The first thing to do, if you have not already done it, is to get a roof inspection. In some cases, you might get it for free, especially if there is a known problem and the roofer considers your business a possibility. Even if you do pay for the inspection, the typical roofing company will deduct that from the final charge if you give your business to them.
Is the roof leak a slow, long term problem, or a sudden one?
It’s convenient to categorize any given roof leak into one of two possible types: A sudden problem where the leak is suddenly and immediately obvious, and the other type is a leak that developed over months or even years.
A slow roof leak that’s been going for a long time
A slow leak can be caused by any number of things, and sometimes, two ‘issues’ working together make the leak happen. For instance, if a shake tile has a crack in it, it wouldn’t normally be a problem on its own. But if the supposedly waterproof lining underneath it also fails – perhaps due to a rip made during its installation, or a hole developed from the lining’s old age – the two issues together allow water to reach the plywood. From there, just a little water getting in at the beginning will probably not be noticed. It might drip away into the plywood and the roof’s infrastructure for years before you notice a damp area appearing on the ceiling of your landing, or whatever part of your house that is under the roof leak. By then, a lot of damage might have been done, and this is the principle reason you need to get your roof inspected every two years, or even every year if you are living in a particularly shaded neighborhood.
A sudden and immediately obvious roof leak
Paradoxical as it might sound, a big leak is often better than a slow leak. If a part of the roof fails, and water is able to flow in, you might know about the leak perhaps the very same day it occurs. That means that you can get it fixed before it does any of that slow, creeping damage that minor roof problems cause.
When you’re sitting at your breakfast table, and a bucket of water suddenly drops on your head, you can call your roofer and get to the task at hand immediately.
What happens during a roof inspection?
In many respects, what happens under your roof is perhaps more important than what happens on top of your roof. During a roof inspection, the inspector will be very interested in looking at what’s going on in your attic in particular. Are there obvious signs of a leak (or leaks), is there mold everywhere? How do the rafters look, and is there any sign of moisture on them, or on the structures below them? Another quick visual check can be to look for any signs of light finding its way through the roof. Birds, insects and even dead leaves can interfere with the roof’s functioning. There are laws about how to deal with birds that might have made your home their home, so hiring an inspector to look over your roof is the best way to go.
What if the roof leak damage is already bad?
The best way to approach your roof maintenance is to get it inspected once every two or three years. If you do that, most water damage caused by a leak will likely be intercepted before it can do too much damage. But let’s say, for whatever reason, you were not able to catch the leak in time, and there is serious damage. If so, then the sooner you address it, the better. Call your roofer today and get an inspection done. Ask if they will deduct any charges from a work estimate they give you later. The inspection, however, might be free.
Some roofing companies operate all year round, while others close for some of the winter months. Blue Star Roofing, for example, keeps its staff year round, and therefore is used to dealing with roof repairs under bad weather conditions.
Does insurance cover water damage from a leaking roof?
This is a difficult question to answer simply because every policy is different. If it is not in fact insured, some of the repair work might be covered by the original warranty of the roof. In any case, a phone call to your insurance agent is an easy call to make, and you can find out if you’re covered for the particular job you’re thinking you might need. But don’t take their first answer as final if they tell you it’s not covered. Many insurance companies like to push back hard on ‘borderline’ cases where they think they can make a policy holder believe what happened was due to negligence. (This, by the way, is a great reason to have a great relationship with your insurance agent. By the time you have a problem, you would have already built up some trust).
Talk, too, to your roofing professional about insurance. He or she can help you make a quotation match the needs of the insurance company so that their requirements are met and don’t present new obstacles to getting your insurance company to cough up the proverbial dough.
Prepare for the worst case from the first day you get your roof installed
By the time you’re reading this, you might have already got a big leaking roof problem, but if you are just installing a new roof now, consider these steps to help protect your investment into the future:
Create a ‘roof’ file for all documents, beginning with the estimate and paperwork for your new roof.
Schedule a roof inspection every year. The roofing company that installed your roof will likely be happy to remind you each year. And if they do it for free, so much the better.
For wood shakes, consider an oil or other preservative treatment every few years. This will greatly lengthen the life of your roof.
Make sure your attic is adequately ventilated.
Do a spot-check occasionally for new leaks. A damp smell in your attic, or daylight seeping through, are two big sings of problems.
Check back next week!