DIY Roof Repair – Identifying Small Problems Before They Become Big Ones

DIY roof repair – Identifying roofing problems

A roof should be inspected yearly for signs of damage so that you can seal weak spots before water starts leaking into your living spaces. Here’s how to do a quick and effective inspection of your roof:

  1. Look for any tree branches leaning within about 6 feet of your roof. Severe weather conditions could bend those branches enough that they scrape the roof.
  2. Watch for stopped up gutters. When they fill up, they can cause what’s known as a “dam,” which will cause water to sit in one spot and not drain properly from the roof, leading to potential leaks as water seeps in under the shingles. This is worse in the winter when freezing water can cause serious damage if trapped in confined areas on your roof.
  3. In colder climates, watch out for “ice dams”. Ice dams occur when the gutter fills with water, which then freezes, causing water above the dam to sit stagnant, seeping under the shingles, through the roof, and into the house.
  4. Roofing usually shouldn’t come loose during heavy winds, so if it does, contact a local roofing contractor and have it inspected.
  5. Check the overall condition of your roof, or better yet, have it inspected regularly. Weird things can happen up there than you’re totally unaware of until they become major problems leading to leaks and costly repairs. WARNING: Do not walk on the roof unless you are certain of your safety! Avoid asphalt shingle roofs during very hot weather as you could scrape away the coating, reducing their effectiveness. Also avoid asphalt shingles when it’s very cold as your body weight could easily crack them.

Checking for other signs of trouble:

Mineral coating & cracking

The mineral coating on shingles or pieces if they’re breaking up could end up in your yard; keep an eye out for these and repair or reroof if it gets bad.

Shingle cupping

Cupping is a common problem with asphalt shingles and occurs when the adhesive holding the shingle down comes loose. Cupped shingles are easily damaged further in even moderate winds and allow water to infiltrate beneath, potentially damaging sheathing or the leaking into the house itself.

Wood shakes

Wood shakes may split due to freeze-thaw cycles or intense heat. Applying a sealer can remediate this for a period of time, however, once the shakes are damaged severely, they need to be replaced. Moss and black mildew are common cosmetic problems and can be removed with a 30/70 bleach water mixture or shake cleaner made specifically for that purpose.


Loose or missing counterflashing, which attaches to a vertical surface coming up out of the roof, can usually be reattached using roofing cement. Gaps between pieces of flashing can also be sealed with cement. A hole or small area of rust can be patched, but if rust appears throughout the flashing, it should be replaced. If the area is still leaking after repairs, contact a professional.

Water damage

Often, water damage doesn’t appear in the way you’d expect; that is water literally dripping from the ceiling. Rather, water seeps in slowly in most cases, causing unseen damage over long periods of time, leading to wood rot and mold build up. If it gets to the point that you have discoloration in your drywall, wood framing, or plaster, it’s absolutely time to call a roofing contractor to inspect the damage.

Between flashing and shingles

This is another problem area. Shingles must be tightly sealed where they meet metal flashing to prevent leaks. Sometimes these seals work loose and need a bit of TLC. They can usually be resealed easily using roofing cement and a caulking gun or with a trowel.

Hopefully we’ve given you enough to work with that you can identify small problems before they become big ones, and you can make some minor repairs yourself. In the event you get stuck or just aren’t sure what to do, contact a local roofing contractor; they almost always offer free inspections.

Chad Janish is the owner of The Roofing Annex, a Cincinnati area roofing contractor. Remember, always be careful and stay safe when working on your roof.