Here in Vancouver, British Columbia, it feels like it has been raining constantly for the past two months. If it feels that way it is because with a very few exceptions, it has been. During the months of October and November 2016 there have been a total of 5 days without rain and according to the forecasters, December isn’t looking much better. Oh well we have seen this before and will likely see it again and again.
As hard as it might be to ignore all of this rain it becomes even harder when the heavy rain works its way into our homes via a leaky roof. Sometimes finding those leaks can be very difficult unless you know what to look for and that is what this post is about; finding the leaks.
Search for signs of leaks
If running water isn’t showing you exactly where the leak is the fastest way to find that leak is to start removing some of the shingles in the area you suspect the leak is located. Once you have carefully removed the shingles your next step would be to start looking for telltale signs of the leak such as discolored felt paper, water-stained or even rotted wood directly below and around the leak.
Naturally some of the biggest culprits for leaks are the things that penetrate the roof like plumbing and roof vents, chimneys, dormers (roof structures that often contain windows) or anything else that projects through the roof. If you are unsure of where a leak is coming from these penetrations are a good place to start looking.
If your home has an accessible attic, then this is the next best place to start looking for that problematic roof leak. Armed with a flashlight head on up there and look for water stains, black marks or mold. Depending on where you see any of these indicators, follow the trail up hill so to speak. If you don’t see any of these telltale signs it is time to send someone up on the roof with a garden hose.
Slowly begin soaking the roof above the spot where you suspect the leak is. The person inside the attic watches for the dripping to begin. Keep in mind that you will need to run the hose for a few minutes in each spot you suspect your leak is located. Also, make sure that you set aside at least an hour to find that leak. Take your time, let the water flow for a while in each spot before moving on. You wouldn’t want to miss the leak by not soaking it thoroughly.
Some common leaking roof problems
Plumbing vent boots: Plastic bases crack and metal bases split seams. If either of these are OK, then check the rubber boot. Other things to look for are cracked gaskets and missing or loose nails.
Roof vents: Plastic vents can crack and metal roof vents can slit seams. You may be tempted to try sealing up these types of problems but don’t waste your time. These are inexpensive, replace them.
Wall or dormers: Hard driving rain can sometimes find weaknesses in window caulking, failing corner boards and even defects like knotholes in the siding.
Step flashing: The row of metal between the roof shingles and wall siding may rust or become loose allowing water to flow behind the stepped flashing.
Finding the leak in the roof is only half of the battle, getting the leak repaired is the backend loaded, other half of the problem. If you are lucky your leak is a quick and easy fix where you can repair it yourself without too much trouble. But for the more complex issues you may need to call in some help from a contractor.
Finding the leak before calling in a roofer can save you money by not forcing the roofer to find it for you or by being charged for work that wasn’t needed.