Preventing Roof Leaks — Tips for Homeowners

Preventing Roof Leaks - Tips for Homeowners

Tips by Real-Estate-Agents.com

The most important part of preventing roof leaks is replacing damaged or missing roofing. Preservative oil treatments (sealants) can prolong the life of a wood shake roof if they are repeated at appropriate intervals throughout the life of a roof, ideally starting when the roof is three to six years old. However, that will not repair cracked or curling shakes which need to be replaced to maintain the roof’s effectiveness. Also, after replacing some cracked, missing and curling wood shakes throughout the roof, the new shakes are lighter in color and can stand out like polka dots. Applying a preservative oil treatment can help blend the new shakes in with older ones and make the roof look more attractive, especially when trying to sell the house.

Q: Will preventative maintenance help prevent my roof from leaking?

A: Yes. In most cases, the actual problem that created your leak started three to four years before the leak occurred. Sometimes wind damage or another act of nature will cause an immediate leak, but usually the roof leaks because an area has deteriorated. Roofers find felt paper exposures on shake roofs that are only seven years old.

Q: Why would my cedar shake roof leak?

A: The number one cause is a hole in the felt paper applied under the shakes. The south and west sides of your roof dry out from the sun. The shakes become thin and eventually open up, exposing the felt paper (which is the actual waterproof leak protection for your home.) Soon the felt paper dries out and cracks. A hole in the felt paper normally means water in the attic.

Another common problem is caused by excessive debris on the roof. Oak leaves and moss are the worst because as water passes through them, it becomes acidic (low pH level). The water on a shake roof actually flows under the shakes, over the felt paper underneath, and back out on top the shakes below. This acidic water can dissolve felt paper, causing a hole not visible from above. Even if the shakes look good on top, the felt paper may be ruined underneath. And you can imagine how difficult (and time-consuming) it is to find those leaks!

Q: Why would my flat (or low pitch) roof leak?

A: Flat roofs are commonly roofed with tar and gravel, rolled composition or, unfortunately, cedar shakes. Often the seams open or the tar and gravel cracks, a condition called alligatoring. This commonly happens to most tar and gravel roofs at the end of their life span, which is typically 10 to 12 years. In most cases, the roof should be replaced as soon as possible.

The problem could also be found in the area where the flat (patio) roof joins a steeper roof. All too often, these roofs are not joined properly. It was once common practice to put shakes over the patio of a home roofed with cedar shakes. Though this may look good, it was not smart because shakes do not conform with the contour of the roof. The area where the patio joins the main roof will often collect water, which can then flow horizontally, find an overlap/hole in the felt paper and leak. In short, it is hard to fix a flat roof.

Q: Why would my life-time tile roof leak?

A: Usually it is from the flashings, debris in valleys or poor original construction. Cracked tiles should be replaced and debris kept off the roof. Great care should be taken walking on tile roof because metal tiles can be dented (opening up joints and seams) and cement/concrete tiles can crack, allowing water to reach the felt paper. Most tile roofs are constructed with a batting system underneath. Exposed, these wood strips can collect and hold water, which may then find its way through a nail hole.

Q: What other reasons might a roof leak?

A: High winds can cause leakage around flashings and valleys. Few roofs are designed for such acts of nature. You should also be wary of solar panels, air conditioners and antenna tie-down bolts. Bolts through roofs are bad news! Chimney shrouds/hoods can also be a source of leakage.

Unfortunately, poor construction is becoming more of a problem. Leaks on seven-year-old shake and tile roofs can originate during construction but not become a problem until the roof gets older and looser. As a roof ages, water can go places it could never reach before.

Q: When my roof was leaking after a storm, every roofer I called said they would come to fix it, but no one was willing to give me an estimate to repair it first. I always get competitive bids when hiring someone to repair my home, so I figure they are taking advantage of an emergency situation in refusing to give me an estimate first.

