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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Common Roof Problems to Fix Before Winter

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 22 November 2016 14:39

Your roof is very important. Aside from the way it looks, it’s your house’s first line of defense against the elements and anything that might fall out of the sky.

Since it’s what protects the interior of your home from water damage, sweltering heat, biting cold and any other environmental hazards, keeping your roof in good condition is of the utmost importance.

With winter just around the corner, now is the time to make sure your roof isn’t in need of any repairs. There are plenty of areas of concern for a roof, and all of them require your full attention.

window roof

Roof Leaks

The most common and troublesome problem you can have is a leaky roof. If your roof has even one leak, there’s no telling how much water could be trickling down into your home.

Since leaks can occur for a number of reasons, it’s crucial to understand that the location and severity of a leak can depend on the type of roof you have. For example, a built-up roof could experience leaks because flashing details weren’t properly installed.

This incorrect installation can also prove harmful to torch-applied modified bitumen roofs. However, a single-ply membrane roof will also suffer from leaks when they are installed with poor seams.

And of course, roofs get old. If you’re experiencing leaks in your roof, your solution might be as simple as replacing the old shingles on top of your house.

Bad Chimney Flashing

Chimney flashing is installed in two parts — a section of “step flashing” that runs up the side of your chimney, and “counterflashing” that fits into grooves along the chimney itself and covers the step flashing. Properly installed chimney flashing keeps water from running down your chimney and into your attic.

You’ll be able to recognize whether your chimneys have been properly installed — improperly installed chimneys cause lots of rotting roof sheathing and framing members. Signs of water near or around the chimney are a dead giveaway.

You can also inspect your attic for any water damage after heavy rain if you suspect your chimney flashing isn’t getting the job done.

Poor Ventilation

The sign of a strong roof is adequate ventilation, which should happen naturally through vents at the top and bottom of the roof. Cooler air enters through the vents at the bottom, while hotter air filters out through the vents on top, regulating the temperature in your house to prevent overheating or freezing.

Although this process should be natural, you should still check that the vents are unobstructed. Any manner of small objects (leaves, twigs, etc.) could be lodged in the vents, preventing a natural flow of air.

Disrupting the flow could cause moisture and heat to build up in your attic, damaging the structural integrity of your home.


Over time, the roof membrane underneath the shingles begins to shrink. When the roof membrane shrinks, your roof will begin to develop blisters, cracks and splits in the shingles.

The roof membrane prevents leaks by moving water off of your roof, making it extremely important. Shrinkage can occur due to installation or design, and you should check regularly for signs of it in your roof.

Missing Shingles

This one seems like a no-brainer, but you probably don’t look closely at your roof every single day. Shingles can fall off your roof for a variety of reasons — strong winds can rip shingles right off, which causes a domino effect with the surrounding shingles.

Without shingles above it, your roof membrane is then exposed to damage from water and other forms of weather damage. Check your roof regularly for missing shingles, and if you notice any missing, get them replaced as soon as possible.

Poor Installation

Poor installation, clogged gutters and weather all take their toll on a roof. However, many of the problems listed above can be tied back to poor installation. If not properly installed, many components of your roof will experience more rapid deterioration than normal, or they may fail to work at all.

Roof installation is a complex process that requires a great amount of skill and knowledge — if you don’t have these skills or knowledge, it’ll be very hard to spot issues related to poor installation with the eye alone. These missteps can cause significant damage to your roof and subsequently, the interior of your home.

Most of these errors occur when an installer is trying to save time, money or both. No matter what your roofing problems may be, be sure to inspect your roof before every winter season. You never know what problems you might discover, and by checking your roof annually, you’ll prevent small problems from becoming serious ones.

If you don’t feel confident in your ability to identify roofing problems, try contacting a roofer to come inspect your roof.

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Megan Wild

Hey there! I'm Megan, I'm a home improvement writer, blogger, and real estate investor and observer. Check out my posts for housing trends and latest happenings in U.S. and Pennsylvania!


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