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How to Repair a Roof and Replace Asphalt Shingles

Updated on September 14, 2017
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Dan has been a homeowner for some 40 years, and has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks. He is a licensed electrician.

So you had a windstorm last night and found a few shingles in your yard - looking up you see that you need to replace some of your old asphalt roof shingles (asphalt is the normal shingle type used on most homes).

Not to worry - replacing shingles on your roof, repairing a little wind or tree limb damage is not a huge deal and is well within the home handyman's capabilities. It requires only a few tools, found in most homeowners tool kits, and a little time.

Don't put off this minor task too long though - missing or damaged shingles can well end up turning a perfectly good roof into a major leaking roof repair, including repairs to damaged floors or ceilings below. It isn't worth it.

Tools You'll Need

  • A fairly wide, flat pry bar will be extremely useful. Something around 12 or 18 inches long and perhaps 2 inches wide. A razor knife (boxcutter) or other sharp knife may be necessary if the damaged shingle is on the edge of the roof.
  • A hammer will be necessary to drive new nails, along with a handful of roofing nails. These are not normal nails, but have an extra large head.
  • Depending on weather, some form of heat may be helpful as well. Existing shingles must be carefully bent out of the way, and cold shingles can and will snap under the pressure. A common bernzamatic torch would do the job if used carefully; in the photos used for this roof repair a large propane weed burner was planned for heating cold shingles. It turned out not to be necessary - temperatures were in the mid thirty degree F range and the shingles bent nicely. It was used as a final step, however, to help immediately seal new shingles down to old ones.
  • A ladder or other access will, of course, be necessary to get onto the roof.

Tools taken to the job.  The small prybar was useful for removing staples; the middle one was not used at all.
Tools taken to the job. The small prybar was useful for removing staples; the middle one was not used at all.

Removing the Damaged Shingles

When shingles are blown off or damaged it is only the bottom half of a shingle that is typically damaged. What you see on a roof is only half of each shingle; the other half is tucked up and under the next higher shingle. In order to replace a shingle, then, the upper half must be removed first.

  • To do this, carefully insert the pry bar between the existing upper shingle still in good repair and the damaged one, working them apart. Take care here; it is quite easy to tear the shingle still in good repair, which will mean that it, too, must be replaced.
  • With the upper layer free, work the pry bar under the damaged shingle, prying upward until it is free of any nails or staples. Again, take considerable care not to damage good shingles during the process.
  • Slide whatever is left of the damaged shingle out. Drive protruding nails or staples into the roof until they are flush; you don't want them holding the new shingle higher than it should be. These nails or staples could be removed rather than driving them flat; some of the shingles replaced on this job were up under the ridge cap and difficult to reach with a hammer and they were simply removed.

The gray areas are actually the top half of a good shingle.  The bottom half of the shingle above it on the roof has been broken off and needs replacing.
The gray areas are actually the top half of a good shingle. The bottom half of the shingle above it on the roof has been broken off and needs replacing.
The upper, good, shingles is raised, showing the broken shingle under it.
The upper, good, shingles is raised, showing the broken shingle under it.
A closer view of the broken shingle half that must be removed.  It had broken off just into the area normally seen, leaving only the dark, upper half.
A closer view of the broken shingle half that must be removed. It had broken off just into the area normally seen, leaving only the dark, upper half.
Working the broken shingle upper half out.
Working the broken shingle upper half out.
The upper shingle is pried high, showing the roofing paper under it.  The broken shingle has been completely removed.  Note the staples that need removed.
The upper shingle is pried high, showing the roofing paper under it. The broken shingle has been completely removed. Note the staples that need removed.

Replacing the Damaged Shingles

  1. With the area prepared, slide the new shingle into place. Line up the bottom of the shingle with adjacent shingles to each side. The new shingle will not quite fill the gap between the shingles on either side; equalize the gaps between shingles side to side. You may find that the shingle needs lifted slightly to slide over staples, nails or the next shingle; slide a hand up under it and carefully lift slightly.
  2. Very carefully roll up the shingle just above the replacement until the tar line is well exposed as this is where the nails should be driven in. Drive 2 nails on each tab, or 6 nails per shingle. The nails, if driven through that tar line, will hold both the new shingle and the one beneath it.
  3. Allow the upper, rolled up, shingle to relax back into place, helping with a little hand pressure. As shown in the photo, it is a good idea if possible to apply a little heat to help melt the tar and seal the new shingle to the older existing one underneath it.
  4. The job shown needed replacement of 4 shingles, plus one that was damaged in the process of "unsticking" it from the broken one, for a total of 5 shingles. It took about an hour to do the task; a small amount of effort to protect the investment of your home.

