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5 Maintenance Tips to Help Prevent Roof Leaks

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One of the most common and costly issues homeowners call on a contractor for is to fix a leaky roof. Not surprisingly, most property owners do not have the expertise (or desire) to get onto their roofs and look for problems themselves.

However, even for a professional, the source of a leak can be elusive because it rarely lines up with where the water is getting into the home. Contractors need to become detectives to correctly identify the source of a leak and understand the path that water travels. Yet all of this pain can be avoided with a comprehensive maintenance program. Even the National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that roof inspection and maintenance be performed regularly to help avoid future problems.

After all, a homeowner wouldn’t expect:

• A furnace to perform efficiently if the filter was never replaced

• A car to run if the oil was never changed

Yet, they install a roof and think that’s the end of the story.

Before an inspection, the contractor should look around from the ground and ask the homeowner if there has been recent extreme weather, animals around the home, leaves, falling debris, trees, satellite or cable work, or an accident that caused damage to the roof.

Once on the roof, follow these 5 simple tips to help locate future leaks and show how a maintenance program can help identify potential problems before they cause damage.

  1. If it pops through the roof look at it. Penetrations are the most common leak sources and will stop the natural water flow off a roof. Look here first to find the source of the leak:
    • Chimneys. The top leak source. Does the chimney have a cricket? Is it properly step flashed and counter flashed? Does it need to be sealed?
    • Skylights. Water gets trapped behind them. Is the flashing in good repair? Is the skylight itself leaking?
    • Plumbing vents. Do the vent stacks have neoprene or rubber that has cracked with age? Do they need to be sealed or painted? Have critters chewed on the pipe or flashing?
    • Is the satellite or cable flashed properly?
  2. Living on the edge. A drip edge is not just aesthetically pleasing, it is important to help ensure water is kept away from the fascia and moved off the roof.
    • A common leak source in the eaves and cause of wood rot is a missing drip edge. Wind-driven rain will enter the gap between the roof deck and fascia board.
    • A drip edge also helps to keep out insects, critters, and snakes. Make sure to check the drip edge when looking for leaks.
  3. Every step I take. Areas where step flashing should be installed are a common leak source and maintenance item. Inspect these areas for damage:
    • Dormers
    • Roof-to-wall transitions
    • Wherever low-quality sealant or mastic has been used in the past
  4. What’s in YOUR attic? Many times, homeowners think the roof is the culprit, but problems can come from improper ventilation, plumbing, air conditioning, condensation, vent fans, and animal or bug infestation in the attic. Be on the lookout for:
    • Algae stains on interior plywood
    • The “M” word: mold
    • Soaked insulation when it hasn’t rained
    • Black rings or rust around nails, which is the first sign moisture is condensing in attic spaces
    • Is there a lack of ventilation that is causing the attic to overheat or accumulate moisture?
    • Are the intake vents clogged with paint, spider webs, dust, or insulation?
  5. Mind in the gutter. Many homeowners do not realize the importance of their gutters. They need to be installed and sloped properly to drain, tightly fastened, and free of debris. Contractors should stress to homeowners that gutter maintenance should be left to a professional. Advise them of the risks of climbing onto a ladder. Check out our video: “How to Stay Safe” – Mastering the Roof.

This is a basic list of maintenance suggestions, but GAF offers a comprehensive roof inspection checklist to Certified™ and Master Elite® Contractors. All contractors can explain to their customers that a preventive maintenance plan consisting of periodic inspections (generally in the fall and spring), routine maintenance, and minor repairs can help avoid costly problems down the road. A thorough inspection, performed regularly by a professional roofing contractor, can monitor the roof’s condition and help prevent small problems from becoming major roof leaks.

Learn more about roof problems in our video: “Key Danger Signals” – Mastering the Roof.

Discover even more maintenance ideas through GAF’s technical advisories available to contractors at their fingertips.

Related article:

10 Things to Do at Key Leak Areas

There are 87 comments

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  1. Joe Braxton

    Just always check your roof if there is a leak and if there is a leak, call right away a professional to repair it. I found this one very useful been reading your blogs since last week.

  2. Joe Braxton

    This is a lot of helpful information throughout this entire post. I’m not an expert roofing professional, but planning to be one soon. All of this info is still new to me. New knowledge here. A huge thanks dude!

  3. Jason

    These are great tips to prevent roof leaks. Water intrusion the biggest problem for homeowners so taking some time to limit this is good practice. Thanks for the article.

  4. Gutter Guard Adelaide

    Great post, wondering if there is much of a discussion about gutter guards and other gutter protection systems? Check out how to install a quality metal gutter guard system that can handle the heaviest of tree debris.

