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Leaky Roof? Here’s How to Spot It

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Moving into a new home can be an exciting new adventure. However, many new homeowners often don’t realize that their new dream home can quickly turn into an unexpected (sometimes expensive) repair bill. Maintenance work around the home can be costly if the problems are not spotted early on. One example of this type of scenario would be issues with your roof, especially a flat roof. Rooftops are one of the most overlooked aspects of a home inspection, yet it happens to be one of the most important aspects you should be keeping an eye out for.

Coming home only to realize that you've got a leaky roof can be inconvenient and frustrating. Not only are the left behind stains, water patches, and mold unsightly, they are also difficult to repair. Nevertheless, the signs of a leaking roof are not something you should ignore, as even a small leak could be an indication of a more serious underlying problem. Once you suspect you've got a leaky roof problem, it's time to act quickly before the problem gets worse.

What Is a Flat Roof?

A flat roof is a type of roof that sits horizontally atop a building. While this type of rooftop is affordable and easy enough to install, the problem is that they can be difficult to waterproof. This means they are prone to leaks over time, since flat roofs tend to pool water on top of the roof. The water that collects eventually has to go somewhere, and that “somewhere” is right through your roof.

The Telltale Signs of a Leak

In general, your roof should last anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Of course, eventually, the natural elements, weather, and time are going to take their toll on your roof. It is inevitable. Moisture can be extremely damaging, and the problem is that even the tiniest gaps and cracks are often enough to serve as an entry point. Yes, a hairline gap is sometimes all it takes for moisture to seep in and thus begin the process of water accumulation.

Inside the home, it is much easier to spot the evidence of a roof leak. Is it possible to spot a roof leak before it happens? Yes, it is. Besides the apparent wet patch that will be leaving a large stain on your ceiling, one of the ways you spot a problem in the house, is by inspecting the attic for water stains on the plywood and trusses. Once on the roof, checking your nails would be next. That's right, if you notice rusted nails along your roof or shingles, that should be telling you something. When you find a rusted nail, that's your first indicator that your roof needs a closer look. A rusted nail is also an indication that you are close to the source of the leak. Lift your shingle, and you may very well find the source of your leak.

As for the stain on the ceiling, the size of the stain will depend on how much water collected before you stopped the leak and the level of saturation the ceiling experienced overall. Another indoor indication to be aware of is rotting wood beams or mold in your insulation.

Once you've spotted a problem inside your home, you are sure to find telltale signs on the outside as well. You probably never noticed the signs before because you don’t spend a lot of time looking closely at your roof. Look around outside your home, however, and the signs you may notice include shingles that are buckling, damaged, loose, or curling. If your roof happens to be a bit more patchwork, you should be paying even closer attention because these types of rooftops are prone to gaps. Gaps make it easier for moisture to travel down into your rafters and collect somewhere in your attic or any crawlspace area around your home.

Locating the Source of The Leak

The first step is to locate the source of your troubles. Where is the source of the leak? Unfortunately, it is often not as simple as finding the wet patch and the actual leaks are often not in the same location. With a flat roof, this can be a little tricky. The source of your leak can often be traced to the somewhere underneath your roof deck. Another problem with the flat roof is that you could have a problem that is presented in Point A, but it turns out the source of the problem is actually in Point B. Point B could be up to 20 feet away.

Water can trickle down from other locations around the home and right through your insulation before it ends up creating a weak spot somewhere in your ceiling. That is why once you spot the leak on the ceiling; your next step should be to take a walk outside your home. Conduct a visual inspection of your roof to identify the parts that could potentially be the problem. You will also want to keep an eye out for any obvious signs of penetration on the roof. Damaged roof tiles, or corrugated shingles are some of the red flags to keep an eye out for.

Once you've run a quick check around the outside of your home, you’ll want to inspect the inside of your roof. Search the ceiling for signs of paint peeling, brown, grey, or yellow stains, or any visible signs of moisture. If you have access to it, grab your flashlight and take a peek inside your attic or roof space.

The best time to look for the source of your roof leak would be during the day. If the weather has been dry the last day or two wet patches and signs of stains or watermarks will be much easier to find.

How Long Can You Leave A Leaking Roof Before It Gets Worse?

