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12 Roof Repair Tips: Find and Fix a Leaking Roof
You can stop leaks yourself-no experience necessary. We show you how to track down and fix the most common types of roof leaks. Most leaks take only
Leaky Roof Overview
If you have water stains that extend across ceilings or run down walls, the cause is probably a leaky roof. Tracking down the leak is the hard part; the fixes are usually pretty easy. We'll show you some simple tricks for finding and repairing most of the common types of leaky roofs. But if you live in the Snow Belt and in the winter you have leaks only on warm or sunny days, you probably have ice dams. We won't go into those fixes in this story. Check out this article for more on preventing ice dams.
If you have a leaky roof, you'd better fix it immediately, even if it doesn't bother you much or you're getting a new roof next year. Even over a short time, small leaks can lead to big problems, such as mold, rotted framing and sheathing, destroyed insulation and damaged ceilings. The flashing leak that caused an expensive repair bill was obvious from the ceiling stains for over two years. If the homeowner had dealt with it right away, the damage and subsequent repairs would have been minimal.
How to Find Roof Leaks
When you're trying to track down a leak, start by looking at the roof uphill from the stains. (Plus: here's how to clean roof stains.) The first thing to look for is any roof penetrations. Items that penetrate the roof are by far the most common source of leaks. In fact, it's rare for leaks to develop in open areas of uninterrupted shingles, even on older roofs. Penetrations can include plumbing and roof vents, chimneys, dormers or anything else that projects through the roof. They can be several feet above the leak or to the right or left of it.
If you have attic access, the easiest way to track down a leak is to go up there with a flashlight and look for the evidence. There will be water stains, black marks or mold. But if access is a problem or you have a vaulted ceiling, you'll have to go up onto the roof and examine the suspect(s).
A Trick for Finding Difficult Leaks
If a leak is difficult to find, enlist a helper and go up on the roof with a garden hose. Start low, soaking the area just above where the leak appears in the house. Isolate areas when you run the hose. For example, soak the downhill side of a chimney first, then each side, then the top on both sides. Have your helper stay inside the house waiting for the drip to appear. Let the hose run for several minutes in one area before moving it up the roof a little farther. Tell your helper to yell when a drip becomes visible. You'll be in the neighborhood of the leak. This process can take well over an hour, so be patient and don't move the hose too soon. Buy your helper dinner. If running water doesn't reveal the exact location of the leak, don't be timid. Start removing shingles in the suspect area. With them removed, there'll be evidence of the leak and you'll be able to track it down right to the source. You'll see discolored felt paper or water-stained or even rotted wood directly below and around a leaky roof.
Solution for a Small Leak
Some roof leaks are tough to locate. Sometimes the water shows up at a ceiling spot distant from the leak. If your ceiling has a plastic vapor barrier between the drywall and the attic insulation, push the insulation aside and look for flow stains on the plastic. Often water runs to openings in the vapor barrier, such as at ceiling light fixtures.
If you can't see any telltale flow marks, and since the stain is fairly small, look at the underside of the roof for 'shiners.' A shiner is a nail that missed the framing member, in this case when the carpenter nailed the roof sheathing to the rafters. Moisture that escapes into the cold attic from the rooms below often condenses on cold nails. Sometimes you can spot this if you climb up into your attic on a cold night. The nails will look white because they're frosted. When the attic heats up a bit during the day, the frost melts and drips, then the nails frost up at night again and so on. The solution is to simply clip the nail with a side-cutting pliers.
Fix Plumbing Vent Boots
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. With any of these problems, you should buy a new vent boot to replace the old one. But if the nails at the base are missing or pulled free and the boot is in good shape, replace them with the rubber-washered screws used for metal roofing systems. You'll find them at any home center with the rest of the screws. You'll have to work neighboring shingles free on both sides. If you don't have extra shingles, be careful when you remove shingles so they can be reused. Use a flat bar to separate the sealant between the layers. Then you'll be able to drive the flat bar under the nail heads to pop out the nails.
