Angie's LIST Guide to
Common roofing problems

Even a well-built roof will eventually wear out, with the weakest spots being the valleys between two sections of roof and flashing around chimneys. Storms, particularly hail, can cause serious damage that the homeowner may not notice immediately. Roof inspections should be done periodically or after major storms.
 

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How leaks form

When your roof is old or has sustained weather damage, there are some common areas that tend to be culprits for leaking water. Keep an eye out for problems and take preventive measures to fix them before serious structural damage, or mold and mildew occurs.

Here are some of the ways water starts to come in:

Leaks at joints: Joints between the roof and the chimney or between two sloped sections of a roof are highly susceptible to leaking.

Broken or cracked shingles: Water can seep through the roof and into your home if your roof has cracked or broken shingles. Shingles usually deteriorate on the southern face of the roof first, because of exposure to sun, so inspect that side first.

Leaks along flashing: Roofers use flashing wherever something sticks up through the roof line -- the chimney, vent stacks, etc. Over the years, these can become weak spots where rain begins to find its way under the shingles. Caught early enough, a small gap can be resealed. Left untended, it could become a major leak requiring repairs all the way down to the rafters.

A small leak -- even one that doesn't yet reach the living quarters -- can result in wood rot and the growth of mold. When mold takes root inside a home, it can cause serious health problems.

When inspecting for leaks inside your attic, look for dark streaks on the boards that form the underside of the roof frame.

Weather damage

roofing hail damage

Hail can leave dings in asphalt shingles that don't
immediately cause a leak, but weaken the shingle over
time. Hail-damaged shingles are usually covered by
insurance policies.

A good roof is designed to withstand the forces of Nature, but storms and winter weather can take their toll over time. The shape of a roof is intended to efficiently shed rain and snow, but also to withstand high winds, routing the force along the gables and towards the ground.

If shingles become loose, wind can slip under and pull them off the roof. Even with a well-installed roof, nails can work their way up over time, making a shingle loose.

SUMMER STORMS:

Hail storms can be particularly damaging because balls of ice striking asphalt shingles can leave dimples that then become weak spots. It's wise to have your roof inspected after a severe hail storm to document whether damage has occurred. Most home insurance policies cover this and may pay for an entirely new roof if the damage is found to be widespread. Your insurance company will likely send its own inspector, but you may want to hire your own roofing inspector so the true extent of the damage is sufficiently documented.

WINTER WEATHER:

Although the weight of snow can collapse a roof, that generally only happens in the most extreme situations or when the structure was not built properly.

A more common source of winter roof damage is ice damming, in which icy snow builds up low on the roof along the gutters, but starts to melt higher up on the roof. Blocked by the ice, the water pools up and eventually finds its way beneath the shingles. Chronic ice damming is often the result of poor insulation in the attic.

Ice buildup can also happen if the gutters weren't cleaned well enough in the fall. A clogged downspout causes melting snow to accumulate in the gutters and refreeze. Then, more ice forms as icicles hanging from the frozen gutters. In addition to the risk of ice dam leaks, the weight of the ice can bring down the gutter or make it sag -- causing it to drain poorly even when there is no clog.

Soffit & fascia damage

This hole in the fascia probably started as a soft spot caused by water damage, but then a squirrel found the weakness and chewed its way in to find a cozy shelter.

This hole in the fascia probably started as a soft spot caused
by water damage, but then a squirrel found the weakness and
chewed its way in to find a cozy shelter.

The "soffit" is the wood or metal panel on the underside of the roof's overhang. The "fascia" is the board that runs behind the gutter, or along the roof line, boxing in the overhang. Both of these are at risk of water damage over time.

If the roof drip edge, which directs water into the gutters, is missing or damaged, water will typically rot the fascia board before eventually traveling to the soffit, where it will continue on its destructive path.

Animals like squirrels, birds and raccoons love to nest in a soffit and will quickly exploit any weak spot that allows them to gain access.

If you do your own gutter cleaning, take advantage of your time up on the ladder to inspect the fascia boards and soffit for signs of damage. Probe damp spots with a screwdriver to see if the wood seems soft. If you find rotted wood, don't ignore the problem. It won't go away by itself; it will just get worse.

But before investing money in repairs, make sure you have first addressed the cause of the problem – which is usually related to the gutters.

roofing graphic

Causes and prevention:

The best thing you can do is clean your gutters at least twice a year – in the spring and especially in the fall after all the leaves have come down. If you can't or don't want to do this yourself, hire a gutter cleaning service. It will cost you less that making the repairs later.

Making repairs:

If you have the skills and time, you can make these repairs yourself, but if the fascia boards are compromised you would likely have to take down the gutters first. That may require two or more workers on separate ladders to avoid damaging the gutter.

If you want to hire someone, this work is typically done by a carpenter or roofer. A handyman can often do soffit repair, and some gutter cleaning companies may offer the service as well.

Whoever you hire, make sure it's someone with experience who comes with good recommendations. If you join Angie's List you can search the listings for these services in your city and find out which ones have consistently been given high ratings by previous customers.

Ask about the materials to be used in the repair. There are alternatives to wood that may hold up better, and if you do use wood, make sure the paint is appropriate for this purpose.

Roof inspections

Although not a substitute for a professional inspection, there are some tell-tale signs that homeowners can look for. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends checking your roof during the fall and spring to help spot potential problems.

• Look for shingles that are buckling, curling or blistering; this indicates the end of the shingles' life expectancy.

• Spot any loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations.

• Identify excessive amounts of shingle granules in your gutters; granules give shingles added weight and protect them from ultraviolet rays.

Hiring a roofing inspector:

Here are some of the things a roofing inspector would commonly look for:

Appearance of the roof:
• Debris on roof
• Drainage
• Physical damage
• Structural deformation

The roof’s exterior:
• Deformed finish
• Surface deterioration
• Surface staining

The roof’s interior:
• Cracks
• Water staining
• Water leaks
• Deformed finish
• Window leaks
• Door and window alignment

Ceiling conditions:
• Cracks
• Water staining
• Water leaks

 

 

Roofing features to check:
• Fascia
• Soffit
• Flashing
• Gutters and drains
• Skylights
• Chimneys and vents
• Fall arrest anchors
• Control zone access
• Vents

Flat/membrane roofs:
• Condition of coating
• Granular loss
• Punctures
• Cracks
• Blisters
• Ponding (standing water on the roof)

Sloped roofs:
• Roof material
• Condition of surface
• Deformed edges
• Buckled shingles
• Missing tabs
• Granular loss
• Corroding metal, fasteners

 

Comments

We need new gutters on main house and detached roof needs facia board repair

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