Start a Business
Fixing Roof Leaks

(Last updated: April 26, 2010)

This page shows how to start a business fixing roof leaks. These are leaks from damaged or missing 3-tab asphalt shingles or metal flashing.

Use this information together with the Business Plan for Simple Services page.

You are assumed to have the skills and equipment needed to perform this service. You may have performed this or similar types of activities in the past. Thus, you may have learned the skills and accumulated most of the required equipment from those prior tasks.

The methods and procedures described on this page can be used to help satisfy your needs, and the needs of likely customers.

Here are the topics:

Introduction to idea
Estimated startup costs
Putting idea to work
Main procedures

Other useful information

The Vital Guidelines for Novices page helps beginners who want to start a business. These guidelines provide focused advice and useful insights.


Before using this information to start a business be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer

Introduction to idea

This topic provides an overview of the business idea so you can decide if it suits you.

Basic idea

Owners pay you to fix roof leaks of their apartments or homes. This service may include repairing the roof deck, removing damaged shingles, and installing replacement shingles. In some cases, the roof leak may be due to damaged or missing flashing or roof cement.

With the hard times we are having, people will be staying in their present homes longer, rather than trading up. This practice increases the demand for home repairs.

Getting these jobs usually is just a question of making yourself known to potential customers, being qualified to do the work, and quoting the right price for the job.

This activity is performed by the job. Once one job is finished you will have to find another job. However, if you do a good job for a large property owner, you may be called back when other units need these services.

This is mainly an outdoors activity. Thus, it may be affected by bad weather.

Suitability of idea

This idea is best suited for people who are physically fit and enjoy working with their hands.

Skills and equipment required

Primary skills -- You must be able to climb and walk on roofs in a safe manner, and do whatever is needed to fix roof leaks.

Other skills -- You must have driving skills and a valid driver's license.

Equipment owned -- This business idea assumes that you own the following equipment:

Pickup truck or van -- You will use this vehicle to travel to job locations and haul any equipment, materials, supplies, and protective gear needed to perform the work. Also, you may have to haul trash away from the job site.

Job equipment -- Typical items needed: broom and dust pan, chisel or nail puller, claw hammer, electric or battery operated cut-off saw, electrical extension cords, extension ladder, framing square, pliers, portable work light, pry bar, sheet metal shears, step ladder, tape measure, utility knife, water container (for drinking), and wide shovel.

Protective gear -- Typical items needed: boots or shoes with nonslip soles, goggles, roof jacks and appropriate support boards, strap-on kneepads, and work gloves.

Other items -- You need to own or purchase other items, such as office equipment and job supplies. These items are listed under the startup costs on the next topic.

Also, you will need to purchase some or all of the materials needed for each job. The customer will repay you for these materials when you finish the job.

Typical materials needed: 3-tab asphalt shingles (as approved by customer), assorted nails (framing, shingle, and siding), flashing, roof deck material (sheets of exterior plywood or OSB, or roof boards), roofing paper, and roofing cement.

Profitability of idea

In order to show a profit, you will have to sell enough of your services to cover the startup costs, job costs, and operating expenses. The more income you collect over a certain time period the larger your profits. Therefore, you want to have substantial sales, along with low costs and expenses.

The fees you charge pay for your services and equipment, and your ability to perform the work in a professional manner. You might charge an hourly rate for your services, or a lump sum for a particular job. Your fee also should include any miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses you have, such as dump fees.

How much should you charge for your services? This depends on how well off the customer is and how anxious both you and the customer are to make a deal. The economic conditions of the local area might also influence these negotiations.

See the Setting the Sales Price page in another section for more detailed information.

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Estimated startup costs

This topic discusses the estimated startup costs for this business idea. Startup costs are what you need to pay in order to be ready to begin business operations. The amount of these costs also helps you decide if the idea suits you.

List of items in startup costs

Note: I am only showing one month for certain expenses. You should be able to get your first job or two in a month. Then these items become operating expenses, not startup costs.

The assumed startup costs for this business idea, using a frugal style of business operations, consist of the following items:

Advertising and promotion (1 month) -- Small classified advertisements in a local newspaper and/or the newsletter of the local property owners association.

Business insurance (1 month) -- Business liability insurance. (Talk to a local insurance agent to see if you need this coverage.)

