Once again I must risk embarrassing myself so that perhaps others might not have to.
A few years ago, just before Thanksgiving, the day after we had a record 2” of rain in a 24 hour period, I discovered that my own house’s roof was leaking.
Aaarrrggghhh! I said to myself!
And then I said aaarrrggghhh again!
How I noticed that the roof was leaking was that a stain near my front door had grown larger, prompting me to drag out my moisture meter. Sure enough the area that was stained was indeed wet and so was the entire wall immediately below the stain between the door and the window. It was like an invisible waterfall.
There was a very small stained area that was present when we bought the house more than 15 years earlier. It was dry at that time; in fact you can see the whiter circular areas where I had painted over the stain some time ago. At least the stain blocker works.
Stains on ceilings can be problematic, because if it has not rained in quite a while, the stains might test as dry and only reactivate when it starts to rain. They might only be seasonally wet.
The roof was certainly at the end of its expected life and we were factoring replacement of the roof in the near future. It seemed like the timeline for replacement would need to be moved up. A patch was necessary just to get the roof through the winter. Above the stained area there is a valley in the roof that is created by the front porch gable roof. Obviously the valley was the only really likely explanation for the leak but can you see where it is leaking?
I could not see it either, (but it is right in the center of the red circle) so I started at the top and worked my way down.
About half way down I did find where it was obviously leaking. It was just a tiny hole, likely created by the age of the roof and mechanical damage from some previous roof cleaning. The area was not adequately backed up with plywood creating a week spot for the valley to collapse into. Due to the location of this small hole however, a lot of water could be channeled into the roof structure where it could then find its way into the wall structure below.
It took me about two hours to rip off the old roof and replace the valley with a woven valley tying in the old shingles. It will easily be satisfactory until the new roof is installed.
Now that the repair has been accomplished (what do you mean you don’t like the color match?) the wall can dry out and everything will be OK.
About a month before the leak was discovered, on the morning of the first hard frost, I noticed there was some condensation along the bottom of the double pane windows. I knew that the moisture meant there was too much moisture in the house and made a mental note to start thinking about possible causes.
As soon as I found the leak I knew the cause of that excess moisture in the house. As the wall completely dried out the condensation on the windows stopped completely. The wall had been like an invisible water fall—evaporating moisture to the interior living space every time it rained, and for some time after the rain stopped.
Even a roof that does not look like it has any issues can still be leaking.
The lesson here is to pay attention to any stains you see on your ceilings–and verify that they are not wet. You may have to call a home inspector with a moisture meter to find out for sure.
PS: The house now enjoys a new steel roof.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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