Once a roof begins to leak it will never stop, and in fact, it will get worse over time. If left unchecked, mold, mildew and even structural damage could occur which may mean thousands of dollars of repair work for a leak that all started with a little drip of water.
How to Notice a Leak
Since most homes have some sort of attic space, it may be initially difficult to know if your roof is leaking or not. A very humid attic space is certainly a clue, black traces of mildew on roof trusses may also be a sign, and small yellow or brown spots on your ceiling, caused by the tannin leaching out of the paint from repeated water dripping from the roof, is also a telltale indication of a roof leak.
Finding the Leak
Ideally, finding a leak should be done on a rainy day. But if it isn’t raining, you can have someone saturate the roof with a hose.
Make your way up into the attic with a flashlight, and search for water dripping down onto the attic floor. In many cases, the water will drip down roof supports or wall joists, so you’ll have to trace the water back up to the roof where it begins. Common places that roofs leak are around chimney flashing, vent fans, or damaged places like an errant nail sticking through the roof sheathing, or if a storm has blown off a shingle or two.
If your attic is insulated, you’ll need to look for either a wet area or discoloration on the insulation itself. However, just because the insulation is discolored in one spot doesn’t mean that the leak is right there. Water may be running down a beam or a joist from several feet away, and then flowing into the noticeable area. You may need to tear out some of the insulation and trace the leak back to its source.
Fixing a Leak
- Small Nail Holes: If the nail protrudes into the attic, simply clip the nail off with side cutters and dab a bit of exterior grade silicon caulk over the nail. For several nail holes in a row, either inject them with exterior silicon caulk, if they are small, or cement down a piece of flashing over them under the shingle, if they are large.
- Broken or Missing Shingles: Replace the shingles with new ones. As an option, you can put down some roof cement before nailing the shingles into place for a more positive seal.
- Vents: Most vents leak because the rubber boot that seals them either cracks or the nails holding them down become loose. A cracked boot must be replaced, but a loose boot can be cemented back down and nailed into place.
- Flashing: Flashing leaks are caused by the seal cracking or becoming compromised, or the flashing itself has peeled away or broken. Flashing is common around chimneys or where roofs meet the side of a vertical structure. If the flashing is broken it must be replaced, but if the seal has cracked, or a nail has pulled loose, roof cement and/or new nails will re-seal the old flashing and make it watertight once again.
As you can see, most of these tasks must be done outside on the roof. If you do not like high places or feel uncomfortable going up on your roof, than the repair is best left to a professional roofer. If large swatches of roofing have peeled away, and the damage is extensive, than a professional roofer should be called to make the needed repairs.