You see a dark stain on the ceiling. Is it a shadow? Cobwebs? Fading paint? No. It’s a leak.
Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against the elements. It endures all varieties of weather that nature can throw at it, and over time this can take a toll. The good news is that fixing a leak does not have to be a financial nightmare, as long as it’s taken care of quickly by a qualified contractor. Here’s what happens to your home when you have a leak, and what you can do to look for signs of a possible leak.
What Happens Your Roof Leaks
Mold and Mildew Growth
Water stains on the ceiling are a tell-tale sign of a leak in the roof. Paint will darken and ceiling plaster will bubble and expand at the source of the leak, and then the same symptoms will spread to nearby walls. Mold and mildew can permeate the entire structure of a home, getting into the HVAC system and spread into the rest of the house through vents. This can cause serious health concerns, and not just for people in high-risk categories. A report issued by the Institute of Medicine linked exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people, and a possible root cause of asthma in individuals exposed to excessive moisture indoors.
Compromised Structural Integrity
The tilted shape of a roof means that the area where the ceiling damage occurs is probably not where the damage to the roof actual is. When water seeps through the roof, it tends to run along the underside of the roof decking to walls and the framing. If left unchecked, the wood can rot— losing its strength and compromising the overall structural integrity of the building. This leads to any combination of a saggy roof, bowed walls, or a spongy foundation that can be extremely expensive to repair.
It might seem counterintuitive to say that excess water can cause a fire, but attics and ceilings often house electrical wiring. Water is a natural electrical conductor, so when a live wire is exposed to wire, it creates an open circuit and can cause a fire. This is particularly dangerous around any exposed wiring where its insulation has been compromised, and wiring housed inside metal junction boxes that contain uncovered wires.
Higher Utility Bills
Grab a calculator and a blanket, because your utility bills are going to start to creep up on you. Leaks cause insulation to become saturated, rendering them useless to regulate hot and cold air in your home. As a result, you may find yourself using your heating and cooling systems more, and you’ll have the bills to show for it!
Signs of a Potential Leak
Cracked or Missing Shingles
Shingles lead a rough life. They can be cracked by hail, weighed down by ice dams and pooling water, or be lifted up and transported off to Oz during strong winds, never to return again. Shingles provide a water-tight barrier that your home needs to avoid the complications detailed above. Properly installed shingles should last for 20 to 30 years, but they need to be sufficiently maintained. Inspecting your shingles for damage after severe storms and as they age is a proactive approach to safeguarding your home from a potential leak. Replacing cracked, loose, or missing shingles as soon as possible is a cost-efficient way of maintaining your roof and preventing water damage to the inside of your home.
Loose Surface Granules
Surface granules, the small rocky bits that give asphalt shingles their sandpaper-like texture, also suffer from wear and tear. Their primary purpose is to protect the shingles from ultraviolet sun damage that deteriorates the asphalt, and they also offer protection against damage from rain, hail, snow, and smaller branches and other debris. These tiny pebbles are an important part of the entire system, and their degradation can be a key indicator of overall roof health. Bare shingles are a sign of old age, exposure to bad thunderstorms—particularly when hailstones are involved—or poor quality installation. You may also notice surface granules that have fallen to the ground, a good indicator that your roof may need servicing.
What to Do if You Suspect a Leak
The best first course of action if you suspect a leak or damage to your roof is to talk to a professional. At Gulf States, we offer free roofing inspections to help make sure you have the information you need to make informed decisions when it comes to maintaining your home. Make an appointment with one of our qualified contractors to assess the health of your roof, minimize overall damages, and help extend the life of your roof.