9 Common Causes of Roofing Leaks

Protect the most fundamental part of your home.

Beyond being a messy inconvenience, a leaky roof can lead to further issues that need to be addressed immediately. When a roof leak is not addressed in a timely manner, it can result in mold growth, deck deterioration, costly roof repairs and eventually a fully compromised roof in need of a total replacement. Depending on the source of the leak, your roof may require anywhere from a quick fix to a major remodel. If your roof is leaking, no matter how minor the drip seems, it is indicative of a roofing issue that needs to be addressed. Leaks can be caused by a variety of reasons, and it is always best to have a roofing specialist come out and diagnose the issue. Below are the most common causes for roofing leaks.


1. Broken Shingles

What to look for: This is one of the more easily identifiable areas, as shingles are located on the outer layer of your roof. You may also be able to spot some in your yard after inclement weather.

How to fix it: If the leak is stemming from broken shingles, you will need to grab your pry bar and rip out the row of nails connecting the damaged shingles. After the nails are removed, you will pull out the damaged shingle, replace it with a new one, and secure it with 4 new nails.


2. Clogged Gutters

What to look for: Depending on the severity of the clog, you may be able to spot leaves, twigs and other debris protruding from your gutters. You may also notice the absence of water flowing through your downspout during a rainstorm.

How to fix it: Clogged gutters are a common cause of roof leaks, and require a ladder and the willingness to get your hands dirty in order to remove the clog. We recommend placing a large tarp under the gutters as you clear them for easy clean-up.


3. Improperly Installed Skylights

What to look for: If you have to grab drip buckets and drag them under your home’s skylight every time there’s a storm, you’ve found the culprit.

How to fix it: Examine the exterior of your skylight. Check for possible cracks in the window. If you locate a minor crack, you can seal if with a layer a silicone. If the problem is not an easy fix, and requires reinstallation or a flashing fix, contact a professional.


4. Poorly Sealed Valleys

What to look for: This cause a little more difficult to locate. The valley is where two planes of the roof join. The sealing can erode over time, causing leaks as rain trickles down the roof. Examine your roof for wet spots along the seams.

How to fix it: This issue is beyond your scope as a homeowner. The complexity of this issue requires a professional roofer to install a new leak barrier.


5. Holes

What to look for: Have you recently had a TV antenna or other rooftop installation removed? There is a high probability it left a hole in your roof, leaving it vulnerable to leaks.

How to fix it: Examine your roof and check for holes where equipment was recently removed, and patch holes with roof sealant.


6. Cracked Chimney

What to look for: Examine your chimney for signs of deterioration along the mortared joints, and the flashing where the chimney and roof connect.

How to fix it: You will need a professional to repair a cracked chimney. A chimney’s anatomy is complicated, and you want an industry professional with the training and materials to remedy the chimney’s vulnerable areas.


7. Condensation Build-up in Your Attic

What to look for: Examine your attic for signs of mold and mildew. These will typically be small, out of place spots ranging in color from brown, green, orange or white. Black mold is highly toxic and spreads quickly, generally creating a circular pattern. Mold grows solely on materials it can feed off of like mold and newspapers. You will probably also smell a musty odor.

How to fix it: You will want a professional to come in and handle any situations involving black mold, as it is extremely toxic. After the mold is treated, consider installing an attic ventilation fan to help increase air circulation and warn off excess moisture.


8. Cracks in Flashing

What to Look for: Flashing are thin pieces of metal located under the shingles to create a waterproof barrier. Flashing can crack if they become exposed when shingles break, or flashing can slide out of place due to missing nails.

How to fix it: Pry off the nails holding the flashing in place, and move shingles out of the way to move the damaged flashing. Lay new flashing and secure it using roofing nails.  Apply roofing sealant for an extra line of defense.


9. Damaged Vent Booting

What to look for: A vent boot covers the plastic vent pipe that protrudes from your roof, meant to ward off water and excess moisture from entering your interior. Cracks in vent booting feature a series of dark spots and a corresponding musty odor.

How to fix it: Remove the old vent booting with the aid of a knife, and remove any connecting shingles that may get in the way. Slide the new booting under the shingles and over the vent. Make sure to properly secure the new boot with roofing nails.


Due to the complexity of certain roofing issues, a high level of expertise is required to repair certain issues. Roofing material can be fragile and you may walk over a compromised area. A professional is trained in roof anatomy, and knows how to properly navigate around vulnerable areas.

If you choose to fix the roof leak yourself, keep in mind that working on a roof top can be difficult and dangerous. A simple fix may take a few hours, but will only last a short time if not done correctly. If you do not have the experience, proper tools, and knowledge to safely and accurately complete the job, you should reach out to a licensed professional. Licensed professionals are well-versed in properly diagnosing all types of roof issues, and have the equipment and experience to safely repair a leaky roof. Your roof is a fundamental part of your home, and you want to ensure you and your family are safe.