Common Roof Problems

In time, every roof will have problems if it is not maintained or gets old enough.  If the roofer does a poor job of installing the roof, it will have trouble before it should, even if the homeowner does a good job of maintenance.  In this roofing guide we discuss the 5 most common roof problems found in today’s roofs.  Knowing what can go wrong will help you know what to watch out for and where to look if a leak in your roof does develop.

Failure of the Field of Shingles

The field of shingles is the term used to describe the mass of installed shingles on the roof.  Problems usually occur when the shingles are getting older, are damaged, or were improperly installed.  For example, in older shingles, enough of the ceramic granules may have worn off to make them susceptible to damage from the sun.  Old shingles in the sun may crack or loosen, giving water an opening to get through.

Damaged shingles are often caused by excessive heat in the attic of a home, causing the shingles to cup which allows wind-driven rain to get under them where it can easily leak into your home.  Improperly installed shingles will also fail if the nail has been driven too far into the shingle — or through the shingle, or if it is not driven in far enough.

If you are getting multiple leaks, the most likely cause is general failure in the field of shingles.  Inspect shingles for signs of cupping, loss of granules, sliding, and cracking.

Improperly Installed Flashing

Where shingles butt up to exterior walls, flashing is installed in a “step” form, with the higher piece of flashing overlapping the one lower than it.  If not installed correctly, water can get between the pieces of flashing and cause the roof deck to rot and/or water to leak into your home.  The problem is most severe when water runs down a roof and right up against an exterior wall.  Few homes built in the last 20 years feature this poor design.

If you are getting a leak near the point where the roof meets a wall, the flashing should be the prime suspect.  Look for flashing that has moved or slipped, or that has rusted or been damaged in some other way.

Chimney Leaks

Where a chimney protrudes through a roof, keeping water out where the roof meets the exterior sides of the chimney is very difficult.  Several different layers of flashing are required to keep water out of the joint between the chimney and the roof deck.  As the house settles, gaps can easily form in the flashing, allowing water to find its way behind the flashing and into your home.  Plumbing vents or furnace vents present the same types of problems but on a smaller scale.  Pay attention to the rubber boots that are often used with vents.  In 10-15 years the rubber can deteriorate to the point of cracking, allowing a leak to start.

Ice Dams

In the snow and ice belt of the country’s norther regions, ice dams can be a major problem.  These ice dams build up near the lower edge of the roof and block water from running off the roof.  The water, perhaps from snow melted by the sun, is blocked by the dam, freezes, adding to the dam.  Additional water may back up under shingles and other roofing material, flashing, and tar paper.  If you have leaking near an external wall of your home, check immediately for ice dams.  It’s best to have a professional remove them, since a roofing contractor will have the skill and tools to do it without damaging the roof.  The best ways to prevent ice dams are to install waterproof membranes under the first 4-6 course of roofing material or to clear snow from the roof on a regular basis.

Problems with Valleys

Valleys are the low points where 2 roof planes come together on a downward slope.  All the water from both planes drains through these valleys so any problem will quickly leak.  Some roofers used rolled roofing in valleys while others use flashing.  In either case, if it is not installed properly or if it has nail or staple holes in the material covering the valley, you’ll likely have a leak sooner rather than later.

Common Roofing Problem Conclusion

These 5 common roof problems account for 90% of the leaks, or higher.  If you’ve got a leak, begin to inspect these areas and you’ll likely discover the source of water penetrating through the roof and causing damage within your home.  If you have good DIY skills you may want to attempt a repair yourself.  Do be cautious because in many cases, a poorly done repair will only worsen the problem.  If you cannot locate the cause of the leak or don’t want to attempt to repair it yourself, call a qualified roofer to take a look at it. Point out what you’ve found, but let him do his own inspection to look for problems you might have missed.

 

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