  5. Ajdak

    What a Great post. Useful information shared from your end. Roof leaks are uncertain and untimely. To take care of them on priority basics is the important. It might cost a lot if not taken care of at the right point of time. Majority of the individuals pay no attention to and miscalculate the importance of their gutter. What they don’t realize is that if their gutter is clogged or damaged, it will result in roof leak. So being alert and cautious is critical. Thanks for sharing.
    Keep posting and Keep sharing.

  6. Lindsey Hill @roof repair tips

    First of all thanks for sharing this informative tips. It is a fact that your leaky roof will definitely turn into a costly repair process, if you’ll not take care of it in time. Everyone now that roof leaks problem damage the interior of our house. This post is really helpful you ave shared great information here.

  7. Karen

    This was very helpful, we had our roof replaced about five years ago. I do not think they replaced the gutters at that time. We started having leaks last winter when there was heavy snow fall, freezing and thawing all season. It was hard to tell if the roof was permanently damaged so the insurance company paid to repair the interior and that was that. Now whenever we have a heavy rain the leaks are back. Was the roof damaged from the snow, should I go back to the insurance company? We have had several roofing companies come for repair estimates, they are giving a range of repair solutions, replace the gutters…, put some sort of flashing between the house a gutters and repair… we do not like to throw away good materials if they can be repaired. Should the guy that install the new roof be called in? Please help with good advice….

    • Liza Barth

      You may want your insurance company to return or go to the GAF contractor locator to find a certified contractor near you. It’s hard for us to assess the issue from here without seeing the problem, but a good, reputable contractor should be able to help. Good luck.

  8. Gutter Guard Adelaide

    Installing Gutter guards can often prevent gutters and down pipes getting blocked up on a regular basis often causing many roof leaks if the gutters and down pipes remain filled with tree debris and other rubbish. So many roof leaks are caused by blocked gutters and people often pay for roof repairs they do not need and forget or simply do not know that blocked up gutters and down spouts will result in roof leaks.

  9. Jack Lara

    Great advice for homeowners, and I plan to share this with my folks on social media. The article certainly addressed the key warning signs, but I like to tell my customers that there are less obvious signs of the coming end to their roof. As a roofer, I can’t help but notice dark spots on any roof I look at even if it is a just casual drive by. The dark spots happen with the roofing granules start to fall off and the dark tar is exposed.

    Now, this does not necessarily mean a leak is going to happen right there, but it does indicate your roof is old or starting to fail. The exposed shingles are not as protected and they are vulnerable to all kinds of environmental hazards.
    Bottom line—look for the dark spots on your roof too!

  10. Lawerence

    If you want your roof leak proof then maintenance is must . There are many contractors who don’t charge to repair the roof. Choose your roofing contractors carefully. Great post,keep sharing such useful articles !

  11. roofing repair

    Roofing repair is mainly hosted by the talented expert where the main aim is offer achieving from the damaged layers and even offer a layer or a cover for the damaged roof which should be repaired and well maintained by the roofers.

  12. Shawn P

    I think every home owners or business owners should do a regular maintenance of their roof just to make sure that there’s nothing wrong or there’s no leak. It is safe that way that to spend tons of money repairing it.

  13. Vicki

    Thanks for this post. So many homeowners don’t pay for regular maintenance checks on their roofs because they don’t want to spend the money. Little do they know, fixing leaks and having to repair an entire roof will cost them so much more!

  14. Michele

    Thanks a lot for sharing these tips. Here in Toronto, we have problems like ice damming during the winter. But we have roof rakes to remove the ice from the rooftops. We also used to get seasonal repairs for the roof. Companies like Royal York Roofing in Toronto offers this service. But the problem is that serious conditions like cracks on chimney can’t be fixed easily.

  15. AnnaLevis

    These are the great tip to prevent roof leaks and also focusing on these things can easily stop water damage which will create a big stress to us. You have shared fantastic post i will definitely follow these steps.

  16. Fernando

    Great post! All roofs require a maintenance check. The last thing a home owner wants is to be in need of an emergency roof repair when it’s too late. Take care of the roof over your head, and it’ll take care of yours!

  17. ARSroof

    All roofs require maintenance no matter what the weather conditions are, being the Homeowner be aware of the condition of your ROOF at purchase and keep track with YOUR local roofer and they will advise you on your proper steps to maintain your roofs conditions and when there are very bad weather condition notify your roofing contractor to do a simple walk over to access any damage. At ARS American Roofing Solutions LLC. here in Houston, Texas we have 100’s of clients that all have maintenance programs set in place and we have them all covered under all weather conditions and there don’t have to worry about there roof WE DO !

