Late spring and summer mark the peak of the rainy season across much of the United States. The months from May to August are often the wettest, accounting for as much as 50 percent of yearly precipitation in some areas. Unfortunately, the rainy season is all too often the beginning of another phenomenon in North America—that unfortunate time of year when you find your roof is not in the best shape after the long winter months.
Spotting Roof Leaks
Aside from water dripping from your ceiling and pooling on the floor below, roof leaks can make themselves known in a few different ways. For example, water stains streaking your ceiling or extending down the walls are a sure sign of a roof leak. Other signs of a potential water disaster from a quickly forming roof leak are a bulge or mold growth on your attic or vaulted ceiling, or erosion, mold, or moss on your exterior walls.
From an overhead perspective, the source of an impending leak can be a bit more challenging to locate. If you have water stains or a bulging ceiling, issues are usually present “uphill” from the visible damage itself. They can take the form of missing shingles, roof penetrations, or even loose and missing flashing. However, be aware that once you know there’s an issue, it’s only a matter of time before the water makes an unwanted intrusion into your home.
Steps for Addressing Roof Leaks
Whether you’ve noticed streaks, water stains, or have an active leak into your living space, you need to address roof leaks quickly. Even a slow leak can cause mold, damaged insulation and drywall, rotting sheathing, and can compromise the structural integrity of the framing of your walls and roof. Addressing a leak now can help you keep repair costs at a minimum; ignoring a leak can lead to extensive water damage and emergency replacement costs.
If you’re experiencing water seeping into your home due to a leaky roof, utilize these steps to deal with the damage, address the issue, and prevent future leaks:
- Minimize water damage to the interior. If you’ve noticed an active water leak, the very first step you should undertake is to prevent further damage to your home. If you have furniture, clothing, valuables, or other possessions directly in the path of the water, move them away from the area if possible. If objects are large or otherwise difficult to move, cover them with plastic sheeting or tarps to prevent further exposure.
- Contain the water entering your home. If water is entering your home in a steady drip or stream, place a waterproof plastic bucket beneath the leak to catch intruding water. Be aware—paint bubbling in your ceiling or wall is a sign that more water is awaiting entry; puncture the paint bubble to drain the water into your bucket. If you find that water continues to splash onto surrounding surfaces, place a small cloth at the bottom of the bucket or run a long string or piece of yarn from the source to your bucket to give the water a path to travel along instead of falling freely.
- Commence water removal. Now that you’ve stopped additional water from damaging your property, it’s time to remove the water already inside and prevent it from staining, warping, and molding. Thoroughly dry all possessions, flooring, walls, and woodwork, exposing it to circulating air if necessary. If you have carpeting, separate it from the padding and dry both sides, the padding, and the subfloor with a powerful fan. At this point, you may need to hire a professional water extraction company.
- Contact your insurance agent if needed. If the damage is extensive or ongoing, you may need to contact your insurance company to inquire about your coverage. While many policies do not cover damage from a leaky roof, some of your expenses may be reimbursable. Before hiring damage repair contractors, scheduling roof repairs, or attempting to undertake them yourself, speak with your insurance agent to better inform your decisions moving forward.
- Fix the leak. While missing shingles or caulking around vent boots are easy to repair on your own, a professional will handle other repairs better. Taking on huge roofing repair challenges can result in missed leaks, improperly installed shingles, and other issues that lead to further damage. After ensuring a potential contractor is fully licensed and insured, request at least two estimates to cover locating the leak as well as repairing and restoring all wood damage.
- Consider replacement. Depending on the extent of the wood damage and the remaining structural integrity of your framing, it may be best to replace the roof at this time. If your contractor agrees, you’ll need to determine which type of roof best suits your needs. In general, you can choose from two major types of residential roofs:
- Traditional asphalt shingled roofs are the most common roofs in many areas. They’re relatively inexpensive, can be installed by most licensed contractors, and are available in many shingle types, styles, and colors. However, shingles are more susceptible to continued leaking than other types of roofs and don’t last nearly as long.
- Metal roofs, on the other hand, have grown in popularity as more homeowners realize the combination of durability and beauty they bring to a home. Metal roofs can last well over twice as long as an asphalt shingled roof, and can even be recycled when it’s time for a replacement. Most importantly, metal roofs are less susceptible to leaks when installed by a professional, and are not subject to the wind damage that can cause future moisture intrusion.
Stop Leaky Roofs in Their Tracks
Whether you’ve noticed the early signs of light water damage or have a rain shower currently progressing inside your home, it’s essential to address your leaky roof as soon as possible. Failing to stop that leak now could mean you’ll face the dual costs of replacement and interior property damage. If professional roof repair or replacement is necessary, request estimates and proceed only with a durable roof that will stand the test of time and prevent future leaks. Diligence and savvy decisions now could save you from additional expenses in the future.