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Proper roof maintenance helps prevent roof leaks and other damage, and most homeowners choose to have a professional inspect their roof instead of climbing up to do it themselves. A roofing professional should inspect your home’s roof annually. Routine inspections reduce the risk of minor leaks or damage turning into a larger issue. If you do have a roof leak, you can choose to fix it yourself or call in a professional.
Understanding Common Causes of Roof Leaks
Roof leaks may be prompted by damage from storms, falling objects, or other wear and tear on the roof. Missing shingles and cracked or missing sealant around skylights or dormers may be the source of your roof leak.
Other common causes of leaks are structural issues, such as improperly installed flashing or shingles. Additionally, maintenance issues such as clogged gutters could lead to roof damage and leaking.
How to Identify and Locate Roof Leaks
If you don’t have regular roof inspections to catch issues early, you’ll likely notice a roof leak after it has caused internal damage. Homeowners typically notice odors or stains first. Roof leaks can produce musty smells due to water damage in your home, especially in attic spaces. If the damage is severe enough, the scent can waft through nearby interior spaces.
Water stains on ceilings and the upper edges of walls, possibly near the exterior, are often the first visual clues homeowners notice from a roof leak. Stains and water damage may also appear near roof trusses, which are visible from inside the attic space. The staining is often brown or rust-colored and appears in circular patterns. Dampness may accompany staining, creating a darker shade within the existing stain pattern.
To find the source of a leak, homeowners can conduct a ground-level roof inspection. A typical assessment includes looking for damaged shingles, roof vents, and clogged gutters or eaves. For a more thorough examination, hire a roofing contractor or service.
Professionals are also helpful because they know how to mitigate common issues when testing for leaks. Common locations of leaks and related issues include these:
- Dormers: A dormer is a small window or room projecting beyond the roofline. Leaks around dormers often result from poor flashing installations. Due to the multiple components of a dormer, discovering this leak source can involve inspecting the window, flashing, and surrounding shingles.
- Roof vents: Venting is crucial to maintain proper airflow through attic spaces. However, poorly sealed vents can allow water to seep into the attic space, causing water damage and possible mold.
- Soffits: Roof soffits protect rafters from the elements. The placement of soffits is a potential issue because of their proximity to the eaves. Poor eave and gutter maintenance can allow water to back into the attic space, resulting in mold and water damage that may require a soffit replacement.
- Step flashing: Step flashing is installed to prevent drainage issues on a roof; however, compromised flashing can lead to roof leaks. Flashing issues stemming from damaged shingles, poor seals, or loose connections can lead to a hard-to-find leak.
DIY vs. Professional Roof-Leak Repair
Although some roof-leak repairs are minor projects you could do yourself, it may be best to call in a professional. Aside from whether you have the time and skill to fix roof damage, you should also consider issues such as your roof warranty and your safety when choosing how to handle the repair. Many warranties are voided when homeowners repair damage or perform installations themselves.
If only dealing with a small leak, you might choose to prevent further damage by temporarily patching the roof. The steps for this repair are straightforward:
- Locate the leak.
- Clear debris (such as loose shingles, branches, and loose nails).
- Use a patch or sealer (if installing a rubber patch, use a utility knife to cut to size).
- Caulk the edges for extra protection.
Before you consider performing a DIY repair, even a temporary one, consider your skill level and safety. Depending on the style and age of your roof, walking on its surface is risky and may lead to injury.
When to Call a Professional
You likely want to call in a roofing professional for larger repairs or even to check over a quick DIY patch you may have done. Although costlier than a DIY repair, professional repairs offer many benefits:
- Quality roofing materials
- Specialty tools
You should keep a few things in mind as you look for the right roofing company. First, consider the expertise and experience of the roofer you are contacting for an estimate. You can also check any relevant licensing required in your area. Second, read through customer reviews; although unhappy customers are often more likely to post an online review, they can give you a general idea of how other homeowners feel about their experience with the roofing company. Finally, every legitimate service should possess the appropriate business license and insurance.
Roof Repair vs. Replacement
The extent of roof damage as well as the age of your roof will influence whether you should opt for a repair or full roof replacement to fix your roof leak. Roof repairs address minor issues such as missing roof shingles, damaged vent boots, loose roofing nails, damaged flashing, or clogged gutters.
For damage that is more widespread, you likely will need to re-roof or replace your roof. Re-roofing means that a new shingle layer is added over your existing roof to help prevent leaks.
If the roof damage affects multiple layers of the structure, the roof has already been re-roofed, or the roof is near the end of its life span, a replacement will likely be necessary. A roof replacement includes removing the shingles and underlayment and replacing it. Depending on the extent of damage, the decking (the support on which the underlayment and shingles are laid) may also need to be replaced.
A new roof costs around $10,000 on average*, but the specific price can vary between $5,700 and $12,500 or more, depending on the size and pitch of the roof, your location, the materials you choose, and labor costs. Asphalt shingles are among the most affordable roofing materials at roughly $4 to $15 per square foot. Copper or other metal roofing are on the higher end, with costs up to $20 per square foot. Tile roof costs average $7 to $28 per square foot.
*Cost data averaged from multiple sources, including Angi and the United States Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
How to Prevent Future Roof Leaks
You can prevent future roof leaks by getting an annual roof inspection. Take care of routine maintenance, such as clearing debris off the roof, trimming overhanging branches, and keeping gutters clean. You should also address small issues immediately, such as fixing cracked caulking and replacing missing shingles.
Many of the common causes of roof leaks can be avoided by getting an annual roof inspection and regularly maintaining your roof. However, if you notice roof damage or spot signs of water damage from a roof leak, you’ll need to repair it. You may be able to handle a small roof patch yourself, but we recommend consulting a roofing professional for larger repairs or if you’re uncomfortable working on a ladder or your roof.
Roof Leak Repair FAQ
What are the signs that I need to repair my roof leak?
You should repair a roof leak as soon as you notice it. Signs of a leak include damp spots on the ceiling, water stains, mold growth, and visible water drops.
Can I repair a leaky roof myself?
It may be possible to repair a minor leak yourself, but consider your skill, experience, and other circumstances, such as the terms of your roof warranty. It is usually best to hire professionals for roof repair.
What are the common causes of a leaking roof?
Many things can cause a roof leak. The most common causes of a leaking roof include wear and tear, missing shingles, clogged gutters, holes, cracked flashing, and poor seals.
How do I find a roof leak?
From the ground, look for missing shingles or warped edges. Also, check for sagging. From inside, inspect the attic for water or interior ceiling staining.