A: Your reaction is understandable, and we have heard of contractors taking advantage of emergency situations by charging $300 to $500 to spend less than an hour on a roof fixing leaks that often don’t go away. So it is important for consumers to understand how honest roofing contractors handle roof leaks in order to understand why giving estimates, especially during emergencies, is simply not efficient.

During a storm, roofers are deluged with calls to repair roofs from homeowners who risk expensive damage to the interiors of their homes, their furnishings, etc. that would cost far more than a few dollars’ difference between roofers bids. During these emergencies, roofers’ waiting lists can have dozens of people and they all work dawn to dusk for days trying to get to everyone. Quite simply, they don’t have time to show up at a house, climb on the roof, try to guess what needs to be fixed, then leave and wait for the homeowners to get a couple more roofers to go through the exercise before deciding who to call back to set up an appointment.

Secondly, roofers often can’t tell exactly where the leak is coming from just by looking at the top of the roof or the evidence indoors, and therefore have no idea how long it will take to find it and fix it, so they can’t give a firm bid.

Finally, after they fix it, few companies will even guarantee the repair unless the cause was obvious and it was easy to fix. It may take more than one or two attempts to fix the problem.

Therefore, most honest contractors usually charge around $50 to $150 to come, fix the leak and get paid for the time and materials they use while there, unless the labor is more extensive. Then if they have to come back, the time they spent before can be considered part of the elimination process and again you only have to pay for the time and material they give you researching and solving the problem.

So if you are put on a waiting list to get a leak fixed, we recommend leaving your name and number with two or three good roofing contractors and as soon as one comes to fix your roof, call the others and have them remove your name from their lists. This is by far the most fair and efficient way for both consumers and contractors.

Homeowners often attempt to fix their own leak but end up causing further damage to the roof. Also, many roofs have problems that are unique to that particular roof. People need to realize that not all roofing contractors are the same, so make sure the contractor you hire to fix your leaks has experience making repairs and really knows what he is doing.

by Kathy Maynard, reprinted courtesy of Service Magic

Tips by Real-Estate-Agents.com

The most important part of preventing roof leaks is replacing damaged or missing roofing. Preservative oil treatments (sealants) can prolong the life of a wood shake roof if they are repeated at appropriate intervals throughout the life of a roof, ideally starting when the roof is three to six years old. However, that will not repair cracked or curling shakes which need to be replaced to maintain the roof’s effectiveness. Also, after replacing some cracked, missing and curling wood shakes throughout the roof, the new shakes are lighter in color and can stand out like polka dots. Applying a preservative oil treatment can help blend the new shakes in with older ones and make the roof look more attractive, especially when trying to sell the house.

Q: Will preventative maintenance help prevent my roof from leaking?

A: Yes. In most cases, the actual problem that created your leak started three to four years before the leak occurred. Sometimes wind damage or another act of nature will cause an immediate leak, but usually the roof leaks because an area has deteriorated. Roofers find felt paper exposures on shake roofs that are only seven years old.

Q: Why would my cedar shake roof leak?

A: The number one cause is a hole in the felt paper applied under the shakes. The south and west sides of your roof dry out from the sun. The shakes become thin and eventually open up, exposing the felt paper (which is the actual waterproof leak protection for your home.) Soon the felt paper dries out and cracks. A hole in the felt paper normally means water in the attic.

Another common problem is caused by excessive debris on the roof. Oak leaves and moss are the worst because as water passes through them, it becomes acidic (low pH level). The water on a shake roof actually flows under the shakes, over the felt paper underneath, and back out on top the shakes below. This acidic water can dissolve felt paper, causing a hole not visible from above. Even if the shakes look good on top, the felt paper may be ruined underneath. And you can imagine how difficult (and time-consuming) it is to find those leaks!

Q: Why would my flat (or low pitch) roof leak?

