When you have a leaky roof, then depending on the size and cause of the leak, you might be able to patch it quickly yourself. The question is, how do you do that properly?

Here’s how to patch a roof and prevent the elements from causing even more damage.


Before you try and patch a leak, you need to prepare. Make sure you have the following items before you begin:

  • Flashlight
  • Tape measure
  • Asphalt shingle
  • Ladder
  • Roofing nails and claw hammer
  • Crowbar
  • Caulking gun
  • Roofing adhesive
  • Utility knife

Locate the Leak

professional inspecting roof damage

The first thing you need to do is locate the leak. If you have attic space, look around up there for damage and then follow it back to its source. Take careful measurements, then climb up onto your roof. Use your measurements to find the leak again on the top of your roof.

Chances are you have a damaged shingle, so you shouldn’t have to do something like pour water over where you believe the leak is. However, if the damage isn’t obvious, be prepared to confirm its location.

Lift and Remove the Damaged Shingle

Once you’ve identified the leak, lift the shingle over it and use your hammer to remove the nails holding it down. Use the pry bar to lift the shingle above it so you can pull the damaged shingle out.

Cut a New Shingle

cutting shingles to fit properly

Measure out the proper size for your replacement shingle, then climb down and cut it to size. Generally, you can cut it with a heavy-duty utility knife, although you might have to score the shingle multiple times.

Fasten, Coat, and Press

Take your freshly cut shingle back up onto your roof and slide it into place. Fasten it with roofing nails, ensuring you’ve hammered them tightly down.

Coat the nail heads with roofing adhesive and then press the shingle above it down onto it. You may have to put new adhesive on the shingle below as well to ensure that you’ve got a proper seal all around.

If you also have damaged flashing, you can repair that by hammering it down and putting in a new line of roofing sealant.

Wood Shake Shingles

Replacing these is similar to replacing asphalt shingles, except for the following:

  • Split damaged shingles along the grain before removing
  • Make sure to cut the new shingle one-half inch narrower than the opening to account for expansion and contraction
  • Attach with roofing nails and tap the shingle flush

Emergency Fixes

What about when your roof has suffered damage from a storm and you need an emergency patch?


tarp works to temporarily patch a roof

One of the most common ways to temporarily patch a roof is to cover the damaged area with a blue tarp. Attach each end to 2x4s and stretch the tarp over the damaged area and ideally over the ridge. Secure the 2x4s with weights like sandbags. You can screw them down, but that will cause additional damage.

Tarps make good coverings when a storm tore a large section of shingles off your roof, exposing the underlayment and sub-roofing beneath.


Measure the damaged portion of your roof and cut a piece of plywood slightly larger than that. Take roofing cement or mastic and apply large amounts of it to the hole’s edges, then lay the board on top of the hole. Screw it or nail it down in place, then cover with a tarp.

This is a good temporary fix for when a branch or tree has landed on your house and punched through the roof.

Roofing Cement or Sealant

For a small leak, you can use a caulking gun to apply sealant or cement as a temporary patch on the outside of your roof. You can use silicone sealant spray to seal it from the inside.

Keep in mind that each of these patches is a stopgap measure to protect the undamaged portions of your roof and your home while you wait for a contractor to come and perform permanent repairs.

What if I Don’t Have Asphalt or Wood Shake Shingles?

If you have slate or concrete shingles, or Spanish tile, you should have a contractor come and fix the damage. For small leaks, you can temporarily patch them with roofing cement or sealant.

Final Thoughts

If all you have is a small leak or a couple of damaged shingles, you can patch your roof on your own to prevent further damage. Patch a roof temporarily in case of an emergency. Neither is especially difficult and will save you time and money in the short and long term.