Homeowners: Be aware of potential roof leaks

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 12, 2012

A leaky roof is one of those problems with which homeowners hope they don’t have to deal.

But leaky roofs happen. Sometimes the leak is very obvious, while other times a homeowner might not even be aware his or her roof is leaking. Continuous drips of water or moisture can come from the inside of the home or the outside.

If a leak is suspected, it’s best to take care of the problem right away to avoid structural damage to the home, rental property, building or condominium. Mold and mildew also can develop because of water damage, which might lead to illness for family members.

There are many reasons why a roof might leak. Missing shingles, rainwater, snow, ice, condensation from air conditioning units, age, and wear and tear are among the many reasons why a roof could experience water damage. An outdoor animal, for instance, that ocassionally runs across your rooftop might seem harmless. But an animal hole could be the culprit of the problem.

Corrosion that builds up in the vertical slits between shingles could cause leaks. Areas that protrude from the roof, including dormers and chimneys, also are known to have areas of leakage.

“There are some problems generally in the valley when two roof lines come together and meet around the chimney,” said Jim Bartoletti of Allstate Construction in Troy. “Check your roofs regularly. Satellite dishes, be aware of that.”

Old, outdated roof shingles are likely to have problems, too, as is a roof in which the shingles might have been installed improperly. To avoid leakage, Mat Vivona of Father and Son Construction in Troy recommends the installation of flashing along with a new roof.

“Flashing is a metal that goes into a valley,” Vivona said. “Flashing helps prevent water from entering the area where shingles are.”

While some companies don’t offer flashing, “We do it automatically,” Vivona said, adding there is an added fee for the product. “If you’re going to spend the money on getting a new roof, you definitely want that done.”

Another area to watch out for leaks is around skylights. After a skylight reaches 10 years of age, it could put the homeowner in a quandary.

“A skylight is basically a window in your roof,” Vivona said. “When you get two pieces of glass, you get ice and water. The first thing that could go is the seal from the elements outside … rain, snow, the sun, beating on it.”

If that occurs, it’s best to change the skylight, although skylights don’t seem to be as popular as they were 10 or 20 years ago.

It’s also important homeowners make sure their roofs have proper ventilation to avoid leaks.

“That’s how your roof begins to breathe,” Vivona said. “Vents allow the air to travel through the roof.”

Homeowners also need to be careful when installing their own insulation.

“When you plug up (the vents), your roof won’t breathe properly,” Vivona said. “Leave a little light. You want the roof to breathe.”

Regular roof maintenance by the homeowner also is important.

“Take a look up in the attic once in awhile,” Bartoletti said. “Make sure it looks dry and secure.”

And if you have your gutters cleaned, Bartoletti suggested homeowners “watch beneath the areas” where the work took place. He also advised people to check in rooms they don’t spend a lot of time in on a regular basis to make sure there aren’t leaks in those areas.

Homeowners also are advised to watch out for scam artists claiming to be professional roofers. Bartoletti recommended checking the credentials and reputation of companies before hiring them.

“(Hire) an experienced person that is licensed,” Bartoletti said. “An experienced builder can find a roof leak. If someone has a license and it’s still active, there will be a record of that person. Referrals are good.”

And with the ongoing bacterial growth that accumulates on roofs, the spores spread and begin feeding off the organic material embedded within the shingles over time. The crushed limestone used as a weight additive during production is a natural food source for bacterium, which can produce a black streak on your roof.

“Once windblown, it feeds off the limestone embedded with shingles,” said Steve Van Oast, owner of UglyShingles.com. “We eradicate all that bacteria, which gives the shingles a longer life span of about five years.”

Van Oast is a certified soft wash contractor, who said his company’s method of washing down roofs has been popular in Michigan for about five years. UglyShingles.com is based in Brighton and has various offices, including one in Macomb.

“It’s not like power washing,” he said. “Our spray is very gentle. That way there is zero damage. It’s basically a hose. There’s no heavy equipment. We do not use any surface cleaners.

“Normally a treatment takes about two hours, but every house is different,” Van Oast said, adding each roof “gets a full inspection” and the company offers a 5-year guarantee. “We clean roofs up, and they look beautiful.”

For more information on UglyShingles.com, log on to www.UglyShingles.com or call (517) 672-2765.

Allstate Construction is located at 3780 Rochester Road in Troy. The company can be reached at www.Allstateconstruction.net or at (248) 528-1600.

Father & Son Construction is located at 5032 Rochester Road in Troy. For more information, call (586) 585-5500 or visit www.father-son-const.com.