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How to Fix and Replace Roof Shingles

Asphalt Shingle or Composition Roofing Repair Made Easy

© 2013 by Michael David; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

An asphalt shingle roof in disrepair; photo courtesy Dale Mahalko

An asphalt shingle roof in disrepair; photo courtesy Dale Mahalko

This article was updated on 08/12/20.

While many homeowners prefer to hire a roofing contractor to take care of everything related to the roof, many things can be done on a DIY basis with tools you already have. We're going to discuss how to fix roof shingles in this article in a step-by-step way.

Workplace Safety

As with any project, the first step to take is ensuring your safety. Working on the roof poses extra dangers that you wouldn’t usually face. Only work on your roof if you feel comfortable doing so.

Make sure that it is dry and not wet or icy. It is recommended to perform annual inspection and roof maintenance before common winter roofing problems set in. Also, low wind conditions are better to work in and much safer than high wind.

Anchor yourself to the roof with a safety harness attached to a stable chimney. Also ensure that your ladder is securely attached to your roof in at least two places. Once these safety precautions have been taken, you are ready to get started.

Perform a Roof Inspection

When you are inspecting your asphalt or composition shingles, there are a few signs that you will need to look for. If you see shingles that are either curling up or curling down, those will need to be repaired.

Cracked shingles can also be temporarily fixed. Sporadic spots of missing, or obviously broken shingles, can and should be replaced. However, if you notice that your roof has extensive damage, you may need a professional roofer repair the damage. Rotten shingles can be a sign of bigger damage that you’ll also want a professional to further investigate.

To find a dependable local contractor I recommend that you first talk to your neighbors to ask for recommendations. It's really true what they say about word of mouth being the best form of advertising. Good contractors know this. In my area we have a web-based bulletin board called where these kind of inquiries go on all the time. I'm a DIY type of guy but I have used it to find a really good tree and stump removal expert.

Look for Curling Edges

Curled shingles are best to repair on a warm day when the shingles will be more pliable. On the underside of the curled shingle, apply a small amount of roofing sealant or roofing cement with a caulking gun.

Flatten the shingle and press it down. Use a brick to keep it flat and weighed down for at least 24 hours. Again, this fix is not for a windy or rainy day.


Cracked shingles are another fairly easy fix. Use the cement sealant with the caulking gun on the underside of the crack and then on top of the crack and press it together. Keep track of this shingle for any further signs of damage.

Missing or Heavily Damaged?

Replacing missing or heavily damaged shingles can be a more daunting task but is definitely possible for beginners. The most important thing to remember when replacing your shingles is that you must nail the new shingle down correctly.

If you do not put the nail in the correct place or if you put the nail in incorrectly, it will cause you even more grief in the future. Personally, I do not recommend staples that some contractors use.

Shingle Removal

The first task is removing the damaged shingle. The shingle will most likely have eight nails in it, although it is possible that it could have twelve. You will need to take off the top shingles first.

With a pry bar, lift up the top shingle so you can access the top row of nails. Gently pry them up and out of the shingles. Then do the same with the bottom row of nails. You should be able to slide the damaged shingle out of its place.

Nail it Down

Next, take your new shingle and slide it where the old shingle was. You will need to hammer in the lower row of nails first. On your shingle there should be an obvious tar line.

This is where the nails will go. If you put them higher than the line, your shingle is more likely to be damaged by wind or allow rain to get into your roof. Work from left to right to put your nails in. Try to get them as straight as possible so that you don’t damage your shingles.

It is also important that you use nails that are specifically for roofing shingles. Normal nails will rust and not hold the shingles in place. Once the nails are in place, put a small amount of the sealant on top to secure them just a little bit more and as a guard against moisture.

Now that you know how to fix and replace roof shingles it's time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. You wouldn't have been reading this article if your roof didn't have issues, right?

About the Author:

Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics.

Visit Kelly's profile on Pinterest.

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Photo of Kelly R. Smith and Frankie, Southern Black Mouth CurKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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