12 Tips To Help You Locate And Repair A Leaking Roof

Want to know something? It is possible to stop a roof leak all on your own, with zero experience is necessary. Below, we will delve into the details of how to locate and repair some of the roof leaks that are most common with residential homes. The best part about it is that mot of them will take just minutes to fix.

#1: Overview of Leaking Roofs

If you have noticed that there are water stains that go across your ceilings or possibly even run down the walls, then the culprit is likely a leaky roof. The hard part of dealing with a leaking roof is locating the leak; it is the repair that is the easy part. We will show you some easy tricks that will help you in the location and repair of some of the most common kinds of roof leaks.

When you are dealing with a leaky roof, it is important that it is fixed immediately, even if it isn’t a big deal yet or you are planning on replacing your roof within the year. Small leaks, even over a short period of time, can turn into larger problems like mold, destroyed insulation, rotted sheathing and framing, as well as damaged ceilings. A leak that is left to continue over a year or two can be detrimental and costly, but if it is dealt with immediately, the damage and repairs can be kept to a minimum.

#2: How to Locate Roof Leaks

When you attempting to locate a leak, you will want to begin by looking uphill from the stain. First, look for any kind of penetration in the roof. More often than not, a roof penetration will be the culprit of the leak. In fact, it is very rare for a leak to occur in an open area of shingles that have been uninterrupted, and this is true on older roofs even. Penetrations may consist of roof vents, dormers, plumbing, chimneys, and anything else that may project through your roof. It can be a several feet above, to the left, or to the right of the leak.

If you have access to the attic, the easiest possible way to locate the leak is to take a flashlight up into the attic and look for signs of evidence. You will likely notice mold, water stains, or black marks. However, if you don’t have access or you have a vaulted ceiling, you will need to get onto your roof and examine that way.

#3: One Trick for Finding Hard-to-Detect Leaks

If you are finding it difficult to locate a leak, get someone to assist you and get up on top of the roof with a water hose. Begin low and water just above where you believe the leak shows up inside of the home. Isolate the areas when you run the water hose. For instance, water below the chimney first, then either side, and then the top of each side. Make sure someone remains inside the home waiting for a water drip to occur. Allow the water hose to run for a few minutes in each area before moving up on the roof any further. Tell the person inside the house to yell as soon as a drip occurs, as this means that you will be in the area of a leak. Keep in mind that this whole process can indeed take some time, so it is important that everyone is patient and that you don’t rush the process. In the event that this trick doesn’t work, start by removing some of the shingles in the area that you believe the leak is in. Once the shingles are removed, you can see below the shingles and see any signs of evidence of a leak, allowing you to track the leak from the there. You will see stained felt paper, water-stained or rotted wood, etc.

#4: Solution for Small Roof Leaks

You will come across some roof leaks that are difficult to find. In some cases, the water may show up at the ceiling further than you think from the actual leak. If there is a plastic vapor barrier located in between the attic insulation and the drywall, you should push aside the insulation and keep an eye out for signs of water flow stains on the barrier. In many cases, the water will flow to openings on the vapor barrier like at light fixtures in the ceiling.

If you are unable to detect any obvious flow marks and if the stain is relatively small, look for shiners on the underside of your roof. A shiner is considered a nail that previously missed the stud. Moisture that will escape from the rooms below and into the cold attic will sometimes condense on these cold nails. You can often spot this if you go into the attic on a colder evening. The nails will appear white due to the fact that they are frosted. Once the attic warms up some throughout the day, the frost will eventually begin to melt and drip, then the nails will refrost at night, and the process will continue. The answer here is to just use a pair of pliers and clip the nail.

#5: Repair Plumbing Vent Boots

These vent boots can be one out of three ways: from metal and plastic, all plastic, or two-piece metal units. Look for cracks in the plastic bases as well as broken seams in the metal bases. Inspect the rubber boot that goes around the pipe. The rubber boot can be torn or rotted away, which permits water to seep into the house. With any of the aforementioned issues, a new vent boot needs to be purchased and installed. If the boot is good but the nails at the base are pulled loose or missing, replace the nails with rubber-washered screws that are typically used on metal roofs. If you do not have additional shingles, make sure that you take extra care in removing them so that they can be used. A flat bar can be used to detach the sealant in between each layer. The flat bar can then be used to get beneath the nail heads and pop them out.