Governmental requirements -- Local fees and business license. (Note: You might also be subject to state and federal deposits and registration fees, but these will vary. So I have not included them in these startup costs.)

Job supplies -- Typical items needed: sturdy cardboard boxes.

Office equipment -- Business telephone; desk accessories (stapler, paper clips, pen and pencils, etc.); and listing adding machine.

Office supplies -- Check blanks for business checking account, file folders or large manila envelopes (for filing papers), lined writing tablets, pads of accounting journals and ledger, and pads of standard job bid forms.

Other operating expenses (1 month) -- Business telephone expense.

Reference book -- Bookkeeping for Dummies (Paperback) available from or other online bookstores. (Note: The "for Dummies" series of books are easy to read manuals for normal people, not dummies.)

Dollar amount of startup costs

Here are the dollar amounts for a frugal business operation:


Estimated Startup Costs

  Advertising and promotion (1 month) $ 75
  Business insurance (1 month)   50
  Governmental requirements (local fees and business license)   50
  Job supplies   15
  Office equipment   120
  Office supplies   100
  Other operating expenses (1 month)   50
  Reference book   15
       Total estimated startup costs $ 475

Note: See the Planning costs and expenses subtopic in the Business Plan on another page for ways to reduce these startup costs.

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Putting idea to work

This topic satisfies the Starting business operations subtopic in the Business Plan page.

Preparing for business operations

Completing the startup requirements -- This is the last step needed just before you start business operations. See the Listing the startup requirements subtopic in the Business Plan for the items remaining to be completed.

As a minimum, you should have discussed the business idea with your family, set up your business entity, and satisfied all governmental and insurance requirements.

Local information needed -- You need the location of local dumpsites, fees charged for dumping, restrictions on materials allowed to be dumped, and rules for hauling trash.

If you will be replacing any roof decking on a job, you need to see if a building permit and/or a contractor's license is required.

Operating the business

Soliciting customers -- Place classified advertisements in your local newspaper and/or newsletter of the local property owners association. Use a simple, honest description of your services. (Once you become well known in the community, you should benefit from word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers.)

For additional ideas on soliciting customers, see the Sales Methods page in another section.

Getting jobs -- Hopefully, some of the people who read your advertisements will inquire about your services. During this initial telephone conversation, you should determine if you are willing and able to provide the desired services. If so, you may want to discuss the tentative cost of the job. However, in most cases you probably want to inspect the damaged roof before quoting a price.

I recommend that you meet with customers in their homes or offices, or at the job site. Your neighbors may object to having a stream of strangers arriving at your home. Also, meeting with customers in your home may violate the zoning rules in your town or city.

See the preceding Profitability of idea subtopic for my thoughts about setting your fee.

Before taking on any dangerous jobs, you should have adequate experience and workmen's compensation coverage.

Job procedures

Preliminary job activities -- After greeting the customer at the job site, you need to determine the source of the roof leak. The customer may be able to help you on this matter. However, any dripping from a ceiling inside the house may not be directly under the leak in the roof. When water falls onto a horizontal surface, it may travel some distance before finding a low point and dripping down onto the space below.

There are two ways to discover the source of roof leaks. One way is to get into the attic and look up at the underside of the roof deck. You may be able to spot areas that are still damp after a recent rain. Then you could measure the location of the damp area from some prominent structure. Thus, you could use a chimney or a plumbing vent pipe as a reference point up on the roof. However, the actual source of the roof leak may be higher up on the roof than indicated by this damp area. After penetrating the shingles or flashing on top of the roof, rainwater may travel down the roof deck some distance before dripping into the attic.

Another way for locating the roof leak is to visually inspect the top of the roof. This inspection can be done from the ground or by getting up on the roof (assuming it isn't slippery) and looking for signs of a leak. This sign might be damaged or missing shingles, mangled or missing flashing, debris on the roof, or even a gaping hole.

The customer may be in a hurry and want you to work on a holiday or weekend to get the job done soon.

You can use your job bid forms to estimate the costs of making the roof repairs. The cost of materials (asphalt patching, flashing, roof decking, and shingles) can be estimated, subject to actual retail cost. This bid should include the fees for any extra services to be performed, such as working on weekends or at night, and hauling away any trash. The bid probably should include a completion date, subject to availability of materials. If the customer accepts your bid, you both can sign the bid form.

