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Patch Up Your Roof Before Winter Comes

by Gabby Hyman
Repair-Home.com Columnist

Fixing a hole where the rain comes in can definitely keep your mind from wandering. Now, before the first showers of autumn, is a great time to replace loose shingles or patch spots where your roof leaks. Repairing a roof is not exactly a home-improvement project; it's a damage-prevention necessity. If you need to call in a roofing contractor, do it now, before your kitchen floor is a clutter of pots and pans sputtering with droplets.

There are some absolute precautions if you're doing the work yourself. Do all your roof repairs in dry weather, on a dry roof surface. Wear shoes with good traction, preferably with rubber soles. Always have someone hold your ladder, whether you're climbing up or down, or working from a stationary position.

Speak with a home-improvement store roofing specialist or contractor about using safety ropes. If you can afford to buy one, use a ladder hook. They fit over the ridge of the roof and allow you to safely walk on the surface without stepping on damaged shingles.

Repairing Shingled Roofs

Most roof leaks are caused by improper installation or defective valleys, aprons, and other flashings. If your roof has shingles, repair work sometimes can be simple. Start by looking at the valleys between surfaces of shingles. Water always seeks out runoff channels like these.

You'll probably find leaks wherever shingles are warped, cracked, or curled back off the roof surface. Pry out about a three-foot rectangle of shingles from the center of the trouble spot, using a crowbar. Glue back the shingles or add new ones, using asphalt roof cement. Roofing compounds are great for patching cracks or holes left from nails that are missing.

Water takes the path of least resistance, which may mean that a damaged or crinkled shingle is the entry point and a symptom, while the actual leak into your home can be elsewhere on the roof's surface.

You may ultimately need to bring in a roofing contractor if you can't easily spot the leaks. Contractors use infrared detectors to find differences in temperatures across a roofing surface--a telltale sign of leakage. While waiting for a contractor, you can temporarily cover a large area of your roof with Visqueen, tacked down with roofing nails or held in place with bricks.

If you don't have a leaky roof, congratulations! But make sure it stays that way. Consider gutter maintenance and cleaning as a wise home-improvement project this fall.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.