My Shoreline Seattle home roof is leaking. How can I fix it without replacing the whole roof?

My Shoreline Seattle home roof is leaking. How can I fix it without replacing the whole roof?

My Shoreline Seattle home roof is leaking. How can I fix it without replacing the whole roof?

There are leaks and there are leaks. Some leaks are small and contained, while others are big and out of control. Usually the bigger ones are obvious, and you can get to work solving the problem before it develops into a lot more damage. The challenge with small leaks is, they are often not discovered until they have dome a lot of damage. But in every case, it is always worth doing an inspection as soon as possible. And in a lot of cases, you can get a totally free inspection from a licensed, bonded and insured roofing contractor. You may have to pay a small fee, but that is often deducted from any work they do for you, if they find a problem that is.

Damp is the killer of houses, and it usually comes in through the roof

It’s hard to make a roof absolutely and categorically, 100% waterproof. There are natural “gaps” where man-made materials come together; there are big storms and there are freak natural occurrences which force a little water in here and there, but a little water will do little or no harm. A well ventilated attic, for example, will allow tiny amounts of water to quickly evaporate and leave the attic before any mold or fungus can take advantage of it.

One thing a roof inspector will do when he or she sticks his nose into your attic is simply to smell for mold. When flora take hold on an closed, damp room like an attic, the smell can be obvious. And such moisture doesn’t always just affect an attic. It can creep into a house or apartment and give the whole living space that damp, moldy smell.

So, it’s clear to see, that a well ventilated attic is crucial. A well built house will have end-to-end ventilation in the attic. The floor of the attic should insulate the upper floor from the attic itself. That’s because it is wasteful for you to heat the attic, unless you have a specific reason for that, such as having converted it into a living space. In that latter case, you might keep it warm simply by opening the door to it and letting the house heat rise.

An inspection will tell you exactly what the problem is

The occasional tiny amount of water getting in is probably not going to be a problem, if your attic is fully ventilated, but a more significant break in the roofing materials or structure that is letting in water every time it rains is something that needs to be fixed. Again, an inspection will uncover that quickly, and you will be in good shape to get the problem fixed immediately.

A roof inspection is not a house inspection. Although it takes hours to do a complete house inspection, its objectives cover a much larger target. In a house inspection, plumbing, wiring, structure, safety, lighting, flooring and countless other aspect of the house must be examined. A roof, on the other hand, is relatively simple, and a roof inspection goes into it in far more detail than a house inspector could be expected to cover. For that reason, a house inspection might not discover a roof problem that a roof inspector would find. That’s why it’s important to get a roofing professional to examine your roof.

Small leaks can sometimes do the worst damage

A small leak can go unnoticed for years. It lets a little water in through, for example, a soffit on your roof, and the water is just enough to keep a few rafters damp all year long. The water logging, over time, rots the wood, and might eventually compromise the strength and safety of your house, as well as let trickles of water reach the drywall behind bedroom walls. You notice nothing until one day you serendipitously touch a part of a wall inside your house and you finger easily punctures the wet chalk of the sheet rock. By then, a big section of wall may need to be replaced, and a significant roof project undertaken.

In the case of a sudden break in the roof where plenty of water makes its way in during a storm, you know that it’s a problem right away. Before a day has passed, you’ve called for a roof inspection and, although plenty of water made its way into your home, the problem can be fixed before any creeping damp issues emerge.

Regular roof inspection and treatment save money in the long run

Even with synthetic roofing materials, mother nature tries to “take it all back” over time. Birds are just as happy to nest in a roof made of synthetic materials as they are in natural wood products, so a little gap in the wrong place is just as good an invitation to them to build a nest in your roof and raise another generation of roof nest builders.

Regular roof inspections – say, every two years or so – allow you to find a problem before it becomes a big problem. My suggestion is to get that inspection done in the fall, after the birds are done with their nests and before the winter storms arrive. Roofing companies, too, often offer discounts for work done in the off-season. They can’t replace your roof in the middle of a blizzard, but properly equipped, they can replace your roof, or do significant repair work, pretty much any month of the year.

Let’s say you find a small leak during an inspection. It might cost $200 to repair. Or, had you left it the way it was until a leak was letting the rain drip down into your bowl of granola, you are now looking at a major, water damage repair project. That is definitely a riskier path. Getting your roof inspected every two years may actually cost you nothing. It’s worth it.

For natural wood product roofing material, it’s a good idea to re-treat it with the appropriate oils every three, four or five years. Roofs made of natural wood products last twice as long if they are treated with such protectorant every few years. It will save a lot in the long run.

See you next week.

Image by Ales Krivec

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