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How to Maintain and Repair a Wood Shingle Roof

As we mentioned in the general roof maintenance article, keeping your gutters clear of debris and removing hanging branches near the roof will help keep your shingles in top shape.

Clean moss, lichen, and molds with a solution of water and chlorine bleach or other solvent.

But what if your wood shingle roof needs repairs?

Types of Wood Roofs

First of all, there are two basic kinds of wood roofs. Shingles are smooth. Shakes are rough-hewn and rustic. They come in varying lengths, and are typically 16, 18, or 24 inches long. Most are made from red cedar, which is durable and resists insect damage. Sometimes manufacturers use preservative-treated pine or other woods. Maintenance and repair for both types are the same.

Whatever type you choose, when you first have your roof installed be sure to keep a bundle of shingles that can be used for future repairs.

Commercially Available Treatments

If you protect your wood roof with a commercially available treatment, it will last longer. Left unprotected, a wood roof will begin to decay within ten years; but could last as long as 30 years with proper treatment.

Home improvement stores carry a variety of products for this. Each comes with its own specific directions, and it is important to follow those explicitly. You will typically get the best protection if you dip the shingles into the solution, or apply the treatment with a brush for maximum coverage.

Curled Shingles

If your wood shingle curls away from the roof, it can usually be flattened and reattached.

  1. If the shingle is brittle (as often happens in cold weather), you must soften first. Do this by using a propane torch with a flame spreader nozzle. Use it to warm the curled edges; of course be careful not to burn them!
  2. Once they are warm, you should be able to easily flatten the edges and reattach the shingle with asphalt roof cement. Apply roof cement generously to each corner and press back into place.
  3. Use a brick or other heavy object to hold the shingle flat while the roof cement sets.

Repair a Cracked Shingle

It is better to repair small cracks than to replace the shingle.

  1. To fix a crack that is smaller (under ¼ inch), first pull out loose splinters.
  2. Now only the large pieces remain. Nail the large pieces down with galvanized roofing nails, being careful not to drive the nail heads into the shingle; that will damage the shingle surface.
  3. Cover the crack and the nail heads with roofing cement.
  4. For cracks wider than ¼ inch, you will need to use a sheet metal patch. Drive a piece of sheet metal under the crack of the shingle, until the top of the metal reaches past the upper edge of the crack.
  5. Nail the shingle pieces down with galvanized roofing nails, being careful not to drive the nail heads into the shingle, which will damage the shingle surface. Cover the crack and nail heads with roofing cement.
  6. Remove shingles that cannot be repaired
  7. Remove pieces of broken shingle that can be chiseled out or pulled out with your fingers. When you pull, move in a down and out motion to avoid damaging other shingles.
  8. Use a hacksaw to cut nails that held the broken shingle. Cut them even with the sheathing or wood slats. You will probably have to pry the shingle above it up enough to get all the nails. Be careful you don’t crack the good shingle.
  9. Completely remove the broken shingle and then use the hacksaw to remove the nails that secured it, being careful of the decking underneath.
  10. Cut a replacement shingle, making it approximately 3/8 inch narrower than the empty space. This allows the shingle to expand when it gets wet. Drive in the replacement shingle using a wood block and hammer. Nail it down and cover any exposed nail heads with roofing cement.
- Local Fresh  updated June 16th, 2008
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