Q & A- What causes a roof to leak?
A resident from Schaumburg, IL dared to challenge our “go ahead, ask us anything” motto. This question has been asked too many times and I thought it’d be great to share with our followers. Please understand all answers are based off the experience of a general contractor. I’ve been an acting roofing contractor and have been doing roof replacements for many years. If anyone finds my answers untrue, please inform us immediately.
I just got my roof replaced by a roofing contractor about 3 years ago. The roofing shingles that were installed on top of my roof are the GAF 30 year architectural style. Granted, I didn’t do my homework before hiring the roofing company. So that’s a big thumb down on my part for being a “responsible” homeowner. The roof started leaking just 3 years after the roofing project was completed. The leak did not occur from a rain storm, hail storm, or snow storm. It just happened during a light evening shower. After going back and forth with the roofing contractors, they finally agreed to repair the damages at no cost to me. My roof has sustained heavy storm for over 3 years, so why is it leaking now?
Our company just had a discussion on this topic. There are four major reasons as to how a roof leak can start.
Contrary to popular belief, the sun actually causes more damage than either wind or rain to a roof. The constant rays of the sun beat on the roof, which causes the shingles to weather. The shingles will eventually become dry and brittle from the sun’s rays. The sun also causes the tar that binds the shingles of the roof together to soften. This will eventually cause the shingles to warp. The damage of warping and cracking that the sun causes then allows rainwater to get in between the shingles, compromising the integrity of the roof.
Rain and wind are the next most detrimental contributing factors that cause a roof to leak. During stormy weather, roof shingles shift which causes seals to loosen around the vents and flashing. This too compromises the integrity of the roof, allowing rainwater to infiltrate between the shingles and roofing felt.
A problem that causes immediate roof leakage is improperly installing a roof. Luckily you’ll be able to test the likelihood of your roof being installed correctly fairly soon after it is installed. After the first heavy rainstorm, if your roof is leaking, it’s pretty likely that it was not installed correctly.
The most common area of leakage due to poor workmanship of a roof is at the valleys. Valleys are the sloping canals that occur between two sections of a pitched roof. It is imperative that valleys are tar papered in herringbone style. The shingles must also be tarred in the same fashion, with a single piece of metal flashing running down the length of the valley. This is typically installed incorrectly when roofing companies hire laborers to install roofs rather than employing skilled professionals in the roofing industry. Poor workmanship in this fashion will cause your roof to leak. A way to avoid your roof leaking from poor workmanship such as improperly tarring the valleys is to pay for trained roofers to install your roof in the first place.
Aside from the valleys, the second most common place for a roof to leak is in along the ridges. This happens not because of poor workmanship, but because the sun and wind damage the ridge caps, which then results in a leaking roof.
Homeowner Roof Abuse
Another common reason that roofs leak is roof abuse by homeowners. It’s common for homeowners to walk on hot shingles with cleated work boots. When heat hits the tar on roofs, it makes the shingles temporarily impressionable, which means that the heavy boots cause severe damage to the shingles. It’s also important for homeowners to avoid skidding down the roof or applying unnecessary pressure to the shingles.
Lack of Maintenance and Inspection
With a bi-annual inspection of your roof, it is possible to avoid many roof leaks. Any of the factors that can cause a roof to leak including loose shingles, vents or flashing whether they are due to weather issues or homeowner abuse can be found early on which will avoid roof leaks in the future.