Diagnosing a Roof Problem - FamilyEducation

Diagnosing a Roof Problem

If you fear you have a leak in your roof, read how to diagnose the problem.

In This Article:

Outside assessment

A Fine Mess

Wait for dry weather before examining exterior roofing. If you can't wait, don't risk serious injury by clamoring up on the roof during a storm. Use a pair of binoculars for a close-up look.

Knowing what to do about your leaky roof requires determining the cause of the leak. There are two ways to do this assessment: from the outside and on the inside.The physical causes of roof damage, such as toppled antennas or tree limbs poking through shingles, are pretty obvious. But this isn't always the case. The things that cause roof damage can be very subtle. They can also vary quite a bit depending on the type of roof you have.

There are two ways to view roof damage from the outside—up close and personal, which means climbing up on a ladder, or at arm's length via binoculars. You'll get a better picture of what's going on if you can get on the roof, but it isn't always necessary. Also, you don't have to do it yourself. You can hire an expert, such as a roofing contractor, to do it for you. If you decide to climb up on your roof, be sure to use a solid ladder and don't go it alone. Station someone at the foot of the ladder in case you need assistance.

Here's what you might see when you go up on your roof:

  • Uplifting or splitting of the roofing membrane (the material that covers theroof) or decking on flat roofs.

  • Punctures in the roof caused by debris hitting it.

  • Cracking or other age-related deterioration. This is typically most apparent on southern exposures, and especially on wood or composition shingles.

  • Damaged roof-mounted vents or air-conditioning equipment.

  • Stripped ridge tiles, or missing or broken tiles on concrete or clay roofs.

  • Pitting or pock marking on asphalt shingles or membranes. This can be caused by hail or from toxic substances in seedpods.

  • Stripped or torn shingles on asphalt, fiberglass, or cedar roofs.

  • Algae growth from poor drainage.

  • Previous roof repairs.

  • Rotted or rusted decking.

  • Worn or rusted flashings.

  • Wrinkled roofing membrane.

  • Holes from missing shingles or other roofing materials.

If you find the exact area of damage, poke a stick or piece of wire through the hole so you can see it from the inside.