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Roof Leak? Determining the Cause and Location of Water Intrusion

Our company gets calls all of the time stating that the customer has a roof leak and knows exactly where it’s coming in. Usually because there’s a water mark on the ceiling or wall. But, did you know that roof leaks are actually, sometimes hard to diagnose? In fact, it may not be your roof at all.

At times, determining the source of a leak can be difficult. A common misconception is when there’s a stain on the ceiling, the leak is originating from directly above that area. Water travels. This means that when there’s a leak present, water may be traveling down from another area, dripping onto the ceiling, causing you to believe that’s where the leak is. It’s best to have an experienced contractor get on your roof and in the attic (if applicable) to better determine where the leak is coming from.

There are other factors to consider as well. Water on your ceiling may be the cause of a variety of things.

1. Pipes- Plumbing pipes are often in your attic and may either be leaking or accumulating condensation, causing the water to drip. This happens quite often leading to a misdiagnosed roof leak. Your contractor should be able to spot this during the inspection and recommend an HVAC company who can help.

2. Condensation- If your home is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole house humidifier that is set too high; condensation can occur causing moisture in the home, especially your attic. Keep in mind, whole house humidifiers should not be set at more than 30%, per manufacturer guidelines, to avoid this issue. Moisture in a crawl space can also be a factor. The moisture is invisible and eventually rises through the home, stopping at the roof deck, creating condensation. The use of a sump pump, pea gravel, and other products can help but contact a professional to assist.

3. Clogged Gutters- If your gutters are clogged, water has nowhere to go but in! If your gutters are not properly maintained or cleaned, water, even ice in the winter, will back up with the debris. Consider gutter guards to prevent buildup of debris in your gutters. Not a fan of gutter guards? Our best advice is just to keep those gutters and downspouts cleaned. It’s best to check them every few months.

4. Ice Dams- Walk the perimeter of the home to check for areas where ice may have built up. When water from the ice melts it will more than likely leak right into your home. This doesn’t mean your shingles are bad. It simply means, as with clogged gutters, the water has nowhere to go but it in.

Turns out it was a roof leak? Wait to repair the interior. Draw a circle with a pencil around the stain. See if grows after a few good rainfalls. If not, you’re probably pretty safe to move forward.

There are many things we, as home owners, can do to be vigilant in the fight against roof leaks. You can inspect your home for the following things before having to call a contractor.

  • Look for cracked or missing shingles. If you have to get on the roof, safety first. Be sure someone is holding the ladder. Wear the proper attire- shoes with rubber soles are best.

  • Peak at your skylight while on the roof or from inside. Look for broken seals or cracked edges.

  • Check attic insulation level. State minimum (in Indiana) is 13”. Take a ruler with you, pop your head up and measure. Insulation and ventilation are very important in allowing your home to breath, reducing the risk of condensation.

  • Look for loose or damaged siding. Water can often enter the area causing a leak, especially with wind driven rains.

Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable contractor to assist in diagnosing the cause of your problem. Most inspections are free of charge.

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