For most people, a home is the biggest investment that they’ll ever make. It stands to reason that you’ll want to protect you roof. In most cases, the roof is the first line of defense against mother nature. However, what happens when that first line of defense fails?
A leaky roof isn’t something that just happens. It’s usually the result of poor roof maintenance or severe weather. If you find yourself with a leaky roof, you might wonder why it’s leaking. The answer isn’t always straight forward because many problems can cause a leaking roof. Although, it’s often a combination of problems.
In any case, it’s important to get a leak fixed sooner rather than later. The longer that you allow a leak to remain, the more damage that it can do to your roof and home.
How Do Roofs Become Damaged? How Do Leaks Form?
The most common cause of a leaky roof is damage.
However, how do roofs get damaged in the first place? Many elements can damage your roof, but some are more common than others.
For most homeowners, the most common cause of a leaky roof is damaged shingles. Shingles can become damaged from weather, impact damage or improper installation.
In most cases, impact damage is the result of either the homeowner walking on the roof, animals running across it or hail damage. That’s right, the squirrels and other animals that run across the tops of homes can cause damage that leads to leaks.
If homeowners do their research and hire a professional, improper installation typically won’t occur. Improper installation usually happens when homeowners try to install their own shingles.
By far, though, weather is the most common cause of shingle damage. Strong winds can rip shingles off, and hail can create holes in the shingles. However, frost and extreme heat damage shingles the most.
The expanding and contracting of the material eventually causes it to crack. When shingles crack, water can seep into and underneath them. If the water freezes, it expands and further damages the shingles.
Sometimes, roofs leak just because they’re old. Like anything else, roofs eventually break down and need to be replaced. In fact, some roofing materials last longer than others.
For example, asphalt is one of the cheapest roofing materials but has one of the shortest life spans. Metal roofs last much longer but cost more than shingles. Slate roofs can last the longest, sometimes upward of 100 years, but cost the most.
However, some roof decks aren’t strong enough to support the weight of slate. Thankfully, a roofer can inform you about which roofing material is the best fit for your needs.
All the different types of shingles and roofing have pros and cons. If leaks are a major concern for you, inform your roofing contractor. He can point you in the direction of a roofing material that is the least likely to leak. He might recommend a moisture barrier as well.
What Should You Do if You Discover a Roof Leak?
Knowing what causes a leak is important, but that can only take you so far if you already have one. What you really need to know is how to minimize the damage to your home until you can fix it. Unless it’s a small leak, you’ll have to hire a roofer to ensure that it’s fixed properly. Otherwise, you might be looking at another leak.
Your first step is to find out if you have a leak or not. Some signs in your home include:
- Damp spots or water stains on your ceiling.
- Interior paint peeling or bubbling during heavy downpours.
- Missing shingles.
- Musty or damp smell in your house, usually in the attic.
- Hearing the sound of dripping water in your home.
- Moist or moldy drywall.
- Wet or rotten decking, which is the wood floor underneath the shingles and underlayment.
Next, you have to find the source of the leak. Remember that it might not be in the area where you find water stains. The reason is that water can travel from the entry point several feet along the inside of your room line. This means that your leak could be several feet away from the water stain on your ceiling.
Once you find the source of the water leak, it’s time to minimize as much damage as possible until a professional can fix it. One way is to use a bucket of some kind to collect the water during downpours.
If you notice that the water is being stored or collected in the ceiling, use a screwdriver to make a small hole. This will funnel the water out in one location. Make sure that you have a bucket to collect the water that comes out.
How to Fix a Leak
The best course of action is to hire a roofing contractor. He can check not only the overall structure of the roof but also other troubled areas that may become a leak.
Sometimes a small leak is something that you can handle on your own. This is typically the case when the leak comes from a nail in the roof. Using a sealer, you can prevent more water from dripping into the attic.
In some cases, these leaks are easy to find during the winter. As moisture moves down the nail, it will freeze. When you check your attic, you’ll find a frosted nail. This will let you know which nails are causing leaks and which ones aren’t.
