There is no form of roofing damage more common or more straight-forward than the roof leak. It is, quite simply, a hole in the roofing membrane and can be caused by a variety of reasons. This hole then leads to further damage of the roof and the interior structure because of seeping water, which normally comes in the form of precipitation.
The potential causes of roofing leaks are so numerous that finding the leak is often more frustrating than fixing it. Improperly placed or damaged flashings are a common entry point for water. A flashing is a metal edging used around features on the roof, such as chimneys, skylights, valleys (where two roof planes meet), furnace or B-vent pipes, and dormers. If you think you have a leak, you might check for backed out nails or improper cutting of shingles in valleys, which is an easy mistake to make. While we’re talking about frequent places for leaks we need to mention drip edges, where the roofing material terminates at the edge of a roof. It’s excruciatingly common for a roofer to fail to follow through and carry the edge far enough. Another roofing mistake is to use material that isn’t durable enough for the climate or specific situation.
And then, of course, there are the elements. Your roof deteriorates with use and time, as does anything. Wind, rain, ice, and sunlight break down the materials over the years. Also, people and animals walking on the roof will cause wear and damage. Think about new installations on the roof as well. Have you had a satellite dish or an AC unit put in since the roof was replaced? The installation may have created a break in the membrane.
To find out if you have a roof leak, start looking for some telltale signs. The most obvious one is water damage on the walls or ceiling, which will also aid you in finding the location of the hole. If animals are finding their way into the attic or eaves, you know they have a door somewhere. Also keep your eyes open for cracks in the material or areas where dirt has built up. Rust is another evident sign that water is getting in, as are bare spots on granulated materials.
A commonly cited fix for roof leaks is roofing cement, but the fact of the matter is that this is a temporary and rather unprofessional solution. With the torch-down material we use, the fix is usually simple and easy. We just need to find the leak and torch a patch over it. An important thing to note about roofing leaks, especially with membrane roofing systems and slight grades, is that the location of water damage does not always match the location of the leak. In these scenarios, a thorough inspection is required to find it and you may—potentially—have to repair a larger section of the roof to ensure that the problem area is covered.