A leaking roof is a homeowner’s nightmare.
A leaking roof can cause all sorts of issues in your home, and is often an indicator of much larger problems. Mold, rotted frames, and damaged insulation can all appear fast and cause health and safety hazards. Even small leaks have to be addressed as soon as they’re first spotted — otherwise, they can spiral out of control, making a small problem even worse.
Adding to the headache, it’s not always clear how water made its way into your home. The water stain on your ceiling is obvious enough, but trying to locate its source can be tricky, adding even more stress to your leak problem. The best way to identify leaks in your home is to start where the damage is and work backward, as water often enters through your roof, flows along rafters, then drips down — causing problems far away from where the leak actually originated.
Causes of roof leaks
More often than not, the general cause of leaks is due to the age of your roof. Over time, even the best roofing materials can deteriorate and become less effective at keeping water out of your home.
Many leaks start from the wear and tear that shows up around protrusions in your roof, such as dormers, plumbing vents, and chimneys. Cracks, splits, and other deterioration can loosen the seal where the roof and these objects come together, allowing water to slip through.
Flashing is a thin layer of metal placed along the joints of your roof to provide a watertight seal against the elements. However, harsh weather and deteriorated sealant can wear at the flashing, causing it to pull away from your roof or crack. This allows water to find its way in through the seams. Tar is also often used to seal flashing together, but direct sun rays can melt the tar, exposing small seams cracks in the metal.
Fireplaces are wonderful features to have in your home, but if the flashing around your chimney comes loose, rusts through, or mortar starts chipping away, that lovely feature can become a big problem. Harsh weather conditions chip away at the connection points between your chimney and roof, making it easy for water to slip through.
Cracked booting or vents
Plumbing and vents that protrude from your roof are encased in plastic or metal boots that seal the seams and prevent water from slipping through. But, they don’t last forever. Rubber boots can rot or tear while metal boots can rust and lose their screws. A leaky vent can trap the moisture that should be leaving your house, causing leaks and water damage, while damaged boots can allow water easy access into your home.
Like plumbing and vents, dormer walls are a prime location for leaks. Caulking can wear down, crack, or fall off along window edges and siding. Meanwhile, flashing can pull away from your house and crack on its own. With cracks and openings around your dormers, water can get behind the flashing and into your house where it will slide down and wind up doing damage far away from its point of entry.
Not every leak stems from a protrusion. Sometimes roof leaks occur when there’s been damage to your roof or roof maintenance has fallen to the wayside. Wear and tear are expected, but making sure that you stay up on maintaining your roof can help stop preventable roof leaks.
Broken or missing shingles
This is one of the easier roof leaks to spot and understand. Examining your roof (sometimes even while your feet are still planted on the ground) is often enough to identify the problem area if missing shingles are the source of your leaking roof. Heavy storms can whip weakened shingles off your roof and damage others, opening up the floodgates for water to seep into your home.
Ice dam buildup or clogged gutters
When either ice or leaves clog up your gutters, rain and melted snow can’t flow down and away from your home, forcing it to travel back up on (or in) to your roof. This water can get under flashing and shingles, where it can then find small cracks in your roof and get into your home. Plus, refrozen ice can cause damage to your roof, as it sits in places it’s not supposed to. Keeping your gutters clear year-round is an easy way to prevent this type of roof leak down the road.
It’s easy to assume that water damage in your attic and along your ceilings originates from a leaky roof, but sometimes, the problem can come from inside your home rather than outside it.
Condensation in your attic
If your attic is not properly insulated, the differing temperatures from inside and outside your home can cause moisture buildup in your attic, leading to condensation. If your attic has a musty odor and shows signs of mold or mildew, it’s likely that your attic needs some attention. It may be improperly ventilated, as the moisture in the air has been unable to get out and is trapped inside.
If your attic space is poorly ventilated, moisture can cling to nails that have come through the rafters during your roof installation. During cold nights, that moisture can turn into frost on the nail (making it seem like the nail shines) and melt away again the next morning. If left unaddressed, this one shiner can cause structural issues for your home and roof, as well as damage to ceilings.
While periodic attic checks and simple roof inspections can sometimes be enough to stave off severe damage from leaking roofs, when major problems occur, you may need to call for help. When that occurs, have your roof inspected by a professional to see what steps you can take.
As always, give us a call at (615) 794-4001 with any roofing related questions.