Seattle area roofs: repair, re-roofing or roof replacement?

What do roofing experts say about repairing an asphalt shingle roof?

Seattle area storms take their toll on  asphalt shingle roofs. Perhaps your roof was recently damaged and now you are asking the question: what is the best way to repair a shingle roof? We asked a handful of roofing experts the same question.

For more roofing facts and information please see our Seattle area roofing FAQ

If the roof is fairly new and the damage is limited it is probably OK to patch the damaged area.  But what to do if the roof is old?

Asphalt roofing shingles have an important feature for wind resistance.

Asphalt roofing shingles have an important feature for wind resistance.

Most asphalt shingles have an adhesive strip at or near the area where the shingle is fastened to the roof deck.  Over time this adhesive deteriorates and eventually fails.  During a Seattle “high-wind event” the shingles can come loose and break; see picture. Even though the damage is in a limited area it is an indication that the roof “system” has failed.

Effective repairs may mean replacing a bit more roofing to restore the integrity of the system

Effective repairs may mean replacing a bit more roofing to restore the integrity of the system

If this is the case, the roof cannot be effectively “spot” repaired; as one expert mentions, it is like “Putting a Band-Aid on something that really needs stitches.” When trying to fix, the technician will break the adhesive strip and most likely damage the shingles around the area.  In these cases it would be prudent to replace all the shingles upwards and outward to the next “break” in the roof (see drawing; hip; valley; ridge; and\or exterior wall intersection)

At this point it would be good to ask yourself the question, “Will this be throwing good money after bad?” As mentioned earlier, the roof system has failed!  Common sense would dictate considering replacing the roof; Seattle area wind events WILL cause more damage in the future.

You do not have to take my word for it; I put this question out to 3 roofing groups on LinkedIn…

Please relate the pros and cons (your opinion) of doing a repair to an asphalt shingle roof. Should repairs include going to breaks in the roof (valleys, walls, hips & ridges) instead of a patch?

Cliff the Roofer Hurn Roofing Consultant

 and got the following responses…one from as far away as Sweden; obviously this is not just a problem in Seattle

 John Kenney  Vice President of Sales and Estimating SUTTER ROOFING OF SW FLORIDA

If the homeowner still demands cheap quick fixes, after you have demonstrated to them the proper method of performing the repair, tell them thank you but you cannot do work that is not up to standards and move on. They will still come back at you when it does not work and ultimately it will affect your reputation.

 guy schembri President / Weathertight Roofing Inc Los Angeles

Whatever you mean by a patch. Most problems with asphalt shingle roofs occur in these areas needing repair. It must be taken apart replacing shingles as needed correcting installation defects. Yes! It must be done properly, instead of just trying to mastic over it, (a patch). If that is what you mean by a patch. Mastic only, that may possibly solve the problem for a few months or so. Not what I consider a professional.

 Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

So right Guy. You also have to be honest with the homeowner or property manager. Some repairs can turn into nightmares. If the shingle is too old and the field around it is in bad shape as well a mastic patch is futile and replacing shingles only causes damage to the shingles nearby, causing more leaks.

 Kevin MacLeod Roofing Contractor Halifax, Canada

Agreeing with Guy S. & Kenny G. who both make excellent points. All repairs are considered different, their cause & effect varying too. How one properly completes the repair should be determined on how well it was addressed & whether it was successful at achieving the desired results. Repairs need to be thoroughly assessed, homeowners well educated on not only their issue of concern but their options as well. A professional would offer his best in all situations under any circumstance, working with the homeowner & not against.

 Ron Snouffer R-3 Consulting Dallas/Fort Worth

You can generally find someone to do a repair to Asphalt shingles the problem comes in after their taillights have gone. Your warranty generally goes with them. Like Kenny said some repairs turn into nightmares. Even when told up front the repair is only a temporary solution. Repairs can be quick money but they can also be a money pit.

 Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

I learned the hard way Ron..ha! In commercial roofing we go out to look at a lot of properties that the roofs are in such bad shape, and the property managers, or owners, only want to “fix the leak”… It’s impossible. I know better now that it is better to walk away from that “fast money” or just be up front and say, ok, I’ll patch your roof, but NO warranty… I get quizzical looks and shown the door…I am better off in the long run..

 Ron Snouffer R-3 Consulting Dallas/Fort Worth

Kenny if only everyone would walk away the industry would be better off. Too many guys are cash strapped so they will do the quick fix and it makes the good contractors look bad.
Best advice to property owners.
Remember the most expensive roof is the one you have to do twice.