Other times, you simply need more sealant or caulk around roof joints. With that said, you can’t count on caulk alone to stop a leak in the long term. When possible, it’s always best to replace rusty or damaged flashing around these joints. However, if you’re uncomfortable being on a roof or not sure of the repair process, you’re better off calling a roofing contractor.
When Should You Call a Professional to Fix a Leak?
In most cases, it’s best to call a professional roofing contractor right away. That’s because most roofers offer a guarantee on the work that they perform. Then, if something goes wrong during the installation, you’re covered for the extra repairs.
You get no such guarantee if you attempt to repair the roof yourself. In fact, most roofing materials have a clause that states that the manufacturer warranties are void if professional roofers don’t install them.
You should also call a professional if you feel uncomfortable working on the roof. Most of the time, repairing a leak requires that you get on the roof. Without the right safety equipment, you put yourself at risk of falling and getting hurt. If you end up in the hospital, you’ll end up losing even more money than if you had just hired a professional to start with.
Biyearly, you should also do your own visual inspection of the attic. Take a look for warning signs such as:
- Algae stains, which are usually on the plywood.
- Rust around nails.
- Black rings around nails.
- Soaked or wet insulation.
These are signs that moisture is getting into your attic. If you notice any of them, you need to call a professional.
PRO TIP: While in the attic, check out your attic vents. See if they’re clogged with debris, such as spider webs, insulation or leaves. The debris can clog up the intake vents and cause even more problems for your roof.
Another reason why you might want to call a professional is that repairing a roof leak isn’t always limited to simply replacing a shingle or the flashing. Sometimes, it requires completely removing a section of the roofing deck.
The roof is made of layers, and the shingles are only the top layer. There’s also an underlayment that acts as a moisture barrier for the decking. The decking acts as the foundation for the other layers of your roof and is typically just plywood.
Once the decking gets wet, it can start to mold or become unstable quickly. A weak roofing deck can result in the collapse of your entire roof.
The best course of action is, of course, to stop a leak before it ever starts. However, how do you stop something before it happens?
One way is to hire a roofing company such as Advance Roofing to perform a routine inspection. Our professional contractors are trained to spot warning signs and troubled spots that might eventually turn into leaks. Then, they can prevent the damage before it ever happens.
During an inspection, professional contractors look at multiple areas of the roof. This includes areas that stick up through the roof, such as an attic vent or a chimney. Since these areas break through the roof decking, they’re the most likely to leak. For that reason, it’s important to have a professional check the flashing around these fixtures.
During the winter, watch out for ice dam leaks. This happens as the result of your gutters being clogged. When the snow melts during the winter, it can build up in the gutters if they aren’t clean. When the water refreezes at night, it expands back up the roof.
This can damage your shingles. More importantly, once the snow starts to melt again, the ice prevents it from draining. This causes it to flow upward and underneath the shingles, which turns into a leak.
Another preventive measure that you can take is to stay off the roof. It isn’t designed for foot traffic no matter which kind of roof that you have. The more that you walk on it, the more likely that you are to damage it. This goes for metal, slate, cedar and asphalt materials.
Lastly, avoid planting tall trees close to your house. These trees prevent your roof from drying quickly after a rainstorm, which encourages the growth of plant life such as algae. The algae can break down roofing materials, and then you’ll have to replace it sooner than expected.
Also, nearby trees encourage animals to run across your roof. As mentioned before, these animals can damage shingles.
Contact Us Today to Stop Your Roof Leak
In most cases, a leak isn’t a problem that you should attempt to fix on your own. It’s not only dangerous because you have to work on the roof, but you’ll only have yourself to blame if you make a mistake.
Instead, contact Advance Roofing. Our experts can help you not only find the source of a leak but also fix it. We’re proud to offer service between Vancouver, WA, and Portland, OR. Beyond leak repair, we offer a variety of services, such as:
- Roof recovery.
- Demolition of existing materials.
- Flashing repair and installation.
- Commercial roof services.
- Roof inspections.
- Plywood or decking installation.
Don’t wait. Call Advance Roofing today at (503) 241-7978 for more information about how we can help you.