Your roof is one of the most vital parts of your home. If the roof leaks, the rest of the house will rot and fail before too long. Unfortunately, the odds are good that you’re going to have to repair a roof leak at some point in your life.
After all, replacing a roof can cost thousands if not tends of thousands of dollars. I don’t know about you, but I would rather go on an exotic vacation than pay for a new roof.
For most of us, unless the roof is very old, it is more cost efficient and easy enough to repair a roof leak ourselves. The hardest part is knowing what product is going to work in which spot and getting on the roof ourselves.
For those who like it simple, I’ve got a kit that will work on anything other than silicone roofing that should take care of simple cracks.
I’ll show you everything you need to know, from the roof coatings themselves to the safety equipment you will need to repair your roof easily and safely.
Roof Coatings Used To Repair A Roof Leak
Tar Based Roof Coatings
Tar based roof coatings are the cheapest option to repair a roof leak but they don’t last as long and they are messy to apply.
Popular and commonly found brands include Henrys, Roofers Choice, and Blackjack. Each contractor and handyman I’ve ever talked to has a favorite and their doesn’t seem to be a clear winner among them.
Really, it just comes down to personal preference on which to use.
Tar based roof coatings should be used almost exclusively on asphalt roofing, like a rolled roof or a shingle roof. These coatings should not be used to repair a roof leak on a metal roof because they don’t flex at the same rate which can result in cracks. There is nothing worse than using something to repair a roof leak and then having it crack soon after.
Henry's Wet Patch, Blackjack All Weather, and Roofers Choice Wet and Dry
Wet Patch formulas are all made for use at any time of year and in any weather. They can be put on to repair a roof leak in the cold and wet just as easily as when its warm and dry. You can find these formulas just about anywhere for only a few dollars and in multiple sizes, from quart to 5 gallon buckets.
Henrys Roll Roofing and Blackjack Roll Roofing Adhesive
Roll roof adhesive formulas are always on the shelf next to the roof repair coatings but they are very different in their usage. These are not used to repair a roof leak but instead to install rolled roofing.
To install this type of roof, you spread the adhesive over the roof deck with a paint roller or mop and roll the roofing out over the top. DO NOT use either of these formulas to repair a roof leak if you want it to last.
Henrys Fibered Black and Blackjack Roof & Foundation Coating
Reflective Roof Coatings
If you are working on the energy efficiency of your home, you should look into using a reflective roof coating. While these aren’t necessarily used to repair a roof leak, they are handy to know about and they are fairly similar to other roof coatings.
Popular and commonly found brands are incredibly varied. You’ll find the same brands that make the asphalt roof coatings as well as Snow Roof, Rustoleum, and Kool Seal, just to name a few.
Reflective roof coatings can all be rolled or brushed on since they’re thinner. I usually recommend sort of dumping them out and then rolling them though. But that’s just a more efficient way to do it.
Aluminum Roof Coatings
Aluminum roof coatings are just what they sound like. These coatings a thin, pourable coatings that have aluminum in them to make them highly reflective.
Aluminum roof coatings are all silver and most help seal hairline cracks as well as make your roof reflective.
DO NOT ask the paint department to shake these coatings since they all tend to be…explosive…when shaken to strongly.
White Reflective Roof Coatings
If you don’t want a roof that looks like a new quarter, check out a white reflective roof coating. These coatings work exactly the same as the aluminum coatings but they are a white color, which tends to go over better with the neighbors across the street. Both will make your home more energy efficient by reflecting the sun and keeping your attic cooler.
Elastomeric Roof Coatings
Elastomeric coatings are a better way to repair a roof leak than tar based coatings. Not only are they more effective on a shingle, or any asphalt roof, but they are also more appropriate for flat roofs, membrane roofs, or metal roofs.
These coatings are usually two part systems: a primer coat and a top coat. Once you apply the primer coat underneath the first coat, you can do any further repairs with just the top coat as long as the primer coat is in good shape.
Elastomeric roof coatings are typically a better way to repair a roof leak because they are more flexible than a tar based coating. If you use these, try not to cover the edges and junctions of the shingles. Once the shingle laps are covered, the roof can’t flex as much and the shingle edges can curl up.
Elastomeric coatings should NEVER be applied if it is under 50 degrees or if it may rain in the next 24-48 hours. If it’s too cold, the coating cannot adhere well enough to repair a roof leak.
If it rains before the coating is cured, the coating will just get washed off. There are even some companies that won’t ship these coatings to areas that are too cold.
Elastomeric roof coatings are thin enough that you can easily pour them onto the roof and then brush them or roll them on like you would paint a wall. These coatings do need to be mixed up before you apply them.
