What You Need to Know About Finding a Roof Leak

Thursday April 11, 2013

By Christophor Jurin

Roof leaks are challenging for many reasons. They are never convenient and almost always cause damages to something important on the interior of the home or business. For this reason, they challenge the patience of the homeowner or business owner.

Roof leaks are also challenging to the professional roofing contractor. The reason is that roof leaks very rarely show themselves inside the building at the same location where the problem exists on the roof system. More often than not, the cause of the leak can be a considerable distance away from the spot where the water shows up in the interior of the building.

As a roofing contractor, I have been on commercial projects where the leak source on the roof system has been over 200 feet away from where it eventually appeared on the inside of the building. The water made it in through the surface of the roof on a commercial structure and traveled through the roof deck until it dripped out at the other end of the building. That type of distance creates challenging conditions for any contractor to overcome.

Creative Steps to Finding the Leak

If you are a homeowner or building owner and you are experiencing active roof leaks, there are a few tips that you may want to consider as you begin to track down the source of that pesky roof leak. As with any situation, these tips are not guaranteed to be 100% effective. Leak investigation is not an exact science. You will find that a process of elimination is most likely needed to resolve most leak conditions occurring with your roof system.

  • Measure where the leak occurs inside the building from an exterior wall. After you are on the roof, transfer these measurements onto the roof surface to locate where the leaks are occurring.
  • If no exterior wall is available, map the leak to a penetration through the roof and measure from that point on the roof. This can be a vent pipe or a chimney.
  • Begin your search at the point where the leak is occurring and work out in concentric circles. If the leak is occurring where the entry point in the building is showing up, the cause of the leak may be in that area.
  • If the leak source is not immediately evident, begin searching up the roof slope. Remember, water always runs downhill, even under a roof system. Search uphill away from where the leak is occurring.
  • Check roof penetrations. Often roof penetrations will cause water to enter a building through such issues as deteriorated mortar on a chimney or an air conditioning unit through the unit itself.
  • Review valleys and hips in shingle roof systems. In certain situations the installing roofing contractor may not have trimmed their tabs from the valley shingles. This creates a gutter that carries the water laterally allowing the water to enter the building away from the valley.
  • Check roof drains and scuppers to ensure there are no clogs preventing your roof from draining properly.
  • Check your gutters and downspouts to ensure they are flowing freely and not clogged.

These suggestions may save you time and money by allowing you to diagnose the problem and possibly implement a cost effective repair such as a roof coating. However, if you are unsuccessful in resolving your issue it is strongly suggested that you contact a professional roofing contractor or roof consultant to solve that challenging and pesky roof leak.

What experiences have you had with roof leaks in the past? Where you able to correct the problem?

Photo © www.istockphoto.com/Beano5. Water damage.

Photo © www.istockphoto.com/JamesBrey. Home with Vinyl Siding, Brick Facade, Architectural Asphalt Shingle Roof.


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