A leaky roof can cause serious damage and require costly repairs to your home. If water leaks into your home it can destroy drywall, plaster, cause mold, and even rot the wood frame of your home; the result is often tens of thousands of dollars in damage before a homeowner even notices a problem.
The good news is you can prevent this kind of problem with regular roof inspections and by remembering these DIY roof repair tips. Sometimes a repair can be as simple as applying a little roof cement to an obvious hole. Other times you’ll need to take time to find the source of the problem and decide whether it’s worthwhile to make repairs or install a new roof.
Roofing diagnostics and triage
If you notice your roof leaking, perhaps in the form of a colored water spot on your ceiling drywall, you’ll need to assess the scope of the problem to determine if you should make repairs or have the roof replaced. Here are some things to consider:
- The roof could be generally sound with just a few minor weak spots. The damage could have come from a falling branch, or an ice damn could be backing up the flow of water into the gutter system. If you find this is the case, repairs can be made to the weak spots to eliminate the leaking.
- If the roof is showing general signs of wear, such as a number of weak spots or a lot of missing or damaged shingles, repairs can solve the problem temporarily but the roof will undoubtedly end up requiring a complete reroof at some point in the near future. If you’re in this situation and can’t yet afford a reroof, make the repairs and start saving.
- If you’re able to reroof but need some time to get materials ready or find a qualified contractor, you can cover leaks with plywood and plastic sheets until you’re able to have the install completed.
- On the other hand, if you need to wait some time before calling in the roofing contractors, you should make repairs now (like replacing shingles) so that the roof doesn’t get too much worse. Also, make sure you inspect the attic after each rainfall for signs of water leaks, and any hotspots on the roof after each severe weather event for signs the roof took more damage that could cause issues.
The importance of flashing
In a leaky roof, often the problem is not even with the roof itself. The majority of roof leakage issues are a result of damage, degradation, or improper installation of the flashing that covers the joints between the roof and chimneys, walls, and vents. Flashing is a waterproof material laid down below the shingles to protect these areas where water is prone to flow in unusual patterns. Valleys, which may or may be protected by flashing, are trouble spots as well.
If you‘ve had problems with flashing for a while, it’s not uncommon to have it fixed three and four times before the problem is actually solved. In other cases, the problem is obvious and easily solved. A section of flashing may have torn through, be missing, or come loose. In most cases, if the problem is simple, a bit of roof cement will solve the problem.
The attic must be well-ventilated, otherwise moisture can’t escape and the result will be mold buildup and wood rot.
It’s certainly possible to conduct your own basic roof inspection, and with the tips outlined in this article, at the very least you’ll be able to troubleshoot many problems and take the appropriate action. Just stay safe up there!
Jim Standford is a HAAG certified roof inspector working for a roofing company in Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s been in the roofing business for 35 years and primarily inspects residential roofs after major storms for unseen damage.