Roof Repair 101: Replacing a Broken Shingle

By far the most common type of roof repair is the replacement of cracked or broken shingles. This task is actually much easier than many people realize. Once you've learned a few simple techniques, you'll find that the hardest part of shingle replacement is simply getting on and off the ladder. If your roof is in need of work, read on. This article will provide a clear introduction to the art of replacing shingles.

The Tools

The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of tools to replace a shingle. That said, you will need all of the following:

  • an extension ladder long enough to reach the roof
  • a flat pry bar to help lift the shingle
  • a smaller bent pry bar to remove the nails
  • a hammer to replace the nails on the new shingle is in place
  • a tube of roofing adhesive to cover your nail heads (optional)

Removing the Old Shingle

For most people, this is by far the trickiest step of the entire process. The reason for that is simple: in order to remove a shingle, you must take out not one set of roofing nails but two. That's because the nails of the shingle above also penetrate the top portion of the damaged shingle. People who don't realize this often end up causing additional damage by attempting to force out the bad shingle.

Once you know this, removing the shingle couldn't be easier. First, use your pry bar to lift up the tabs of the shingle two rows above the broken one (these nails go through the top of the damaged shingle). Then use your small bent pry bar to pop the nail head out. Use your hammer's claw to remove the nail the rest of the way.

This same process must then be repeated on the nails under the shingle directly above the broken one (these nails go through the middle of the damaged shingle). Remember as well that a complete shingle is three tabs wide, and the nails must be removed from the entire thing. Double check that you haven't forgotten any. Then slide the damaged shingle out of place.

Putting in the New Shingle

Installing your new shingle is as simple as sliding it into place and nailing it down. Provided you were gentle during the removal process and the original nails are undamaged, you can simply use these to attach the new shingle. Otherwise you'll need to have on hand a few extra roofing nails, also known as clout nails.

At this point you're basically done. But if you want to go one step farther, you can use a tube of roofing adhesive to coat the nail heads, and fill in the gaps between the tabs. Though not strictly necessary, taking this precaution will help keep your new shingle from being pried up by high winds during storms.