Up on the roof: Sweat the small stuff yourself

A New Look roofing contractors

 Q: How do I know when my shingle roof needs work? Can I safely perform my own minor repairs?

A: Roof shingles are often damaged by heat, especially if your home has poor roof ventilation. Your shingles need to be replaced if they start curling up, making the edge of your roof look thicker than normal. Another sign is finding fragments of shingles that have accumulated in your gutters. You may also find that water is slowly saturating through your roof, creating stains on your ceilings.

If you find that you do need to work on your roof, the most important thing to keep in mind is safety. It's best to work in very warm conditions so the glue is pliable, but many people have been injured because the asphalt gets extremely hot, and debris can get under your body and cause you to slip.

It's difficult to replace just a few shingles if the roof is older and the shingles are compressed tightly together. In such a situation, you may have to have the roof entirely replaced by a professional. If the roof's relatively new, however, you may be able to do a partial replacement with a flat bar and utility knife.

All roof shingles will come with specific instructions, but here are the basics steps: start on the shingle above the one you want to replace in order to expose the nails of the shingle you want to replace. The entire shingle should be loose before pulling out the nails. Since the shingles overlap, you'll have to take the nails out of the shingle just above the damaged one.

Pull the damaged shingle out with a flat bar– but go slowly so you don't take off part of the upper one– and slide the new one in, aligning it with the surrounding ones. Nail it on according to the pattern provided, and apply a bead of roofing adhesive under the tabs of the new shingle.

While you're up there, don't forget to clean out your gutters. It's best to do this during a dry spell to avoid a muddy mess. You can clean them by hand or with an extension you can buy that slides through the gutters so you can get more than an armful at a time. Pay special attention to the elbows and downspouts, which are most likely to clog. You may need to take them apart in order to thoroughly clean them.

Normally, you should check your gutters about twice a year, once during the fall and spring, but maybe more if you live in an area with a lot of trees. You'll know your gutters need attention if they can't contain rainwater during a shower.

It's a good idea to wear gloves while doing any kind of roof or gutter work. It's easy to fall if you jerk away because something sharp cuts your hand. Consider buying an attachment that secures the ladder to the roof.