The best thing to do if you have a serious problem with your roof is to call an experienced roofer who can assess the damage and make necessary repairs. However, sometimes a roofer is not available to immediately fix the problem. This is when a DIY roof repair can be justified. There are several methods of repairing a hole or leak to prevent more damage. Just keep in mind that any DIY roof repair is temporary, so be sure to call a professional as soon as possible.
If you notice a leak, you should take a few steps to prevent any more interior water damage before beginning a DIY roof repair. First try to locate where the water is coming in. If your attic is unfinished, it should be fairly easy to do, just look for drips and isolate where the leak is and mark that area with a pencil. Then measure from the leak to an identifying feature (such as a chimney, vent, or the ridge of the roof) so you can find it on the roof to make your DIY repair.
If your attic is not accessible and you see a wet spot on the ceiling, you can take a couple of steps to minimize the problem. First, poke a small hole through the drywall or ceiling finish to allow the water a clear path out of the ceiling. This will prevent your ceiling finish from bubbling and minimize the area of the wet spot. Of course you should put a bucket underneath any drips while you make the DIY repair.
Keep in mind that no DIY roof repair should be attempted if there is any question of safety involved. Don’t walk on a roof that you suspect to be structurally unsound and keep in mind that moisture can easily cause a fall. If these are concerns, it’s best to abandon your DIY roof repair aspirations and wait until a professional can come.
Once you have the general location of the leak identified, you can now do an emergency DIY roof repair. To begin, you should get on the roof and find the problem. If there are a few buckling or loose shingles at the source of the leak, you can make a quick repair with roofing cement. To begin, wipe the underside of the shingle and the felt paper to remove any debris and excess water. You must allow the area to dry before attempting to fix it, but once dry you can coat the underside of the shingle with roofing cement and press it into place to complete your DIY roof repair.
If it is cold when you attempt your DIY repair, you may have difficulty working with the shingles. Cold makes the shingles brittle, so consider using a hair dryer to warm the area and make the shingles more pliable. Then you should easily be able to make a DIY roof repair.
Often leaks are not between shingles, but occur near the flashing. Flashing can be repaired just like shingles: by using roofing cement. Make sure the area is dry and the flashing is in its proper location. Then fill in any cracks between the roof and flashing with roofing cement.
Sometimes the problem is too large to be corrected with roofing cement. In this case, adding a patch to the roof is the best option. Because this is temporary, your biggest concern should be that you have a patch that fully covers the source of the leak. Plywood is a great material for this type of patch. To apply a plywood patch, you should use double headed nails so they are easy to remove. Don’t worry about damaging your roof further during your DIY repair; you should be able to fill the resulting holes with roofing cement.
Applying a plywood patch is fairly self explanatory, but there are a few things to consider. First, water can cause the plywood to warp, so it is important to space the nails no more than 8 inches apart. Second, it is important to make sure that the plywood patch extends at least six inches beyond the source of the leak to be effective. And finally, you should try to only use one piece of plywood to address a single leak.
If you don’t have any plywood, or the area is too large for a plywood patch, you can use a tarp or other sheet of plastic to complete a DIY repair. Put the tarp over the hole and put strips of lath around the perimeter of the tarp. Nail through the lath and the tarp to secure your DIY patch until you can get a professional out to fix the problem.
A DIY roof repair isn’t ideal, but can often prevent lots of secondary damage in an emergency situation. Keep in mind that these patches are in no way permanent fixes, so your final step after completing any DIY roof repair is to call a contractor or roofer who can fix the problem.