You can’t imagine a small drop of water causing any harm, can you? But what about thousands of water drops? If it finds a way into your home, water will easily penetrate all the porous materials in the property and may cause severe structural damage and mold growth long before you become aware of the problem. So, even a very small leak can turn out to be critical for your entire household – especially when it comes to a leaking roof.
The majority of people think that a leaky roof is just a structural problem, but in fact it poses a number of safety and health risks as well. Constant water intrusion will slowly but steadily work its way down from the attic area to the foundation of a property, compromising the structural integrity of the house, posing a fire threat from shorted wires, and resulting in rapid mold growth (which, in turn, may lead to serious health issues).
To prevent such slow but devastating water damage, you need to address roof leaks without delay. If you fail to take quick and efficient measures at the first signs of roof damage, you will have to deal not only with costly roof repairs, but also with mold remediation and other water damage restoration issues. On top of it, your homeowner’s insurance will most likely not cover the cost of the repairs.
Roof Leaks and Insurance
Does homeowner’s insurance cover roof leaks? It depends on the specific type of your policy and the cause of the leak, but what matters the most is how soon you have noticed the problem and what actions you’ve taken upon discovering it.
Most policies cover damage from leaks as long as you responded at the very first signs of the damage. If you ignore a wet spot on the ceiling for a couple of months and report the problem only after it aggravates, you cannot expect your water damage claim to be accepted (the damage must be “sudden and accidental” in order to be covered by insurance). Generally, home insurance doesn’t cover damage from normal wear and tear or from neglected maintenance. According to most insurance policies, failure to detect a roof leak constitutes negligence. (It may take mold weeks or months to become visible on a typical interior surface, so the leak that has caused it is unlikely to be sudden and new. The fact that you haven’t discovered the source of the problem – in this case, a roof leak – for such a long time will be considered negligence on your part as you are expected to conduct detailed home inspections on a regular basis.)
Minor roof leaks, however, can be very difficult to detect, especially if you have no reason to suspect a problem. The sudden appearance of mold in the attic may be your first indication that something is wrong. In this case, your insurance claim will probably be accepted, provided that you report the damage as soon as it becomes apparent and take immediate action to stop the leak and prevent further harm.
Have in mind, though, that even if your water damage claim is accepted, the cost for repairing the leak won’t be covered, unless the roof was damaged by a covered peril, such as hail or a fallen tree.
Therefore, your first task is to determine the cause of the leak.
Causes of Roof Leaks
Your roof may be damaged by hail, high winds, torrential rains, heavy snowfall, ice dams, etc. The roofing materials may be incorrect or improperly installed or they may wear down with time. Whatever the reason for your damaged roof, it will inevitably result in a leak.
The most common roof leak causes include:
- Broken or missing shingles – Shingles can get damaged or blown away in strong storms. Missing shingles are usually very easy to identify but seeing if a shingle is damaged or not may require detailed storm damage inspection;
- Improperly installed or damaged flashing – If the metal installed around the chimney, dormer windows, skylights or vent pipes cracks or breaks, rainwater and moisture will easily get into the home;
- Improperly sealed valleys – If the valleys (the places where two roof planes come together) are not sealed together well, rainwater can get through them as it runs down the roof;
- Improperly installed or damaged skylights – Improper installation and/or decayed insulation along the skylights’ edges will allow water to leak into the home;
- Ice dams – When a ridge of ice forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off, the blocked water may back up and leak into the home;
- Clogged gutters – When the gutters get clogged, rainwater cannot drain away and pools in one area of the roof. It may then easily find a way inside;
- Inadequate roofing materials – Certain roofing materials are specifically designed for certain types of roofs. If your roof was not constructed with adequate and proper fitting materials, leaks can easily occur.
Signs of Leaking Roof
In order to identify potential problems as soon as they appear and prevent greater troubles, you need to know what to look for when inspecting your property for damage. (Even though properly constructed roofs can last for decades, you are strongly recommended to inspect your roof once or twice a year, as well as after every major storm. Otherwise, minor roof leaks may go unnoticed and result in severe property deterioration.)
Here are the most common signs of roof leaks:
- Water seeping into the home during heavy rainfall or when the snow is melting;
- Water spots or discolored areas on ceilings and walls;
- Darkening of ceiling paint;
- Peeling paint around skylights or dormer windows;
- Cracked or bubbled plaster;
- Crumbling drywalls;
- Wood decay in the attic, or around skylights and dormer windows;
- Decaying or stained soffits and fascia;
- Granules collecting in the gutters;
- Curling or cupping shingles;
- Decreased home energy efficiency;
- Deteriorated indoor air quality;
- Musty smell in the attic;
- Mold on attic insulation, ceilings, etc.
Even if you notice some of the above telltale signs of a roof leak, it may be difficult to locate the problem – water can travel along roof panels or lumber in the attic before dripping onto the insulation and leaving any visible evidence of its presence. If you cannot find the leak, it may be a good idea to have your roof professionally inspected, as timely roof leak detection will help you prevent severe structural damage and hazardous mold issues.
Roof Leak and Mold
A leaky roof can result in mold growth within just a couple of days – when water enters the home and has the chance to stagnate, mold spores begin to germinate within the moist surface. In fact, mold can begin to form in as little as 48 hours when the right conditions – water and food (any organic matter, such as wood flooring or carpeting) – are present.
Roof leaks can cause two types of mold growth:
- Systemic growth occurs when the roof leak results in enough moisture buildup to cause mold growth throughout the entire attic area. In this case, mold remediation won’t be easy and you will need professional assistance in order to restore the good condition of your property;
- Limited growth occurs when an attic has good enough ventilation to prevent condensation, so moisture accumulates only in the immediate area of the leak. In this case, it will be much easier to deal with the resulting mold issue as fixing the roof leak and killing the existing mold spores will be enough to get rid of the problem completely.
Either way, however, you need to address the issue without delay, as mold from roof leaks (as all mold) poses serious health risks to everyone living in the home. The mold spores can spread through the house via the HVAC system and cause (or contribute to) severe respiratory problems, allergies, and various other health issues.
So, what to do when your roof is leaking?
1) Roof leak repair – You are strongly advised to hire a licensed roofing contractor to repair the damaged roof and leak-proof your home;
2) Roof leak mold remediation – It is recommended that you hire professional mold remediation services when dealing with roof leak mold. The experienced technicians will inspect your entire property for mold, assess the mold damage, contain the mold growth, remove the spores, deodorize the premises, and clean up and restore the affected area.
To sum it up: To prevent water damage to your home and avoid the ensuing hassle and troubles, you need to address a roof leak as soon as it appears. In case the damage has already built up by the time you notice the problem, make sure you call professional remediators to handle the restoration process in a safe and efficient manner.