  18. Eugene

    Great tips. One other problem could be if there is a flat roof in a rainy state. Gotta always make sure the gutters are clean, no holes and if water puddles get ’em out. I used to live in Seattle in old condo and had this issue.

  19. Aria Wellington

    I really like your tip about looking at your gutters. My sister and her husband recently moved into a new home and they have had a few leaks in their roof. They were planning on doing some renovations anyway but the need for them has been pushed up quite a bit. They noticed that a lot of their gutters were full of debris and weren’t draining the water properly. That is something they will have to be sure to fix, thank you for sharing!

  20. leeshin

    Awesome post, roof restoration is the process which helps in maintaining the quality of the roof as well as the house over the long duration. the above discussion gave some beneficial stuff regarding roof restoration process.

  21. Maglepie Grits

    I agree that satellites are good to inspect on a regular basis because at any time they can begin to cause leakage in the roof of a house. My family had a satellite dish on the roof of one of our homes, and sadly, I don’t know if we ever inspected the roofing surrounding it. As far as I know, we lucked out, but that would not have been an easy house to fix leakage because of how high the ceiling was from the floor.

  22. Cal Driver

    Thanks for these great suggestions for preemptive roof leak fixes. By the time the roof starts dripping, it can be too late! I’ve lived in the Southern US for a little while, and a leaky roof during the rainy season is the worst. Great to know that there’s something you can do before you have a roof emergency.

  23. hinslk

    Great tips admin!! We had faced a huge lot of problems because of the leakage and finally we took the help of Brothers plumbing. They found that the leakage were due to leakage in broken pipes and we got it clear and yes!!! The gutter post is really useful.

  24. Vergese

    Thanks for nice blog,
    You included different tips which help to prevent roof leaks. Regular inspection and maintenance are necessary for your roof just like your car. If you want to prevent leaks, you need to inspect, repair and keep it clean. Professional roof cleaning company can also help you with all your roof maintenance needs and provide the best services to prevent major problems.

  25. Rob Benton

    I would never have thought to look in the attic for reasons a roof is leaking. I have always thought that roofing issues come from the roof itself. It’s interesting though that no matter how well a roof is constructed, it can still leak if there are issues in the attic.

  26. Jack Moore

    These are some really great tips! I never really thought about it, but it makes perfect sense that the roof should need to be checked often. I do my best to check my roof every year in the middle of fall, so that if there are any issues, heavy snowfall doesn’t make them worse. Thanks for writing!

  27. Richard Lebatelier

    I agree that the gutter is a more important factor in keeping a roof in good condition than many people realize, as the article suggests. A clogged gutter can result in leaks, which can end up being a rather costly problem to deal with. Checking the gutters regularly to make sure they are clear and in good condition can be a good way to avoid serious problems.

  28. Bryce Trout

    I have shingle roofing, like most people and I really needed some tips about how to maintain it. I really liked what you said about checking it if it pops up. It really makes sense because if it is sticking up, it doesn’t look normal, so something must be wrong. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Brook

    These are awesome tips! Roof maintenance is so important if you don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised by a leak. I love the tip about keeping your mind in the gutter. I feel like a lot of people forget to take proper care of their gutters. The post mentions that gutters need to remain free of debris. Do you have any tips for making sure that happens?

  30. Jennifer Andrews

    Thank you for the post. With winter coming I want to make sure that any roof repairs that need to happen are done, but I also want to know what to look out for in terms on maintenance. I like the tip on checking your attic for soak insulation as well as other things. We have a very low attic so we don’t go up there often but it needs to be done.

  31. melody brown

    I didn’t realize so many things about gutters were important. It makes sense that having them installed properly and working efficiently could help prevent roof leaks. I am going to have someone look at my gutters to make sure they are working properly and installed correctly.

  32. Veronica Marks

    I was just eyeballing our gutters yesterday and wondering if we needed to get them cleaned out before winter. It’s probably been over a year since we last had them done. After reading about the problems that can come from not having clean gutters, I’ll definitely be calling someone! Thanks!

  33. Bryce Trout

    The roof of my home has had a few minor leaks pop up recently and just like the article stated I have been considering hiring a roofing contractor to come replace it. Hopefully the problem is just a simple fix and the information in this article will save me a lot of money! If I still can’t figure out the problem I will also take a suggestion from the article and call a contractor. Thank you for sharing though, this information has been really helpful.

  34. Daniela Adams

    I cannot agree more on not waiting to fix a roof! Last time we didn’t do it in time, and we ended up being almost flooded! After that accident, we always look for any leaks and fix any roof issues as soon as they come up.

  35. Cheryl Smith

    I recently had my roof redone because the drip edge was missing. I knew that having this flashing between the roof and gutters was important. I never realized that without it, I would have so many problems. Hopefully, now that drip edge is installed properly, I will not have any more leaks.

