The Most Common Causes Why Your Roof is Leaking

Posted By Gabe Callaway

Dealing with a leaking roof is never fun. If anything, it can be a hassle-filled experience that will drain your time, effort, and money. So once you notice visible leaks on your ceiling, you may want to determine the root cause to find the correct fix for the problem at hand.

This sounds better than scrambling to find the nearest bucket to catch the water and avoid puddles. That said, let’s get to the most common reasons behind why a roof leaks! (Related: What Are the Most Common Causes of Roof Leaks?)

12 Common Causes of Roof Leaks

Knowing the most common causes of roof leaks is crucial so you know how to avoid dealing with a worse problem and how you can address it right away.

Broken Shingles

First on our list are broken shingles, which are among the most common culprits behind a leaky roof. Fortunately, shingles are easy to assess by a layperson since they are immediately visible.

Whenever a major storm or strong winds hit your home, always check the integrity of your shingles.

Broken Flashing

Eventually, the tarring that secures your shingles together is subject to wear and tear. If your roof leaks, opt to check the flashing around the leak source. Since it is susceptible to roof leaks, always ensure it is adequately sealed by checking visible cracks occasionally.

Pipe Boot Failure

Similarly, a boot that goes around a pipe is also prone to eventual failure. Note that the term “boot” refers to a roof flashing that surrounds the base of your roof pipes to make them waterproof. This can be made of different materials, such as copper, lead, and plastic. Its primary role is to prevent water from following the pipe down the roof and making its way inside your home.

Unfortunately, pipe boots do not last as long as your roof’s life span. It is expected to last for ten years, but this may change depending on external factors (location of your home, weather conditions, etc.)

Attic Condensation

During the winter months, condensation in your attic can become an issue as the outdoor temperature is lower than the indoor temperature in your home. Once the warm air finds its way into the attic and cools down rather quickly– this can result in condensation. Condensation may eventually lead to roof leaks and mold, incredibly so when overlooked.

One good way to avoid condensation-related problems is to regularly keep a close eye on your attic’s insulation and ventilation system.

Improperly Driven Nails

Another common cause of roof leaks is when your roofing nail starts to back out of a shingle. We’re talking about nails that aren’t driven securely in place– as this may cause the head of the nail to go back up through the shingle. If it rains, the head will catch the water that will go down your roof and may eventually find its way inside.

Note that roofing nails used on shingles aren’t the only ones at risk. Decking nails may also have a similar problem, especially if it doesn’t hit the wood during the framing construction. Keep an eye out for any nail heads sticking up your ceiling/roof so you can avoid dealing with a roof-related leak.

Clogged Gutters

We get it. The idea of cleaning out gutters seems like a tiresome chore, but it’s a must. Clogged gutters may only result in leaks on your roof. Gutters in a valley (two roof slopes adjoined in a V-shape) allow water to flow down the roof freely.

When there’s no flashing on the fascia board, the board usually found in the roof’s lower edge carrying all the gutters, you are at a higher risk of dealing with roof leaks. When the gutters in your roof valley are clogged with leaves and other debris during extreme rains – leaks may occur.

Age of the Roof

In particular, asphalt shingles are constructed with petrochemical oils– allowing them to expand and contract according to different weather conditions. Since these oils dry out eventually, your asphalt shingles may break, crack, or curl. This means they may lose their water-shedding capability unless they are repaired. If you have an asphalt shingle roof at home, you may want to monitor your roof’s current condition regularly.

General Negligence

Taking good care of your roof helps you avoid common problems like roofing leaks. Keep in mind that negligence may result in extensive damages that may only drain your wallet. Here are some excellent roof maintenance tips to start with:

  • Remove any tree branches that are close to your roof
  • Clear the roof of any debris after strong storms
  • Monitor any signs of roof discoloration
  • Monitor any telling signs of algae, fungus, or moss growth on your roof
  • As much as possible, avoid DIY fixes. Hire a professional to ensure that the right fix will be done.

Chimney Wear and Tear

A chimney can leak in a variety of ways. It may be the metal flashing that is placed under the chimney’s shingles. The mortar joints may be the problem if it’s brick. If it rains for a few days, the bricks and mortar joints may become so saturated that water may start to leak inside your house, causing damage to the ceiling and walls.

Another possibility is that water is dripping from the chimney’s top. For instance, a masonry top can crack due to being wet and freezing. Additionally, a metal top may simply be rusted or have lost some of its holding power. Water can enter the corners of the chimney siding where the siding butts into the corner boards. The planks behind the chimney that you cannot see can rot just as quickly as those boards.

Holes in the Roof

Snow, hail, and strong winds can damage your roof, resulting in water damage. During your routine roof inspection, it’s critical to keep an eye out for these kinds of holes and repair them as soon as you notice them.

Ice Dam Buildup

An ice dam is a buildup of ice at your roof’s edge. As water accumulates behind the ice dam, these ridges of ice obstruct the flow of water and may allow moisture to enter your home. Ice dams are caused by a combination of snowfall, prolonged below-freezing temperatures, and uneven surface temperatures on your roof, as opposed to many other causes of roof leaks, resulting from poor installation or erosion.

Snow may melt and then refreeze when it approaches the edge of your roof due to several factors that might result in warmer surface temperatures at higher points and colder towards the edges. Ensure all icicles are contained in the gutters, and there is no water gathering behind them. You should also check for any stains along the ceiling or in the attic.

While ice removal may seem simple, remember that shingles can come off with it. Any chemicals you apply (such as calcium chloride) can harm nearby plants and shrubs as they are soaked in the chemical as it drips off the roof. A permanent solution requires addressing the cause of the temperature imbalance. Therefore, removing the ice is only a temporary fix.

Poor Installation

There is very little room for mistakes when it comes to installation since roofing is a specialized profession. Installers without experience or pop-up roofing companies, which are particularly common after storms, will perform substandard work that is often not apparent until the bill is paid and the company has long since gone.

To check the quality of the work after repairs or installation, you can look for a few signs rather than waiting for a roof leak to occur, such as:

  • Materials are poorly aligned
  • The roof surface has bumps or ripples
  • Shingles are damaged or missing
  • Not enough drip edges
  • Not cleaning the leftover debris or garbage
  • Noticeable damage on your home’s exterior
  • Using too few or too many nails contrary to the manufacturer’s guideline

These are some of the more visible signs that most homeowners are supposed to recognize; if they do, they need to be taken care of immediately. However, doing your research in advance to ensure you choose a reputable company is the best way to avoid sloppy installation. Be sure to always request reliable referrals from your friends and loved ones!


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