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Will Missing Shingles Cause An Emergency Roof Leak?

Will Missing Shingles Cause An Emergency Roof Leak?

Four a.m. Drip–drip–drip. Uh oh! Emergency roof leak—who to call? Well, take a breath. Your Birmingham-area home’s roof will not collapse in the next hour from a small roof leak. You may not even have an emergency roof leak. Let’s take a closer look. 

Missing Shingles

We admit, having a few shingles missing is not good for your home, your roof, or your peace of mind. Still, a couple of missing shingles is not a roofing emergency. Even if you have a small, known roof leak because of missing shingles, you still do not have an emergency. 

How do you know you are missing shingles? The roof leak could be a clue; that middle-of-the-night drip that wakes you, that dark ceiling stain that suddenly appears. A surer way to tell if your roof is missing shingles is to observe the roof from the safety of your yard. 

Never go onto your roof. Roofs are steep and often slippery. Even climbing an extension ladder to get a closer look from the gutter area is a bit dangerous. 

From your yard or from the extension ladder, scan your roof and look for changes in color indicating a missing shingle. The black underlayment will contrast sharply with almost all shingle colors. Multiple missing shingles will stand out vividly. Each shingle is a foot wide and three feet long, so when several are missing, you will see a huge area of exposed underlayment. 

Why should you be concerned over a couple of missing shingles? 

Shingles are unitized construction. That is, each shingle is identical to other shingles (think LEGOS™, patio pavers, and house bricks). Shingles can fit to just about any roof profile and are easily cut by highly skilled roofing technicians. 


But shingles are not waterproof. They are water resistant. They rely on overlap and adhesion to do their job. They repel water so it rolls down your Birmingham home’s roof into your gutters. If some shingles are missing, you are asking other layers of your roof to compensate. 


Beneath your home’s shingles is a roll material, underlayment, that is waterproof. It seals around staples and roofing nails to prevent water from infiltrating your sheathing (the wood sheets supporting your shingles). 

Underlayment is a supporting layer, not the main event. It can repel water for a while, but eventually, with missing shingles, the underlayment will fail. The sheathing will become saturated. Then water will soak into your rafters, attic insulation, joists, and ceiling drywall. 


So you can ignore a few missing shingles when you first notice them; they are not an emergency roof repair. However, if you continue to ignore a few missing shingles, eventually you will have an emergency roof leak. 

Where Did They Go?

Shingles do not really go “missing.” They do not leave your roof on their own. Nobody took them, either. 

Where, then?

Shingles can become dislodged, pulled up by wind uplift, or torn away completely by rough weather. They can split or crack from blunt force impact (tree branches, teenagers’ shoes). You may find the remains of a shingle in your yard after a storm. You may find bits and pieces lodged in bushes or trees. 

Shingles, like everything humans make, wear out. If your roof is 20 years old or older, shingles can simply fail, disintegrating and falling away from the nails holding them tight to the roof. Each shingle should be held in place with at least four roofing nails (which do not corrode), but strange things can and do happen. 

If you find all or part of a shingle in your yard, you know you are missing shingles on your roof. Time to call the roofer!

Emergency Roof Leak

An emergency roof leak is a drastic, immediate increase in water coming through the roof. It is not a single drip. Several measures separate a problem roof leak from an emergency roof leak:

  • Timing—Rapid or continuous drips of water into your living space mean an emergency
  • Quantity—Multiple leaks over the span of your roof qualify as an emergency, too
  • Destruction—Even a small leak ignored for a while becomes an emergency roof leak if large areas of your living space are destroyed or damaged
  • Volume—Filling pots and buckets in a matter of hours? You have an emergency roof leak

You can avoid a call for a roofing emergency easily:

  1. Have your roofer inspect your roof annually, to ensure strong shingle adhesion
  2. As soon as you see you are missing shingles, or as soon as a tiny leak appears, call for a routine roof repair (not a roofing emergency)

Yellowhammer Roofing in Birmingham, Alabama can help homeowners throughout Alabama and Tennessee to protect their homes. Contact us today to schedule your roof inspection to prevent a roofing emergency.

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