Roof Leak: Top 5 Reasons Your Roof Leak May Occur This Winter!

infographic in Arlington Heights, IL

1) Lack of Insulation

Snow begins to melt due to the heat escaping through the attic from a lack of insulation. This causes moisture to build up in the attic space when it heat and cold mix. The moisture is usually evident if you look at the nails. Nails will typically show water gathering on the tip and many times this drips down and although it’s not a roof leak, it may feel like it is when you see a stain on your ceiling.

2) Insulation Covering Intake Vents

It’s important to keep the heat in your home to reduce energy costs and ensure a comfortable temperature in the bitterly cold winter. However, covering the intake is a common mistake.  Energy Star agrees and states on their website the following: “The most common mistake homeowners make when installing insulation is to block the flow of air at the eaves. NEVER COVER ATTIC SOFFIT VENTS WITH INSULATION — use rafter vents and soffit vents to maintain airflow.” The goal is to have your attic space as close to the same temperature as the outdoors. The roof needs to breathe in that air from the outside. It’s the equivalent of covering your mouth and nose while trying to breathe in. Just like a lack of insulation, it may appear there is a roof leak but it is not.

3) No Baffles or a limited amount of baffles

Baffles are typically made from plastic or Styrofoam and shaped in a manner to allow air to flow over the insulation at the eaves of your home

If you have insulation pushed into the eaves and don’t have baffles, use a rake to pull it away at a minimum.

Again, a roof leak won’t be the root cause of your water-stained ceiling, but it will appear to be at first glance.

4) Lack of Exhaust Vents

Just like intake, the exhaust is equally important. Using the same analogy when breathing, you have to release the air that you breathe in. Since warmer air rises, the cold air comes in through the intake and then rises when warm which naturally forces it to leave through the exhaust vent. This reduces the likelihood of a roof leak caused by ice dams while also increasing the lifespan of your residential roofing system.

The ideal conditions for an attic space is to have a balanced airflow.  This can be done by having 50% of air coming in from the eaves through intake vents and 50% through exhaust vents. More on this topic and additional reasons for a roof leak can be found in our post “Roof Leaks With No Rain Or Snow”

5) Uninsulated Furnace Vents

This causes heat in the winter to buildup in the attic which leads to an increase in condensation. This causes ice or moisture to build up on the inside of the plywood sheathing and mimics a roof leak across the entire span of the roof. This may lead to many leaks showing up in your home.

What About Ice Dams?

Ice dams are where any of the 5 conditions listed above cause snow to melt and it ends up freezing at the end of your roof near the gutters. This builds up over time and pushes its way under the shingles. When it starts to thaw, water penetrates the inside and is, in fact, a roof leak.

What can be done to prevent an ice dam roof leak

A simple tool can be used called a telescoping roof rake. These are sold at most big box remodeling stores. They cost roughly 50-$60 and help keep you safe by doing this from the ground.

Make sure you are not standing directly under the area you are removing snow from since it can be heavy and possibly bring ice down with it.

This is a preventative measure that doesn’t correct the root of the problem. Having a roofing or insulation contractor inspect your attic space will provide you with a better understanding of the cause of your ice dam problem and ideally provide you with a solution on how to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.

Installing a leak barrier (commonly referred to as Ice and Water Barrier) like GAF’s WeatherWatch® can help prevent the water from penetrating through your plywood sheathing beneath the shingles. In Chicago and most the midwest, it’s required a minimum of 24 inches past the warm wall of your home. The easiest way to see where your leak barrier should be installed up your roof is to have one person measure 24 inches from your interior wall (at the eave side of your home) and another person to watch through a window and mark this on the exterior of your home. Another common way is to measure from the home’s exterior corner and add about 6-9 inches for your wall. Going above 24 inches is a safer bet to ensure you don’t get a roof leak.

What can be done to remedy an ice dam roof leak

There are many companies that also offer ice dam steaming. This would be a great option if preventative measures weren’t done or, there is an excessive amount of ice already built upon the eave which caused immediate leaks.

However, if you have a leak from an ice dam and you steam it, brace yourself for an excessively larger amount of water to breach at a rapid pace. Drill a small hole where you see the current leak coming through and have a large bucket ready to catch most of it. It would also be a good idea to have dry towels handy at this point.

Additional reasons why your roof may leak can be found in this video

Call Revived Exteriors today!


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