#6: How to Repair the Roof Vents

Look for cracked housings on roof vents that are made of plastic and broken seams on roof vents that are made of metal. Caulking may be the tempting answer, but this is not a solution that will last very long. Replacement is the only true solution here. You should also check for nails that have been pulled out or are missing completely at the bottom edge of the base. Replace these nails with rubber-washered screws. As a general rule, the nails can be removed from beneath the shingles on each side of the vent to pull it out. Nails will be at the top of the plumbing vent as well. Generally, these can be worked loose without needing to remove the shingles. The bottom can be screwed into place with the same type of screws. Apply some caulk under the shingles on each side of the vent to hold them down and to create a water barrier, as this is easier than nailing them back down.

#7: Repair Walls and Dormers

Water does not always come in where you may think. In many cases, wind-driven rain will actually come in above the roof, particularly between siding and corner boards, around the windows, and through knotholes and cracks in the siding. Caulking can be cracked, missing, or old between the edges of the windows, siding, and corner boards. Water often penetrates the aforementioned cracks and can make its way behind the installed flashing and inside the home. Even if caulking looks as if it is intact, it may not be sealing properly against the connecting surface. Use a putty knife to move around to see if it is properly sealed. Get out any strange caulk and replace it with quality caulking. Check the siding that is located just above the step flashing and replace any rotted, missing, or cracked siding while ensuring that the brand-new piece overlaps the step flashing by a minimum of two inches. If a leak still exists, pull free the corner boards and inspect the flashing that overlaps at the corner. In many cases, there will be hardened caulking where these two pieces overlap.

#8: Complex Roofing Issue

The soffit meeting the roof is by far among the more difficult areas to waterproof for storms. Ice dams tend to occur when snow melts, allowing water to freeze as it reaches the cold edges of the roof. Over time, water will pool behind the dam and work its way back underneath the roofing shingles and underneath the soffit until it locates an opening in the roof.

The remedy begins with quality flashing, as this can prevent leaks from rain and may even prevent leaks from ice dams. Begin by removing shingles all the way down to the sheathing and apply a piece of stick-on ice-and-water barrier beneath the soffit and primary roof joint. In some cases, you might need to slice a slot for installation. It needs to overlap another piece of barrier below, down to the edge of the roof, which should cover the majority of the area that is prone to leaks. Next, reshingle, allowing you to slide the metal step flashing behind the trim that is just behind the gutter (fascia board). The valley flashing needs to overlap the step flashing by a minimum of two inches.

In the event that leaks continue as a result of ice dams, you need to seriously consider the installation of heating cables on the edge of the roof. The best way to prevent the formation of ice dams is to improve attic ventilation and insulation, though they may not be completely effective if you have a complicated leak situation.

#9: Repair Step Flashing

This flashing is utilized along the walls that interconnect with the roof. Each short section of this flashing tends to channel water over the shingle and down from it. However, if a piece of flashing becomes loose or the flashing rusts all the way through, the water runs behind it and right into the home. You will need to replace rusted flashing, which involves the removal of the shingles, prying the siding loose, and the removal and replacement of the step flashing.

#10: Don’t Count on the Caulking

It is not often that roof cement or caulking will repair a leaking roof—or not at least for a long period of time. Whenever possible, it is important to attempt a mechanical roof repair, which means repairing or replacing the existing flashing as opposed to using a leak stopper or sealant. Caulking should only be used for small holes or when flashing is not an option.

#11: Repair Small Holes

Small holes in the shingles can be tricky and sneaky since they can result in a leaky roof, rot, and additional types of damage for many years prior to you ever noticing signs of an actual leak. You could locate holes over from antenna mounting brackets, a satellite dish, or something else entirely. Misplaced, exposed roofing nails need to be pulled out so that the holes left behind can be properly patched. Small holes like these are incredibly easy and quick to repair, but you shouldn’t just inject some caulking into the hole as the repair. Instead, flashing should be used as the permanent solution.

#12: Leaks Around Chimneys

Many issues can occur around brick chimneys. To be honest, there are a lot of issues, and they cannot all be discussed here. The flashing that is installed around brick chimneys can rust all the way through if it is made out of galvanized steel, particularly the 90-degree curvature located at the bottom. A fast and relatively long-term solution is to slip a new piece of flashing underneath the old rusted piece. This ensures that water that makes its way through the old flashing will be diverted. The most ideal solution is to cut a saw kerf into the chimney mortar and place brand-new flashing.

For more information on how to locate and repair a leaking roof or for any specific information on the aforementioned issues, contact us at Superior Roofing.

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