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Repairing Spanish Tile

Spanish ceramic clay tiles weigh as much as 15 pounds each. And just to make it more difficult, they must be maneuvered on a fragile, slippery surface that may shift underfoot. For your own safety, hire a contractor who specializes in tile roofs for replacement and major repair jobs. If you do venture onto a tile roof, always spread your weight over at least two tiles.

Tiles can last 75 to 100 years if they are exposed only to the elements. However, tiles are brittle and become more so over time. A falling branch or a person walking on the roof can easily break an individual tile. If tiles are failing in several places, even though they have not been bumped, all the tiles probably need to be replaced.

Some clay tiles are rounded, while others are nearly flat. All types are made to interlock, so you probably cannot replace a broken tile with one of a different style. You can seal small cracks and flashing with roofing cement, though the resulting patch will not be pleasant to look at. Bigger gaps, and especially cap tiles along the ridge, should be mortared by a professional contractor.

How Spanish tiles are installed. The roof structure—both the rafters and the sheathing—must be extra-strong to accommodate a tile roof. In a typical installation, thick 30-pound roofing felt is first laid on the sheathing. The tiles themselves interlock and are nailed to the sheathing. Tiles at the ridge are cemented in place and sealed using mortar. Consider installing newer concrete tiles, which last even longer than ceramic tiles.

Repairing Asphalt Shingles

Buy roofing cement in caulking tubes to seal minor cracks and holes and to glue down curled shingles. If you have a larger job, buy the roofing cement in larger containers—1-gallon or even 5-gallon buckets. If the damage is extensive, replace the shingle. When working with asphalt shingles, wait for a warm day when the shingles will be flexible and easier to work with. Avoid ending up with exposed nails as much as possible. If you must leave an exposed nail, cover it well with roofing cement.

Tools: Hammer, pry bar, putty knife, utility knife, flat shovel, caulking gun.

1. Remove the nails. Loosen the nails in the shingle above by slipping a flat shovel underneath. Lift the shingle above carefully, to avoid cracking it. Pull all four of the nails with a pry bar and slide the bad shingle out.

2. Cut a shingle and slip it in. Remove 1 inch from the top edge of the new shingle by cutting the nongranular side with a knife. Bend the strip back and forth until it snaps. Slip the new shingle into place under the shingle above. Note the positions of the nails.

3. Drive nails. If possible, lift the shingle above and drive nails close to the old nail holes. The nailhead should cover the old hole, but be far enough away that the nail bites into the sheathing. It may work to push the nail in place, slip a pry bar over the nailhead, and pound on the pry bar.

4. Cover heads with cement. Coat the nailheads with roofing cement, then firmly press the upper course back into place. If necessary, seal the old holes as well. If the shingle curls up, weight it down temporarily.

Repair with flashing. You also can back up a damaged shingle with a piece of metal flashing. Secure the flashing by setting it in a bed of roofing cement. Then cover the top of the metal with more cement and press the shingle into the cement.

Repairing Wood Shingles

A new replacement shingle may differ in color from the surrounding shingles. In time it will weather and look the same. Choose grade #1 shingles, made of heartwood, which resists insects and fungi. They will last far longer than less expensive shingles made from sapwood. When replacing shingles, be sure to match the spacing between the existing shingles. Butting the replacement shingle against the old shingles may create a tight joint that traps moisture, which will encourage rot and decay.

Tools: Hammer, chisel, pry bar, utility knife, saw, nail set, drill, caulking gun.

Nail a cracked shingle. Mend splits by drilling pilot holes and driving shingle or siding nails, which have smaller heads than roofing nails. Seal the gap and the nailheads with roofing cement or butyl caulk (which can be purchased in a color to nearly match the shingles).

Back a hole with flashing. If a knothole has opened, drive a sheet of aluminum flashing material under the shingle. Be sure that it extends several inches above the hole. If the spot is highly visible, paint the metal to resemble the shingles.

1. Flatten nails. To remove a damaged shingle, split it along the grain with a chisel and pull the pieces out. The nails that held it in place will remain. Place the flat end of a pry bar over the old nailheads and strike with a hammer to drive the nailheads flush.

2. Tap in a new shingle. Cut a new shingle to width so that there are appropriate gaps on both sides. With a block of wood and a hammer, drive the new shingle until it is flush with the row and the nailheads are covered.

3. Nail and seal. Drive two shingle nails into the new shingle at 45 degrees, close to the butt of the shingle above. Use a nail set to drive nailheads flush; seal with caulk.

Repairing Slate Shingles

Slate roofs last for decades if installed and maintained properly. In addition to a regular inspection a couple of times each year, inspect a slate roof after violent storms. Because walking on a slate roof may damage the slate tiles, the easiest, safest method of inspection is to stand on the ground and use a pair of binoculars to look for signs of damage or missing tiles. NOTE: Slate tiles can he extremely slippery, especially if they are damp or wet. Use care when working on a slate roof.

Tools: Hacksaw or slate ripper, glass cutter, drill, hammer, speed square, nail set, tin snips.

1. Cut the concealed nails. Slip a hacksaw blade under the broken slate, and cut the nails concealed under the course above. (If you live in an area where slate roofs are common, you may be able to buy a slate ripper. This handy tool quickly cuts through the hidden nails.)

2. Cut a slate tile. Cut a slate tile so there is a gap on either side that matches the gaps in the rest of the roof. To cut slate, score both sides deeply with a glass cutter. Align the score over an edge and snap downward.

3. Drill pilot holes. Equip a drill with a masonry bit that is slightly wider than the shank of the nails you will drive. Drill two holes about 3/4 inch above the bottom edge of the course above, in the gaps, as shown.

4. Attach with nails. Drive in galvanized shingle or siding nails, which have smaller heads than roofing nails, through the holes you just drilled. Drive the nails just flush using a nail set.

5. Slip in flashing. Cut a piece of galvanized or copper flashing about 4 inches wide and 6 inches long. Slightly cup it to provide tension and slip it under the slate to cover the nails. (Or use a pre-cupped “bib” made for this purpose.)

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