Roof Repair Round Rock

EIGHT CAUSES OF A LEAKY ROOF 

Chances are if you live here in Round Rock or the surrounding area and are reading this, you are experiencing a leak. When I get a call from a homeowner to inspect a roof, I will go through a check list to determine the cause of the roof leak. This aids in not only detecting the leak, but also identifying the homeowner’s options to fix the leak. That’s when I’ll sit down together with the owner and determine what makes most sense.

I hope this can help you determine if you need a professional contractor, or it’s something you can handle yourself.

 

The job may require the insurance company to get involved or the work may be small enough to be handled out-of-pocket. Together, we’ll identify the damage, check the age of the roof and come to a conclusion. At that point, either a whole new roof is recommended or a simple fix, such as repairing a few sections, will be suggested.

 

No matter the situation, in Round Rock it always comes down to one or more of the following eight reasons for the roof leak. Over the many years of inspecting roofs, I have managed to put together this list which helps me determine the causes of all leaks.

Here is my check list of areas I’ll look for issues:

Age of Roof
Damage
Patched
Missing
Exposed Fasteners
Installation Problems
Vulnerable Areas
Multiple Layers

 

Age of Roof

When a roof reaches the end of its life expectancy, they are prone to leakage. And most causes are obvious.

 

Today’s low level modern asphalt shingles are only manufactured to last roughly 15 years. Other materials that do not deteriorate as fast such as slate or clay tile roofs, can last over 100 years. A good example is a church in England that has a slate roof that is 1,200 years old!

 

Today’s low level modern asphalt shingles are only manufactured to last roughly 15 years. Other materials that do not deteriorate as fast such as slate or clay tile roofs, can last over 100 years. A good example is a church in England that has a slate roof that is 1,200 years old!

 

If you’ve just bought a house, chances are that the roof may be as old as the house itself. If the house has had a new roof replaced since its original construction, it may have more than one layer if the contractor decided to lay the new over the old.

 

One trick to determine if there is more than one layer is to check in the attic for nail patterns. With asphalt shingles nails are placed 12 inches apart. Two nails will be close together every three feet. If the pattern you see doesn’t match this, it may indicate the old shingles were not removed prior to the new roof being installed. On the other hand, a lazy contractor may have just ripped up the original shingles while leaving the nails in. Just beware.

 

I will visually check the condition of the roof shingles. To me it’s more important to check the condition to determine how much more life remains than to base it on the age of the shingle alone.

When I look at the condition of the roof, I will know the typical signs of aging for the material. I can quickly sum up what has caused it to age and fail. The following are factors with many common roofing materials-

  1. Exposure to ultraviolet light: This is generally an orientation question. Does the roof face north, south, east or west?
  2. Color: Some believe that darker-colored asphalt shingles wear out before light tinted tiles. This may be dependent on climate. Hot typical summertime temperatures and long hours of direct sunlight, especially here in Texas, will have an impact.
  3. Ventilation: Good ventilation assists in keeping the roofing system cool in the summer season, and timber shingles as an example, assist the tiles to dry after a rainfall. Poor ventilation could cause fast aging.
  4. Exposure to winds: A residence situated in a seaside area or on top of a hill is exposed to different winds than one surrounded by high trees and various other residences in a fully grown community. High winds can trigger instant damage if roofing materials are torn off, or can affect the life span of the roof through the abrasive action of wind-driven rainfall, hailstorms, snow and also particles.
  5. Pitch (incline): Usually, steeper roofs last much longer compared to shallow roofing systems. Water runs faster off roofs with more pitch and dries much faster.
  6. Complexity: The more complex the roofing structure, the shorter the life expectancy. Roofs with many different changes in direction, many valleys, penetrations and or roof-mounted equipment will have a higher incidence of roof failure resulting in leaks.
  7. Foot traffic: Roof coverings that have consistently heavy foot traffic will not last as long as other roofing systems. This is more of a concern for residential roofs than with commercial ones. If there is equipment on the roof that requires servicing, foot traffic from service individuals may deteriorate the roofing system.
  8. Discharged water on to the roof covering from a drainage system: Upper level roofing with a gutter or downspout that discharges into a lower level roof will wear out the contact point.
  9. Tree Branches: Branches that touch the roofing system will result in abrasion damage causing it to fail early. If branches don’t touch the roof, the overhanging trees drop debris on the roof. Along with the added shade that the branches bring, this mix will slow down the drying process and shorten life expectancy.

 

 

Remember, simply looking at the physical condition of the roof covering will be the strongest indicator for you to determine what shape the roof is in. An expert roofing contractor will know what the shingles look like new, and what they look like at the end of their life. This takes experience.

 

I’ll even ask the homeowner how old the roof is. This is a hit and miss proposition though. Unless the owner has invoices relating to past roof repair, the information is not totally reliable. At the end of the day, the remaining life is more important to me than the age of the roof.

 

Damage

This may include physical damage such as broken tiles, holes or tears on the shingle which are easily seen.

 

Damage can occur a number of ways:

  • Falling objects
  • People working on the roof
  • Branches from overhanging trees
  • Wind or hail
  • Snow removal activities

 

Obviously this is a problem due to the ease at which weather elements can seep in and destroy decking or cause major leaks. While examining the roof, I’ll look at the entire surface, checking for damage.

