At some point, every homeowner is going to run into a problem with their roof. It may be from a storm causing damage, an improperly installed roof or from one that just got plain ole’ old. Problems can range from tiny leaks all the way up to catastrophic cracks and punctures.
Here are the most common problems to keep an eye out for:
Drip, Drip, Drip: Leaky Roof
The single biggest problem that leads to a phone call from a homeowner is going to be because of a roof leak. Much of the time, a leak is caused by either improperly installed or cracked flashing. The flashing on your roof is the metal parts that border things like chimneys and sections of the roof where it meets siding.
Flashing is supposed to reinforce the seam between the shingled area of a roof and a “non-roof” section and create a waterproof seal at these classically vulnerable spot.
Other common causes of roof leaks are broken tiles, slate or shingles.
When a roof leak happens, the vast majority of the time it’s going to come from areas around gutters, at skylights, near the chimney and close to vents or piping. Any area that has flashing is a potential leak source as well, in addition to areas around damaged shingles and in valleys (where two sections of roof meet).
Here’s the tricky part about roof leaks: they’re not always caused by obvious drops hitting the floor. Most of the time, an initial leak is going to get absorbed into the wood that makes up rafters and walls.
So if you’re looking for evidence of leaks, check for water damage on drywall and in the rafters first.
Ponding Water on the Roof
Ponding water is when water stands still in one spot and does not properly drain off the roof as intended. These pools eventually cause the integrity of the roof to deteriorate and become corroded and can cause a bunch of issues from leaks to premature failure.
These are a particular problem when it comes to flat roofs, which aren’t always as well equipped to handle drainage as a pitched roof is.
Clogged Gutters Causing Moisture Damage to the Roofing System
You may not think gutters have anything to do with the roof – but one of the leading causes of roof failure is a clogged gutter system.
See what happens is, when your gutters get clogged up (especially in the fall), it prevents water from draining properly and inevitably you have water build up, which backs up into the roof area (which is designed to quickly drain water off of it to prevent standing water damage).
When water sits and stands and sloshes around the roof, which is not designed to hold water for long periods of time, it causes the eaves to eventually rot, which then causes the roof’s integrity to fail, leading to more drainage problems.
This problem is what’s called a “failure cascade.” You do not want a failure cascade. Failure cascade means an easy-to-fix problem turns enormously expensive.
Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix by simply making sure your gutters are regularly cleaned out (either you yourself doing it, or having professionals regularly clean them out) and/or by having properly installed gutter guards that just prevents the biggest causes of gutter clogs from ever happening (like those massive oak leaves getting in there).
Snow and Ice Damage on the Roof (e.g. Ice Dams)
Snow and ice causes continual damage to any roof, making it a particular problem here around Albany and Saratoga. They cause havoc because snow eventually melts into water, then seeps underneath the asphalt shingles. If this water happens to refreeze, then you’ve got shingles that start popping off and ruining the integrity of the roofing system altogether.
This melting and refreezing can even get up underneath flashing – causing a “lifting” effect that pretty much permanently damages the material, which then lets even more melt water into the area, eventually leading to leaks and moisture damage.
There’s really only one way to stay on top of this problem: regularly inspect your roof in the spring and fall and catch minor problems as they occur, preventing any catastrophic repair problems and elongating the roof’s lifespan.
Poor Installation by a Roofing Contractor
This problem can’t be understated enough – and is one of the top reasons why hiring a roofer is almost always better than hiring a general contractor. Roofing requires a very specific kind of expertise and an eye trained to pick up on the small details of each unique roof. Additionally, you’re going to want to make sure that any roofing company or roofing contractor you hire is properly certified by the shingle manufacturers they’re installing.
You can tell when a poor installation happens by looking at the flashing or how even the shingles are. If the shingles aren’t leveled and they aren’t in a straight line, then the roof installation wasn’t done right – and that’ll cause drainage problems and premature leaking.
The biggest indication comes when you’re looking at the flashing around areas that connect to siding or chimneys or pipes. When flashing is properly secured or is not properly installed against the siding, what ends up happening is it does nothing to prevent water from getting into the plywood or wood areas that make up the connection points on your roof.
When the flashing is improperly installed like that, it’s really no better than just having exposed plywood out there absorbing all the water everytime it rains. The wood underneath then rots out, leading to a mold and mildew problem, termites and other devastating issues that just completely rot out the infrastructure and integrity of your home, leading to a hugely more expensive problem.
A shoddy installation isn’t just bad because your roof ends up leaking – it’s bad because oftentimes it’s going to cost up to twice as much to simply remove the old roofing, which will inevitably expose more problems that were unknown that must be fixed that leads to more expense and more materials, with the alternative being “well, just roof over it and have to deal with the problem every 3-4 years (which is an option you should never take).