Fix Roof Vents
Check for cracked housings on plastic roof vents and broken seams on metal ones. You might be tempted to throw caulk at the problem, but that solution won't last long. There's really no fix other than replacing the damaged vents. Also look for pulled or missing nails at the base's bottom edge. Replace them with rubber-washered screws. In most cases, you can remove 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. Usually you can also work those loose without removing shingles. Screw the bottom in place with rubber-washered screws. Squeeze out a bead of caulk beneath the shingles on both sides of the vent to hold the shingles down and to add a water barrier. That's much easier than renailing the shingles.
Fix Walls and Dormers
Water doesn't always come in at the shingled surface. 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. Dormer walls provide lots of spots where water can dribble down and enter the roof. Caulk can 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 a siliconized latex caulk. Also 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 in. If you still have a leak, pull the corner boards free and check the overlapping flashing at the corner. Often, there's old, hardened caulk where the two pieces overlap at the inside corner.
Complex Roof Problem
This roof leaks during the snowy part of winter and during storms in the summer, certainly due to poor flashing. The soffit that meets the roof is one of the toughest areas to waterproof. In the photo, you can still see signs of an ice dam. An ice dam occurs when snow melts and the water freezes when it hits the colder edges of your roof. Eventually, water pools behind the dam and works its way back up under the shingles and under the soffit until it finds an opening through the roof.
The solution begins with good flashing, since this should stop leaks from rainfall and might stop the leaks from ice dams as well. Begin by removing the shingles down to the wood sheathing and slip a strip of adhesive ice-and-water barrier (available where roofing products are sold) under the soffit/main roof joint. Depending on how the roofs join, you may have to cut a slot to work it in far enough. It should overlap another piece of ice-and-water barrier laid below, all the way down to the roof edge. This should cover the most leak-prone areas. Then reshingle, sliding metal step flashing behind the fascia board (the trim behind the gutter). The valley flashing, laid over the joint where the two roofs meet, should overlap the step flashing at least 2 in.
If leaks continue to occur from ice dams, consider installing roof edge heating cables. (Find them locally at hardware stores or home centers.) Improved attic insulation and ventilation are usually the best ways to prevent ice dams, but they might not be effective in this complicated roof situation.
Fix 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 the house it goes. Rusted flashing needs to be replaced. That means removing shingles, prying siding loose, and then removing and replacing the step flashing. It's that simple. But occasionally a roofer forgets to nail one in place and it eventually slips down to expose the wall. Check out this article for more on installing your own step flashing.
Don't Count on Caulk!
Rarely will caulk or roof cement cure a roof leak?at least for very long. You should always attempt a 'mechanical' fix whenever possible. That means replacing or repairing existing flashing instead of using any type of sealant. Only use caulk for very small holes and when flashing isn't an option.
Fix Small Holes
Tiny holes in shingles are sneaky 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. And exposed, misplaced roofing nails should be pulled and the holes patched. Small holes are simple to fix, but the fix isn't to inject caulk in the hole. You'll fix this one with flashing.
Leaks Around Brick Chimneys
All kinds of bad things can happen around brick chimneys. In fact, there are far too many to cover in this story. Flashing around chimneys can rust through if it's galvanized steel, especially at the 90-degree bend at the bottom. A quick but fairly long-term fix is to simply slip new flashing under the old rusted stuff. That way any water that seeps through will be diverted. The best fix, though, is to cut a saw kerf into the mortar and install new flashing
Starter Strip:Installing shingle starter strip.
The first thing we installed was the starter strip, which is just a backing for the first visible row of shingles (it prevents water from getting through to the roof at the gaps between shingles, and at the notches between tabs when 3-tab shingles are used).
We used pre-cut starter strips, which I had never used before. In the past I have always just trimmed the tabs off a whole shingle. These pre-cut strips save a few bucks when the shingles being installed are higher priced. You can also buy rolls of starter strip material with a self-adhesive backing.
We began by installing shingles from the lower left corner, working to the right and also working uphill.
Installing the first few rows of shingles.
Shingle Ends Are Staggered:Tip on laying out architectural shingles.
I should not need to mention this... but it might not be obvious to everyone... the shingles must be arranged so the ends (and the tab notches) do not lie directly above gaps (or breaks) in the shingle below. If the gaps lined up, water could get directly onto the roof sheathing and then seep in through a nail hole.
Note how the shingle on the right (not yet nailed down) is a little longer than the first shingle in the row on the left (which has been nailed down).
