Keep Your Roof From Leaking and Surviving Natural Damages

John Vivian tells readers how to keep your roof from leaking and ways to survive damages to your roof caused by nature.


| April/May 2000



Anatomy of a modern roof

Anatomy of a modern roof.

ILLUSTRATION: WILL SHELTON

How to keep your roof from leaking and ways for your home to survive damages from nature. 

How to keep your roof on while all around you are losing theirs.

It is the steady, purposeful sound of water falling a full story, ceiling straight to floor: the sound of a leaking roof. Unattended, roof-leak water will saturate your insulation, soak your wallboard, infiltrate headers, studs and flooring, and penetrate your footings to create the moist channels that attract termites and carpenter ants. It will spread into wet spots that encourage wood rot and play host to the molds, fungi and slimes that can gang up to convert your home into a pile of moist sawdust. That is, if it doesn't short out the wiring in the walls to cause a house fire first.

It is these and similar nightmares that conspire to keep us awake at night the first time we hear a leak from the part of the house that is a total out-of-sight-out-of-mind mystery: the roof.

To compound the worry, let us suppose the leak is the result of the single most common cause of open-roof-area leaks in wooded-country homes . . . something yours truly has encountered four times to date. You awaken after a stormy night of howling, high winds, open the front door and step out into an unexpected wall of wet, leafy green to discover that a great spreading lawn tree — trunk, limbs, twigs, leaves, squirrels, birds nests and all — has fallen onto your roof.

A Tree on the Roof

First, check carefully to determine damage, if any, to your house. Get up in the attic and check if rafters are cracked or if roof sheathing appears bowed or dished in. Look for punctures through the roof, where a "flying missile" from a broken branch or the stub end of a splintered branch pierced the shingles and sheathing — perhaps the most common form of serious tree damage to a roof.

allannaa_1
6/9/2010 2:20:37 PM

I found this article helpful in fixing "some" of the leaks, but I have a weird problem, and the usual answer I get is "Hire someone".... No, thanks! I have 2 trailers (80x16 and 52x12) set in a backward L shape, and connected by what we call a lanai. The trouble is with the lanai. The 80x16 main living trailer is about 16 inches lower, although it is actually "higher ceilings" than the 52x12 "office" trailer. No prob, said the original (now deceased) contractor. Can make a slope roof! Well he did. But something went wrong 20 years ago when he did it and due to illness and lack o' money, I let it go till now. The flashing is ON TOP of the 80x16 roof, and there is NO flashing between the lanai and the 52x12 roof; the lanai head beam, if that's the word, is just mounted directly to the outer trailer wall, under the fakey inch-wide "gutter" channel. I'm going to fix this, using some of the techniques you list. But, what about the flashing? Shouldn't the flashing for the lanai be UNDER the roofing of the 80x16? And shouldn't there be "L shaped" flashing between the lanai and the 52x12, where the lanai header-beam thing is? (I was gonna post a pic for better explanation but the camera is beyond me.) Any ideas or advice are appreciated. Thanks! Alla






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