Top Ten Spots for Roof Leaks

Posted May 17th, 2012
by Elizabeth Adams (no comments)

Roof leaks are among homeowners’ biggest fears. Every now and then, they can be signs that a roof needs to be completely replaced, and no one wants to deal with such a major expense. Not surprisingly, most leaks are initially discovered during powerful rain storms. However, if water has built up beneath the shingles over time, they can occur at seemingly random times too. Ice and snow can also alert homeowners to roof leaks. One thing’s for sure: You shouldn’t ignore the problem. As soon as evidence of a leak occurs, you need to track down its source. It’s more than likely coming from one of the following ten places.

  1. Chimney

    The chimney is a common spot for roof leaks to originate. Four different types of flashing can be used to seal water out of the chimney, so there are many possible causes. Even the tiniest of cracks in the flashing can cause water to pool up and cause leaks. At the soldered corners of the flashing, cracks are often found too. Caulk should never be used in this case. The damaged flashing or counter-flashing should be replaced instead.

  2. Gutter

    Clogged or damaged gutters are often to blame for roof leaks, which is why it’s so important to keep your gutters in good shape. Clean them out regularly, or hire someone to do it for you. The goal is to keep water flowing off the roof as quickly as possible.

  3. Ice Dams

    If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, your roof’s ice dams can block melting water from moving down and away from it. In turn, water can build up beneath the shingles and under the flashings. If this continually happens, you’ll need to have membranes installed beneath the roof.

  4. Wall Step Flashings

    Step flashing is used where slanting areas of the roof meet with vertical walls. At each new row of shingles, another piece of flashing is used where the roof meets the wall. When it’s in good shape and properly installed, each piece of flashing should extend partially onto the wall, and the other end of it should be partially covered by a shingle. Rust and holes commonly occur on these flashings, or they may become loose. If holes or rust have developed, the flashing should be replaced. If the flashing is simply loose, it should be secured again with fresh caulk.

  5. Head Wall Flashings

    This type of flashing is used where roofs end directly at vertical walls. In these areas, each piece of flashing should extend at least three inches over the shingle. Caulking won’t work if there are cracks or gaps. Roof cement and tar won’t either. The flashing should be secured firmly again if it is loose, or it should be replaced if it is damaged.

  6. Furnace Flashings

    These flashings are used to seal the areas around furnace vents, which extend out of the roof. They consist of aluminum flashing, a rubber seal and a metal storm collar. A loose storm collar can cause leaks. If yours is loose, tighten it. The vent itself may be damaged and should be replaced. Cracked rubber seals can also be the source of the problem. Each component should be carefully examined.

  7. Plumbing Vent Flashings

    These flashings seal plumbing vents that extend out of the roof. They’re nearly identical to furnace flashings. The main difference if they don’t have metal storm collars. Look for cracked rubber seals and loose or damaged flashing.

  8. Valleys

    Roof valleys are easy to identify; they are where to planes of a roof meet to form a valley. These can be sealed in several different ways. If metal flashing is used, check to make sure that it’s securely fastened and doesn’t have any rust or holes. If rolled roofing is used, check for corrosion and make sure it isn’t loose. Sometimes, shingles are simply laced together at the valley. In this case, the best solution is to install a metal flashing. There’s no way to use caulk or cement to patch holes reliably.

  9. Shingle Fields

    It’s exceedingly rare for roof leaks to occur on the broad expanses that are known as shingle fields. When they do happen, it’s usually due to small holes and loose shingles. In the case of small holes, don’t simply patch them with caulk. Slip a piece of flashing beneath the shingle first. Once that’s done, go ahead and patch the small holes with caulk. As for loose shingles, simply secure them into place. It doesn’t hurt to check the roof for loose nails from time to time as a preventive measure too.

  10. Other Spots

    This last item isn’t about a specific spot on the roof. Instead, it deals with other problems that can make you think your roof is leaking even though it actually isn’t. For example, condensation in the attic can leak through. This happens during hot, exceptionally humid weather. The crown of your chimney may develop cracks and begin to crumble. It’s easy to assume the crumbling is occurring because of a leak, but it actually isn’t. Finally, wind-blown rain, which happens during fierce storms, is sometimes an issue. The best way to deal with it is by using ice dam membranes and tar paper.

As you can see, the majority of roof leaks occur in places where intersections are located. Whether it’s at the valley of a roof, alongside its chimney or near one of the vents that poke out of it, a leak isn’t necessarily a sign that your roof needs to be replaced. Working on the roof is dangerous, however, so it’s generally best to let professionals do this work for you. You’ll generally enjoy a warranty of some kind too, which allows you to get a little peace of mind. It’s smart to have them come out to look at your roof on occasion too. Preventative maintenance is the best way to keep roof leaks at bay.

Categories: Advice

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