The upper shingle (bottom of photo) is curled up, revealing the nailing area.  The nail is placed on the tar line and driven through both the new shingle and the older shingle underneath it.
The upper shingle (bottom of photo) is curled up, revealing the nailing area. The nail is placed on the tar line and driven through both the new shingle and the older shingle underneath it.
Finished repair job.  The new shingles are slightly lighter in color, not being weathered yet, but it is not objectionable.
Finished repair job. The new shingles are slightly lighter in color, not being weathered yet, but it is not objectionable.
Heating the finished roof repair job with a weed burner to help quick sealing.
Heating the finished roof repair job with a weed burner to help quick sealing.

© 2011 Dan Harmon

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    • profile image

      Angela Jones 2 years ago

      Carefully roll up the shingle is required above the replacement. For roof damages an easy solution is EPDM Coatings It is applied easily, and work for a long time of twenty years.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      A good point - estimates are often free of charge and don't require one to actually hire the work done. That would often be a reasonable thing to look into.

      Your earlier comment on supply houses - The ones around me (at least that I frequent and I know the pros do too) are more than willing to help out a homeowner and will sell to them as well. Home Depot and Lowes doesn't carry much selection, and to top quality materials, so it is to the supply houses that I look for roofing materials. Plus, they will deliver to the rooftop - a major plus if you're re-doing the entire roof!

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 5 years ago from usa

      wilderness

      Please, not that getting prices and professional comments don't require one to hire a professional. Legitimate professionals ( locally known )are a good start.

      your hub is excellent advice in many cases.

      Have a good day!

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Some good comments here about using professionals. However:

      A professional roofer, with their high bills, is not necessary to replace a common asphalt shingle on a normal home. Severe updrafts (mini tornadoes) are common in my area and a missing or broken shingle is not uncommon. MediaWizard mentioned hail damage. Falling limbs can damage a few shingles. There are a variety of reasons for damaged shingles that do not indicate severe roof damage.

      Yes, a "spongy" roof needs further investigation. No, a homeowner probably should not climb a 12/12 pitch roof without being tied off. Yes, a patch of a dozen missing shingles is probably indicative of other damage. And yes, there comes a time in every roof's life that it simply needs totally replaced.

      That doesn't mean, though, that we need to pay through the nose to do a job that we can do ourselves for $10. The roof in the photos is only a couple of years old on a mobile home and appeared (after working on it) to have been done properly. Cheap shingles were used and a high wind broke 4 of them in half - this does not need a roofing company to repair.

    • greggreene profile image

      greggreene 5 years ago from Newburyport MA

      The comments here about using a professional roofer are accurate as very few problems can be seen from a cursory look at the roof. You should treat the shingles that come off as a red flag to potentially other, bigger problems and act quickly before your home suffers more costly damage.

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 5 years ago from usa

      wilderness

      MY EXPERIENCE would be to contact a licensed roofer for an inspection and a repair price. There may be more damages that a novice may not see that would impact the integrity of preventing additional water damages.

      Check your insurance policy to see if the repairs are covered in the policy.

      Matching the shingles may be difficult at times. The local roofers and supply houses can help to identify the product.

    • tinagleisner profile image

      tinagleisner 5 years ago from NH Seacoast

      I like your outline but I find it misleading for several reasons. First you haven't provided any safety warnings about access or working on a roof including how much of a pitch (measures how steep a roof is) a homeowner should tackle versus calling a home pro. From my perspective, I first want to understand why the shingles came off - were they not installed properly? are they at the end of useful life and then you're doing more damage walking on the roof when you really need to replace? is there hidden water damage and the rotted wood let nails come out? Dealing with roof issues is serious and I'm afraid I don't think many homeowners have the experience to deal with anything but a minor 1-2 lost missing shingles where they can repair them while standing on a ladder.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 5 years ago from Winnipeg

      Really good info on repairing shingled roofs, I'm sure many of us will find this to come in handy. Thanks for the info and voted uP!

    • mediawizard profile image

      Aaron Barlow 5 years ago from USA

      Very helpful, especially since the hail damage I had on my house. I am going to show this hub to my dad too, who also had hail damage.