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Roof damage: What to do next

Jane

The roof is an important part of your house. It keeps your house watertight. It protects the inside of your home from the elements. Roof damage may mean a leaking roof or broken roof tiles. Possible causes are slipped roof tiles or even hail damage.

If you think you have roof damage, here’s what you should do next:

  • Find a way to contain any leak caused by the roof damage. If rain is coming in through a hole in the roof, find a container and catch the rain in it.
  • Find the source of the roof damage. Make a temporary repair if possible.
  • Find out if the roof damage is covered by your home insurance policy or if you have it, roof insurance.
  • If covered, call your insurance company. If not, contact a professional roofer to effect a permanent roof leak repair of the roof damage.

How to find a roof leak

A leaking roof or other roof damage is not always a result of a hole in the roof. It may be due to broken roof tiles or slipped roof tiles. Either of these can be caused by hail damage or other adverse weather conditions, like heavy rain or snow. Finding the source of the problem can be straightforward if rainwater is pouring through your roof during a heavy rainstorm but some leaks are more insidious and difficult to pinpoint.

A professional roofer, who has access to electronic testing equipment, may be needed to find the cause of an intermittent leaking roof.

  • Electronic testing on the waterproofing integrity of roof membranes is possible (this is often used to identify leaks on flat roofs).
  • Infrared thermography is also used to identify cold spots and a possible leaking roof, by pinpointing areas of damaged or wet roof insulation.
  • Moisture path analysis uses an electrical capacitance technique to measure different moisture levels evidenced by differences in electrical discharges. In a roof, a series of these produces a pattern, which shows where the greatest moisture levels are under the roof’s waterproofing membranes, without having to carry out any invasive tests. High levels of moisture are a strong indication of a leaking roof.

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The above technology may be needed to detect an intermittent leaking roof but there are some common, easy to spot signs of a leaking roof, which you should try first:

  • Check your ceiling for a puddled shaped water stain. This may be small or simply an area of discolouration. If you see even a small stain, check the ceiling and surrounding areas for mould and moisture. A small stain doesn’t necessarily mean a small insignificant roof leak, so check any sign of water on your ceiling thoroughly.
  • Drips of moisture on ceilings or walls are also an indicator of a leaking roof, particularly in cold weather, where the water may freeze and only appear as a leak when the temperature warms up. If a lot of water is frozen, where there has been a heavy snowfall or frost, this will lead to water damage when the temperature rises and it defrosts. This is similar to the principle of frozen pipes and water leaks.
  • Check the area where your roof meets your walls, outside. Water spots that come and go may indicate a leak, probably due to flashing damage. If left unchecked this will cause water damage to your home.
  • Check you house walls for mould and moss, sometimes this may be naturally occurring from lack of sun but often it is due to water leaks, where water runs off the roof directly onto the walls. Broken guttering or blocked guttering may be at fault here. As the guttering and downpipes function is to dispel water from your roof, it is important that these are working efficiently. Excess water on the roof can lead to water damage and a leaking roof, this is particularly common in poorly guttered flat roofs.
  • Check that the roof tiles are not broken or damaged, as over time these may be a source of a leaking roof. If you have a flat roof, covered by a waterproof membrane, check that these are sound.

Flat roof damage and damage to the roof flashing, are both sources of a leaking roof. If you have either of these roof leaks, here are a few tips on how to repair them.

Flat roof leak repair

The general state of the flat roof must be considered before effecting a repair. If the flat roof state is poor, it will leak from another part and anything but an emergency repair is a waste of money. The whole roof will need replacement.

Where the remainder of the flat roof is good, then a temporary repair can be made to stop the leaking roof, using the appropriate material, which may be felt, asphalt, concrete, fibreglass or paint on waterproofer. The important thing is to use the correct material and not to use too much. The idea is to stop the leak and prevent further water damage, until a professional repair is carried out. This type of repair is often suitable for a competent DIY person who doesn’t mind working at heights. Be mindful of health and safety and use scaffolding, if required, for safe working.

A permanent repair is best carried out by a professional roofer. The aim is to repair an otherwise sound roof so that the damaged area is made good for the expected life of the roof. The materials used for this are similar to those for temporary repairs.

Roof flashing repair

Roof flashing protects the roof against leaks, where it meets other structures, like chimneys, any dips in the roof, and at the roof edges. It is made of metal - often lead. Small holes in the flashing material can be repaired by filling with roof cement, and then supplementing with a patch made from the flashing material affixed with roof cement.

A larger roof flashing repair will necessitate removing the flashing around the damaged area and replacing with a like material. This is usually a job for a professional.

How much should a roof leak repair cost

Roof leak repair costs vary widely. Some, as seen above, can be carried out by a competent DIY person. More complicated repairs, especially those of a permanent nature, need to be carried out by a roofing professional. Do your research, especially if the repair is not covered by insurance. Searching to find a competitive roof leak repair cost is easy using the internet, but make sure the site is safe before you visit. Many firms offer quotes for roof leak repair, so get at least three, for the best deal.

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