual location of leaks and where repairs need to be made. While you’re at it, check for structural damage as well. If there is none, you are ready for the easy part. Just get some tar, some aluminum flashing, and a few roofing nails.
Is water entering through the flat surface of the deck? If so, a shingle may be damaged due to wind or a falling tree branch. Just replace the damaged shingle out of the supply of extra matching shingles you’ve kept on hand. If you don’t have a spare, all’s not lost. Carefully pry up and remove the nails holding down the shingle and locate the damage. Apply tar liberally to the underside of the shingle to seal the tear, and then replace the shingle. Now slap on a heavy layer of tar over the tear and over each nail head and all nail holes.
A little trickier are leaks around a vent. Generally you’ll find a gap where the flashing meets the vent pipe if it has been hit by something or if the caulk has dried out. A new coat of tar usually resolves the problem.
But damaged flashing must be replaced. You can buy rolls of aluminum flashing at most home improvement stores. You should have no problem cutting it to size with tin snips. Gently loosen the shingles that cover the old piece of flashing and remove it. Tack down the new flashing with roofing nails and seal around the edges with a generous coat of tar. Then lay down the shingles around the new flashing in the same pattern that they were originally laid, making sure that the flashing is tightly sealed to the pipe that it protects.