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Roof Leak Causing Stain?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to take a call from Alabama where Larry has an extremely bad leak in his ceiling.

    Larry, what’s going on?

    TOM: Are you standing inside with the umbrella up, Larry?

    LARRY: No. Thankfully, it’s not leaking right now.  (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: (chuckling) OK.

    LARRY: My problem is that I live in a 14-year-old home – I’m the third owner – and when it rains only really hard do I notice that there’s some leaking into the garage. When it’s just a little drizzle it’s OK. Then when I look outside on the roof, you can see there’s an area that’s sort of stained. It looks darker than the – it’s like a strip going down from the top down to the gutter.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Is the stain – so the stain is vertical.

    LARRY: The stain is vertical, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. Hmm. Now is the house two-story and the garage one-story?

    LARRY: I don’t know what you call it. There’s multiple roofs. There’s one roof over the garage and then the next part there’s a different roof. So there’s not all one roof front and back

    TOM: OK. Alright, my theory is I think his leak has absolutely nothing to do with the stain. I think the stain is another issue. It’s probably moss that’s probably growing in one area or maybe, if there’s flashing above it, it could be a streak of clean roof. Because as we know, when the rain strikes aluminum, copper, or nickel flashing, it washes the roof below it and that could look like a stain even though it’s brighter. But if you have multiple roof intersections and multiple roofs coming together – and it’s a 14-year old roof which means it was probably done …

    LESLIE: It’s right about the end of its life.

    TOM: Yeah, and it was probably done with first-generation, fiberglass shingles, which is important to know. Before we had fiberglass shingles, we had organic mat shingles which were much thicker. Those are the kind that look like they curl up and crack. The fiberglass ones don’t show that but what happens is they actually crack. And you can’t really see them from the street. You’ve got to be kind of right on top of it to see these cracks. In a 14-year-old house, you could have shingles that are cracked and causing this leak or you could have intersections. So I guess that’s two theories.

    Now what’s your ideas?

    LESLIE: So is the – is there a roof next to the house that sort of overhangs over the garage?

    LARRY: No.

    LESLIE: There isn’t? Because my theory was maybe there’s another roof that has a clogged gutter that might be dripping over and sort of causing a leak on one spot that it’s dripping on consistently.

    TOM: Well, you know, it’s a good point because sometimes when I see multiple roof layers and you have upper gutters dumping onto lower sections of roofs, that does create a lot of turbulence, so to speak, in that area.

    So what I would suggest, I think in either case, Larry, is this: you’re going to have to do a very careful inspection of this roof. Now is it a steep roof or is it one that perhaps you could walk on?

    LARRY: No, it’s steep.

    TOM: You should put a ladder up to the edge of the roof, but don’t climb on it, in the area where the leak is. And I want you to look at the roofing shingles carefully and I want you to look for cracks in the shingles – the under-layer of the shingles, not the part where the tab comes over – and they will look like fractures, like fissures, that go through the shingles. Do a very careful visual inspection of those. If you start seeing a lot of those cracks in those 14-year-old fiberglass shingles, then it might be time for a new roof and that will clearly solve your problem.

    If the shingles look OK, then I would speculate that the problem is somewhere where the shingles are being intersected with other sections of the roof. Roof leaks are almost caused by flashing defects where the roofs intersect or where one roof joins another or dumps on another. Those would be the key places to look and especially if this is only happening when you get driving rainstorms. You know, when you get wind pushing rain, it does all kinds of crazy things and it’s really hard to find those leaks.

    One other thing you could do is you could run a hose down the roof in the area where it’s leaking and see if you can recreate it. Sometimes that helps you pinpoint it.

    But hopefully one of those several ideas will get you on the road to recovery. OK, Larry?

    LARRY: One other thing. The stained part is directly over the spot where it leaks.

    TOM: Well, there’s nothing about a stain that causes a leak. OK? Stains …

    LESLIE: Unless there’s water underneath and the tiles are deteriorating and they’re actually moldy for that reason.

    TOM: Nah, it’s inorganic. I don’t think it’s going to rot. It’s nothing like that. There’s nothing about stains that cause leaks. I’ve never seen a stain on a roof be corresponding with a leak. The stain is incidental to this. You need to look at the shingle condition and see if they’re cracked. Believe me, I have inspected over 6,000 homes and I’ve seen failed fiberglass shingles more times than I can remember. So take a look at those shingles very carefully. I suspect that’s what’s going on in this house.

    Larry, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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