You may have heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “A small leak will sink a great ship”, and it’s the same for your house. Leaking roofs can cause havoc in your home and destroy your furniture.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have spotted damaged or missing shingles or tiles, or noticed water marks on the ceiling long before water makes its way through your roof and into your home.
Regardless of the type of roof you have, flat or pitched, at some stage during your roof’s lifetime you’re likely to experience a leak if you don’t annually inspect it.
Fixing the leak isn’t actually the hardest part, but finding it can be! The reason leaks are so hard to find on a roof is because water can seep in from damaged areas on the roof, such as worn or broken shingles or loose nails, and trickle down to another point before it drips down to your ceiling.
Roof Leaks: the Usual Suspects
Water leaks may not come from the roof itself. Water can seep in from air condition or plumbing leaks, drains or scuppers, or even from pest infestation. Blocked gutters can make it look like the roof is damaged. Before you try taking your roof apart, make sure that’s where the water is actually seeping in from.
Some parts of the roof are more prone to leaks, so start your search there. Flashings at chimneys, air conditions on the roof, skylights, dormer vents and roof protrusions often turn out to be the source of the problem.
If you want to avoid making an emergency call to roofing specialists, safeguard your roof with regular roof maintenance and inspections.
Finding the Leak
Step 1: A Visual Inspection of the Roof
Standing on the ground, start by looking for the obvious roof leak. Look for:
• exposed roofing tacks
• cracked asphalt or shakes
• ice dams
• broken or damaged shingles
• water stains or discolorations
• popped nails
• fallen branches
Many of these can be easily fixed, like replacing a shingle, but if you see uneven ridge lines or sagging rafters, this could be a more serious structural problem, and you’ll need to call in the professionals.
Step 2: Checking the Attic for Roof Leaks
If you had no luck with the visual inspection, examine the attic, if you have access to it. Look for wet frames, soft spots or water marks, and examine the ridge, sheathing and rafters. Water flows downhill, so work your way up if you see a drip.
If nothing turns up, switch off the lights and look for holes that let the daylight through.
Lastly, examine the underside of the roof nails that are badly placed in the framing member, causing condensation and frost in cold weather.
If you find a hole, gently run a bit of wire through so you can find it easily from the roof.
Step 3: Getting the Ladder Out: Up on the Roof
The attic didn’t yield any results? You may have to check the roof itself.
Walking on the roof or standing on the eaves can cause damage and can be very dangerous. If you’re not comfortable going up on the roof, or if you don’t have the right equipment, call the roofing contractors – it’s no small task, and sometimes it takes professionals to do it right – and do it safely!
First, look for corrosion or broken seals on the flashings of anything that protrudes through the roof, such as vents, chimneys or skylights. Next, check the whole surface of the roof with binoculars for holes, rusted areas, worn or loose shingles or dry rot.
If you fail to uncover the leak, there is one more thing you can try before you call in the professionals: a water test with a garden hose.
Slowly, isolate and soak one small area of the roof at a time while a friend looks for the leak in the attic. Start at the bottom of the roof (never go straight up-roof), one small area at a time. If you find the leak, push a wire or nail through so you can identify the area on the roof.
Step 4: Fixing the Leak in your Roof
Now that you’ve found the leak, you’re halfway to staying dry! How you fix the leak will depend on the material and construction of your roof.
Single roofs can often be easier to fix, by replacing or securing curled or missing/damaged shingles. Flat roofs that have a large area of water under the roof will require a professional to fix the problem. If you’re not sure how to proceed, call a professional roofing company who can fix emergency roof repairs and ensure your roof – and your whole home – stay dry!
A Word about Safety
You should never climb onto a roof during a storm, and never on a steeply pitched roof. Ladders can be dangerous and need to be set up properly. You should always wear a safety line and harness if you’re climbing onto a roof or up a ladder. Never work from the ladder – set up a scaffold that will provide a safer platform. Gloves and goggles are recommended for the attic. Avoid stepping on ceiling joins or other delicate surfaces and be careful of any wet plastic. Attics can contain badly insulated electric wires –stay away from these and call an electrician or professional roofer if any are exposed.
Annual Inspections of your Roof
Roofs are the first level of protection for your home, and they need some TLC, too. Did you know that you can have your roof inspected and maintained annually? Before winter, consider hiring experts to examine your roof and provide improvements to add years to your roof!