 Martin Stout Roofer Go Roof Tune Up, Inc. Los Angeles

Cliff If the shingles are not worn out then “patching in” replacement ones is the best approach. Done right no problem with giving a warranty. If the shingles are worn out then……

 Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

I don’t know, Ron. I have seen some wildly imaginative “repairs” out there that had to have taken, whoever did the job, hours of hard work. It’s like the guy thought he was honestly fixing the problem. Fast money is one thing, but some of these “roofers” are just not too bright. I don’t say that to be mean or to put anyone down, but the practice of some individuals who claim they can repair a 30 year old roof with mastic and some fabric is beyond me and reflects on those of us who actually do care about doing the job right. The first time. And Martin, you are also correct. If the roof is in reasonable shape then a field repair is called for and the right choice. I have recently done some repairs on some shingle roofs in a condo complex where the shingles are just beyond help. There’s no ventilation on the top side. and the shingles have just dried and broken apart. I did the repair with the understanding that this was a temporary fix and would probably cause more problems than solve. No warranty was given. I didn’t try to overcharge them, cause I knew I’d be back. In this case to replace the roof and I also landed the contract for the entire complex. People still do appreciate honesty.

 guy schembri President / Weathertight Roofing Inc SUTTER ROOFING OF SW FLORIDA

Actually Ron,
I find most mickey mouse repairs are done by others, not professional roofers. The one’s to blame in my view are the cheap property managers and commercial building owners. I know, I have many 30 year + clients that just seem to ignore my advice to replace their roofs. Some have well exceeded 5 years since my first evaluation to replace.
If the shingles on a residence are to worn, you would be foolish to attempt a repair. There are too many other options available to residential owners for replacement.
But honestly in both cases all you can do is give the client the truth and it is their own decision.

 Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

So right Guy. I know exactly how you feel and how exasperating it can be to deal with a property manager like that…Whew… ha!.

 Pete Curtis Owner at Mountain Peak Home Improvements Omaha Area

I find it necessary to patch a few roofs every year – until weather permits a replacement of all or part of the roof. When storms reveal or cause leaks, getting out there to stop the leak keeps the homeowner and uncle ROI happy.

 Wallace S. Fulton III Senior Estimator at Crowther Roofing & Sheet Metal of Florida, Inc.

Cliff, it appears they missed your point – yes you can weave in new shingles in any size and shape of repair area or “patch” required but it is only prudent if you know this will solve the problem due to insufficient head lap (roofer got off his lines), or abandoned penetration, etc. But be careful, old brittle shingles can be a nightmare. This condition may mean you have to go from transition to transition (hip to hip, valley to gable, etc.)

 Cully Cangelosi Owner at Cangelosi Roofing Houma, Louisiana

A lot stems from your asking,
What is the condition of your shingles, flashing, decking. If the answer is bad. Then yes you need a roof replacement. You will spend more money and time doing repairs than what the roof is worth and needs replacement.
A repair is a cost effective way of extending your roofs life expectancy for any future problems.
But, please keep in mind. What is the condition of your shingles, flashing, decking.
Hope this helps.
Also keep in mind if flashing needs to be replaced. Such as wall or apron flashing. The cost goes up. This is due to siding will need to be removed and in most cases replaced.
I suggest footing the bill and installing copper flashing, as you will never have a problem with it rusting or deteriorating and also always using the same roofing contractor for all your roof installs and repairs.
A good contractor will keep info on file about your roof for the future.
Find a good roofing contractor will save time and money.
We have started a preventive maintenance program. After our workmanship warranty has expired which is 5 years. You pay a small fee on a yearly basis and we will perform general repairs and maintenance on your roof for the year.
This has saved our customers thousands of dollars, because they have caught a roof issue before it became a more problematic problem. Sheetrock damage, painting, wood floor damage etc.
Hope this helps.

 Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

Depends on a lot of things. If the leak is in the field and the shingles are old and dry rotted and cracked, trying to patch in the field is futile.(You tend to crack and break more shingles as you repair) Newer shingles can be replaced, but older ones mean trouble. I always try to go in to the attic to chase a leak in the field and check the condition of the decking.. Nail pops are obvious and can be readily treated. Leaks in valleys and walls are tougher and harder to find the source, unless obvious on the roof. But as far as expanding the repair to a break that seems a little bit overkill to me

Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

Like I said, depends on a lot of things….I’ve done hail claims where the adjuster wanted to pay to repair just the “affected” shingles….and small areas. That don’t cut it.. There is, or was, a clause in policies that said replace to match and that means entire slopes instead of just one area or a few shingles. That might not be very informative nor on point, but there are a lot of factors that I examine before I make a decision to repair. Blown off shingles I will fight adjusters to pay for the entire roof due to loss of shingle integrity…That help?

