On Roof Leaks!
One of the most disheartening sounds that one can be subject to this time of year is the drip, drip, drip produced by a roof leak. It’s unfortunate that most folks wait for rain or snow to determine the condition of the roof. What’s worse, it is usually during a violent storm that the roof leak occurs making it virtually impossible to take immediate action. A significant number of injuries occur when an unsuspecting homeowner takes a nasty fall from a wet, wind driven roof.
In retrospect, as we’re sure those of you in this condition will agree, it would have been prudent to water test the roof for leaks before the first serious rains or snow fall. So much for an ounce of prevention. There are, however, some maintenance measures that can be taken that will help prevent roof leaks.
One of the best measures is limit traffic on the roof. In his movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Chevy Chase committed the consummate misdeed by traipsing about the roof affixing Christmas lights. He violated two important rules. First, walking on the roof is often all that’s needed to cause damage which will result in a leak. If a trip atop the roof is necessary, (and it often is), the number of steps should be limited. Furthermore, knowing where to step will lessen the possibility of damage and the potential for a fall.
Due to its flat profile, this detail is not as important with a composition shingle roof as it is with shakes, tile or metal. The later are more vulnerable to damage; shakes split, tile cracks and metal will dent. Avoid stepping on cupped or curled shakes. The flatter the shake the less likely it is to be damaged. Step on the beefiest part–near the butt end. Tile, cement and fiber cement products can be particularly vulnerable. Each will have its own particular sensitive spots. Your best bet is to seek advice from a local roofing contractor as to where to tread.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. This is especially true when it comes to the roof and avoiding leaks. A roof that is clean and free of debris is less likely to leak. Leaves, pine needles and moss are all enemies to a roof and will, more often than not, inhibit watershed and cause a “dam effect”. This backup of water can get between the layers of roofing and waterproofing membrane causing a serious roof leak. A ball or a child’s toy have even been known to be the cause of a backup.
Among the most effective ways to remove debris from the roof is with a pressure washer. A power blower/vac, a broom and a garden hose can also be useful, but require more elbow grease. Whereas the best method to remove moss is with a power washer, a wire brush can also do the trick. The latter is not recommended since it can take virtually forever and the disruption can cause more damage than the moss would have ever caused. A periodic rinsing with a solution of one cup of liquid chlorine bleach in a gallon of hot water is one practical way of getting rid of moss and preventing its return. A zinc or copper strip applied at the ridge of the roof is another effective method of preventing moss. A potential disadvantage is streaking.
A build up of ice at the eave, (an ice dam), will cause a roof leak and can even result in structural damage to the roof framing system. While there are several methods of preventing an ice dam, one of the best is by using an eave heating system. Eave heaters consist of a network of wires which are strung on the roof above the overhang. These series of wires work essentially like those in an electric blanket. They keep the water from becoming ice and allow for proper water shed.
Two elements of the roofing system that can be major causes of leaks are the gutters and downspouts. Debris laden gutters and/or clogged downspouts will allow water to back up preventing water to be properly discharged. Gutters should be periodically cleaned. Leaves and other debris that have been allowed to sit for a long period of time will create a mulch-like mud material which can be difficult to remove. A small garden trowel will need to be used in order to remove the bulk of this material before other less tedious means can be employed.
After the mass of bulky material has been removed a leaf blower/vac will work great to remove what remains. Finish the job using a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle to flush the system out. The garden hose works especially well as a snake to dislodge clogged downspouts and drainage pipes.
A preponderance of water at the perimeter of (or under) the house can result in everything from dryrot to cracks over windows and doors. Therefore, water collected by gutters and downspouts should be discharged away from the home. Ideally, the water should be transported by a solid drain pipe into the municipal storm drain system, a drainage trench or nonerosive riprap. Also, soil and pavement surrounding the house should be graded to drain away from the foundation.
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