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Low Hassle Roof Repair

Roof repair can be simple and cheap... or you can wait until the damage spreads and you have a condition only a professional can solve - for thousands of rands.

Damage comes in all forms - cracked tiles, warped or torn shingles, bent flashing - the list is endless. But most of them are a problem for the same reason: the possibility of water damage from a leak.

Most damage that leads to a leak doesn't give you any warning. You find out after the water has already started coming in. But you can turn that problem into an asset.

If the roof isn't too high, steep or slick, you can perform an exterior inspection where you suspect the damage is centered. If your roof is tile or wood shingle, look for the obvious: cracked or broken elements. For asphalt or composite, look for shingles that have slipped out of position or for warping ('fishmouth' or 'loose lap', etc).

In newer, scalloped adobe tile roofs or single roll asphalt, the problem is sometimes less obvious, though. You may have to wet the roof briefly or perform an interior inspection to find the ingress.

Wherever you find a crack or hole put a flashlight at that point if the damage is too small to be seen from the interior. Of course, sometimes sunlight is enough and the flashlight isn't necessary. We're assuming it's cloudy or overcast, during rain threatening conditions.

Now for the interior inspection.

Inside the attic, take a hammer and a few four inch nails with you and step only on the support beams. With luck you'll see the light coming through the crack in the interior. If not, repeat the exterior procedure used to locate cracks or torn sheeting.

Look for moisture on beams. Locating the problem just by looking for water can be a little tricky though. If you've had recent heavy rains, water can flow along beams a long distance from the source of the opening. Try to trace it over and up to the origin.

Once you locate the opening, take a long nail and drive it through the roof as close as possible to the damage. Of course, beware of hitting any electrical wiring, cables, etc. Note this technique is for asphalt or composite, even sometimes wood shingles. It should NOT be used for adobe tile roofs, since it will only cause more damage.

For tile, try squeezing enough toothpaste through the crack to get to the exterior. Toothpaste is not the only option, but it washes away so you don't have the problems associated with using, say, silicone gel. Naturally, if the crack is small enough to be fixed by squeezing some silicone gel into it, do it and call it a day.

If the light technique doesn't work, try locating the crack and take careful measurements from one edge, then another at right angles. This technique is difficult to use in most houses because of varying roof height sections, difficult to access crawl spaces, etc.

The tough part is over, if the crack is in a place that allows re-papering from the interior or replacing of an asphalt shingle or adobe tile from the exterior.

Any major repairs should be undertaken by professionals. But for single shingle or tile replacement, just remove the broken element and replace. For asphalt or wood, nail all four corners.

Sometimes asphalt can simply be nailed or glued back into place, when the problem is minor curling, for example. For tile, carefully chip away the remaining portion. Get the proper size replacement and glue back into place.

For some asphalt repairs, shingle replacement won't be enough. Tarring may be necessary. Except for small, easy to access jobs that's usually best carried out by a professional. Similarly, replacing roofing felt - a type of tar paper used to seal - usually requires skill and experience beyond most do it yourself'ers.

By all means fix what you can yourself, when you can do the job right. But keep in mind the obvious. Water damage can quickly do enough harm to the attic and your ceilings and rugs to justify the cost of professional services.