If doing the work later on, you need to set the time and date, and arrange for access to the property. You also may want the customer to pay you for part or all of the estimated costs of materials before starting the job.

Main job activities -- See the following Main procedures topic.

Final job activities -- Inspect the premises to verify you have finished all required tasks. Remove all your equipment and supplies. Gather up all damaged shingles and other trash and place in a pile on the ground, or in cardboard boxes or trashcans.

Collect your agreed upon fee from the customer. Haul the trash away, if part of your agreed upon services.

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Main procedures

This topic is discussed under the following subtopics:

Repairing damage to the roof deck
Removing damaged shingles
Replacing shingles
Fixing damaged or missing flashing
Helpful hints

Climbing around roofs (especially high, steep, or wet roofs) can be dangerous. I recommend that you limit your jobs to dry, low roofs with gentle slopes until you get used to this activity.

Repairing damage to the roof deck

Note: this procedure may require obtaining a building permit and/or a contractor's license before any work is performed.

Shingles are normally laid on top of a roof deck of plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), or boards that are in turn supported by the rafters. You may have to repair this deck before you can replace the damaged or missing shingles.

The first step is to remove enough of the overlying shingles to reveal the extent of the damage to be repaired. See the following subtopic for this procedure.

The next step is using a cut-off saw to remove the damaged area of the roof deck. Set the blade to just slightly more than the depth of the deck material. When cutting out the sides, cut along the middle of a rafter to leave a nailing base. Fill in the cut out area with new plywood, OSB, or boards. Use siding nails or other weatherproof nails to fasten this deck material to the rafters.

The roof deck normally has a layer of roofing paper (asphalt-saturated felt) placed on it. The seams in this roofing paper are overlapped to shed water. The shingles then are laid on top of this roofing paper. So you should replace this roofing paper after you have repaired the damage to the roof deck.

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Removing damaged shingles

Start at the highest row of damaged shingles. When removing these damaged shingles, you have to remove the nails (or staples) directly into these damaged shingles, along with any nails from the row above that also penetrate the damaged shingles.

Carefully lift each shingle tab to expose the head of each nail that penetrates a damaged shingle. Use a chisel or nail puller, and a claw hammer to remove the nails. If a nail loses its head, use a pair of pliers to wrestle it out.

Remove all damaged shingles in this highest row. Continue downward until all damaged shingles have been removed. Place the old nails and the damaged shingles into a sturdy cardboard box.

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Replacing shingles

You should have removed any damaged shingles per the above subtopic. Now you can nail down new shingles in place of the missing shingles.

Start at the lowest row of missing shingles and work upward. When you reach the row of good shingles, you will have to slide the new shingles under them. In order to nail down these new shingles, you will have to carefully lift up the shingle tab that rests on top of where you want to nail. You also need to replace all the nails that you removed from the good shingles.

It's usually a good idea to place a dab of roof cement on the underside of those shingle tabs that have been raised up. This will tend to keep them laying flat on the roof.

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Fixing damaged or missing flashing

Metal flashing is used to prevent leaks where different types of materials meet. The typical example is where a chimney or plumbing vent pipe comes through the roof. This flashing can work itself loose or be damaged by the elements.

If the flashing is only moderately damaged it probably can be forced back into position and then covered with roofing cement at the edges. If the flashing is missing or severely damaged it should be replaced with new flashing.

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Helpful hints

Put on goggles before doing any sawing.

Put on work gloves before handling any pieces of wood. (Splinters are dangerous and painful.)

Before cutting any expensive (or hard to replace) piece of wood to the proper size:

Use a tape measure to determine how much to cut off.
Write down this measurement.
Measure again to verify what you wrote down.
Measure the wood and mark where to cut off.
Verify that mark against your written measurement.
Then, and only then, cut the wood.

When walking on a sloping roof, you should wear boots or shoes that will not slip on the roof deck, roofing paper, or shingles. An example would be Cougar Paws roofing boots. You can visit for more details.

Where the roof is especially steep, you may want to use roof jacks. These brackets are temporarily fastened to the roof deck with strong nails driven through a part of the shingle that will be hidden from view. After attaching two or more brackets, you can lay a 2 x 6 or other strong board onto the brackets as a foot support.

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