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It is a well known fact that the hardest part of fixing any leaky roof is finding the leak. In most cases the first sign you will see is a yellowish-gray stain on the ceiling. When you first notice this type of stain you should begin by driving a few nail holes into the stain to allow any standing water out. Place a bucket or pan beneath the stain to catch the water.

Water is known to travel some distances before it will reach your ceiling so the leak can be anywhere between the stain and the ridge line of your roof. Begin by checking your flashings. Flashings are strips of metal that seal the seams around your chimney, vent pipes, dormers and valleys flow points between the roof sections. To do this you will need to enter the attic area on a sunny day and check for breaks or pinholes. Even discoloration in the flashings or around them can signal a leak. If you find small leaks fill them with plastic asphalt roof cement. Be sure and smooth this with a trowel to eliminate rough areas where water can collect. If the hole is one square inch or larger cut a patch from an existing flashing that is one inch larger than the hole and set the patch with cement. Coat and smooth the patch and the seam. When you can't find the leak but know for sure it is in a given area of a flashing, apply plastic cement in all logical areas.

If the leak is not in the flashings use a flashlight to scan the rafters looking for the leak. Either do this during a rain storm or have a helper hose the roof while you look. If you find moisture on a rafter trace it to the source. On bright, sunny days you can many times see holes in the roof from inside the attic area. Even if you find one hole, continue to scan the entire roof area, marking any additional holes you might find. Once you have found the hole, stuff a piece of stiff wire or a nail through it so you can find it when you get outside. When you cannot get into the attic space you can examine your roof from outside. Search for cracks, rust spots on the flashings, broken or missing shingles, or small holes of any type. To close holes in tile and slate roofs use plastic roof cement. If a tile or slate needs replacing, call a professional to do the job. Asphalt shingles can be replaced on a warm day by gently lifting the shingle above and prying out the nails that hold the back shingle in place. When it is removed slip in the new shingle and secure it with roofing nails.

When a wood shingle is badly worn or split you can replace it by using a hammer or small ax to destroy it in place. Then the pieces should be pulled out and a hacksaw blade slipped under the shingle above. Cut the nails as close to the surface as possible then cut a new shingle and tap it into place until it is aligned with the adjacent shingles. Hammer in one nail in center and dab roofing cement on the nail head. When a flat roof has a blister, slit it with a utility knife taking care not to cut through the layer beneath. Using a putty knife, force roofing cement under both sides of the slit and then nail down both sides with roofing nails. Cover the repair with more roofing cement and then apply a tar paper or shingle patch. Nail this down and cover it with roofing cement.