Will a Roof Leak if Any Shingles Fall Off?


No one wants to see water dripping from the ceiling because the roof is leaking. If you look up and see that a shingle has fallen off, will that cause the roof to leak?

Whether a roof will leak if any shingles fall off depends on where the shingle was and the condition of the shingles around it. A single shingle might not cause immediate damage to your roof, but over time the surrounding shingles will decay. Then you will begin to see signs of roof damage.

Missing shingles are an eyesore, for sure. But do they need to be repaired immediately? This guide will help you decide.

What Caused the Shingle or Shingles To Fall Off?

Often high winds will cause a shingle to fall, but other problems could include aging shingles or installation problems. Identifying the problem is the first step towards fixing it.

If a shingle falls off, you should evaluate the situation and determine what caused it to fall. Shingles will fall for numerous reasons, and some require immediate action, while others are a sign you might need a new roof.

Here are a few reasons why your shingles might fall off:

  • Strong winds. Shingles are designed so typical winds won’t affect them. Heavy gusts, however, can pull high-quality ones off. Shingles on the eaves or ridge of the roof are more vulnerable to getting pulled off.
  • Installation Issues. If your shingles were installed recently and are falling off, the installation could have been done incorrectly. This is especially true if they are falling, and you haven’t experienced severe weather or damage to the roof. 
  • Old shingles. If it has been a while since your shingles were installed, this could be a factor. Asphalt shingles have a lifespan of 15–20 years. The asphalt eventually dries out, the granules fall off, and the shingles start curling.

Note: Although a hailstorm won’t knock shingles off, hail can bruise the shingles or cause cracks. Therefore, you should make a visual inspection of your roof after a hailstorm.

What Is the Condition of the Roof?

The condition of the roof also plays a role in whether you should replace a shingle or look into other options. Condition is not simply a matter of age, however. You need to have a roofer look at some less obvious signs.

Moss is not something you want to see on your roof as it signals trapped moisture. If it is in a shady spot, use a stiff brush to eliminate it before it grows into a serious problem. Moss around a chimney or vent signals a leak that must be sealed. The same is true if the moss is located where the roof meets a sidewall.

A droopy, sagging roof is an obvious sign that you have roof problems that need to be dealt with immediately to prevent further damage to your house. Look for signs of moisture and decay, particularly at the lowest sections of the roof.

Inspect the gutters. If you see small granules, it could signify your asphalt shingles are aging. This can expose your shingles to excessive sun, wind, or rain damage, as well as expose your home to water damage.

Also, check if there is a problem with the drip edge. If the drip edge needs to be replaced, a gutter guard will need to be removed.  

Go Up to the Attic

The first place to check your roof’s condition is not the outside but the inside—specifically the attic. An attic inspection can reveal a lot about the roof’s condition.  

If the insulation is inadequate, you should keep an eye out for water leaks caused by a poorly insulated attic. If you live in a cold climate, a warm attic can cause ice dams.

If you see small stains, check for nails that are sticking out. These nails, called shiners, cause condensation at night as the night air cools in a warm attic. You can see these shiners at night in your attic–look for white, frosted nails.  

When the attic warms, the frost melts. One night’s water won’t seem like much, but these shiners can cause minor leaks over time.

Mold is another sign that you might have moisture coming in. However, mold can also be caused by exhaust fans not venting correctly.

How Can a Single Shingle Be Replaced?

A single shingle can be replaced through a relatively simple process. The old or missing shingles can be removed or replaced with new ones. However, unless you have some extra shingles from a previous installation, the new shingles may not match the ones currently on the roof.

To replace a missing shingle, you will need replacement shingles—either the ones left over from the previous installation or a pack of new ones. Three-tab shingles from big-box retailers are usually under $50.

  1. Start by lifting the edges of the adjacent shingles.  
  2. Then use a crowbar to remove the nails holding the remaining sections.  
  3. Slide the shingle out once you have removed the nails.  
  4. Scrape any cement residue from the roof, being careful not to damage the underlayment.  
  5. Protruding nails should be removed or hammered down.

Before sliding the new shingle in place, use a utility knife to round the back corners. Doing so will make sliding the shingle under the one above it easier.

  1. Put the replacement shingle in place.  
  2. Gently lift the overlapping shingle by the corners and line it up.  
  3. Use 6d galvanized nails to fasten the top of the new replacement roofing nails.    
  4. Make sure to fasten each corner with nails. 
  5. Finally, apply roof cement to the nail heads.  
  6. Smooth down the edges, and you are done.

If the surrounding shingles lift off easily or don’t feel secure, consider calling a roofer. 

While you are climbing on the roof, curled shingles can be secured with asphalt roofing cement. Apply the cement liberally and press down firmly until it sticks. If possible, do this when the shingles are warmer since they will be more pliable.

Bottom Line

Don’t assume that because you have some missing or broken shingles that you need a new roof. If your roof was installed correctly and is less than 10 years old, you might be able to get by with repairs instead of a replacement. As always, when in doubt, contact a roofing contractor for advice.

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