How to Find a Roof Leak
LESLIE: It has been a very rainy autumn in the northeast and Joe in New Jersey is dealing with a leaky roof.
Joe, what’s going on?
JOE: Yeah, there’s a leak in the household that we can’t seem to find it. It’s coming through. It came into the kitchen. I’m wondering is there anything we can do besides tearing apart all the shingles on the house.
TOM: When does it leak? Does it leak in every rainfall or does it seem to leak when there’s driving rainfall?
JOE: More or less like a driving rainfall.
TOM: And the area underneath where the leak is forming, is that an area perhaps where there’s a chimney or some other major intersection in the roof?
JOE: It’s hard to say, see, because coming into the kitchen there’s a split level. So I just don’t know where – we do have a chimney, of course, but how it’s coming I don’t know.
TOM: Have you been up in the attic? Have you been up in the attic to try to see if there’s any water coming in, any perforation in the roof? See, here’s what happens with roof leaks. Typically, your roof’s going to leak where something is breaking through it: where a chimney’s breaking through it; where there’s an intersection; where there’s a plumbing pipe; where there’s plumbing vent flashing.
You know, very often – for example, you say it’s leaking in the kitchen. Well, kitchens are usually under bathrooms and bathrooms are under vent pipes and vent pipes go through roofs and very often have collars around them that break and crack and let water in. So just to totally speculate here, Joe, if the vent pipe flashing is cracked around that or rotted away, water comes down the pipe, goes down the wall, kitchen’s below it, shows up in your ceiling. You really need to look through that whole chain of possible events to try to figure out where this is happening.
The other thing that you could do is if your roof is climbable, you could run some water down it from the other side; let a hose go down it and see if you can identify where it’s leaking that way. Typically, though, it is where something breaks through the roof. It’s generally not in the middle of the shingle. You know, even though shingles wear out, surprisingly they rarely leak.
How old is your house?
JOE: Built sometime 1964, so …
TOM: And so you’re on your second roof now?
JOE: Oh yeah, the second roof.
TOM: Well listen, if your roof is not that old; if your roof is – you know, a 1964 home, you’ve probably got a roof on that house now that’s maybe, what, 10 years old at most, something like that?
JOE: Oh, we put a new roof on about 10, 12 years ago.
TOM: Yeah. So you shouldn’t need another roof at this point. And be careful with roofers because very often they don’t make their money with repairs. They make their money with roofing replacement, not roofing repairs.
JOE: OK, so Tom what do you think; we should start looking at – perhaps at the chimney or …?
TOM: Yes, I would look at all the penetrations in the roof; the roof – the chimney, the plumbing vents where they come through the roof, areas like that. And you’re probably going to find the leak is originating in one of those areas.
JOE: Let me ask you, is there a special profession that does this I could call; you know a …?
TOM: Well, a home inspector is what I would suggest. You can call a professional home inspector and they could look at that. It’s going to cost you a diagnosis fee but it might be worth it to you. The best way to find one in your area is to go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors and that’s at ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org.
JOE: OK. American Society of Home Inspectors. Yeah, that’s something to think about. Yeah.
TOM: OK Joe, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.