Why Is My Roof Leaking?

Aside from being inconvenient, leaky roofs can be a serious threat to your home’s safety and structural integrity. If your roof is leaking, here are four of the most common culprits to consider.

ROOF HAS GOTTEN OLD

When you first notice that your roof has started leaking, the first question that should come to mind is: How old is my roof? Unless you’ve been living in the same home for the last 20 years, have the paperwork from the last replacement in hand, or recently had it replaced, it’s likely that you don’t actually know your roof’s age. Aside from leaking, here are some common signs that your roof is just plain too old:

  • Curled or cupped shingles
  • Shingles have bald spots from missing granules
  • Cracked shingles
  • Your neighbors are getting their roofs replaced

Roofing materials naturally deteriorate with age and become less effective at keeping water away from the inside of your home. However, different materials age at different rates. Slate, copper, and tile roofs can last more than 50 years. Wood shake lasts about 30 years. Fiber cement shingles last about 25 years, and asphalt shingles last about 20. However, note that temperature fluctuations and inclement weather conditions may cause roofing materials to age faster than average.

WEATHER DAMAGE

Inclement weather is one of the most common causes of roof damage.

Hail is one of the most common damaging elements to roofs. Each ball of ice collides with your roof like a fragile bullet, causing so much damage that home insurance claims usually spike after a hailstorm.

If you have loose shingles, strong winds can rip them off, creating exposed areas where water can seep through. Wind can also throw tree branches and other objects onto your roof, potentially damaging the roof as well as your home’s structure.

If you experience a heavy snowfall, the snow can build up on your roof and crush it as well as your siding. If you have a wood or asphalt roof, lightning strikes during thunderstorms can set it on fire.

Even excessive rainfall can age your shingles faster than normal, strip your shingles of their beneficial granules, and overwhelm your roof’s natural water mitigation measures.

If you suspect that your leaky roof was caused by a recent storm, climb up a ladder and take a look for yourself. Are there missing or bald shingles? Can you see any cracks or dents? Is there any missing flashing along the edges of your roof? Can you see any loose or pealing sealant? When in doubt, ask a professional roofing contractor to inspect your roof.

GUTTERS ARE BACKING UP

Sometimes roofs simply get overloaded. This is commonly caused by debris such as twigs, leaves, and pine needles either accumulating on top of your roof or clogging your gutters. Debris traps water against your roof and allows it to seep in by capillary action.

It’s important to keep your roof, gutters, and downspouts clear in order to permit water to run off quickly. Clean your gutters out multiple times per year to prevent debris accumulation. It also helps to trim overhanging tree branches, as they are a common cause of debris. Alternatively you can use gutter covers to prevent debris from getting into your gutters in the first place.

If you have an upper roof gutter that drains onto a lower roof, that can also cause problems by oversaturating that portion of the roof. It’s safer to extend the downspout to the next gutter or all the way down to the ground instead. Rain chains can also be helpful for this.

If you live in an area that receives a lot of rainfall, you may not have enough gutters to handle it all. Make sure you have gutters and downspouts on all sides of your roof so you don’t overwork the existing portions of your gutters, making the water overflow because it has nowhere else to go.

POORLY INSTALLED ROOF ACCESSORIES

Have you had anything installed on your roof recently? It’s important for any penetration through the roof (skylights, roof vents, satellite dishes, ridge caps, etc.) to be sealed properly to prevent leaks. Grab a ladder and inspect the gaskets around new installs for cracks, gaps, or missing nails.

If you’ve recently had your roof replaced, you are likely especially confused. Take a long, hard look at your new roof. Do you see any of the following signs?

  • Sagging roofline
  • Missing or damaged shingles
  • Old flashing material
  • Materials not attached correctly
  • Visible stains
  • Different colored shingles
  • Different materials used
  • Missing drip edge
  • Missing underlayment

The best way to prevent a bad roofing job is to hire a reputable roofing contractor in the first place. Check their license and registration issued by the Department of Professional Regulation. Look at how much experience they have with your desired roof style, type, and material. Are they insured? And of course, make sure to read plenty of reviews from past customers.