As a homeowner, it is imperative that you notice leaks quickly so that you do not deal with the terrible effects of long-term leaks. Leaky roofs can ruin your home’s insulation, rot the wooden framing, destroy interior walls and ceilings, and create a breeding ground for black mold. Even if you have already scheduled a roof replacement, it is best to be cautious when dealing with roof leaks. A single, seemingly harmless drip in the living room can lead to massive repair bills down the line. The longer you leave a leak alone, the more distress it will cause, even leaving the initial point of the leak undetectable due to massive amounts of damage. So how do we deal with this problem? Hiring a professional is always the best idea, but here are some tips to help you when you’re in a pinch!
As previously mentioned, your first and best defense against leaky roofs is constant vigilance. When a leak occurs, it’s best to deal with it right away rather than let it fester. When you are trying to find a leak, the first method to try is to observe the roof from a downward angle, looking uphill at the stains. It is most common to find your roof leaks in stained areas. Once you have found a stained area, look for any roof penetrations, as these are the most common causes for leaks. It is rare for leaks to occur on even older roofs if there are no items penetrating the shingles.
Common penetrations include chimneys, debris, branches, roof vents, and plumbing, but you’re really just looking at anything that is going through your roof. If you have an attic, you can also head on up there with a flashlight to look for signs of water damage that will lead you to the leak. Again, do this as soon as you notice a leak, as the damage will increase over time. This makes it harder to find the leak source through all of the stains and destruction.
Sometimes you can search and search but still not be able to find a leak. When that happens, enlist a family friend or neighbor to help you. One of you goes up onto the roof with a garden house, and the other waits inside to investigate, waiting for the drips to appear. It should be noted that this tactic should only be used on a dry day when the roof is not already wet and sending water into your home. Starting on the lowest setting, use the garden hose on isolated areas of your roof to find the leak. Focus the hose on each roof penetration, one at a time, for about 3 minutes, leaving time in between each session before you move on to a higher area of your roof.
Remember to be patient, there is no point in using this strategy if you rush the process. As soon as the person inside sees the leak, be sure to yell up to the person on the roof. This means you have found the area of the leak. If you cannot find the source of the leak, start to remove some shingles in the area, to see the wood underneath. A leaky roof will leave wood discolored, water stained, and even rotten! Patch the hole or replace the wood, replace the shingles, and you should be good to go.
Damaged flashing around brick chimneys is a common problem that homeowners face when dealing with roof leaks. If the flashing around your chimney is galvanized steel, it may have rusted through in certain areas, especially at the 90-degree bend at the bottom. The best way to deal with this problem long term is to install new flashing into the mortar. A faster, less permanent solution that still does the trick is to divert the water seeping through the rusted flashing by sliding the new flashing underneath it!
If you have plastic roof vents, check for cracked housings. If you have metal roof vents, check for broken seams. You should also be on the lookout for missing or lose nails at the vent’s base. Replace these nails with rubber-washer screws, which will stay in place much longer. When dealing with damaged roof vents, there is no easy fix. You have to completely replace the damaged vents, or else the leak will continue to reoccur over time. To remove most roof vents, simply remove the nails under the shingles of both sides of the vent. Usually, there is no need to remove any shingles as you can work the vent loose without damaging them. Replace the vent, screw it in place with rubber washer-screws, use a touch of caulk beneath the shingles on both sides, and voila! No more leak!
Wind-driven rain can often cause leaks by allowing water to come in from between corner boards and siding, around windows, and through knotholes and cracks in siding. Old caulking is one of the main perpetrators allowing these leaks to occur. Take a knife and inspect the caulking, digging out any that is too old or cracked. You may even discover that some caulk is missing altogether! Replace all the caulk you removed with a siliconized latex caulk, and inspect the siding of the area as well. Remove and replace all damaged or rotten siding, making sure that the new piece overlaps the step flashing by at least 2 inches.
There are many different things that can cause your roof to leak, far too many to include in this article. When dealing with your leaky roof, use these tips to help solve it yourself, but also do not be afraid to ask a professional for help. They know their stuff, and they can also actually save you time and money by dealing with the leak in a prompt and efficient manner. It is also recommended to have your roof inspected at least once per year, with a well cared for roof being able to last up to 50 years.