Checking for Roof Leaks

How to Find and Stop Roof Leaks

By Mark J. Donovan

Roof leaks can occur for a variety of reasons. Roof leaks typically start out small and over time grow to be larger problems. This said, even a small roof leak can cause major damage to your home. Besides, forming wet stain spots on your finished ceilings, roof leaks can also cause mold and mildew growth and rot. They can even cause electrical shorts.

Checking for roof leaks can be a little tricky. Roof leaks are typically not found directly above the damaged ceiling area. Roof leaks tend to start higher on a roof and show their symptoms further down the roof line. So for example, when you see a roof leak on your ceiling near the interior edge of your exterior walls the actual roof leak is most likely higher up the roof line.

Checking for Roof Leaks due to Ice Dams

In the case where the roof leak signs are exhibited near the interior edge of your exterior walls, chances are the leak is associated with cold weather conditions, and more specifically ice dams.

Ice dams back up water behind shingles where the water then finds a path through the roof sheathing and then on to the drywall ceiling. To find the path, the water works its way down the roof sheathing until it finds a loose nail, or a seam.

To prevent ice dams, either plan on shoveling off the snow along the edges of the roof after every major snow storm, or adding heating coils along the edge of the roof. Also, you may want to consider having the roof re-shingled and installing ice and water shield near the roof eves, prior to installing shingles.

Also, make sure your attic is properly ventilated and insulated.

Here is a roof leak caused by ice dams.

Checking for Roof Leaks due to Damaged Ridge Vent

If signs of a roof leak are exhibited more towards the center of the room, then there is the possibility that the roof leak is associated with a damaged ridge vent. In many cases wind can work ridge venting loose and pop roofing nails loose.

Check the ridge vent to make sure it is properly fastened down and that the roofing nails are covered with a roofing sealer.

Also note that water that penetrates into the attic and onto the ceiling can also meander its way along strapping. Strapping is commonly used to fasten the drywall ceiling to and is fastened perpendicular to the ceiling joists. If you see a long wet line on your drywall ceiling this is more than likely due to water running along a length of strapping.

Check for Roof Leaks due to Damaged Shingles

Again, if signs of a roof leak are exhibited more towards the center of the room the roof leak could also be associated with damaged shingles. Inspect the roof for curling or cupping and cracked roofing shingles. Roofing shingles that exhibit these types of appearances could very well be the source of your roof leak and should be immediately replaced.

Check for Roof Leaks in Roof Valleys

If your roof has valleys make sure the roof shingles are not damaged in these areas. If copper or tin is used for forming the roof valleys make sure that it is not damaged in anyway and that there are no loose or exposed roofing nails. The wrong types of nails used for installing copper flashing could also cause corrosion which could lead to roof leaks.

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Check for Roof leaks near Roof Flashing Areas

Check roof flashing around and near vent stacks, chimneys and roof / wall lines. Make sure the roof flashing is not damaged or blocked up in any way with leaf debris or snow and ice that could cause water to back up and work its way underneath the flashing. If the roof flashing looks damaged have it replaced immediately.

For more help on Shingling Your Home’s Roof, see’s Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet. The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet will help to ensure that your roof won’t end up with a blue tarp over it and a dumpster sitting in your yard for weeks as you wait for the roofing contractor to come back and finish roofing your home.

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