Roofs don’t last forever. Constant exposure to rain, wind, sun and snow will slowly deteriorate a roof’s integrity, leaving it subject to leaking issues. Shoddy
Improperly installed flashing will lead to leaking. Photo courtesy of KTM Roofing.
workmanship around the roof’s flashing, vents, gutters and other roofing features can also lead to water infiltration and potential damage to the home’s structure and interior. Preventative measures include thorough and frequent inspection of the roof and the attic space, replacement of damaged shingles, tiles or shakes and, if a leak has already developed, swift repair by either the homeowner or a roofing repair contractor.
Regular Inspection The roof can’t be expected to perform on faith alone. With so much resting on the roof’s integrity, it is in the best interest of the homeowner to regularly inspect for leaks and to be on the lookout for signs of roof damage that could lead to a leak. Staining on the ceiling inside the house is almost a sure sign that the roof above has been compromised. Such stains can take a long time to become visible—by this time, much of the roof decking, insulation and sheet rock will be already be saturated, rotted and needing replacement. The goal of the routine inspection is to prevent this situation from ever occurring.
Thorough inspection for leaks can begin in the attic. It may be helpful to inspect the attic on a rainy day as the leak will be much easier to spot. “Wait until at least 30 minutes of rain has fallen,” says Tim McLoughlin, owner of KTM Roofing, a roofing company based in Atlanta, Ga. “Then go in with a flashlight and check the rafters, eaves and ridges for water dripping or dark stains.” A dark stain on the roof decking may indicate a leak above, but McLoughlin cautions that the stain may not indicate the location of the leak. “If you have plywood the water can run some distance before leaving a stain,” he says. Homeowners should also check around all the vents and plumbing pipes and look for signs of daylight. This would suggest deterioration in the plumbing boot or flashing on the roof above, which could lead to a leak. All the pipes should be checked for moisture, and the valleys where two roofs meet should be inspected as well.
The presence of mold or mildew around the vents, chimney and the roof joints is usually sign of moisture infiltration. Close inspection of the area around mold or mildew may reveal the source of the leak. Also, dark or stained insulation may be the result of a leak. Be on the lookout for wet or saturated insulation.
The roof should undergo its own routine examination. The safest way to conduct an examination of the roof is to use a pair of binoculars and circle the home on the ground, sweeping over every inch of rooftop. “Look for curling or shrinking shingles,” says McLoughlin, referring to asphalt shingles. McLoughlin recommends examining all sides of the roof in both a morning and afternoon sun. Homeowners should look for shingles that are slipping out of place or out of alignment, which can occur in asphalt, tile, slate and wood shake shingle scenarios. Sagging branches that come into contact with the roof can abrade the shingles or knock them out of place, which decreases the life of the roof and can cause leaks.
Use those binoculars to get a good look at the roof flashing, too. Flashing (often sheet metal) is most often found around chimneys, vents, skylights and the joints, peaks and valleys of the roof. High winds, ice and snow and the expansion and contraction of the roof throughout the seasons can cause the flashing to work loose, particularly if it was poorly installed in the first place. Replacing or properly repairing the flashing can be a challenging job. Inexperienced homeowners should leave this to the roofing expert.