A leaky roof is a homeowner’s nightmare: it’s irritating, it’s a pain to repair, and it has to be patched up right away. As much as homeowners want to put off fixing a leaky roof, the water damage it can cause to walls, floors, ceilings, and furnishings inside the house is hard to ignore. On many occasions, priceless personal belongings had to be thrown away, important business work days had to be cancelled, and entire families had to evacuate their houses all because of a leaky roof.
Discussed in this article are the common reasons behind why a roof starts to leak and the damages that a leaky roof can deal to a home. Homeowners need these two pieces of information in order to effectively prevent water damage from starting at the very top of the house.
Also discussed in this article is how to repair a leaky roof, presented in a step-by-step outline that homeowners can easily follow and use for their own homes.
Why a Roof Starts to Leak
There are a multitude of reasons as to why a roof starts leaking and causing water damage to a home. Here are 5 of the most common reasons behind why a roof starts to let water into the house:
1 – Poor construction
A poorly constructed roof will more often than not end up being a leaky roof. Wrongly placed shingles, haphazardly applied flashing, improperly installed insulation, – these things all contribute to a leaky roof. Cutting corners by using cheap and inferior materials in constructing the roof is not a good way to save some money. The few dollars saved often end up being spent on having to constantly fix and repair the poorly constructed roof.
2 – Poor design
Put it this way: a badly designed roof is one that leaks. While homeowners now have many designs that they can use for their roofs, a pitched roof is still the most recommended for preventing water damage. Even just a low peak can already make a big difference in the roof’s ability to keep water out of the house. A flat roof, although inexpensive to construct and nice to look at, is not the best design as it tends to let water collect, form a pool, and leak into the house.
Builders also have to consider the direction the house is facing and the weather conditions that the house will be subject to in constructing the roof. They need to design the roof to be stronger on the side of the house that is most exposed and thus most prone to water damage. The proper roofing materials have to be chosen and they have to be appropriate for the type of weather there is in that location.
Homeowners must remember that function always comes before form. They should choose a roof design based on how well it can protect the house rather than how beautiful it makes the house look.
3 – Exposure to the elements
Constant exposure to the sun, the wind, the rain, the snow, and other natural elements can make even the most sturdily constructed and best designed roof start to leak. The sun’s intense heat makes roofing materials brittle, the water from the rain turns roofing mats and roofing paper soggy and moldy, the wind can blow off loose tiles and shingles, and the weight of the snow can make the entire roof collapse.
Homeowners can’t really do anything about Mother Nature, but they can do something about their roofs. A roof that is maintained regularly will withstand the elements for a longer period of time. Homeowners would also be able to get a lot of usage out of a well-preserved roof, and it will protect the home from water damage more efficiently.
4 – Ground movement
The ground is located far from the roof, but it can be the culprit behind roof leaks. Because the ground is constantly moving, the vibrations it produces can cause the house’s roof to shift as well. The shifting can cause crack, breaks, and holes to start forming on the roof in which rainwater, humidity, and moisture can easily leak through. This is an opportunity for water damage to start and cause problems inside the home.
5 – Additional equipment
People nowadays like to place a lot of things on their rooftops. They have satellite cable dishes, TV antennas, exhaust pipes, and etc. The added weight of all these equipment can definitely strain the roof and cause it to become a source of water damage.
Additionally, most of these types of equipment need to be checked or repaired eventually. Repairmen have to walk on the roof just to get to them. The repairmen can unknowingly cause damage to the roof and cause the roof to start leaking.
The Damage a Leaky Roof Can Do
If only homeowners had only to worry about a wet spot due to a leaky roof. Sadly, that is not the case. Here is a list of some of the minor and major water damage that a leaky roof can cause inside a home:
- Ceiling panels can become weak and soggy if water starts to leak right above them
- Mold and mildew can start growing in the dark and damp areas of the house
- Wallboards, corkboard walls, and dry walls can become mushy and lose their ability to support once they get water-soaked
- Bacteria can start growing in stagnant water and cause waterborne diseases to spread to the inhabitants of the home
- Beams, trusses, and furniture made out of wood can start rotting and forming mold from the water damage
- Wooden floors and wooden stairs can swell, lift, and rot
- Rugs, carpets, draperies, and upholstered furniture can become dirty and stained from the leaking water
- Humidity and moisture levels can increase inside the house
- Pricey electronics may have to be thrown away once water gets into them
- Electrical appliances, sockets, and outlets can become a source of an injurious electric shock if they get waterlogged
- The house can sustain extensive structural damage
- The foundation of the house can become weak and unstable
These are only some examples of the water damage that a leaky roof can do. So once a leak is discovered, homeowners should waste no time in repairing it as soon as possible.
Repairing a Leaky Roof
Homeowners can repair their own leaky roofs. Follow these steps to fix, mend, and patch up a water leak.
1 – Find the source of the leak
The first thing to do in repairing a leaky roof is to find the source of the water leak. Look for water stains, discolorations, mold, and anything else that may indicate water damage. Check just right above the sign of water damage to see if the leak is there. However, don’t be surprised if the source of the leak does not immediately present itself as water can travel on horizontal ceilings before being absorbed and leaking through the panels.
Don’t forget to check the areas around the chimney. Water can seep through the flashing where the chimney connects to the roof. Also check the tops of the exterior walls and other roof corners. Water can easily get through these parts of the house.
Homeowners may have to remove entire ceiling panels in order to thoroughly examine these areas of the roof. Use a flashlight to aid in the roof inspection.
2 – Stop the water damage from spreading
Once the source of the leak has been found, it is imperative to stop the water from causing further damage.
Some of these immediate but temporary actions may be needed:
- Use a bucket to catch the leaking water.
- If a water puddle has formed, mop it up or soak up the water with rags.
- Tie a string from the water leak source to a bucket. This will redirect the flow of the water leak and prevent it from causing more water damage.
- Make the opening of the leak larger by drilling holes through it. This will let the water fall freely through the opening and stop it from saturating the surrounding materials.
If the water damage appears to have stopped spreading, mark the source of the roof leak so that it is visible from the outside of the house.
3 – Repair the source of the leak
Now it’s time to repair the source of the leak. Go outside of the house and inspect the roof from the site. As previously mentioned, walking directly on the roof can cause further damage, so use a ladder or an extended tool in repairing the roof. Observe safety measures when doing so.
- For leaks around air vents, reseal them by caulking them.
- Leaks from damaged flashing can be closed by using adhesives.
- Uprooted nails that caused the leak may be hammered in or replaced with entirely new ones.
- Corroded metals can be patched with sealants.
- Ice dams that caused the leakage may be carefully removed and melted.
- Loose and leaky shingles can be secured by using roofing tar.