What Are the Most Common Causes of Roof Leaks?

When you see unsightly water stains on your ceiling or notice more obvious signs such as water dripping– your roof may be leaking. Leaks happen when the roof is damaged, so you might want to get the leakage to stop and repair it at your earliest convenience. Nobody wants to run for a drip bucket every time it rains. It's impractical and a hassle!

Let's discuss the many root causes of water leakage in your roof to make the repair easier. This will also help you prevent future issues from taking place.

10 Common Causes of Roof Leaks

From old age and gutter issues, here are some of the most common reasons roofs leak.

1. Holes

Having holes in the roof gives water an easy, obvious entry point. It will be quite a challenge to stop the water from flowing into your home and damaging everything in your living spaces. Over time, holes in the roof occur, especially if you don't follow routine roof maintenance activities. It may also happen if something hits the roof so suddenly.

In some cases, you may also have holes in the roof after removing objects such as old antennas and satellite dishes. The spots where they were anchored might leave behind holes. It would be best to have any visible holes on your roof patched correctly to prevent leakage problems.

2. Cracked Flashing

Flashing refers to thin metal pieces that go over the joints and seams to create a water-resistant barrier. Unfortunately, broken flashing may cause leaks, especially with large cracks. This happens because the tar that seals the flashing together may naturally rust over time.

3. Missing or Damaged Shingles

Yes, shingles protect your roof and redirect the water to the gutters… But if they are damaged, they may also allow leaks on the roof. This may be brought upon by an improper installation or the use of faulty roofing materials. Other factors include storm or wind damage– which may puncture the shingles.

The best way to deal with this is to inspect the roof periodically and keep an eye out for visible signs of damage or missing shingles.

4. Gutter Issues

Since water runs down the roof and the gutters, making the gutter prone to leaves, sticks, and other debris build-ups. Homeowners who do not clean their gutters regularly may suffer from build-up, which may only restrict the water from flowing freely. This may lead to water build-up on your roof and pool under the shingles and eventually cause leaks.

The solution? Opt to clean your gutters at least thrice a year. This will help you keep them clean and clear. If your property is located in an area with several trees, you may want to increase the cleaning frequency accordingly.

5. Old Age

Regardless of material and type, all roofs will eventually need replacement due to wear and tear. The life expectancy of roofs will depend on the roofing material you are going for.

Asphalt shingles last for about 20 years, while others last longer or shorter, depending on the quality of the roofing material you've selected. Fiber cement shingles are known to be more long-lasting, up to 25 years of good use. Wooden shakes or shingles last for about 30 years. While slate, tile, and metal roofs are known to have the most extended lifespan– up to 50 years or more.

Once your roof exceeds its average lifespan, it is expected to deteriorate and eventually become brittle. This may place your home in a very vulnerable spot prone to leaks. Damage or neglect may shorten the lifespan of your roof, regardless of its material.

6. Improperly Sealed Valleys

Valleys are where two planes of roof come together. Since these are sloped, rainwater may flow inside your home once it runs down the roof– especially if they aren't sealed properly. Look for wet spots along the roof's seams to detect this problem. Aside from improper sealing, it may also be cracked once stepped on. Other causes include excess rain and ice.

7. Vent Booting is Cracked

Roof vents are small pipes that stick out on top of the roof. They expel excess moisture from inside your home. Any leaks in this area leave dark spots and mustiness. These are often sealed using flashing around the opening and areas where the pipe peeks outside the roof. After a while, the flashing may break, or the roof might decay.

8. Roof Slope Issues

A flat roof or a shallow roof slope may only increase the likelihood of leaks. The slope of your roof helps water to run off relatively efficiently. So, if it doesn't have much of a slope, water may slow down or pool up on your roof. Eventually, this may result in water leaking into your home.

9. Ice Dam Buildup

Ice dam refers to a ridge of ice that forms at the roof edge. This prevents melting snow or water from draining off completely. The weight of the ice in itself may damage your roof and the water pooling on the surface.

The heat from the attic and the rest of your home is above freezing, so it causes the snowfall to melt (despite the cold temperatures outdoors). Once the water runs between the roof's surface– it will refreeze upon hitting the exterior edge.

10. Vents, Skylights and Chimneys

Chimneys, skylights, and vents are essential additions to your home– but they may also increase the risk of leaks on your roof. If these aren't installed correctly, it may leave gaps in between where water may seep inside.

Ensuring a proper installation will give you peace of mind knowing the features are adequately sealed and watertight. However, it's still best to have them re-sealed periodically to keep them protected.

  • Skylights ─ Your skylights may be susceptible to leaks if they do not match the skylight size accurately. The insulation surrounding it may also deteriorate after a few years.
  • Chimneys ─ Like skylights, chimneys may also break over time, allowing water to flow inside your home. Other potential causes include damaged or missing mortar and holes in the chimney.

Once you determine there are leaks in the roof– we recommend investigating the situation as soon as possible and finding a proper fix. This may just decide whether you need a quick repair or a major remodel. (Related: Fixing Up a Rotting and Leaking Roof in Portland)

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a roof leak repair take?

The minimum time required is usually 2 to 3 hours. If you need to replace a whole roof section, the project may be completed in two or three days. Roof repairs take time, depending on the type of roofing solution needed.

How do I know if I have a leak?

Any form of discoloration or stains on walls, ceilings, and floor sections on the floor closest to the roof are common symptoms of a roof leak. However, depending on where the water is entering, indications of roof leaks might also appear on the lower floor. Siding is another common cause of leaks, especially if it is not properly installed.

What should I do when there's a leak in my roof?

First, determine where the water is most likely coming from. Consider where you believe the source is and where the water is entering. Second, attempt to contain the leak temporarily by using buckets, towels, and other items to collect the water inside the house. Lastly, look for a local roofing expert to assist you in adequately repairing the leaking problem.

What does a leaky roof look like from the inside?

Cracked paint, discolored plasterboard, peeling wallpaper, and an odd mildew odor that develops after rain are all signs of water damage from a leaking roof.