A: Flat roofs are commonly roofed with tar and gravel, rolled composition or, unfortunately, cedar shakes. Often the seams open or the tar and gravel cracks, a condition called alligatoring. This commonly happens to most tar and gravel roofs at the end of their life span, which is typically 10 to 12 years. In most cases, the roof should be replaced as soon as possible.

The problem could also be found in the area where the flat (patio) roof joins a steeper roof. All too often, these roofs are not joined properly. It was once common practice to put shakes over the patio of a home roofed with cedar shakes. Though this may look good, it was not smart because shakes do not conform with the contour of the roof. The area where the patio joins the main roof will often collect water, which can then flow horizontally, find an overlap/hole in the felt paper and leak. In short, it is hard to fix a flat roof.

Q: Why would my life-time tile roof leak?

A: Usually it is from the flashings, debris in valleys or poor original construction. Cracked tiles should be replaced and debris kept off the roof. Great care should be taken walking on tile roof because metal tiles can be dented (opening up joints and seams) and cement/concrete tiles can crack, allowing water to reach the felt paper. Most tile roofs are constructed with a batting system underneath. Exposed, these wood strips can collect and hold water, which may then find its way through a nail hole.

Q: What other reasons might a roof leak?

A: High winds can cause leakage around flashings and valleys. Few roofs are designed for such acts of nature. You should also be wary of solar panels, air conditioners and antenna tie-down bolts. Bolts through roofs are bad news! Chimney shrouds/hoods can also be a source of leakage.

Unfortunately, poor construction is becoming more of a problem. Leaks on seven-year-old shake and tile roofs can originate during construction but not become a problem until the roof gets older and looser. As a roof ages, water can go places it could never reach before.

Q: When my roof was leaking after a storm, every roofer I called said they would come to fix it, but no one was willing to give me an estimate to repair it first. I always get competitive bids when hiring someone to repair my home, so I figure they are taking advantage of an emergency situation in refusing to give me an estimate first.

A: Your reaction is understandable, and we have heard of contractors taking advantage of emergency situations by charging $300 to $500 to spend less than an hour on a roof fixing leaks that often don’t go away. So it is important for consumers to understand how honest roofing contractors handle roof leaks in order to understand why giving estimates, especially during emergencies, is simply not efficient.

During a storm, roofers are deluged with calls to repair roofs from homeowners who risk expensive damage to the interiors of their homes, their furnishings, etc. that would cost far more than a few dollars’ difference between roofers bids. During these emergencies, roofers’ waiting lists can have dozens of people and they all work dawn to dusk for days trying to get to everyone. Quite simply, they don’t have time to show up at a house, climb on the roof, try to guess what needs to be fixed, then leave and wait for the homeowners to get a couple more roofers to go through the exercise before deciding who to call back to set up an appointment.

Secondly, roofers often can’t tell exactly where the leak is coming from just by looking at the top of the roof or the evidence indoors, and therefore have no idea how long it will take to find it and fix it, so they can’t give a firm bid.

Finally, after they fix it, few companies will even guarantee the repair unless the cause was obvious and it was easy to fix. It may take more than one or two attempts to fix the problem.

Therefore, most honest contractors usually charge around $50 to $150 to come, fix the leak and get paid for the time and materials they use while there, unless the labor is more extensive. Then if they have to come back, the time they spent before can be considered part of the elimination process and again you only have to pay for the time and material they give you researching and solving the problem.

So if you are put on a waiting list to get a leak fixed, we recommend leaving your name and number with two or three good roofing contractors and as soon as one comes to fix your roof, call the others and have them remove your name from their lists. This is by far the most fair and efficient way for both consumers and contractors.

Homeowners often attempt to fix their own leak but end up causing further damage to the roof. Also, many roofs have problems that are unique to that particular roof. People need to realize that not all roofing contractors are the same, so make sure the contractor you hire to fix your leaks has experience making repairs and really knows what he is doing.

by Kathy Maynard, reprinted courtesy of Service Magic


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