Before winter's bad weather can catch up to you, if you're having any problems with your roof, this is the time to get those repairs out of the way.
Even when your shingles appear to be holding their own up there, you could have problems with flashings, attic and plumbing vents, and other penetrations into the house that can allow water to enter, creating the potential for big problems down the road.
Repairs begin with an inspection, both inside and outside. You or a qualified, licensed roofing contractor should do a thorough inspection of the roof to examine the condition of several key areas. Look at the attic vents to see if there's any evidence of cracking, loose or torn screens, loose fasteners or other problems.
Examine plumbing vents for worn, loose, cracked or brittle seals around pipes. Check flashings around chimneys, wood stove flues, siding intersections, skylights and other areas for evidence of loose fasteners, bending, denting, water leaks, or other issues that need to be taken care of.
From inside the attic, look for water staining on the rafters, ceiling joists and roof sheathing that might indicate a possible leak. Also look for areas of insulation that appear crusty on top, or that are flattened out or depressed, indicating that water has been dripping there.
If you spot something, remember that the water leak may not be directly overhead. With roof leaks, water often runs down at an angle from above, so you may have to do a little detective work to trace the leak back to its origin.
Roof vent and plumbing vent replacement
If you find an attic vent that needs to be replaced, first locate a replacement one of the same size. That will help you avoid having to make any changes to the size of the hole that's already existing in the roof sheathing.
Working from the bottom up, carefully work a flat pry bar between the shingles around the vent to break the tar seal between them. Very carefully -- and this is best done when the shingles are warm -- lift the upper shingles to expose the nails or staples holding them in place over the vent. Remove the fasteners with your pry bar. Be careful not to bend the shingle too far or you'll snap it
When you've exposed the roof vent, you can remove the fasteners that hold it in place and slip it out of position. Install the new vent, and fasten it down with new roofing nails. Reverse the procedure to reinstall the old shingles. To avoid the possibility of additional damage from your hammer, it's better to use an air-driven nailer or stapler instead of hand-driven nails.
To ensure a good seal, apply a few dabs of roofing cement to the underside of the upper shingle and press it carefully and firmly down onto the new shingle.
Plumbing vents are replaced in much the same manner, except for the fact that you have to slip the vent up and off the pipe.
In some cases this is easy to do, in other cases you may have to cut the pipe in the attic, pull it down through the plumbing vent, replace the old plumbing vent with a new one, and then reinstall the pipe. The pipe can be reattached in the attic with a coupling.
Flashings rarely need to be replaced unless they've been damaged, such as by a falling tree limb or other impact. Typically, they need only to be refastened and resealed. You can fasten flashings using wide-headed roofing nails, or roofing screws with a washer underneath. Don't simply drive existing fasteners back into existing holes, as they'll just come loose again.
After the flashings have been resecured, seal them with a flashing sealant approved for that use. Flashing sealants are available in caulking tubes, and are easy to apply with a standard caulking gun.
New nailer simplifies roof repairs
If you have a lot of roof repairs to do, or if you're a roofing contractor or handyman who's often faced with roof repair situations, Duo-Fast recently introduced the Cordless Roofing Coil Nailer (Model DFCR175C, $459) that really makes life easier.
It operates on a combination of a battery and a fuel cell, and drives 1 1/4- to 1 3/4-inch roofing nails without a compressor and hose.
The nailer weighs just 7.5 pounds, and will drive about 900 nails on a fuel cell. Simply slip in the fuel cell and a charged battery, put in a coil of nails, and you're ready to go. For improved convenience and safety on the roof, the complete kit also includes a backpack that carries the nailer, nails, battery and fuel cell.