Owning a home can be a wonderful, comforting thing. Having a “roof over your head” is one of the basic needs in life, so it’s really important that you take good care of it.
The roof is a common area of a home’s vulnerability, but there can be many hidden harmful roofing problems you probably didn’t know about. Many of these problems can seriously impact your home’s structural integrity, your safety and health, as well as your wallet.
It’s critical that you pay very close attention to even the smallest roofing issues before it’s too late. Here are some of the things you should be looking for:
Dangers of a Leaky Roof
Finding a puddle on the floor, even a small one, may be tempting to ignore. You may want to explain it away as a one-time event during a heavy rain storm or blame it on the dog’s wet paws, but if it came from a roof leak, it’s important to investigate and act.
The source of roof leaks can be challenging to find. Many times the original point of entry is nowhere near where you found water inside your home. Water infiltration can start in any number of places and be caused by many different reasons, so by the time you notice it, significant damage may have already occurred.
- Structural Damage—water leaks can compromise the integrity of your home. It can damage rafters, ceiling joists, wall framing, fascia boards, and exterior trim. The wood under the shingles can deteriorate and weaken. Constant water intrusion can run all the way to your basement foundation, cause undermining and severe damage requiring contractor intervention.Water leaks can cause damage to ceilings and drywall, peel paint, and buckle wall coverings. Just imagine the damage to furniture, appliances, and personal belongings if your water-logged ceiling caved in.
- Electrical Shock and Fire Hazards—a leaky roof may allow water to seep into your walls, damage insulation and come into contact with electrical wires or metal junction boxes. This could cause a risk of deadly electrical shock for someone who comes in contact with the water or create a short and potential fire.
- Mold and Mildew—long-term roof leaks can result in black mold growth that can spread throughout your entire home and cause a toxic environment. It can invade your HVAC system and put your family at risk of respiratory issues. It can damage the wood framing, walls, and windows. If this happens, you’ll want to remove window mold quickly before they begin to rot as the cost of replacement windows can be significant.
- Higher Utility Bills and Wasted Energy—if your roof leaks cause the cellulose or fiberglass insulation in your attic to become saturated, over time it will shrink, contribute to heat loss, and result in higher utility bills.
Hidden Roofing Problems
Many problems can be caused from faulty installations, inadequate maintenance, and wear and tear from rain, snow, ice, and wind. Here are the main offenders you should inspect regularly to avoid troubles:
- Roof Flashing—thin pieces of metal are used under or on top of the shingles to cover seams or transition areas. Tar is often used to seal flashing together but exposure to the elements can cause the flashing to crack and allow water through.
- Old, Damaged, or Missing Shingles—3-tab shingles were the material of choice for many years. They were easy to replace and were fairly inexpensive. Unfortunately, they were vulnerable to tearing, cracking, and ripping off completely in wind storms. The majority of homes replace the 3-tab style with architectural shingles that are thicker, provide a dimensional look, and come with 30-year, 50-year or lifetime warranty.
- Valleys Improperly Sealed—a valley is present where two sloped areas of the roof come together. These areas are protected with a leak barrier but can erode over time and cause leaks.
- Cracked Vent Booting—plumbing vent pipes, attic vents, exhaust flues, and ventilation ducts are all exit points on your roof. Each hole has a protective boot to prevent water from leaking in. They can become cracked or worn and are a common source of roof leaks.
- Chimney—the chimney creates a large hole in your roof but mortar and flashing is used around the opening to keep water out. Wear and tear can cause holes in the mortar joints and should be replaced by a professional roofer.
- Skylights—damaged or poorly installed skylights can be a constant leak source if not addressed properly. The skylights may not fit properly into the roof opening or insulation may have decayed at the edges. Flashing around the skylight can also deteriorate and need replacing.
- Ice Dam Build-up—during winter months, heat from your attic can cause snow on your roof to melt and form ice along the edge. This will create a dam that prevents water from draining off the roof. The weight of the ice and water laying on the roof can damage the roof.
- Gutters are Clogged—gutters are in place to help direct rainwater off the roof and away from the house. Leaves and debris can clog the gutters and allow water to back-up and pool. Clean out your gutters regularly or invest in gutter guards that will eliminate this problem.
- Human Damage—in addition to being dangerous, venturing out onto your roof can also damage it. Walking on the roof can cause cracks or open up sealed areas. Never shovel snow or use a broom to sweep debris off the roof as you can damage asphalt shingles beyond repair.
Choosing a Contractor
While you may be comfortable repairing or replacing your roof yourself, or you may want to save some money, it’s generally recommended to hire a professional roofing contractor to do the work. They have the experience and skills needed to quickly and efficiently do the job and will provide a warranty to cover any problems after the work is done.
As with all home improvement projects, you should do your research before choosing a contractor. The internet is a valuable resource for checking their portfolio, their Better Business Bureau rating, social media presence, and reviews from past customers. If there were any issues or misunderstandings, seeing how they resolved the problems will help you determine their reliability and customer support system.
Understanding where to look for hidden harmful roofing problems can help you protect your investment, avoid health and safety issues, and save you money. So, inspect your roof regularly, complete routine maintenance, and investigate anything leaks regardless of size to ensure your roof stays trouble-free for years to come.