A leaky roof cannot only damage your property but is also a health hazard as well. Moreover, it doesn’t take long for a leaking roof to become hazardous as it is estimated that it only takes between 24 and 48 hours for damp surfaces to start developing mold.
Even if you feel like the leaking spot is not an immediate concern, the longer you let it leak, the more costly it will be to repair it. Do you suspect that your roof might be leaking? This article is a guide on how to find and fix a leaking roof so you can grab your tool box and protect your home.
Table of Contents
- How to Identify a Leaky Roof
- Common Causes for Roof Leaks
- How to Find the Roof Leak
- Safety Measures for Repairing Roof Leaks
- How to Fix Common Roof Leaks
- Hire a Contractor for Complex Roofing Problems
- Should You Repair or Replace Your Roof?
How to Identify a Leaky Roof
Generally, it is only when it rains that you can tell that you have a leaky roof. However, if it hasn’t rained in a while and you are looking to know whether your roof has leaky spots, the following signs should help you identify:
- Water stains in your sealing
- A musty odor
- Bulging areas on your interior walls
- Damp patches on your exterior walls
- Warped or missing shingles
If you notice any of the signs above, you likely have a leaking spot in your roof. Nonetheless, these signs will not necessarily tell you where the leak is. Therefore, you will need to take on further investigation to pinpoint the exact location.
Common Causes for Roof Leaks
A leak in your roof can be caused by almost anything. However, some common issues seem to be the cause of leaky roofs across the board. They include:
Everything is susceptible to aging, your roofing materials notwithstanding. Your roof is directly exposed to the harsh sun’s rays, which can melt the tar that holds your shingles together. When the shingles finally give in, leaking ensues.
Even though bricks seem invincible, the mortar that binds them isn’t. Over time, exposure to the elements can cause it to erode and crumble. Inspect the mud cap that is on top of your chimney for signs of deterioration.
Flashing refers to the thin metal strips that are usually installed in areas on your roof that are most susceptible to leaking, such as where the roof and chimney meet. Flashing, therefore, should be firmly nailed into place, so it achieves its function.
You should, therefore, inspect your flashing to ensure that it is firmly fixed and isn’t rusted. Rust can cause cracks, which subsequently let water in.
Over time, the binding component that holds shingles together may wear out, causing shingles to become loose. As such, occasionally check your roof for any missing shingles as they might be the reason for that leak.
Vent boots have the same job as flashing only that the former are used to reinforce the areas where plastic vent pipes protrude from the roof. They are typically made of rubber but can also come in plastic or metal forms. Check to see whether they are worn out or loose, and replace them if needed.
Anything resulting from storm damage to critters living in your roof can create holes. Nonetheless, holes can be challenging to spot. As such, you will need to scrutinize every inch of your roofing.
While your unique roofing style might be eye candy, it might be more susceptible to leaking if it has a lot of slopes and valleys. This is because an uneven roof surface requires a lot of flashing and vent boots, which only increase the risk of leakage.
A gutter that is full of debris will impede rainwater from draining to the ground. That stagnant water might eventually find its way through your roof. As such, it is a good practice to check your gutters for debris routinely.
Improperly fitted skylights can allow water to drip through the cracks around them. Check to ensure that the area around the skylight has a well-fitted water barrier.
Sometimes, roofers make simple errors that result in significant consequences. For example, a nail that missed its mark will probably cause a leak. When exposed to the cold, it can frost up, which is why it’s called a shiner.
When the weather is warmer, the shiner may thaw and start dripping. While it might seem insignificant at first, over time, this constant dripping will cause worthwhile damage.
How to Find the Roof Leak
Finding the leaky spot can be difficult since the water might make its way across a large area. The following tips should help you pinpoint that spot:
Follow the Water Stains Uphill from Roof Leak
Look for a small stream of water that might be flowing down your rafters. If there’s one, follow it uphill up to the point where the wood is no longer wet.
Look for Roof Penetrations
This refers to any area where the roof is interrupted by another feature such as chimneys, roof vents, and dormers. These areas are the most susceptible to leaking. As such, inspect them thoroughly for any potential leaks. It is best to do this while it’s raining.
Look in Attic for Mold and Water Stains
Get a flashlight and climb up into the attic. Step tentatively so that you do not cause holes in your ceiling. Your aim is to look for water stains, black marks, or mold along your roof sheathing and rafters. Areas that possess those things are likely to leak nearby.
Get a Garden Hose and Run it Over the Roof
If an inspection hasn’t yielded any results so far, get your garden hose and ‘make it rain.’ Start by soaking the areas where you suspect there might be leaks. Also, have someone inside the house so they can identify the exact leaking spot.
Move from section to section, spending several minutes in each area. Have your helper mark out the leaking spots using chalk.
