Finding and Fixing Leaks

Happy Spring, everyone.  It’s finally here; and hopefully we’ve seen the last of minus 4 degree wind chills, and lake-effect snows.  Longer, lighter days mean more time for home projects!  As the imminent warmer weather puts us in a better mood, it’s a great time to assess the damage caused by winter, and it’s alternating snowstorms and heavy rainfall.  Snow is still melting in some spots and all that precipitation has to go somewhere…hopefully, this is not into your living room.

As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, try to get in the habit of checking your roof twice a year; fall and spring are the best times.  Look for damage and repair it quickly.  Clear any debris on the roof, or any obstacles in your gutters.  Catching anything amiss will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.  Still, leaks happen, and the situation is often easily fixed.

water-stainTrack down the leak…and step on it.  Even if you’re not terribly bothered by a water stain on your ceiling, or you plan to do a major overhaul in the near future, a small leak can lead to big problems such as mold, rotten framing, damaged insulation, and ceilings.  Deal with a spotted leak right away, and keep repairs minimal.  If leaking water doesn’t lead you to the source, you may have to think about lifting some shingles from the roof to look for evidence.  Discolored paper or felt, water-stained, or rotted wood are your indicators.

moldWhen your search brings you to the roof, try to look at the roof uphill from the water stain.  Do you see any penetrations?  These are the most common source of leaks, despite what you may think.  It’s not often that leaks develop in open areas of uninterrupted shingles, even on older roofs.  Look for plumbing and roof vents, chimneys, dormers or anything else that projects through the roof, even if they are several feet above the leak or to the right or left of it.  And, don’t forget your attic.  Grab a flashlight and have a look around. Again, you are looking for water stains, black markings, or the dreaded mold.

leak-testing-roofIf you are feeling adventurous or stubborn, or a combination of both, and the source of the leak still eludes you, consider taking a trip to the roof with a garden hose.  Start soaking the lowest part of the roof, just above where you’ve discovered the leak inside the house.  Work in small sections, and let the hose run for several minutes in each section.  A trusty helper should stay inside, and alert you as soon as drips are spotted.  Be patient, this could take some time.  Continue to move the hose up the roof a bit farther until you hear the signal from your helper.

Fortunately, many common leaks are easily fixed.  As we mentioned earlier, it’s very likely you may find the source of your leak is around some of your plumbing vents.  Plumbing vent boots can be all plastic, plastic and metal, or even two-piece metal units. Check plastic bases for cracks and metal bases for broken seams. Then, examine the rubber boot surrounding the pipe. That can be rotted away or torn, allowing water to work its way into the house along the pipe. HandiCo can help you replace the boot vent.  A slightly more complicated situation is if you find any nails at the base are missing, although the leak can still be repaired.  HandiCo will replace the nails and carefully remove and replace the surrounding shingles.

Repair may also be needed for cracked housings on plastic roof vents and broken seams on metal ones. Just replace the damaged vents.  Check for loose or missing nails at the base’s bottom edge. Like a damaged plumbing vent, it’s best to replace the nails rubber-washered screws.  If you’d like to try it yourself, start by removing the nails under the shingles on both sides of the vent to pull it free. There will be nails across the top of the vent, too. Try to work those loose without removing the shingles. Screw the bottom in place with rubber-washered screws. A small amount of caulk beneath the shingles on both sides of the vent will help hold the shingles down and to add a water barrier.  That’s much easier than renailing the shingles.

attic-dormer-leakMost often, people find leaks that move behind walls and dormers, and drip down into your house, similar to a roof leak.  Often, wind-driven rain comes in from above the roof, especially around windows, between corner boards and siding, and through cracks and knotholes in siding. The caulk might be old, cracked, or even missing between the corner boards, and between window edges and siding. Water penetrates these cracks and works its way behind the flashing and into the house. Even caulk that looks intact may not be sealing against the adjoining surfaces. Dig around with a putty knife to see if the area is sealed. Dig out any suspect caulk and replace it with petroleum caulk. It’s also a good idea to check the siding above the step flashing. Replace any cracked, rotted or missing siding, making sure the new piece overlaps the step flashing by at least 2 inches. If you still have a leak, call HandiCo for help.  There might be a need to pull the corner boards free and check the overlapping flashing at the corner.

leak-in-step-flashingWater can also find it’s way into your home if you have a problem with your step flashing.  Step flashing is used along walls that intersect the roof. Each short section of flashing channels water over the shingle downhill from it. But if the flashing rusts through, or a piece comes loose, water will run right behind it and into your house.  Check it out, and if this is the problem, your flashing will appear rusted.  Replace!  This is an involved process – removing shingles, prying siding loose, and then removing and replacing the step flashing – call HandiCo.

small-hole-in-roofOf course, the problem could be as banal as having a actual hole in your roof.  A hole in a shingle can be deceiving because they can cause rot and other damage for years before you notice the obvious signs of a leak. You might find holes left over from satellite dish, or antenna mounting brackets, or just about anything. Misplaced roofing nails should be pulled and the holes patched. Small holes are simple to fix, if the fix requires flashing.

Another source of leaks could be from roof decks.  Roof decks are great but often cause or make repairs to damaged areas difficult.  If you have a roof deck you may need to understand how to support its structural members before cutting them.  Use caution when you attempt roof repairs.  Again, HandiCo can help with all your leak testing and repair situations, and offer tips on how to avoid problems in the future.

Comments are closed.