Chuck McKenna Shay Roofing Columbia Manager Columbia, Missouri

Unfortunately it costs $10,000 for a new roof, even on a modest sized house these days, which means the average guy has to have an insurance claim or refinance the building.

Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

Well, 6 to 8k on a modest house, but that’s still a lot of money. However, the roof does cover the contents and residents of the building and if refinancing is an option it should be taken literally and very seriously.

pedro julian Codes & Standards at building Products of Canada Montreal, Canada

Like many things in life there is no straight answer. Sometimes a small repair is the correct solution. As a general rule the repair should be in sections where roof separations occur. This way the differences in the age of the products is less noticeable.

Chuck McKenna Shay Roofing Columbia Manager Columbia, Missouri

My point is, the roof has to match the business needs of the property, even in the shingle world.
Sometimes even on rental property they plan to keep, they may have to buy the south facing slopes, and then the north facing slopes as they raise the money. It may be best to use a really common colored, blended shingle in those situations.
Sometimes we have to be really creative to help a customer. Multiple property owners still make the decisions based on the merits of each building.

Luke Vermeulen Owner, LukArl & Associates, Inc. Building Envelope & OSHA Construction Issues Consultant Dallas/Fort Worth

“Patching” of existing damaged shingles should only be considered as a temporary repair at best. In the blow off scenario that you have described, as Kenny and Pedro have pointed out, can get dicey depending on the age and condition of the adjacent shingles.
I think that Chuck has hit on the prudent thought pattern. The homeowner is the customer, if they don’t want to do it right, that is their decision. What you have to do is help them understand the Pluses & Minuses of their decision. I like to give my clients the options, explain the advantages and disadvantages to each and let them take it from there.
That said, don’t let them paint you into a corner and ask for you to warranty something that you don’t feel comfortable doing. Make your proposal clear as to what you are doing and what is covered under your warranty (if you give one at all). If all the client wants is for you to put some lipstick on a pig – they need to know that what they will end up with is still a pig.

Kjell Birnbach VD på Montak Vastra Gotaland County, Sweden

Who is the professional? Can you leave a warranty on a patch? If the patch leaks will you fix it for free?

Luke Vermeulen Owner, LukArl & Associates, Inc. Building Envelope & OSHA Construction Issues Consultant Dallas/Fort Worth

In the US – generally a “Professional” is anyone who gets paid for doing work. So there are obviously varying levels of “professionals.”
Many roofers do warranty their patches/repairs. But only that the patch will not fail, not that the material around the patch won’t fail. And in flat roofing, many times the patch might stop the water for a time, but only until it finds another way in.
When I was contracting and one of my patches leaked I fixed it no charge. (but only if it was within my warranty period – usually 1-2 years) One has to also ask was the patch meant as a permanent repair or as a temporary. Permanent – it gets a warranty. Temporary – all bets are off, there is no warranty. Temporary patches are usually installed to just stop or slow the water flow until a permanent repair can be performed. Sometimes temporaries are done because the owner doesn’t want to spend the money required to pay for a permanent repair. “Putting a Band-Aid on something that really needs stitches.”

Chuck McKenna Shay Roofing Columbia Manager Columbia, Missouri

Ultimately, you use a warranty, however it is written, to define and limit your liability in writing. That’s why you provide it rather than have them write it, or have them think they have some implied guarantee. Although patching is sometimes a good thing, you have to be careful because you can be branded as incompetent and make enemies, even though your particular patch never leaked.
Patches and repairs can be profitable, and also a valuable extension of the sales department, but you have to pay attention, even for shingle work.

Kenny Glover marketing manager at crc llp Houston, Texas

As someone once drilled into me, it’s not the jobs you take sometimes, but the ones you turn down that can make a difference in the success of your business.

Dean Doboszenski Professional Roof Technician, Highly Skilled Leak Investigation and Evaluations for building maintenance and repair Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Interesting question Cliff,
It’s been my experience that when it comes to repairing shingles, there are a lot of “that depends on…..” issues. Age of the roof? Performance of the system i.e., ventilation/insulation where applicable.
In my honest opinion, most any shingled roof can be spot repaired to perform as designed but it takes a skilled technician with patience and a complete understanding of the materials he/she is working with to make a solid repair without a call back. It has been my experience that if there is a problem that requires more than a simple spot repair, then it usually means there is an internal or product issue that contributes to the bigger picture and therefore, a small repair is a waste of money and time.
The question that comes to mind for me is when it comes to the assessment of the problem, “What do you :NEED to do to solve the problem?” If you NEED to go from hip to valley to solve the problem, then is there something else going on that needs to be addressed? Solve the problem without going overboard and you’ll have a customer and referrals for a very long time. Make a best guess and go overboard to cover your rear and most likely you’ll make some money, but you’ll have to go find more work.