A leaking roof is one of those problems you must attend to promptly. If you let the problem fester, it will pave the way for other issues like mildew, rotting wood, and mold. In many instances, you will only realize the extent of the damage when it is too late. In turn, a severe problem will lead to higher repair costs as the job will be much more complicated than one that was attended to promptly. Not to mention both mold and mildew are terrible for your health, potentially causing a myriad of health problems that could have easily been avoided.

Saturated ceilings are a very costly repair. You must do something about your roof leak once you spot it, and you should call in a trained professional. They are in the best position to help you manage the situation before it gets way out of hand.

Maintenance to Keep Your Roof from Leaking

You don’t have to wait until your roof has sprung a leak to spring into action. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is what you can do to stay ahead of the roof repair game and protect your roof:

Check the House Records – If you're moving into a home that wasn't built recently, it is worth looking into the home's old records to check when the roof was last repaired. A lot of older roofers were installed with material that doesn’t last as long and the installation guidelines from manufacturers and building codes have improved over the years. Look into the house's records before you complete your move-in. If it has been a while since the roof of the home was last repaired, check your roof or enlist the professionals' help to give it a once over. It is much easier to do this before moving all your furniture in, just if any significant repair work is required.

Inspect Your Shingles – Rotting nails are not the only indicator that your shingles are in trouble. Take a walk outside your home now and then and check your shingles. Problem-free shingles should be lying flat against the roof of your house. If they are cracked or showing any of the signs of damage, then it is time for a new roof. If you hire a home inspector, few of them actually get on roofs, so the true condition of your roof is unable to be fully determined unless a roof inspector walks on top of the roof and inspects it close up.

Check Your Paint for Water Stains – Specifically inside your closets, nothing is a dead giveaway of roof problems like peeling paint. While it is easy to dismiss this as a sign of “old age” around your home, peeling paint in rooms where peeling shouldn’t happen is a sign of something else. If your room has a skylight or it is one of those rooms that doesn’t generally trap a lot of moisture, your peeling paint is trying to tell you a story. It’s time to check your roof for troubles.

Check the Seals on The Roof– The skylights, vents, and chimney seals of your home should be areas that get checked regularly. Take a quick look at your roof vents to see if you can spot any cracks. Caulking usually provides a temporary solution, but it is not a long-term fix. You’re still going to need to get those cracks fixed permanently before a major storm hits and causes your roof vents to crack again. Ring the professional right away if you notice any massive gaps in your seams.

Inspect Your Attic – The attic is another location that you should frequently check since it is the closest location to the roof. If you start noticing any water stains running from the ceiling to the wall, get a jump on it right away because that is an indicator that there is a problem with your roof. A tiny leak is all it takes to snowball into a bigger problem. The quicker you fix it, the smaller your repair bill is going to be. Avoid letting it get to a point where mold has started to destroy your insulation.

Check for Signs of Sagging Plywood – Did you know that it was possible for your roof to droop or sag when it gets damaged? That’s what water damage can do to it. When you’re taking a walk around your home, step back and look at your house from a little further away. Does it look like your roof is sagging from any point? This can be difficult to tell up close, so the further away you can observe your roof from, the better.

Check for Moss, Mold, or Fungi – While you’re running a check around the perimeter of your roof, you might want to keep an eye out for any signs of moss, mold, or fungi. Pay close attention to the corners of your roof that spend a lot of time in the shade. Moss, mold, and fungi thrive in a moist and damp environment, and they are going to love living on a roof that traps moisture and water.

Check Your Soffits – Your soffits help to create that airflow that transports warm air from the attic out of your home. Your soffit vents should be clear to ensure that no moisture buildup can take place. When inside your attic space, you want to be able to see daylight coming from the soffits. This tells you that air is able to get up into your attic, which is what you want. Next, you need to make sure the air has a place to escape, for example, through a ridge vent or attic fan.

If You’re Bouncing, Your Roof Needs Repairing – If you were to walk on your rooftop and you notice a bounce in your step, that shouldn’t be happening. A “bouncy” roof is a sign that something is amiss and probably needs fixing. A roof that takes in moisture over time will become spongy, a warning that the humidity has weakened its surface.

Look Out for Rusty Gutters – Rusted gutters mean that your roof is probably leaking from somewhere. If your gutters are starting to leak, that could happen because your seams have become weak from the rust. The seams could also eventually open because of the expansion and contraction that naturally occurs over time.

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