9 Common Reasons for a Leaky Roof

A leaky roof is one of the most telltale signs that you need professional roof repair.

A leaky roof can create all sorts of problems in your home. If left unaddressed, water damage can cause issues including structural damage and the growth of health-threatening black mold.

The problem is that roofs can leak for a number of reasons. Without knowing what the source of the leak is, you won’t know exactly what needs to be repaired up there.

Read on to find out the nine most common causes of a leaky roof below.

1. Age

No matter how well your roof was installed or how strong the materials are, roofing materials are prone to deterioration with age. This process is often expedited by exposure to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.

Roof rafters, joints, and other structural pieces expand in high temperatures. Shingles become brittle and start to curl or crack at the edges in both high and low temperatures.

In the DMV, average January lows hover around 27 degrees and average July highs hit 87 degrees. This fluctuation from season to season will take a toll on your roof.

2. Cracked Flashing

Flashing is used to create a water-resistant layer beneath your shingles. It looks like sheet metal topped with a rubberized coating.

Flashing is often held in place with tar, which can corrode and leave the flashing exposed. Exposed areas are prone to crack when hit with heavy bouts of rain or wind. 

Flashing can also slide out of place if nails come loose and fall out, and any areas not protected by flashing are at risk of leakage.

3. Shallow Pitch

The slope or pitch of your roof refers to the ratio at which it rises vertically. The International Code Council has put a number of requirements in place regarding the way residential roofs are constructed.

For every 12 inches of roofing, roofs must rise at a rate of two inches. 

However, in some areas, this ratio of 2 to 12 is not enough. In times of heavy wind and rain, a shallow pitch will allow wind to raise shingles and drive rain underneath of them. 

4. Ice Damming

If your leaky roof acts up in the winter, check for signs of ice damming. Ice damming occurs when ice builds up in ridges around the edge of the roof or along the gutter.

As the thin layers of snow or ice begin to melt, that meltwater is trapped behind the ice dams. As water pools on your roof, you run the risk of it seeping between shingles.

If your flashing is compromised, this will quickly turn into a leaky roof.

5. Clogged Gutters

Clogged gutters create a problem akin to ice damming. Fortunately, clogged gutters are the easiest fix on this list.

Get a ladder (or hire a professional) and pull out all those leaves and debris that are preventing your gutters from averting water away from your roof!

6. Missing or Broken Shingles

Scan your roof for signs of discoloration. If you notice spots that appear darker or lighter than the rest of your roof, you are probably missing some shingles.

Shingles can fall off or break for a number of reasons.

Rusted nails, brittle edges, and extreme temperatures are a big culprit. 

7. Holes

If you’ve had recent work done on your roof, you may be experiencing leaks due to holes that were left behind. For example, when a satellite dish or antenna is removed, it leaves a hole that needs to be covered with flashing and shingles.

Unfortunately, DIY removal or shoddy workmanship can result in neglect. 

The area surrounding your chimney may also develop holes or cracks.

Look for signs of deterioration in the mud cap and mortared joints that connect the chimney to the roof. If you live in an older house, look for cracked flashing or broken shingles that may have resulted from a leaning or crooked chimney. 

8. Improperly Sealed Valleys

The valleys of a roof are the places where two planes meet.

You’re essentially looking for a V-shaped space between two separate slopes. These points of the connection must be sealed tightly against rain since they are natural converging places for runoff water.

These seals can erode over time. They can also crack under pressure and weight. If your leak began soon after you had work done on the roof, there’s a chance that someone stepped on the seal and cracked it.

9. Improperly Installed Skylights

Skylights make a beautiful addition to any home but they aren’t without risks. If you notice leaking coming from the edges of your skylight, there’s a good chance that it wasn’t installed properly or needs to be reinsulated.

While you’re searching for the source of the leak, you should also make sure that there are no cracks in the windowpane, itself.

If the measurements for your skylight are even a fraction of an inch off, there will be gaps that are probably too small to see but large enough for steady or pooling water too seep through. In this case, you will need to bring in a new contractor to reinstall a new skylight.

It is also possible that the insulation between the skylight and your roofing has weakened over time. 

Don’t Ignore a Leaky Roof

No matter the reason, a leaky roof is never going to fix itself.

In fact, the damage will spread both inside and outside of your house. For example, intact shingles surrounding broken or missing shingles are at a higher risk for breaking or falling off themselves! 

Don’t wait to address the cause of your leaky roof. Contact us today and we’ll provide a free same-day estimate before you have to sign any contracts or set an appointment!