What Can Cause Roof Leaks?

roof leaks

Do you have to go running for a drip bucket every time it rains? Roof leaks are often a sign of a larger roofing issue. Issues resulting from natural deterioration; storm damage; clogged gutters; design flaws; ice dams; or lack of long-term care and maintenance. If roof leaks are left unchecked it could mean an investment in both time and money. Here are some of most common causes of roof leaks.

The Roof’s Age

The life expectancy of a roof is dependent on several variables, including roofing materials and the climate you live in, as well as the quality of installation and long-term care and maintenance. Longevity can also be impacted by shingle color, roof slope, and surface orientation. Most experts agree that a typical roof will last between 20 and 25 years. If the roof leaks and is older than this, you may need a new roof.

Clogged Gutters

Your gutters are meant to help water travel away from the roof and foundation. When a blockage forms – as can happen after a storm – that travel stops. Rainwater or snow runoff can then backup, which can cause leaks or attract unwanted pests, and potentially lead to bigger problem.

How to fix it: At least twice a year (during the spring and fall), get up on a ladder, and pull out any debris using your hands. Flush the gutters with water until it runs clear. You can also purchase an extendable gutter cleaning tool kit or hire someone to do this for you.

Design Problems

Occasionally, roofs leak, sag or even collapse due to improper design and/or incompatible roof materials. A standard reroof is usually required to fix design-related problems. This is exactly why you should get three estimates with any home improvement project and be wary of choosing the lowest priced bid. Always hire a licensed and insured roofer.

Ice Dam Build Up

Icicles on your roof may look charming, but remember, looks can be deceiving. Typically, they are the calm before they storm; they are a sign that your roof is forming ice dams. An ice dam is a big, hard hunk of ice that forms when snow melts, runs off your roof and refreezes near the edge of your roof.

This only occurs when you have a problem with ventilation or air sealing – two issues that can also drive up energy costs. The best way to permanently stop ice dams is to have a professional evaluate your home’s attic ventilation, air sealing, and insulation. The ENERGY STAR program recommends that you insulate attic floors to R-49.

Additionally, if your ventilation system isn’t working or isn’t properly designed for the size of your home – a professional roofer should be contacted. Professional roofers can make repairs or install additional soffit vents without too much construction.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

Be honest: How often do your look at your roof? If you’re anything like most homeowners, you run in and out of the house, only glancing up at the roofline as you back out of the driveway or when your kid’s frisbee gets stuck up there. Regularly inspecting your roof, however, can prevent costly repairs down the road.

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends you do a roof inspection at least two times a year – spring and fall. You may also want to inspect your roof after big storms. Grab a flashlight and make a trip to the attic to look for the following signs.

  • Natural light showing through the roof
  • Places where the roof deck is sagging
  • Signs of water damage or leaks
  • Trails of dark spots

Once you’ve inspected the roof’s interior, it’s time to move outdoors to look for damaged flashing; missing or buckling shingles; algae growth; an excessive amount of shingle granules in the gutters; and any other signs of damage. These all require immediate repair by a professional roofer.

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