Jens Palau Red Seal Roofing Technician Edmonton, Canada

Dean: yes you are absolutely right with your assumption towards my previous comment. Why spend a lot of money on a roof repair when your roofing materials nearly at the end of their life. A patch job will only hold for so long, until you have to do an expensive repair or replace the roof. Also, I always find it hard to match shingles that were put on roofs 20 years ago, trough changes in style and coloration.

Russ Hayes Small Business Marketing Consultant Denver Area

A repair should include whatever it takes to do the job right. If the home owner is looking for anything less then walk away, seriously.

Pete Curtis Owner at Mountain Peak Home Improvements Omaha Area

“Patching” a roof can open you to liabilities which could murder Uncle Roi in his sleep. I do patch leaks – after I have a signed contract to install a new roof.

Gustavo CastilloRoofing at Wortham Bros Inc Dallas/Fort Worth

I do not get involved on partial re roofing, I have talked to one of the All state adjustors and he said that they are instructed to not to cover all of the roofs they have to report every section of the roof with photos and areas damaged, and this leads to do only partial re roof most of the time. I had already spent 6 months on one job trying to get the roof cover and I am not going to do this again. Home owners need to do a lot of searching when looking for good insurance company.

I have talked to a few people in the roofing business and rather to be a regular practice, it is something that the 3 major insurance companies are doing to their customers and they are getting as bad as Safeco. But it will compromise the shingle sealant if a partial roof is replaced and not to mention some other problems that are part of doing just a partial re roof.

Jake DempseyPartner at Diversified Construction and Coatings Seattle Area

I dealt with a roof that started out at a $1k repair. It was a complete mess, and in the end, after fighting with a insurance company, getting a new adjuster out, and having a conversation about how it doesn’t work to break the seal on the roofing material to “repair a spot”, and how it compromised the integrity of the roof, they decided it would be best to buy the roof and not have another claim in the near future.

In some states, you, as a contractor can represent the homeowner when you talk with the insurance company and you can wrestle back and forth to help come to a good conclusion. In other states, it is law that only the homeowner, or a public adjuster, can talk with the insurance company about the claim.

There are a few problems that cause this phenomena:

1. Like the adjuster said… There are other contractors that are willing to do the work when they decide that a repair is all it will take and they only buy a side. These guys screw it up for everyone.
2. In some parts of the country where storms are prevalent, roofs get hit once every 10 years or so. People are used to getting new roofs and contractors beating down their doors if one rolls through. Insurance companies HATE paying for these roofs. They are instructed to pay as little as possible when they make their initial call to the site. which results in the above issue.
3. Some contractors have learned how to play the game and they go for broke… They try and blow up every claim and when legitimate repairs come along they figure they will give it a shot… after a while, the insurance companies buckle down and #1 results.
4. Not all cities permit roofs. If they would adopt local permitting processes for replacing a roof and demand that the roof be replaced according to code and manufacturer specifications, then the insurance companies would be forced to pay more. Even if it is “code”, many insurance companies try not to pay, if the local municipality is not enforcing code.

Scott LawrenceOwner, AquaDuct Roof & Gutters Colorado Springs, Colorado

Happens in Colorado. The most recent case involved our wildfire in Black Forest near Colorado Springs. The insurance company wanted to do scorched right end of the hip style house. Fine. They also wanted to do only the fire-side of a dormer on the rear of the home. (Are you following?) That meant, since it was a dormer with a closed valley, that the dormer shingles were laid under the main field of the rear face. I was expected to remove the shingles that crossed the valley from beneath the overlapping main field shingles and then (of course) guarantee the installation to the homeowner. I should add this: the existing roof was about 10 years old and the entire roof was exposed to the intense heat of a forest fire, and that only God and brave firemen had prevented from becoming a smoldering pile of ashes entirely…like the house across the street, and the one next door.

“This is bad roof practice. I need the main field and the other side of the dormer,” says I.
“We have plenty of roofers that will do it our way,” said the adjuster.
“Good for you. They’re fools. Hope that works out.”

End of the story? I found out later that the General Contractor, who sadly had his own roofer, got the whole roof bought, and of course got to tag GL Overhead and Profit on the top of that as well. The insurance might have quit while they were ahead. I suppose I “lost”, but at least I didn’t buy into a disaster ordered by an ignorant insurance company.

Stand your ground…you serve your customers first, and protect yourself as well.

See Sharp Roofing for your Seattle roof replacement needs. Call us today for a Free Estimate or Roof Inspection (206) 367-7663 or fill out our contact form here.