Roof Water Damage: Causes, Solutions, and Prevention

roof water damage: shingles torn off by bad weatherWater damage from a roof leak might first appear as discolored spots on your ceiling, rings of mold growth from the moisture. If not handled quickly, a leaky roof can turn into a major problem, even as serious as a roof cave-in. We’ll guide you through what you need to do to fix the roof leak and the water damage it caused, as well as how to prevent both from reoccurring in the future.

What Should You Do if You have Roof Water Damage?

Step One: Safety

First, you need to take care of any safety hazards. This could mean putting a bucket down to collect dripping water, or laying out a towel to absorb a puddle. Though sometimes there is no visible water causing the damage, and you can skip this step.

Step Two: Is it a Roof Leak?

Investigate the leak to make sure it’s from the roof, or you’ll be wasting your time calling the roofer. If the source isn’t obvious, you can head into the attic to look for it. Sometimes you’ll find a burst pipe up there instead of a hole in your roof, and then you’ll have to call a plumber.

Step Three: Call A Roofer

Call a roofing professional to determine the severity of the leak and to fix it. They should do an initial investigation and then tell you what caused the leak and how to prevent it. You should ensure that your roofing professional is addressing the root cause of the leak. For more on that, read about the causes of roof water damage below.

Step Four: Call a Restoration Professional

Now that the leak is under control, you’re left with the water damage to deal with. This can be a bigger mess than you expect, with water stains, soaking walls and flooring, and the chance to develop mold if it isn’t handled within the first 48 hours. Exposure to mold and the other pathogens leaks can spread, can be hazardous, so it’s best to call a professional.

A restoration professional can control mold and fix the water damage. They can dry up water and sanitize materials that can be salvaged. Hopefully, they will do this before a smell develops from the water, but if not, they can also remove the smell.

They may also remove and replace any damaged materials, from the structure of your home, to furniture, and flooring. A good restoration professional can also gather evidence for your insurance company and file your claim for you so that you will get the maximum coverage your policy allows.damaged roof flashing

Causes of Roof Water Damage

A leak in your roof caused the water damage, of course. But there are many different kinds of roof leaks. Sometimes inexperienced roofers will close a hole in your roof improperly, simply directing the water to another location, allowing it to cause more damage. You want to be sure that your roofing professional addresses the core cause of your leak, instead of giving you a band-aid fix that will only last until the next major rain. Here are the most common causes of roof leaks and how they can be addressed properly.

1. Valley damage

A valley is the inside angle where two roof faces meet. It’s a particularly vulnerable area of the roof because rainwater is channelled into it. California style-valleys are particularly prone to problems. These have the shingles turned on their side when they should be installed straight and then cut to fit the valley. If you have a roofing professional install a closed-cut or open valley style, you can prevent future valley problems.

2. Flashing Failure

Flashing is a thin metal sheet, usually galvanized steel, installed at critical points of the roof, like where the roof face meets a vertical wall that makes up the second story of the home. Though it’s counter-intuitive, flashing can be too secure. Steel shrinks and expands in changing temperatures, and if it’s nailed to both the roof and the wall, it will become deformed, leaving a gap for water to enter. Warped flashing needs to be replaced.

3. Roof feature

A roof feature is anything that penetrates the decking of the roof. This includes skylights, chimneys, vents, and anything that allows air or light to travel from one side of the roof to the other. These are vulnerable areas of the roof because they lead directly into the home, and can let water in that way too. These features all require flashing to keep water out properly.

For example, chimneys are frequently the source of a leak if their flashing is not properly incorporated into their masonry. Skylights are another common culprit. A curb mounted skylight may be the solution if your flat skylight is frequently leaking.

4. Damaged shingles

Roof leaks from damaged shingles are most likely to happen just after installation, or after they’ve been on the roof for many years.

Immediate problems are likely due to either manufacturer defects or improper installation. A reputable roofing professional will be happy to correct any roof leaks that happen within a year of their installation and help you determine if the problem should be covered by the manufacturer’s limited warranty.

If your shingles have been on the roof for many years, and look curled, ripped, thin, or are beginning to fall off, it may be time for a complete roof replacement. Otherwise, it may develop small leaks in various parts of the roof for the next few months or years. It’ll save you money to simply replace it all immediately.

Prevent Roof Water Damage

After dealing with the mess caused by roof water damage, you certainly won’t want to go through it again. The good news is, preventing roof leaks is quite simple. Regular roof maintenance from a qualified roofing professional can prevent leaks before they ever happen. They can see the tell-tale signs of wear before you do. Further, most roofing professionals will be happy to inspect your roof yearly for a small cost, because they will want to be your first call when you do find a problem.