Safety Measures for Repairing Roof Leaks
After identifying all the potential leaking spots, it is now time to start repairing them. A word of caution: working on roofs can be a dangerous affair, and as such, be sure to heed the following safety tips:
- Only work on top of a roof when it’s sunny and the roof is completely dry to avoid slipping
- Harness yourself to a safety rope
- Utilize a ladder framework so that you can have secure anchoring
- Wear rubber-soled shoes for the best traction
- Note where the power lines are so you do not make contact with them
Repairing your roof should not come at the expense of injury or worse. So, be sure to follow these tips to avoid accidents.
How to Fix Common Roof Leaks
Once you’ve located the leak, it’s time to grab your tool belt and get started. The following are tips and things to consider as you embark on your repair mission:
Don’t Rely On Caulk
Caulk seems like a quick and easy way of patching up a leaky spot; it’s cement, after all. Nonetheless, caulk is nothing more than a temporary fix. Repairing leaky areas will almost always demand that you do it the “mechanical way” if you want a permanent solution to your leaky problem. This means replacing parts, not using sealants, caulk at best, is only suitable for tiny holes.
Plumbing Vent Boot Replacement
As mentioned earlier, vent boots can be made out of rubber, plastic, metal, or even a combination of these materials. Check for broken seams for those that have metal bases and cracks for those with plastic bases.
Also, inspect the rubber boot that surrounds the pipe. If it is torn or rotten, it could be allowing water to pass through.
If you have any of those problems, you will need to purchase a new vent boot and replace the old one. Nevertheless, if the boot is still in good condition and it is just the nails that are either loose or missing, you can replace them with rubber-washed screws designed for roofs.
To work on the vent boot, you will need to remove the shingles on either side. Remove them carefully so as to avoid damaging them. Wedge a flat bar into the sealant so as to separate them, and use it to dislodge the nails by driving it under the nail heads.
Fixing Roof Vents
As with vent boots, you will also need to check your roof vents for cracks or broken seams depending on the material. If you find any, you will have to replace the damaged vents.
Additionally, look for any missing or pulled nails at the bottom edge of the base. Replace the affected with rubber-washered screws.
Extracting the nails under the shingles on both sides of the vent should allow you to pull it free. If there are nails on top of the vent, be sure to work them loose as well.
Replace the vent with a new one and screw it in with new rubber-washered screws. Return the shingles and apply caulk to hold them tight.
Fixing Walls and Dormers
It is not just your shingles that are susceptible to leaking; your dormer walls also provide a lot of opportunities for water to trickle down and penetrate the roof. This is often due to old and cracked caulk between window edges and siding.
Water can penetrate those cracks and into the house. As such, check any area that has caulk for cracks and replace it with newer high-quality caulk. Also, be sure to examine the siding and replace any that might be missing or rotten.
If you still have leaks, pry the corner boards free and examine the overlapping flashing at the corner. Chances are you will find old and hardened caulk at the point where they overlap. Replace it.
Fixing the Flashing
Flashing, as mentioned earlier, is used along roof intersections to cover any openings. Nonetheless, it is made of metal and is, therefore, susceptible to rusting. Eventually, it might start allowing water to pass through.
You will need to replace any rusted flashing. As such, you will have to remove the adjacent shingles, pry loose the siding and replace the flashing.
Fixing Small Holes
They can be hard to spot, but tiny holes cause a lot of damage. The suspect places for such holes are areas where you have mounted equipment such as a satellite dish.
As such, any place on that has ever had nails driven into it should be examined for leaks. If you find a hole, apply flashing over it.
Fixing Leaks Around the Chimney
If you have a leak around your chimney, you will need to utilize flashing to fix that problem. Nonetheless, flashing around chimneys tends to rust a lot faster, so you might have to keep sliding new flashing under the rusted one. This way, any water that seeps through will be diverted.
How to Make an Emergency Cover for Your Roof
If you can’t fix your leaky problem in time, then having an emergency cover to protect your roof is a good idea. Here’s how to make one using plastic sheeting and 2x4s:
- Get a heavy 6-mil polyethylene sheeting and partially unroll it, so it covers the leaking area of the roof
- Cover about 4 feet on each side of the leak, and cut it from the rolls
- Wrap one end around a 2×4 and staple it
- Do the same for the top side as well
- Stretch your sheeting from eaves to ridge
Hire a Contractor for Complex Roofing Problems
Roofing is one of the costliest home projects. As such, if you do not have sufficient skill to undertake complex problems, it is best to hire a qualified professional. Attempting to do it yourself might result in unnecessary damage, thus resulting in even steeper repair costs. Also, a professional is going to do a better job, and a lot faster since roofing is their bread and butter. If you are unsure about a project, it is best to call a contractor.
Should You Repair or Replace Your Roof?
If your current roof is over 20 years old and has numerous defects, it is an indication that you should replace it. However, it is best to have a professional evaluate it so they can give you an expert’s opinion before deciding.
Leaking roofs are more than an annoyance; they can be detrimental to your health as well as property. The good news, however, is that with a bit of knowledge and time, you can fix a leaking roof. But if you find yourself out of your depth, calling in a professional is only wise.