Will Missing Shingles Cause Leaks?

If you own a home, one of the most important questions you need the answer to is: will missing shingles cause leaks?

It may not be the definitive answer you want to hear, but the correct response is “maybe”.

Usually, if there is a missing shingle on your roof, it is actually one tab of a three-tab shingle.

The one tab could have been torn apart due to a variety of reasons, but most commonly it would be because of a strong gust of wind that ripped the shingle tab and blew it off of your roof.

When this happens, basic math tells you that you now have a one in three chance of that destroyed shingle being the one that was placed right above an open seam between the shingles below.

This is how these shingles are designed and installed, side-by-side, with the highest row of shingles on top of the side seams between the lowest row of shingles.

Thus, if one of those shingle tabs is removed, it could be one that was covering a seam, and if it is not there anymore, then the gap between the low shingles will be unprotected and exposed to water when it rains.

So will missing shingles cause leaks? All that can really be said is that while roof leaks are not guaranteed in this scenario, there is certainly a strong possibility they could happen. Ultimately, this all plays out in a variety of ways.

Torn shingle above a seam - A missing shingle above a seam creates a gap and water can easily find its way through the space created. Does that mean water will immediately come pouring through your roof like a torrential downpour on a rainy day? Not necessarily. 

There is typically felt paper underneath the shingles, which may stop some of the water from getting through, so at least that will help marginally. But even so, you will need to get that shingle fixed because if a heavy rain hits, that felt paper is not going to be anywhere near enough to stop the water from leaking through the roof and potentially causing major damage. 

Torn shingle that does not straddle a lower shingle seam - Believe it or not, it is entirely possible in this scenario that your roof may not leak at all because of the positioning of the part that is missing. However, you still need to get this shingle fixed since the exposed part of the lower shingle is not intended to perform as an elite protection unit. 

So, while you could be in the clear, by not fixing the damaged piece you would essentially be playing Russian Roulette because it is highly unlikely the lower shingle would hold up in heavy rain. 

On a more technical level, what happens is the lower part of the shingle has more protective mineral granules than the upper part, so the lower part gets less damaged by sun rays. But if the upper part is missing, the lower part is no longer as highly protected as the upper part was and can begin to wear down, which can, in turn, lead to a leaking roof.

So, realistically, even if you have a torn shingle that is not guaranteed to leak, the odds are strong enough that you want to get this problem fixed ASAP and here is how you can do it: 

You have to replace the entire 3-tab shingle that was torn - There is no alternative here, it is just something that simply needs to be done. It also is a task that must be carried out while simultaneously protecting the shingles that are both above and below the one that you are attempting to replace. It should go without saying that if you do anything to damage any of the surrounding shingles, you are creating a completely new set of problems.

Be safe - Simply put, working on a roof is an incredibly dangerous job, so you must approach any tasks you do up there with extreme caution. For starters, make sure you have all of the appropriate safety gear and are wearing it at all times while up on the roof. 

If you are in any way nervous or unsure about the job, call a professional roofing company. If you have a fear of heights, call a professional roofing company. If you do not have the appropriate safety equipment and are not certain where to get it or how to use it, call a professional roofing company. In other words, do not be a hero. 

If you are not 100% confident in your ability to repair the shingles, there is no shame in admitting that fact and calling in the professionals so that the job gets done right and nobody gets hurt. 

Call in a professional roofing company - Like anything else in life, the key to making the right decision is finding the company that will do the best job for you at a reasonable price. However, that is often easier said than done, so understand that you may have to put in some work. You do not want to play games with the welfare of your home. 

One of the best screening tools for finding the right company for the job is word-of-mouth because it is much easier to trust a company’s work if somebody you know puts in a recommendation. That said, if you do not know anybody who is able to make a quality recommendation, your best option is to use the internet to look at reviews of various companies and compile rankings. From there, contact the companies, communicate your needs, and find out their pricing structures. This can be a time-consuming process, but it is an important step you should absolutely take before making a final hiring decision.

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