If you are in an area that gets a large amount of rain, heavy rains, or severe thunderstorms, you may have damage to your roof and not even know about it. Some of the signs of roofing damage can be blatantly obvious, while some can be far more insidious, only becoming visible when they advance to later stages. In some cases, this damage can be relatively affordable to fix, however, in cases of severe roof damage the costs can skyrocket to several tens of thousands of dollars.
Many people, from renters to homeowners, to those with commercial buildings, know that roofing leaks can cause expensive damage. While it’s important to catch these leaks as early as possible, it’s common to be unaware of the indicators of water infiltration. Here is more about the warning signs of roofing damage.
The Obvious & Not-So-Obvious Signs That Your Roof Is Or Will Leak In Heavy Rain
Many of the signs listed below will have a range of severity, meaning you may be able to spot them in their very early stages as well as when they become much more obvious. Other signs, however, will not be very easy to spot with the naked eye in their early stages, and will only become recognizable once they have advanced to more serious conditions.
A sagging roof is one that may seem like it would be easily seen by the homeowner, and when it progresses to an extremely damaged state this is true. In most cases, any damage that is occurring to the roof decking or supports will not be easily seen until it begins to show very obvious sagging.
A sagging roof happens when the structure supporting the roof has become consistently wet enough that the weight of the roof begins to push down on the middle of the peaks. This can sometimes be seen as a “dent” or other depression on the slope of the roof. In rare cases, this can be repaired, but most of the time by the time it is seen, the roof is too badly damaged and must be replaced.
Change In Gutter Function
Your gutters are very important especially in areas that get high amounts of rain and snow. They not only help route the water coming off of the roof away from walls and overhangs, but they also help divert the flow away from the perimeter of the home and its foundation.
Initial signs that your gutters may need repairs or updates include:
- Low flow at the downspouts during heavy rain
- Visible damage or detachment from the building
- Overflowing gutters
These malfunctions are frequently caused by wind or severe storms pulling the gutter away from the building. Additionally, storm debris can cause impact damage, and debris from the roof can wash down and obstruct the downspouts. When the gutters aren’t able to quickly and effectively route water away from the roof, home, and foundation, it can be the beginning of extensive and very costly repairs.
Damp Or Wet Spots In Attic
During or after heavy rain events, the homeowner should make sure to do a quick visual inspection of the attic or crawlspace to ensure there are no signs of water intrusion. By looking carefully at the underside of the roof you can determine if water has been able to infiltrate behind or under roofing materials.
Signs of this will look like any other wet spot that you may see on lumber, it will generally be darker and if you can reach it, it will be obviously wet. If you find a wet spot on the underside of the roof, be sure you also look at the area below that point, as well as up to ten feet in all directions, to see if the leak has gone farther than the roof.
Power Outlet Indications
Some of the lesser-known signs revolve around your electrical outlets. Since they are located between studs, they are a prime spot for leaking or dripping water to contact. This can have different results depending on the situation, and either one can almost guarantee that you have a roof leak somewhere above the outlet.
You should examine all power outlets and the areas around them, looking initially for any discoloration or bubbling of the paint. Since the electrical box will not absorb any of the water it will first go into the area around the cutout. This will cause the drywall to moisten and latex interior paint will begin to bubble or lose adhesion. If you have GFCI outlets, in a kitchen or bathroom, for example, you may also notice the outlet breaker tripping repeatedly.
Light Fixture Signs
Another common sign that your roof has a significant, or long-neglected leak, is that you may suddenly see water dripping from light fixtures. This happens because the water has been dripping for long enough that it is now in contact with your ceiling materials, and has found the path of least resistance: the opening where light fixtures are installed.
Moisture Intrusion Near Windows
Windows are generally sealed well against the elements, so when you see moisture coming from above or below a window, it could be a sign of a serious leak during heavy rain. This is often seen when gutters become clogged and allow large amounts of water to flow down the side of the house, where the water then intrudes via window drip-guard failures or other small gaps.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait To Fix a Roof Leak: How Heavy Rain Can Further Destroy Your Roof & Your Home
Roof repairs can be scary and potentially very expensive, so it’s completely understandable that when people find out they need a leak fixed they often wonder how long it will take for it to get worse, and when they should just bite the bullet and call a professional roofer. Sometimes you know it’s something you need to fix as soon as possible, but you’re hoping to wait for another pay cycle or two until you have the extra money.
In situations where there is a relatively minor leak, waiting a short while may not be the end of the world. However, in situations where there is water actively dripping or flowing through the roof and into your home, time is of the essence. In either case, waiting too long can cause a much more serious situation.
Roof Collapse & Replacement
If the signs of any leak are ignored or neglected for too long, the entire roof may need to be replaced. This can multiply your initial repair cost by more than ten times, depending on the specifics of the roofing situation. Collapsed roofing can lead to immediate structural instability as well.
Damage To Drywall & Plaster
If you have a leak that is dripping into the space between your outer wall and your interior wall, you could see the problem grow rapidly. In some cases, the water will begin to soak into the wall materials, causing discoloration and sometimes even mold. If the damage continues, the construction materials can begin to soften, eventually falling under their own weight.
Damage To Ceilings And Floors
Just as a leak near the wall can cause the wall materials to stain, soften, and eventually fall, similar damage awaits floors and ceilings. If the leak from the roof is soaking into the ceiling, it’s only a matter of time before that ceiling becomes too wet and heavy to hold itself up.
Increased Risk Of Electrical Fire
For situations where the leak is coming into contact with the home electrical system, there could be the danger of fire. It may sound odd that water leaking can cause a fire, but if the water gets into an electrical outlet it can come into contact with connections that are not meant to be watertight which can cause dangerous short circuits. This shorting can cause sparks and arcing and can lead to a fire.
When water isn’t effectively routed away from the home it can have devastating consequences on the foundation. Water intrusion into the foundation and diminish sealants and cause freeze cycle damage, resulting in cracked or crumbling foundations. While roof repairs can be expensive, foundation repairs can be in a league of their own, and in some cases the foundation may not be able to be repaired, resulting in the home being deemed uninhabitable.
How to Get An Expert To Fix a Roof That Leaks In Heavy Rain
Even for the experienced DIYer, roof fixes can be difficult and dangerous. Additionally, if they are delayed for too long, or fixed incorrectly, even minor leaks can result in significant damage down the road.
To ensure that your roof is repaired completely and correctly, be sure you reach out to a local roofing professional for a roof inspection and repair quote. If your roof is too badly damaged for repairs to be effective or prudent, your expert roofer can also discuss the potential costs of a new roof with you, so that you can effectively weigh your options.