If you have a shingle roof, you might assume that there is strength in numbers. If most of the roof is in good shape, a few damaged shingles shouldn’t make much of a negative impact, right? Unfortunately, your roof is only as strong as your weakest shingle. But if you do have a small number of damaged shingles, you might wonder whether to replace them individually or redo your entire roof.

How Do Shingles Get Damaged?

Roof shingles are the primary source of protection between the elements and the inside of your home. They regularly stand up to wind, rain, sun, snow, sleet and hail. Sometimes, they’re exposed to more extreme damage, such as broken tree limbs that fall onto them during a storm.

Some of the most common causes of shingle damage include:

  • General wear and tear from exposure to the elements
  • People walking on the roof
  • Heavy accumulations of snow and ice
  • Projectiles that get tossed around during storms
  • Inadequate attic ventilation

How to Spot Shingle Damage

It’s not always easy to identify shingle damage from the ground. You may need to get up close and personal with your roof, which means climbing a ladder and hoisting yourself onto the surface. A professional knows how to do this safely. However, if you are comfortable with the task, here are some signs of shingle damage to look for:

  • Curling edges
  • Cracks
  • Segments that have broken off
  • Blistering and bubbling
  • Rot and decay
  • Lichen, mildew, algae and other organic growth
  • Loss of granulation
  • Missing shingles

When to Replace a Single Shingle

Damage to a single shingle can create big problems. If the shingle is in an important spot, such as a seam, minor damage can lead to major leakage. Water seeks out the lowest point, and a slight crack can inhibit proper drainage. Instead of being directed toward the gutters, water can easily drip into the crack, impairing the underlayment and seeping into your home.

Replacing single shingles helps protect your roof and prevent small problems from becoming major structural issues. But before you replace an individual shingle, you should make sure that the underlayment is not wet or damaged. If it is, you probably need a more significant overhaul.

If the problem is truly isolated, you can get away with replacing a single shingle. For example, if you have a hailstorm two years into a new build, you could restore the roof by tending to the damaged spots.

But shingle damage is usually progressive. Signs of general wear and tear indicate that the roof is beginning to deteriorate. Bent shingles indicate that the roof has been subjected to wind damage, which is likely widespread. If your roof is more than halfway through its expected life span, it might need to be replaced.

How to Replace an Individual Shingle

You may be able to repair individual shingles using caulk or roofing cement. However, replacing the entire shingle is usually preferable.

To replace an asphalt shingle, start by breaking the segment free using the flat side of a small crowbar. Carefully work it underneath the shingle that you’ll be replacing. Make sure that you don’t damage the surrounding areas. If you tear another shingle, you’ll have to replace that one too.

After you have released the glue bond, remove the nails that secure the damaged shingle to the roof. You should be able to slide the flat bar beneath the shingle and use it to pry up the fastener. If the shingle does not come loose after you have removed the nails that hold it down, you may need to undo the nails that secure the row above it.

Slide the damaged shingle out, and replace it with a new one. Secure the fresh shingle with at least four nails. The fasteners should lie in the tar strip and be covered by the overlapping shingle.

Next, replace the nails that you removed from the undamaged shingle. Don’t hammer the nails into the hole from which they were removed. Place them to one side so that they provide a secure grip. Fill the old nail holes with sealant.

You can use the same sealant to glue the shingles down so that they don’t flap in the wind. This is especially necessary underneath the old shingle. Because you broke the glue seal that connected it to the segment that you replaced, you need to reinforce it with roofing cement or adhesive.

This task should be completed by someone with experience. If you don’t know what you’re doing, call in the experts so that you don’t create a bigger problem.

How to Match Shingles

Most roofers leave a box of shingles with the homeowner for repairs. Initially, these will match the installed roof. However, over time, the shingles on the roof fade. The box of shingles in the garage might not match anymore.

You can attempt to use a shingle from the same manufacturer in a lighter shade. Another option is to replace a portion of the roof. Doing so will prevent the roof from looking spotty.

Contact your homeowner’s insurance company to find out if they will cover a complete roof replacement. Many offer this service even if you only have partial damage.

How Long Can a Roof Go Without Shingles?

If you notice that some shingles are missing from your roof, you might wonder how long you can wait before replacing them. You likely need to purchase materials or set up an appointment with a roofer. How do you know whether it’s an emergency?

You might be able to wait up to 60 days before making repairs if you don’t see signs of leaks and the missing shingles aren’t in important spots. There should be a layer of weather-resistant paper between the shingles and the roof structure, which will keep you safe in the meantime. However, sun exposure and precipitation can damage the paper. If it tears, it invites water into your home.

Therefore, you should replace missing or damaged shingles as soon as you can. Preventing moisture damage is much easier than remedying it once it occurs.

Is it Time to Replace Your Entire Roof?

If a single shingle is torn or cracked and the rest of the roof is in pristine condition, you can repair the damaged piece using sealant and a putty knife. To cover the repaired spot, sprinkle on some of the asphalt granules that have eroded and collected in the gutter.

However, if your roof is nearing its expiration date, replacing individual shingles might not increase its longevity. The older areas will continue to get worn down, and replacing individual shingles will no longer be efficient.

Some signs that your roof needs to be replaced include:

  • Increasing electric bills
  • Water damage inside the home
  • Fungal growth
  • Sagging spots
  • Many curling shingles

Contact Presidio Roofing to find out whether a repair or replacement is the best option for your roof. We offer honest advice and free estimates so that you can make an informed decision.