Leaky Roofs

Many roof estimates get generated from a leaky roof. It is very important when giving roof estimates that you pay attention to why the roof is leaking and give the customer a professional evaluation of the condition of the roof of why or why not they may need a new roof. Most homeowners will get multiple roof estimates and what info. they were given by the estimator why or why not they should consider a new roof may be the deciding factor as to who gets the job. So we have provided some info to consider when giving roof estimates. Homeowners want to know that you are very knowledgeable and very much appreciate all the options and considerations you point out to them, plus it makes you look good. It could be the deciding factor as to who gets the job. Combine that with using the Roof Estimators Contract/Proposal form that you can give to the customer via mail, fax, or email attachment, and you will have the upper hand over all your competition.

A leak, of course, is the most obvious clue that your roof needs some attention. Leaks can be caused by a variety of reasons, including ice dams, shingles blow-off, or improperly installed or deteriorated flashings.

Don’t just look for a drip coming from the ceiling, though. Signs of moisture also include discolored spots on the wall, loose wallpaper, peeling paint on the ceiling, or a damp smell in a hallway or room. And remember that water traveling into your home may take a circuitous route, running down rafters, top plates, studs, and sole plates before reaching your ceiling.


In the life cycle of every roofing project, at one point or another, you will have to deal with a leak. In general, roofs are not designed to last as long as the rest of the structure. This does not imply that a leak means the roof needs to be replaced, but it can be a warning. Since water will come in at some point, educational and health care facility managers should plan for it before it happens. Strategically placing buckets and plastic tarps in maintenance closets can reduce the time it takes to find them, thus reducing the damage when the leak does occur.

Anticipate The Leak

The first thing to remember is not to panic. The roof can be repaired. Most building materials are tolerant of a certain amount of moisture. The amount of damage done to building materials by moisture is directly related to the amount of moisture and the time of exposure, if both of these can be reduced then the potential for permanent damage to the inside of a building can be reduced. Try to minimize the damage once the leak is discovered, then work diligently to stop the leak and prevent additional damage.

When a leak is discovered:

First move away from the wet, leaky area anything that can be damaged by direct moisture. This includes filing cabinets, desks, chairs, pictures on a wall, etc. Buckets and plastic should be installed using duct tape to hold them in place in order to catch the water. Ceiling tiles should be removed. Ceiling tiles will just spread the leak from one tile to the next. If they are already damaged they will not get any better if left in place. By taking them out, the water should drip more directly from the underside of the roof deck to the floor where buckets and plastic have now been placed. Put up wet floor signs, warning signs, and perhaps even a warning line so that other building occupants are not walking through this area. It might be worthwhile to utilize a wet vac as they can be rented inexpensively. This will reduce the potential for permanent damage to the carpet or flooring.

Leaks Coming Down Walls

Remove the ceiling tile in the area along the wall. Try to expose the leakā€”it may not be at the wall. Apply plastic with duct tape to the wall as high as possible. You may be able to help divert the water away from the wall and onto the plastic where it can then be contained, caught and mopped up. Minimize the amount of time the water is on the wall. The deck-wall intersection is not an uncommon leak point. Again, plastic can be taped in with duct tape which is fairly tolerant of moisture.

Investigate First

Do not go onto the roof if there is any chance of lightning. It is more important to be safe than sorry. Having someone proceed onto the roof in a thunderstorm is not a smart idea and not worth the risk.

While checking for the source of the leak, check the drains in that area. The whole reason for the leak could be a backed-up, plugged drain. The water flowing over the flashings is a leak that is easily repaired by cleaning the drain. This should be done as part of the facility’s normal roof maintenance program, however, sometimes between routine maintenance checks debris and other objects accumulate on the roof clogging up the drain system. Look for missing or displaced metal from fan housings, ducts, and access doors. If the metal is lying on the roof, did it cartwheel, tearing the roof as it traveled? Are skylights intact? Copings?

You may consider trying to stop the leak yourself particularly if more rain is predicted.

Damage Control If the roofing contractor says he can have someone there right away then let him. The idea is to minimize the damage caused by the leak.

A leak is not the end of the world, it is a natural occurrence. “Be Prepared” is a good motto for educational and health care facility managers to follow. If the damage can be minimized, the disruption and downtime to the facility can be minimized as well. The inconvenience of having to deal with the leak can be minimized with prompt attention to the leak.

Remember, water coming through the ceiling tiles does not necessarily mean that it is a roof leak. A leaky pipe or backed-up toilet from the above bathroom could be the culprit.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Does the leak appear every time it rains? or does it have to rain really hard?
  • Does the wind need to be blowing super hard and in a certain direction?
  • How long after it starts to rain does the leak re-appear?

Tips on trying to locate the source of the leak

Start looking right above where the leak is appearing. Look for water stains, mold, wet insulation, or other signs of water leaks.

Take a measurement from inside the home, measure from a wall with a window in it to the water stain where the leak is appearing, let’s say the measurement is 10 ft. Now get on the roof and measure from that same window over 10 ft. you should now be almost directly above the leak. Look that whole roof area over to see if there are any obvious problems as to why the leak is coming in from there.

When troubleshooting a stubborn hard-to-find leak, you can use the old water hose method by saturating the area above where the leak is appearing and getting in the attic to see if you can see where it is coming in from the roof.

Note: When saturating the roof starts 1/3 the way up the side that is above the leak, this way if the leak appears you know it is in that 1/3 area. And repeat the process until the leak is found.


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