My old house in Bothell, the roof is leaking. Do I need to replace the whole roof, or just do a partial re-roofing?
The single most effective thing you can do for your roof is to get an inspection. Especially if you have any worries or concerns about a potential problem. And if you know for sure you have a leak, my advice to you is to put down what you’re using to read this now, and contact a roofing company right away. As I type this, it’s mid-September, and the forecast is for about five more days of rain. If you’ve got a roof leak this very moment, the urgency is clear.
Big roof leak or small roof leak?
Many years ago, in a house I rented, we noticed a tiny damp spot – well, what appeared to be a tiny damp spot – on the kitchen ceiling. We didn’t think much of it at the time. Maybe it was something splashed from the kitchen table or stove top, I thought at the time. Then, one Monday, after returning from a camping trip, we walked into the kitchen to discover a completely collapsed ceiling. There hadn’t even been any rain that weekend, but the kitchen eating area was destroyed with bits of roofing material, ceiling tiles, an chunks of rotten wood which were – I know now – parts of the roof infrastructure which had become compromised over time by just a little amount of water, coming in from was was actually quite a small opening under one of the shake tiles. The thing is, is was a small leak. It was so small that we only ever noticed it once, and that was easily explained away by one thing or another.
What we didn’t know when we noticed that small damp spot was, a substantial part of the roof’s support structure had been eaten by water for perhaps several years. Had it been a big leak, the roofing company told us later, the problem may have surfaced immediately, and we could have fixed the leak without having to also fix all the damage a small, long term leak can cause.
The frog in the saucepan
You might have heard the apocryphal story of the frog that was in a saucepan with cold water. He sat there comfortably as the water slowly but steadily heated up. Because he didn’t – from any one moment to the next – notice any big change, he sat in the water until he was cooked. Leaving a tiny roof leak untreated for many years, and the aforementioned damp spot on the ceiling, may appear innocuous, but it can destroy a roof over time. And then, you are not only dealing with what is described as a roof replacement, but rather, a big project involving the infrastructure of your house.
Fortunately for me at the time of the big roof collapse, we were living in a rented house and secondly, it was properly insured and everyone walked away happy.
Is your roof insured for more than a simple repair?
Owning a house, I found when I did own one in the past, is full of surprises. One year it’s the water heater. The next year it’s a new roof or deck. Every year had a surprise, and most of these natural replacement issues can’t be ‘insured’ practically, because roofs wear out and water heaters wear out. Even if you could get insurance for that, it would have to cost more than the natural replacement cost of the darn thing. But with big, unforeseen shock-like problems like the roof collapse we experienced, you sure can get insurance for it, and you should.
Before you buy a house, factor in a certain amount of money every year for natural replacements like a roof every couple of decades (especially in the Seattle / Bellevue area) as well as of course property tax and all those elements you simply cannot avoid. If you can’t afford that money out-go, consider rented accommodation, where costs are 100% predictable under all circumstances.