January 17, 2019

Roof Leak Detection: Stop Water Damage Before its Too Late

A leaking roof can destroy your home value and your health. Discover the expert’s guide to roof leak detection and repair.

Time to read:
4 Minutes
Written by
Nicholas Capobianco

Water damage can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. As with a health problem, you may choose to ignore it for a while—but if left unchecked, it can ultimately damage the “bones” of your home. This can result in insulation issues, mold growth, fire risk, personal injury, and structural damage.

Even if your roof has been properly installed and is relatively new, it can spring a leak. You may not know you have a roof leak until it’s made a significant mess of your home and property. Regular inspections, attention to detail, and hiring professionals for any roof care are among the ways you can keep your roof in good health all year round.

Why your roof might leak

The causes of roof leaks are varied. They can include:

The age of the roof

Age is a leading cause of roof leaks, and in particular, this includes wear-and-tear caused by weather fluctuations. Shingles can blow off due to strong winds or simply become loose over time.

Improper installation

This is why choosing the right roofing professional is so important when building or updating a home. Roofs that have been installed without the right attention to detail are at a higher risk of springing a leak.

Basic roof maintenance

Basic roof maintenance or projects, like removing an antenna, can result in minor damage when done badly. These small issues may then lead to bigger problems, so ensure that you have qualified professionals making any changes to your roof.

Cracked roof flashing

Flashing consists of thin pieces of metal that are installed under shingles and on the joints of your roof in order to create a water-resistant barrier. This metal can rot or become damaged, leading to serious leakage. Caulking is a weak point with flashing, and needs to be checked and maintained regularly.

Built-up debris

Debris like branches, leaves, and even pine needle can build up over time and cause severe damage. It’s important to keep your roof clear to prevent a water damage emergency! Anything that restricts water flow can cause premature deterioration of the shingles, and result in costly fixes.

Roof slope

If your roof is improperly sloped, wind can lift shingles and allow water to gather underneath. Different slopes require different materials and installation techniques. This is where a call to Roofr can prevent you from making a mistake that can lead to long-term water damage!.

Backed up gutters

This problem is similar to the above-mentioned buildup of debris. It’s why proper maintenance of your gutters is essential to preventing future problems. You may be tempted to get your ladder out, but rethink this if you don’t have experience or the proper safety materials. When in doubt, call a professional!

Ice dams

Ice dams form and create leaks. These are ridges of ice that appear at the edge of a roof, in the valleys, around chimneys, and across skylights, preventing melting snow from draining. This, in turn, puts strain on the roof.

roof leak detection ice dams

Some of these issues are subtle and may go undetected for months or even years before a roofing disaster strikes and you wake up to that drip, drip, drip or spot a dark stain on your ceiling.

Keep in mind that leaks you find in your home may also be a result of plumbing, HVAC fails, and window malfunctions rather than a roof. What can also be tricky is that, due to the slope of a roof, the interior damage may not be at the exact spot where water is coming through—which makes locating the source a bit like solving a mystery.

Regular inspections can catch an actual roof leak before it rears its ugly head in the form of plywood damage, dry rot, insulation damage, mold growth, and risking the infiltration of your electrical system. By the time these problems show up, the water has made it past the roofing system, into the attic, and into the structure of your home. This is a very serious problem that a simple call to Roofr can help you avoid!

roof leak detection windows

Roof leak detection and the rapid engagement of a professional are essential to maintaining the long-term value of your home. In fact, some experts say that taking care of the roof is the most important aspect of protecting real estate investments of any kind—be it a home or a commercial property.

The warning signs: how to check for roof leaks

A brown spot on the ceiling or water coming into your home during heavy rain are the clearest signs of a possible roof leak. Be on the lookout for factors like bubbling paint or plaster, wood rot in the attic (especially around windows), and a musty smell.

A physical inspection of your roof is, of course, the most obvious way to spot a problem. A missing shingle or clogged gutter is obvious. But some of these flaws or areas of damage are very subtle and better spotted by a roofing professional.

If you’re going to tackle your own inspection, experts advise doing your inspection during the day and to “think like water” while you’re trying to pinpoint exactly where the leak originated. Again, the first thing to consider is always safety. No matter what type of leak you’re dealing with, professional help is always best!

As Don Vandervort says in HomeTips, “once water passes the roofing, it flows along the sheathing, roof rafters, or topside of ceilings until it finds a place to drip down—inevitably onto your favorite piece of furniture.”

roof leak detection inspection

There are a few things you’re going to have to do in order to find a roof leak. If you have an attic, inspect your roof from the inside with a flashlight. Do this after a heavy rain or “create a storm” yourself with a garden hose. Then, you’ll want to look at the highest point on the roof above the stain or where the ceiling is wet. Remember, the water will run down to create the leak.

Measure down, from the peak of the roof to the leak’s highest point and over from a gable end to the leak. Then trace these same measurements on the outside of the roof. This should allow you to find the leak and assess the damage.

Take fast action

A weak spot in your roofing system can cause more than just water stains. The longer you delay a leaky roof repair, the more long-term (and even fatal) damage may occur. Leaks can seep into the walls of your home and cause massive amounts of water damage.

Water damage can very quickly lead to mold growth. The impact of mold on your health can be significant, creating breathing problems—especially for people with respiratory issues like allergies and asthma. This mold can spread quickly from an attic through an HVAC system, “poisoning” your household over time. Mold also has no problem eating its way through the structure of your home, causing severe instability, and adding another element of danger.

Water damage as a result of undetected roof leaks can also ultimately rot walls and the foundations of homes as they become waterlogged. What’s more, damaged insulation is not only costly to replace but can also increase your heating and cooling bills. Fire and electrical shock can occur if water leaks reach uninsulated wiring within the walls.

roof leak detection fires

If faced with a significant leak during heavy rain, you can perform some do-it-yourself triage by applying a temporary patch or covering with interim materials like roof cement. However, looking to a qualified roofing contractor is the best way to ensure your safety and a long-term fix for the problem.

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