In order to accomplish this mis-matching of gaps, we cut progressively larger amounts from the first shingle in each row as we worked up the slope. One row would have nothing cut, the next row would have 6" cut off, then 12" cut off, and so on.
The photo shows the scraps cut off from the first shingles in a progression of rows.
Small pieces of asphalt shingles used to start each row.
Shingle overhang at edge of roof. Shingle Overhang At Lower Edge:
Note how the first full shingle overhangs the edge by about 1/8". This makes the water drip away from the fascia (the vertical board at the edge of the roof) and helps reduce deterioration of the fascia.
The nails are driven in just below the tar strip. The pneumatic nail gun makes quick work out of nailing shingles, but it has some drawbacks.
Nailing asphalt shingles with a nail gun.
The main drawback of pneumatic roofing nailers is their inconsistency in nail depth. Sometimes the heads stick up a little and sometimes the heads tear into the shingle. Another frequent problem is that nails sometimes enter the roof at an angle, which makes the head stick up. Protruding nail heads can tear the shingle above them, and it stands to reason that they don't hold as well as properly nailed shingles. In my opinion, hand driving roofing nails gives a superior level of quality... it just takes much longer, perhaps two or three times as long.
The exposure (the amount of the shingle not covered by the shingle above it) of this product was listed on the package as 5-5/8".
Setting The Nail Gun's Guide:
The two roofing nail guns we used had an adjustable guide on the bottom. This allowed us to accurately position the shingle before nailing it.
Setting on Bostitch roofing nailer to guide placement of shingles.
The same results could have been achieved with an "L"-shaped piece of wood to use as a positioning guide.
A Roofing Nail Gun Is Worth The Investment:
I have owned two roofing nailers over the years, and if you are planning on re-roofing your own house or garage, I would seriously recommend buying either:
The Bostitch RN46 3/4-Inch to 1-3/4-Inch Coil Roofing Nailer shown here, or
The Porter-Cable RN175A 7/8-Inch to 1-3/4-Inch Coil Roofing Nailer which I currently own.
A small air compressor, such as the Porter-Cable C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor works fine if only one nail gun is being powered from it.
Nailing shingles. Using The Layout Guide:
It's kind of hard to see in this photo, but the adjustable guide is set against the lower edge of the previous row's shingle (in this case the first row) and the next shingle is rested against the nail gun's contact foot. This creates a uniform exposure every time.
Notice the pattern of shingles as they are applied. This method of starting at a corner and working outwards and upwards can be a good way for two people to apply shingles and not be in each other's way. One person works horizontally and the other works up the diagonal.
Pattern of roof shingles during installation.
Shingling Around A Roof Penetration:
Plumbing vent boot on roof.
A plastic-and-rubber flange was used to seal around penetrations such as this plumbing vent. The lower edge of the flange lies above the shingles, and the upper edge is underneath the shingles. The shingles were cut to fit around the flange's dome.
Click here to view a detailed article about installing shingles around a vent pipe.
The shingles adjacent to the flange were adhered with roofing tar (lower red arrows), and tar was applied as a sealant where the cut edges of the shingles met the dome (upper red arrow).
Roofing around a penetration.
Getting Closer To The Peak...
Shingles near top of roof. The Last Few Rows...
At the very top, the shingles were lapped over the peak of the roof (red arrow).
The shingles were trimmed away from the ridge vent hole.
Shingles trimmed back from ridge vent holes.
Nailing ridge cap shingles. Ridge Cap:
The ridge cap shingles were attached with two nails each.
Typically, 1-3/4" to 2" long nails are used on the ridge. These nails need to be longer, because they are penetrating many layers of shingles.
Vented Roof Ridge:
The plastic ridge vent was installed with 3" roofing nails.
See a detailed article about installing this ridge vent.
Ridge vent after installation.
Applying cap shingles over ridge vent.
The ridge cap shingles were applied over the ridge vent, using 3" roofing nails.
There are two narrow bands molded into the plastic indicating where the nails must go.
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Fasica Soffit Repair | Roofer | Roofing | Roofing Contractor ... | Affordable roofing Company | Roof Repair | Affordable roofing Company | Roof Repair