It’s rare that I deal with snow or ice here in Texas, but I have to be aware of any damage that may have been caused to the lower edge of roofs from shovels and scrapers used to remove snow or ice. Ice dams are a big issue further north. These occur when snow accumulates on roofs. Heat escaping through the roof will melt snow and the water running off refreezes at the colder eave area.

 

Patched Areas

Patches may solve the problem short term, but are always inferior and should be treated as vulnerable areas since it is very common for patches to fail and leak. These are easy to spot. They present a high risk of future leakage because of the difficulty in making a weather-tight patch.

 

Chances are the substrate (sheathing or building framing) was damaged before the leak and never replaced, causing the roof to be spongy in that area. The metal flashings will also be an indicator of patching if areas are painted differently. Check to see the overall condition of the flashings and if the majority shows some rusting, and you spot a section that does not, the flashing has been patched or replaced.

Missing Pieces

Check for pieces of roofing material which may have been broken off, or the whole shingle may be missing altogether. There are a number of reasons why this occurs:

  • material disintegrating with age
  • mechanical damage
  • poor installation
  • missing or failed fasteners

 

These are easy to spot and can result in a quick diagnosis of any roof problems. It’s important to inspect the entire roof to identify partially or completely missing units.

Exposed Fasteners

Simply put, with a professionally installed roof, nails, screws or other fasteners should not be visible once the work is complete. If they are, you have a problem. This is usually because the installation quality was low, equipment may have been added to the roof in an unprofessional manner, or there was inferior repair work. The fasteners piercing the roofing materials makes holes. This presents an opportunity for moisture to get in unless the fasteners are properly covered by the next layer of shingles going down.

 

This is not the case however with roofing systems where the fasteners are intended to be exposed. The professional contractor will know which is which. Some asphalt shingles (Dutch lap and some diamond-shaped shingles), or some metal roofing have exposed fasteners and a proper installation technique is required.

 

Installation Problems

There are host of things that, if done wrong, will increase the risk of leakage. Pay especial attention to the roofing materials. Each has their own recommended practices for:

 

  • minimum slope
  • exposure
  • fastener type, number and location
  • joint alignment
  • overhangs at lower edges and rakes
  • requirements if any, for underlayment
  • the requirement for a waterproof membrane below
  • compatible flashing materials
  • maximum number of layers recommended

 

While not always obvious upon inspection, installations that were poorly executed will have increased risks for leakage.

Vulnerable Areas

There are many vulnerable areas, and anything restricting the drainage of water off a roof would be considered a vulnerable area.

 

  • butterfly roofs
  • wide chimneys near the lower edge of a roof
  • chimneys in valleys
  • skylights
  • drains from upper roofs that discharge onto lower roofs
  • changes in material
  • equipment that obstructs drainage
  • complicated flashing details
  • asymmetric valleys
  • patched area
  • roofs that change slope from top to bottom (typically with a lower slope near the bottom edge)

You may have an instance where valleys are steeper on one side than another, causing water to drive up under the shingles on the lower sloped side. I’ll also look for repairs. There are many ways for the amateur or hasty contractor to foul things up. A clumsy repair using cement or glue on a torn valley flashing is a good example.

Typically, these vulnerable areas are usually the result of poor design, installation or repair activity. In many cases, it may not warrant immediate repairs, but I’ll alert you to the potential for leakage after my inspection .

 

Multiple Layers

This happens more than most think, and it should be avoided at all costs. A slick contractor comes by, quotes an unbelievably low price and wins the business. And to reduce the cost of re-roofing, the new roof is added without removing the old roof.

 

Having multiple layers of roofing opens you, the homeowner, up to several areas of risk. You can expect a shorter roof life because the surface is uneven, and the dead load on the roof is increased, thereby making the structure work harder. This may even cause roofing deflection.

 

Often nails are too short to penetrate the roof sheathing since they have to go through multiple layers. And in heavy winds, roofing materials are more likely to be blown off.

 

Old flashings are usually not replaced either, making this critical component the weak link in the “new” roof. Typically these flashings are not made to be durable enough to last through two roofing lives, and flashing problems are common when there are multiple layers of roofing.

 

Over-roofing conceals damage if the roof leaks and putting new shingles over old ones does not resolve this issue.

 

Multiple roof layers inhibit the ability of the roof covering materials, such as wood shingles or shakes, to dry after a rain. This will accelerate deterioration of the roofing.

 

In most cases, unscrupulous roofers will cut off the old roofing material around the edges so that it will look like there is only one layer when there are really two.

 

Again, check to determine if there are two layers of roofing by the nail pattern protruding up in the attic. However, keep in mind that the shingles may have been removed, but not the nails, making it look like two layers of roofing.

 

In some cases asphalt shingles can be installed over wood shingles and, in some cases, over slate. This can be done successfully if proper attention is applied during installation.

 

So my cost estimates may be a little more expensive than the contractor just wanting to be the lowest bid. Re-roofing is more expensive when I strip the old shingles first. The stripping cost is also increased if there are two or three layers to remove.

 

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