Finding a roof leak can be difficult because often the actual spot where the roof leaks is not always exactly where the water stains are appearing on your ceiling. Water can enter the roof at one point, and then run down to another before it starts to soak into the ceiling. It’s sometimes easy to spot obvious roof damage (shingles are missing or damaged, stains on ceilings or walls), but by then, you probably already have some significant water damage. Your best bet is to find the roof damage before the leaks appear.
Identifying Roof Damage
1. Perform an Outdoor Inspection: A visual inspection of your roof can help you spot missing and damaged shingles (damaged shingles might be curled, cracked, or torn). If this type of damage is localized (i.e., it covers less than 30 percent of the entire roof), roofing repairs might be able to address the problem. More extensive damage might necessitate roof replacement. Also keep in mind that not only the roof itself, but the chimney, ventilation pipes, roof flashing, gutters and fencing can also become damaged. Be sure to inspect them for damage as well. If you suspect that your roof is damaged, here is a basic list of what to look for:
- Composition shingles: curling, loss of granulation, broken, damaged or missing shingles
- Wood shingles/shakes: Mold or decay, splitting or curling
- Flat roof: Obvious patches, cracks or tears, several blisters and/or wrinkles (also check patched areas from inside the attic)
- Flashing: Tears, buckling around roof penetrations
- Roofing cement: Excess cement, crumbling
- Soffits and fascia: Decay, stains
- Soffit and ridge vents: Clogged or damaged vents, flashing and shingles around them curling or missing
- Gutters: Decay or rust, leaky seams, loosely attached to structure, bent or sagging, missing sections of gutter or downspout, filled with debris. Clogged gutters can easily freeze shut and cause excessive weight on gutter fasteners, ice dam conditions, and slippery walks below.
- Chimneys: Leaning, loose or missing flashing, damaged bricks, cap or cracked joints. Chimney flashing is especially prone to tearing because a chimney settles independently from the house.
2. Perform an Indoor Inspection: Moisture marks, brown, yellow, or grey stains, and peeling paint on walls and/or ceilings could all indicate a damaged, leaking roof. Also take a peek in your attic, where damp rafters or leaks could additionally point to roof damage. And if you experience a sudden surge in energy costs, it could be a sign that your roof ventilation has been compromised. 3. Call in a Professional: Although you are the first line of defense when it comes to spotting roof damage, be aware of your limitations and do not hesitate to call in a roofer for a professional inspection. A basic inspection could save you thousands of dollars in roofing repair costs by spotting minor damage before it turns into a major problem. A trained professional also has the tools and safety techniques to get up on your roof and check for damage. Getting on your roof yourself is not recommended as it can lead to personal injury and also further damage to your property. Preventing Leaks and Water Damage A damaged roof can have serious negative effects on your entire property, including ceilings, walls, and even the foundation of your home. However, it is one of those things that you often don’t realize until it’s serious. In addition to the effects roof damage can have on your property, it can also affect the health of you and your family. Leaks left unrepaired can lead to mold and mildew, which can cause allergies and breathing problems. If you see a leak, call a professional roofing company in your area. Other signs of a roof leak that you might notice on the inside of your home include stains or “bubbles” on your ceiling or walls. Most homeowners want to avoid the roof leaks in the first place. Here are a few tips:
- Get a Regular Roof Inspection: The best advice for homeowners is to have your roof inspected by a professional on a regular basis. While it is good to monitor your walls and ceilings for leaks on your own, a trained professional has the expertise essential in spotting the signs of roof damage early.
- Pay Attention to Roof Flashings: Ninety percent of all leaks happen at flashings. This actually bodes well for repairs, as flashings can be easily repaired or replaced. Without good, tight flashings around chimneys, vents, skylights and wall/roof junctions, water can enter a home or building and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and electrical systems. Flashings should be checked as part of a biannual roof inspection and gutter cleaning.
- Don’t Block Ventilation: One of the most critical factors in roof system durability is proper ventilation. Without it, heat and moisture build up in an attic area and combine to cause rafters and sheathing to rot, shingles to buckle, and insulation to lose its effectiveness. Never block off sources of roof ventilation, such as louvers, ridge vents or soffit vents, even in winter. Proper attic ventilation will help prevent structural damage caused by moisture, increase roofing material life, reduce energy consumption and enhance the comfort level of the rooms below the attic. NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association) recommends a minimum of 1 square foot of free vent area for each 150 square feet of attic floor—with vents placed proportionately at the eaves (e.g., soffits) and at or near the ridge.
- Maintain Gutters and Downspouts: Melting snow often refreezes at a roof’s overhang where the surface is cooler, forming an ice dam. This blocks proper drainage into the gutter. Water backs up under the shingles (or other roofing materials) and seeps into the interior. Gutters and downspouts that are already full of debris will not only cause water to back up under your roof shingles, but they can be damaged beyond repair or even torn off a house or building. Keeping your gutters clean can help you avoid ice dams.
- Keep Trees and Bushes Away from Homes: There are two main problems that trees and bushes cause for your roof when they are too close to your home. Moss and algae can grow on moist wood shingles and shakes. They hold even more moisture to a roof system’s surface, causing rot and deterioration. Trees and bushes should be trimmed away from homes and buildings to eliminate damp, shaded areas, and gutters should be kept clean to ensure good drainage. Tree branches touching a roof will scratch and gouge roofing materials when the branches are blown by the wind. Falling branches from overhanging trees can damage, or even puncture, shingles and other roofing materials. Leaves on a roof system’s surface retain moisture and cause rot, and leaves in the gutters block drainage.
- Immediately Replace Missing or Torn Shingles: The key to a roof system’s effectiveness is complete protection. When shingles are missing or torn off, a roof structure and home or building interior are vulnerable to water damage and rot. The problem is likely to spread-nearby shingles also are ripped easily or blown away. Missing or torn shingles should be replaced as soon as possible.
Just like preventive maintenance on your vehicle, it’s better to keep your roof in good condition rather than wait for a serious problem to occur. Roof replacement and roof repair costs a lot less when you don’t have to add in the other costs of repairing water damage.