Stop Roof Leaks before They become a Problem

Your roof protects everything that is important to you. A well-maintained roofing system is a cost-effective way to extend its life and prevent structural failure. When doing home maintenance, it’s important to inspect the roof with every change of season and after storms. Missing shingles, damaged flashing, or wood rot in soffit or fascia let in unwanted moisture that cause leaks, resulting in expensive repairs if undiscovered. Here are some helpful ways to stop roof leaks before they really become a problem.

Signs of a Leaking Roof

On the roof itself, look for stains or damp areas. Examine the immediate area around the stain for missing or damaged shingles; loose flashing; cracked roof vent casings or plumbing vent pipes; or skylights or dormer winders with damaged seals. The “real” problem, for example, are the cracked seams around a skylight letting moisture. They will need resealing before the roof deck can be checked for wood rot and the stained shingles replaced.

Indicators of a roof leak inside your home include:

  • Stained ceilings
  • Sagging or buckling drywall
  • Water damage to the attic and/or damp insulation
  • Basement flooding
  • Pooled water on floors (slipping hazards)
  • Mold growth on basement and interior walls
  • Strong odours

On the outside , examine your home’s exterior for the following:

  • Stains or damp patches that don’t air dry in 48 hours
  • Damaged siding panels
  • Wood rot around windows and doors and on soffit panels
  • Clogged soffits
  • Soft spots (start of wood rot) on fascia
  • Peeling or bubbled paint
  • Mold or mildew growth

Practice Good Roof Habits

One of the best ways prevent the types of damage that can result in leaks is to practice good roof habits. These include:

  • No walking on the roof
  • Regular homeowner inspections with binoculars
  • Having a professional roof inspection done once every two years
  • General roofing home maintenance including clearing the roof of debris before cleaning the gutters

Time is of the Essence

As mentioned above, the best defence against roof leaks is regularly inspecting the roof for visible damage. Finding the source of the leak as quickly as possible is key to stopping the damage from a leaking roof.

Places where leaks can occur include:

  • Around the chimney
  • Under damaged or around missing shingles
  • Around flashing
  • Near the gutters
  • Near skylights or dormer windows
  • Near vents
  • In roof valleys

If and when you do see a problem, deal with it right away – it won’t conveniently fix itself.

Finding the Leaks

Leaks can take their time making an appearance. And when they do, it can be difficult to trace the source.

Obvious leaks

 Start with common roof penetrations. Ensure vents, soffit, and vent pipes are free of debris. Check the gutters for loose or missing hardware; they need to be securely attached to the fascia to prevent runoff from getting into places it shouldn’t. Repair any damaged flashing as soon as possible. Keep all roof penetrations such as skylights, dormer windows, and tunnel skylights in good repair.

Difficult leaks

If the gutters have been cleaned regularly and you’ve consistently conducted homeowner roof inspections after stormy weather, be prepared to investigate thoroughly, until you have found where the leak is coming from.

When the leak is difficult to find, conduct the search on a day when the roof is totally dry. Use the following method.

  • Get someone to assist you – one inside the house, one outside
  • Access the roof by ladder with a garden hose – stand on the roof only if necessary
  • Start near a roof penetration or just above where there’s a stain on an interior ceiling
  • Soak the area for three minutes, then wait for three to five minutes for drips to appear inside the house. If your helper tells you that no water appeared, move on to the next area and repeat the process.

If the source of the leak still has not revealed itself, return to the first stained patch of roof shingles or a roof penetration and remove shingles in the affected area. If the underlayment or sheathing is discoloured, water-stained, or splintered (rotting), you have found your leak.

Temporary not Permanent

Resealing problem areas with caulk or roof cement is only a temporary fix. Replace missing shingles. Rust spots will continue to appear on flashing if not replaced. When constantly reapplying sealant around skylights or dormers, get new seals installed. Replace rotted underlayment or sheathing as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your roof