4 min read

Common Causes of Roof Leaks (& Repairs)

Featured Image

When you first spot a dark spot on your ceiling, there’s no telling what thoughts race through your head, and what PG-13 words may slip out of your mouth.

"Good gracious! I thought we took care of this fudging stuff!"

If we’re being honest, I'll never blame you for having a reaction like that. Roof leaks can pop up out of nowhere, and most homeowners know that they are only the surface of a problem that likely runs deeper, and has caused more damage elsewhere.

After you first spot the leak, you probably are filled with questions that need to be answered. Where is this leak coming from? How long has it been sitting there for? Has it caused any other damage? How much is this going to cost me?

I know that it’s all stressful, but please: take a moment to breathe, and read the rest of this article. We’re here to help you through the process.

In this blog, we’re going to be going over:

Let's get started!

Five Most Common Causes of Roof Repairs

Pipe boot failure

a pipe boot_WebP

If you’ve never noticed them before, your roof likely has multiple small pipes sticking out of it, which are used to provide ventilation for your plumbing system, or kitchen area. Without these, gases & moisture that are created by cooking, showering or using the bathroom will have nowhere to go, and instead find their way into your attic, and create some problems up there.

These pipes are a part of a larger category of roof penetrations, or objects that come all the way through your roof decking, and outer roofing materials. Because the decking and materials have to be cut to make way for the pipes, there is always going to be a small gap between them and the material around it.

Thankfully, we’ve developed a way to solve this problem, using pipe boots, a kind of metal, plastic, or rubber cover that covers the area around the pipe.

Unfortunately, as with all things, the pipe boots wear down and fail over time, especially those that are made of plastic and rubber. The sun exposure that these covers get causes them to dry out, become brittle, and break. This opens a direct path for outside water to get into your roofing system and house, causing a leak like the one that you might now be experiencing.

Cracked and torn flashing

old flashing_WebP-2

Functioning similarly to pipe boots, but around chimneys, and at walls, flashing is a metal material that is also used to cover the gap between a wall or penetration, and the surface of the roof.

A major difference between them, though, is how they are damaged. Flashing, because it’s metal, doesn’t receive as much wear from the sun, but instead can rust over several years, and will most frequently show damage after being hit by a strong hailstorm.

When hail strikes the soft metal, it creates dents, and can potentially tear a hole through it, once again causing an issue where water has access to the interior of your home. Hail isn’t the only thing that can create leaks at flashing, though, as it’s one of the most improperly installed things on the roof. If it’s not caulked or layered in the right way to cover the gap, leaks are going to happen pretty soon after the installation.

Poor Nailing and Installation

Another common area where we see poor installation causing a leak is at the nails used to attach the shingles to the roof.

underdriven nails_WebP-1

The nails on a roof must be driven in the appropriate amount in order to keep the roof shingles seal intact. If the nail heads are sticking out slightly, water will be able to latch on and slip through the nail hole. If the nail is overdriven, it may have gone entirely through the shingle, which punches a hole in the first line of defense that your roof has.

Typically, these leaks will show up in your roof decking before anywhere else in your home. Water that gets by your roof in this fashion will go right into the wood decking, causing water damage and wood rot, and weakening your roof system as a whole.


Wind & Hail Damaged Shingles

wind damage better_WebP-1

If a major storm came through your area, and you have a roof leak as a result, check on your shingles, you may see a patch of them missing, or cracked. Strong winds from storms can blow up older asphalt shingles, and hail that often comes with these kinds of storms can dent and crack your shingles as well.

Water that hits this exposed section your roof will immediately cause damage to your roof decking if it was not properly installed with underlayment and ice & water shield, more on what that is in the next section.

Debris Build-up in Gutters and valleys

A couple of areas where roof leaks are far more common than most people might think, is in your roof’s valleys, which are where two roofing surfaces intersect, and at the edges of the roof near your gutters.

Leaks happen pretty frequently in these areas, especially on houses with lots of tree cover, as debris builds up in valleys, and clogs the gutters if they aren’t cleaned out regularly. When leaves, sticks, pine straw, and other debris gathers, it creates a stronghold of dampness. Water gets trapped underneath the pile, and wears down your roof shingles, eventually finding its way through.

Weather watch in valley_WebP-1


If you hire a good roofing company these days, they’ll install your roof with ice and water shield, an adhesive asphalt strip that is installed in the valleys of your roof, and other water sensitive areas. This provides an additional layer of protection should this happen on your roof. Of course, the best way to make sure it doesn’t, is to make sure you keep these areas clean and debris free.


Looking to learn more about cleaning your gutters?

If you’re still not convinced that you need to keep your gutters and valleys clear, check out our blog on Five Reasons You Should Clean Your Gutters!

There’s plenty of stuff to learn about the roofing process, so if this is your introduction, well, first: I’m sorry that you’re dealing with this, and second, welcome! Hopefully with the knowledge you’ve gained here, you can be better armed to navigate your project.

On Tops Roofing has been helping homeowners with roof leaks in the Raleigh, NC area since we got started in 1991. With all of that experience under our belt, we’ve got what it takes to handle whatever roofing issue that you’re dealing with!

Do Repairs Help Your Roof Last Longer?

Trying to decide between getting a roof repair or a roof replacement can get pretty tricky, especially if you’re close to needing a full roof...

Read More

How Much Does it Cost to Repair a Roof Leak?

One time or another, most people have had to deal with one of home ownership’s most annoying problems: a roof leak.

Read More

How Long Do Roof Repairs Take?

If you’re considering starting a roof repair project, there are a few things that you need to take into account before you really get going. Among...

Read More