How to Spot Damage Before Leaks Appear

While it can be easy to spot a damaged roof due to missing shingles, often leaks are more difficult to pinpoint. The actual spot showing discoloration or evidence of a leak is often not directly adjacent to the leak itself.

roof damage

Due to the sloped nature of a house’s roof, water entering through an imperfection in the roof can run down to another point to gather and cause visible damage.

The best way to prevent major damage to the interior and exterior of your home is to know how to check on the health of your roof.

Identifying Damage

Visual inspection of the outside of the roof can help you to locate any missing or damaged shingles.  Generally speaking, a roof will require full replacement if more than 30 percent of the roof exhibits damage.

Locating problem areas before the damage has become extensive can save money and prevent internal damage to the ceilings of your home.  It is additionally important to remember that the chimney, any ventilation pipes, the gutters, the roof flashing and the fencing can also become damaged.

All parts of the roof must be examined to prevent damage from leaks.  The following is a good basic list of what to keep an eye out for when inspecting your roof.

  • Wood shingles or shakes: splitting or curling, mold or decay
  • Composition shingles: loss of granulation, curling, broken, damaged or missing shingles
  • Flashing: buckling around roof penetrations or tears
  • Roofing cement: crumbling, excess cement
  • Flat Roof: cracks or tears, blisters and or wrinkles, obvious patches (be sure to check the attic for patched areas as well)
  • Gutters: rust, leaky seams, decay, loose attachments to structure, missing sections, debris in the gutters, bent or sagging. Remember that clogged gutters can freeze and bring excessive weight to bear on the gutters, the ice dams and the roof itself.
  • Soffits and fascia: stains or decay
  • Soffit and ridge vent: clogged and damaged vents, flashing and shingles around the vents or soffit curling or missing altogether
  • Chimneys: loose or missing flashing, leaning, damaged brick, damaged cap or cracked joints. Chimney flashing is prone to tearing because chimneys settle independently of the house itself.

When inspecting the inside of the roof, look for:

  • Moisture marks (brown, grey or yellow stains)
  • Peeling paint on walls or ceilings
  • A surge in energy costs
  • Check your attic for moisture, damp rafters or obvious leaks

Call in Professional Help

Basic roofing inspections on a regular basis can save thousands of dollars and unnecessary damage to the structural integrity of your home. While you might be capable of climbing onto your roof, if it often not recommended as there is risk of injury when climbing on a roof without proper safety equipment.

It is estimated that 90% of all roof leaks take place at the flashing.  Thankfully, flashing is more easily repaired and replaced than other parts of the roof.  Employing a roofing professional to examine flashing around chimneys, skylights, roof junctures and vents can prevent water damage to walls and ceilings as well as electrical and insulation damage.

A roofing professional will be able to assess if your roof is properly ventilated.  When ventilation is not properly executed, heat and moisture can build up in the attic and cause rafters and sheathing to rot, insulation to become damaged and ineffective and shingles to buckle.

Be careful never to block ventilation sources like ridge vents or soffit vents and louvers, even during winter months. It is recommended to maintain a minimum of 1 square foot of free vent area for each 150 square feet of your attic space by the NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association).

Be sure to attend to melting or freezing snow in gutters as the ice can cause a dam in the gutter which will block proper drainage.   If water backs up in the gutters, it can make its way beneath roofing materials and into the home. A roofing professional can clear out gutters if you do not feel that you are able to do so yourself.

Additionally, a roofing inspection can turn up bushes, trees and other vegetation that is putting the health of your roof at risk.   Vegetation can cause shingles to mold or grow moss and algae and it can trap moisture against the roof.

Plant debris can clog gutters and bushes can trap moisture against the house.  Lastly, falling tree limbs can cause great damage to the roof during storms and branches that are leaning against the roof itself can cause scraping and gouging which could remove shingles.

The roofing professional will be able to identify areas that need shingles replaced and it is recommended that small fixes not be ignored so as to prevent a larger loss or an eventually full roof replacement.