Common roofing problems
Even a well-built roof will eventually wear out, with the weakest spots being the valleys between two sections of roof and flashing around chimneys. Storms, particularly hail, can cause serious damage that the homeowner may not notice immediately. Roof inspections should be done periodically or after such storms.
How leaks form
When your roof is old or has sustained some weather damage, there are some common areas that tend to be culprits for leaking water. Keep an eye out for problems and take preventive measures to fix them before serious structural damage, or mold and mildew occurs.
Here are some of the ways water starts to come in:
- Leaks at joints: Joints between the roof and the chimney or between two sloped sections of a roof are highly susceptible to leaking. Flashing beneath the shingles at the join may need to be replaced.
- Broken or cracked shingles: Water can seep through the roof and into your home if your roof has cracked or broken shingles. Shingles usually deteriorate on the southern face of the roof first, because of exposure to sun, so inspect that side first.
- Leaks along flashing: Roofers use flashing wherever something penetrates through the roof line — the chimney, vent stacks, etc. Over the years, these can become weak spots where rain begins to find its way under the shingles. Left untended, it could become a major leak requiring repairs all the way down to the rafters. A small leak — even one that doesn’t yet reach the living quarters — can result in wood rot and the growth of mold. When mold takes root inside a home, it can cause serious health problems.
When inspecting for leaks inside your attic, look for dark streaks on the boards that form the underside of the roof frame.
A good roof is designed to withstand the forces of Nature, but storms and winter weather can take their toll over time. The shape of a roof is intended to efficiently shed rain and snow.
If shingles have become loose wind can slip under and pull them off or further loose. Even with a well-installed roof, nails can work their way up over time, making a shingle loose.
Hail storms can be particularly damaging. It’s wise to have your roof inspected after hail storms to document whether damage has occurred. Most home insurance policies cover this may pay for an entirely new roof if the damage is found to be widespread. Your insurance company will likely send its own inspector, but you may want to hire your own roofing inspector to the true extent of the damage is sufficiently documented soon after the storm.
Although the weight of snow can collapse a roof, that generally only happens in the most extreme situations or when the structure was not built properly.
The more common source of winter roof damage is ice damming, in which icy snow builds up low on the roof along the gutters, but starts to melt higher up on the roof. Blocked by the ice, the water pools up and eventually finds its way beneath the shingles. Chronic ice damming is often the result of poor insulation in the attic.
Ice buildup can also happen if the gutters weren’t cleaned well enough in the fall. A clogged downspout causes melting snow to accumulate in the gutters and refreeze. Then more ice forms as icicles hanging from the frozen gutters. In addition to the risk of ice dam leaks, the weight of the ice can bring down the gutter or make it sag — causing it to drain poorly even when there is no clog.
Soffit & fascia damage
The “soffit” is the wood or metal panel on the underside of the roof’s overhang. The “fascia” is the board that runs behind the gutter, or along the roof line, boxing in the overhang. Both of these are at risk of water damage over time.
If the roof drip edge, which directs water into the gutters, is missing or damaged, water will typically rot the fascia board before eventually traveling to the soffit, where it will continue on its destructive path.
Animals like squirrels, birds and raccoons love to nest in a soffit and will quickly exploit any weak spot that allows them to gain access.
If you do your own gutter cleaning, take advantage of your time up on the ladder to inspect the fascia boards and soffit for signs of damage. Probe damp spots with a screwdriver to see if the wood seems soft. If you find rotted wood, don’t ignore the problem. It won’t go away by itself; it will just get worse.
Causes and prevention:
The best thing you can do is clean your gutters at least twice a year – in the spring and especially in the fall after all the leaves have come down. If you can’t or don’t want to do this yourself, we would be happy to come give you a free estimate. It will cost you less that making the repairs later.
Although not a substitute for a professional inspection, there are some tell-tale signs that the homeowner can look for The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends checking your roof during the fall and spring to help spot potential problems.
- Look for shingles that are buckling, curling or blistering; this indicates the end of the shingles’ life expectancy.
- Spot any loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations.
- Identify excessive amounts of shingle granules in your gutters; granules give shingles added weight and protect them from ultraviolet rays.
Hiring a roofing inspector
Here are some of the things a roofing inspector would commonly look for:
Appearance of the roof:
Debris on roof
The roof’s exterior:
Roofing features to check:
Gutters and drains
Chimneys and vents
Condition of coating
Ponding (standing water of the roof)
Condition of surface
Corroding metal, fasteners