Angie's LIST Guide to
Common roofing problems

From leaks to soffit and storm damage, these issues may warrant roof repair or replacement. Here's how to address and prevent them.
 

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roof asphalt shingles
Roof with asphalt shingles. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Robert P.)
 
 

How leaks form

As your roof ages or sustains weather damage, certain areas can become susceptible to leaks. Keep an eye out for problems and take preventive measures to fix them so as to avoid serious structural damage or mold or mildew growth.

Here are some of the ways water starts seeps 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.

Leaks along flashing: Roofers use flashing, which refers to various waterproof materials, wherever something sticks up through the roof line — such as a chimney or vent stacks. Flashing is important to protect against leaks in these areas.

Over the years, however, 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 alone, it could become a major leak requiring repairs all the way down to the rafters.

Even a small leak that doesn't yet reach living quarters can result in wood rot and mold growth. When mold takes root inside a home, it can cause serious health problems. Look for leaks as a normal part of roof maintenance.

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.

MORE: Assessing and repairing storm damage to your roof

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, or ice dams, can occur 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.

RELATED: Fixing sagging gutters

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 than making the repairs later.

Making repairs

If you have the skills and time, you can make these soffit and fascia repairs yourself. However, 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.

MORE: Which Contractors Do Soffit Repair or Replacement

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. If you do use wood, make sure to apply roof paint, a specialized coating made to withstand the elements and resist mildew.

Roof inspections

There are some tell-tale signs that homeowners can look for that may point to a roof issue. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends checking your roof during the fall and spring to 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.

Remember though that not every roofing problem can be spotted with an untrained eye.

new roof
A newly installed roof should also be inspected to make sure work meets code. (Photo by Angie's List member Arthur Z.)

Consider hiring a contractor to do a roofing inspection for maintenance purposes; after installing a new roof install; after a major storm, to check for damage that may precipitate an insurance claim; or when selling or thinking about buying a property.

MORE: How much does a roof inspection cost?

Hiring a roofing contractor

If you plan to hire a service provider to fix an issue with your roof, take care to find the right professional for the job. Follow these tips to ensure the job gets done right:

• Ask the contractor to show you proof of licensing, workers compensation and liability insurance. Write down or copy the contractor license number, which you can then verify with your state or local trade license board.

Check the List for reviews before hiring a roofing contractor. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Laurie H.)

• Ask for references of past customers in your neighborhood or nearby — and call them. Any roofing contractor who acts offended when asked for references or licensing proof should be viewed with suspicion.

• Be particularly wary of anyone who knocks at your door offering a deal, especially after a major storm that's done considerable damage in your area. Although some honest contractors seek work this way, it's also a common tactic employed by scammers.

MORE: Beware of roof rip-offs

Comments

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

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