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The Most Common Roof Leak Causes (and what to do about it)

Water dripping from your ceiling during a rain or snow storm can be very concerning. Likewise if you notice a brown patch on your ceilings or walls caused by water leaking in from your roof. Roof leaks can cause significant damage to the interior of your home if not corrected fast, or ideally prevented in the first place.

Most roof leaks are caused by the following five issues:

  1. Chimney or skylight flashing failure – chimneys and skylights are some of the most common leak starting points. They should be properly flashed with metal flashing (or in some cases a custom “curb”) to ensure water is deflected away from them and into the gutters. If the flashing was improperly installed or becomes rusted, buckled, or storm damaged, it can quickly become a leak point.
    1. What to do about it: chimney and skylight flashing work is highly detailed and meticulous. It can be done by a homeowner, but typically only the most “handy” of homeowners can properly flash chimneys and skylights. A professional roofing contractor should have no problem re-flashing your leaky chimney or skylights.
  2. Worn pipe boots – we frequently see leaks caused by failing pipe boot flashings. Your roof has different plumbing pipes and vents penetrating through, which are commonly flashed with a metal and rubber/neoprene “boot”. Over time, the sun’s UV rays wear the neoprene down until it cracks and breaks and lets water in through the roof.
    1. What to do about it: the quickest and most effective solution is to install a new rubber collar over the top of the existing neoprene boot flashing. The new collar will cover the opening left by the cracked neoprene and usually last another 10-15 years. Alternatively, you could replace the entire flashing unit, but that should only be handled by a professional as it will require replacing several shingles or tiles along with the flashing.

  1. Debris in gutters causing backup in a roof valley – a roof valley is where two slopes connect in a “V” shape. Water will flow down the roof slopes, into the valley, and finally into your gutters and away from the home. When your gutters become clogged with debris, water can overflow and back up into the valley. Over time this can weaken the roof material until it rots and leaks, which can affect your exterior fascia, shingles/tiles, underlayment, roof deck, and even the interior of your attic and home.
    1. What to do about it: this leak might require multiple solutions. First is to ensure there is proper flashing at the bottom of the valley to allow water to run into the gutters without hitting any roof deck, fascia, or soffit areas. It might also be required to clean out the gutters so they allow water to run off the roof instead of backing up into the valley. Finally, you may want to consider trimming back any trees or shrubs whose leaves/needles are causing the gutter blockage in the first place.
  2. Exposed nails – your roof may have as many as 30,000 nails holding the tile or shingle materials securely in place. 99% of those nails are covered by the shingle above it, but some ridge-cap nails will always be exposed. Those nails MUST be sealed with silicone to keep them water-tight. If they aren’t, they are sure to cause a roof leak that will be small at first and grow over time. Similarly, some roof nails may back out, or be angled sideways into your shingles. These are just as likely to cause a roof leak.
    1. What to do about it: the exposed roof nails should be sealed with a UV resistant silicone sealant as quickly as possible. Any backed-out nails should be driven fully into the roof, and angled nails should be removed and re-driven properly.
  3. Collar failure around vents – your roof likely has gas vents for your furnace or water heater appliances. These vents have caps and collars to shed water, which can sometimes fail due to improper installation, metal rusting, or storm damage.
    1. What to do about it: these issues require care and precision as gas vents need to allow carbon monoxide to exit the house. Improper cap and collar installation could trap some of the carbon monoxide in the home which is a major safety hazard. Depending on the situation, this repair might require an HVAC technician. In a lot of cases a roofer can perform the repair by placing a new collar on the vent and sealing the collar seam with silicone so water does not drain down the vent pipe itself.

Should you hire a roofing contractor to repair your roof leak?

Or can you do it yourself? If you have construction experience or are generally a handy person, you can probably handle some of these repairs yourself. Be cautious, however, as repairing these items incorrectly can cause bigger issues down the road. Also be cautious about walking your sloped roof without safety equipment.

A professional roofing contractor can help fix these issues to bring you more confidence the issue is solved and the roof won’t leak. We also advise having a professional roof inspection once a year to help proactively identify any needs before they become larger problems.

Need a leaky roof repaired? Or is it time for an annual inspection? Get in touch with the pros at Sol Vista Roofing today!