How to Repair an Asphalt Shingle Roof in 6 Steps

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated January 31, 2022
blue house with asphalt shingle roof
Photo: Rattanachat / Adobe Stock

You may only need to replace a single shingle—hey, that rhymes

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If a nasty storm recently passed and you’ve spotted damage to some of the shingles on your roof, don’t panic. Fortunately, while you’ll need to resolve the situation sooner rather than later, the job likely won’t require you to replace your roof. In fact, if you’re handy, you can probably replace an asphalt shingle yourself.

Learn how to assess the damage and get your roof back in tip-top shape with these six steps.

Difficulty: 3/5 

Time: 1 to 4 hours

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Hammer

  • Flat ply bar

  • Hook blade

  • Ladder

  • New roof shingles

  • 1¼ inch roofing nails

  • Roof sealant

1. Inspect the Damage

Assess the shingle situation before climbing onto your roof. That way, you can determine how many replacement shingles to order and what supplies you’ll need to complete the job. Contact a local roofing repair specialist if the project is out of your wheelhouse.

Situations that warrant shingle replacement include:

  • High winds that knocked shingles off 

  • Tree branches or other debris lying on the roof

  • Your roof is leaking water into your home

  • Shingles are hanging off your roof or curled back

If you have a pair of binoculars, they can help you spot damaged shingles from the ground. If action is warranted, prepare to make repairs fast. The dangers of a leaky roof can be costly if left unresolved.

2. Get Replacement Shingles

man installing asphalt shingles panels to roof
Photo: bildlove / Adobe Stock

Once you’ve identified the roof area that needs repairing, check to see whether you have replacement shingles at home before buying new ones. When roofers install new roofs, they  often leave behind extra shingles. Check your basement, garage, or other storage areas to find leftover shingles from your roofing contractor.

If not, home improvement stores and lumber centers carry replacement asphalt shingles. They cost an average of $15 to $20 per bundle.

Mix and Match Shingles 

If you need a specific type of shingle for your roof or it’s more than a few years old, you may have difficulty ordering shingles that perfectly match the current ones. If you live in a sunny area, the sun will bleach your shingles over time, causing the color to change. If your roof has an algae stain, the new unstained shingles will stand out among the rest.

If you’re having trouble matching shingles, consider un-installing shingles from one of the less visible parts of your roof (the back or near the chimney, for example) and moving them into the more visible area. Then, you can install the new shingles that are slightly off-color in the less-visible area. Keep in mind that this process will add at least an hour or two to your project time.

3. Break the Old Shingle Free

Before getting on the roof to make the repair, ensure that you take safety precautions when climbing on a ladder to access your roof. Make sure your ladder is secure and have someone at the base to help assist you.

Once you’ve climbed on the roof, slide your flat pry bar underneath the shingle and run it along the edge. This method should break the glue seal holding the shingle down. Complete this process gently and slowly so that you don't tear any of the shingles that you’re not planning on replacing.

Then, locate the nail underneath the broken shingle. Use the same flat pry bar to pull the nail up and out, then slide the damaged shingle free. If you can’t pull the shingle free after removing the nail, you may have to take the nail out from the shingle directly above it, too.

Be careful not to damage any functioning shingles surrounding the broken one. If you do, you’ll also need to replace those shingles.

4. Install the New Shingle

worker using hammer to nail down asphalt shingles
Photo: cherokee4 / Adobe Stock

After pulling out the old shingle, set it aside for now, or drop it on the ground if it’s safe to do so. To install the new shingle, slide it into the open space left by the old shingle. You’ll need to hammer in four roofing nails to secure each new full shingle.

Remember that asphalt shingles are generally layered on top of each other to prevent leaks. You should cover all nails by the shingle above the one in question, and ensure that the bottom edge of the shingle doesn’t have any nails in it.

5. Nail in the Surrounding Shingles

If you removed the nail on an undamaged shingle while extracting the old shingle, replace that nail before proceeding to the final step. At this point, you should ensure that all of the shingles in the repair zone are nailed down and secure.

6. Apply a New Coat of Roof Sealant

Lay a bead of roof sealant (which costs between $10 and $20 at home improvement stores) along the glue strip at the base of your new shingle. Firmly press it onto the shingle below to seal it. It’s very important to apply sealant to any areas where you broke the original seal because the old sealant will likely never “reseal” again. Putting a dab of sealant in these areas will ensure that the next wind storm doesn’t tear off your new handiwork.

You did it! Once your work is complete, safely descend your ladder. Now you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing your roof is protected from the hands (or branches) of Mother Nature.

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