You can purchase a large paddle that you hook to the drill or you can ask the paint department for a couple of large stir sticks.
You also need to make sure that your roof is clean before you apply these coatings to repair a roof leak. I usually suggest a bucket of water, a good roof cleaner, a scrub brush on a handle, and a garden hose. You don’t have to be perfect, just good enough.
Silicone Roof Coatings
Silicone roof coatings, in my humble opinion, are the duct tape of roof coatings. They will go on any roof surface, at any time, and in any weather, without caring. They come in a variety of colors that allow you to customize in order to match your roof.
Silicone coatings are also incredibly flexible and have some of the best warranties on the market. One thing to know is that these coatings do not allow any other type of coating to be put on top of them so you have to continue using silicone.
They are also the most expensive but they are well worth every penny. If you want to repair a roof leak and not have to worry about it for multiple decades, you want a silicone roof coating.
As I’ve already said, silicone coatings are not picky about the conditions when you put them on. If your roof is clean when you put them on, they will stick and they will last. Most of the silicone coatings will actually set up just find even if you are putting them on under pools of water.
These coatings are thicker than most other coatings so you’re going to need to apply them differently. To repair a roof leak with one of these coatings, I usually use a cheap foam brush.
Don’t plan on washing your brush and keeping it. These coatings are too thick for a roller to work well with.
My favorite way to apply these coatings is with a caulking gun. In case you have other preferences, you can typically find these formulas in anything from a caulking tube to a 5 gallon bucket.
The other nice part is that, if you do it right, you usually only need a single coating in order to repair a roof leak.
Shingles To Repair A Roof Leak
If your problem is larger than a crack in a few shingles, a broken vent flashing, or a hairline crack between roofs, you may need to replace a few shingles in order to repair a roof leak.
You can usually purchase single shingles from the home improvement store rather than full bundles. Just ask at their project desk if that’s something your store does.
To replace a few shingles in the middle of the roof field, you’re going to need a special piece of equipment knowing as a roof snake. This tool lets you slide a shingle up underneath the rest and nail it on without damaging the top shingle.
It is VITAL that you don’t damage the top shingle trying to replace another. When you do replace shingles in the middle of the field, make sure than any new roof fasteners are covered by the shingles on top to keep them from rusting and causing more roof leaks.
Just in case the shingles on top don’t cover the new fasteners, have some roof coating handy to cover them with that.
Besides the classic asphalt shingle, you can also use metal shingles in order to repair a roof leak. These are flat, thin, and inexpensive pieces of metal that come in multiple sizes. Fun fact, I’ve also patched a hole in my floor with one of these to keep the rodents out. Who knew?!
Typically, you will find metal shingles in sizes that are smaller than a piece of letter size printer paper. These shingles are attached just like asphalt shingles, with roofing nails and some extra roof coating. Just make sure, again, to use a roof snake in order to prevent any damage to the top shingles.
Be aware, the EDGES ARE VERY SHARP, and they can easily cut you badly if you aren’t careful. When in doubt, pull out some thick work gloves to protect your hands.
Fasteners To Repair A Roof Leak
When you are trying to repair a roof leak, you will need to look for a couple major types of roofing fasteners. The first, and most commonly used, are roofing nails. Roofing nails have a large, flat head and are electrogalvanized.
The electrogalvanization makes these fasteners shiny and slightly weather resistant. However, these fasteners still need a suitable roof coating to protect them from the weather. These fasteners are perfect for asphalt shingles and rolled asphalt roofing.
If you need a fastener to repair a roof leak in metal roofing, you will probably want something with a rubber or neoprene washer behind the head. These fasteners usually have a hex head that drives with a socket.
Because of the large head, I wouldn’t suggest these fasteners on an asphalt roofing since they will damage the top shingles. Make sure that if you are using these fasteners to repair a roof leak, you get the correct one for your project. Get the one to fasten to wood or to metal, depending on the substructure of your roof.
Your roof is vital to the overall health of your home. If you have any roof damage, you can always replace your roof. But replacing your roof is incredibly expensive and you can frequently repair a roof leak with just a little know how and elbow grease.
There are a ton of materials that you can use to help you do this. Choose the right roof coating if you have a small leak. Make sure that the roof coating you choose can go on at that time and do the work on the type of roof that you have.
You also need to make sure that you choose something that will last as long as you want it. Don’t cheap out on the roof coating and expect it to last a lifetime. If a roof coating isn’t enough to repair a roof leak, look into a few replacement shingles whether they’re asphalt or metal.
Just make sure to tack these replacement shingles on with the right fastener and gently in order to prevent damaging other shingles. Hopefully, the next time you repair a roof leak, it goes smoothly for you.