  36. Tips To Help Prevent Roof Leaks | Murdock Remodeling – (973)462-5458

    […] One of the biggest issues in the roofing industry is the fact that many homeowners wait until they have a roof leak before considering a new roof or roof repair. There are some tell-tale signs of an aging roof that will help you, the homeowner, save money on roof repairs and interior water damage from roof leaks. A roof leak is not something anyone wants to deal with or is ever really prepared to deal with. Roof leaks require immediate action and can become costly depending on where or how long the roof is or has been leaking. The GAF Pro Blog has listed some great maintenance tips for homeowners to help prevent roof leaks. For more information click the link to the right: Maintenance Tips To Help Prevent Roof Leaks […]

  37. Carter Michaelson

    My wife and I have been having a lot of leaking problems with our roof here in West Monroe, Louisiana. We really want to get it taken care of before all of the storms start to hit. We have been looking into roofing services to come and help us with the issues. I have been wanting to do some research about preventing this in the future and this helped immensely. Thank you for sharing!

  38. Audrey Blakeney

    Roof leaks are sadly very common with older homes. I recently bought a turn of the century house, and I find that it leaks during every large rain storm. The first tip you shared about checking around things that penetrate the roof to prevent leaking is a very smart thing to do. So far, the leak is contained to one area of roof, but I will be sure to check all other possible areas like chimneys as you suggested. Thank you for making me aware of more areas I should secure to prevent more roof leaks.

  39. Eric Blaise

    Excellent article on detecting the source of roofing leaks. My most common cause of roofing leaks has always been normal wear and tear. All year long, the roof of your home is burdened with snow, the heat of the sun, and pouring rains. You can imagine how much of a toll it is taking on the sealants and roofing material. Yes, the roof is designed to take that type of punishment, but if it is not inspected occasionally, a problem can, and will arise that will become more extensive, if timely inspections are not done, that will help discover a flaw before it worsens.

  40. Ashley Reed

    The chimney could be the culprit in our leak. I can’t figure out where it’s coming from, so I’m going to call someone out to look at it. I’ll climb up there one more time and see if I can find an issue with the chimney. It’s really old, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

  41. Brook

    Thanks for these 5 roof maintenance tips! I feel like the first one is one of the easiest, and most important! If something pops through the roof, you should definitely take a look at it. I always think it’s best to address a problem as soon as it arises. Otherwise, you run the risk of letting it get even worse. That could end up costing you a lot of money in the long run!

  42. Jessy Shaw

    My husband and I just moved to Augusta, GA and we discovered quite a few leaks in our roof after a storm. We had buckets everywhere. I am calling in roof repair and hopefully get everything sorted out. I hope I won’t have to buy more buckets! Thanks for the tips and advice!

  43. Tom Shrill

    I always hear about how easily skylights can let leaks in. My roof is just a good solid wood and tar shingle roof, and I haven’t had a leak yet. I would highly suggest caution over style.

  44. Brandon Roberts

    There was a huge storm that rolled through my neighborhood the other day, and it turns out that my roof isn’t as strong as I thought it was. I had a few leaks after that day. But, I called someone and had them fixed up. I really want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. So I really appreciate you talking about what things I could be doing to prevent my roof from having leaks. I’ll make sure I try these out right away. Thanks a ton for the help.

  45. Serge Duval

    Flashing being a potential issue is mentioned multiple times in the article. That goes to show that it should be done by someone with experience. If you’re looking to make a DIY project out of your roof, make sure you’ve at least asked for advice from someone who’s experienced in the field. Sometimes Youtube videos are also a good source of instruction, but make sure you check the comments and see how people are reviewing the video. Happy leak stopping!

  46. Eli

    I would like to echo the importance of keeping your roof well maintained because leaks cause too many problems if they are not detected early. As mentioned under “What’s in your attic,” many of the problems can start there. You really don’t want to have to replace molded wood or rotted insulation. It is much easier to regularly check the roof and replace questionable tiles.

  47. Chris Davidson

    Thanks for the friendly article. Just like a car, regular maintenance is required to keep it operating at peak efficiency. The most overlooked inspection point I’m noticing in our area is the ventilation. Many home owners never realize that their power fan went out years ago.

  48. Eric Blaise

    It is good advice to ask homeowners to have their roofs checked in order to ensure that it is integrally sound. Because it is a part of the structure that is not always easily accessible, many homeowners neglect the roof. The only times the roof is addressed is if there is visible damage a part of the structure, if there are leaks, or if there is an object on it that needs to be retrieved. The roof seldom fails, but just as the article mentions, you shouldn’t wait for something bad to happen before addressing it.

  49. Drew

    These are great tips for checking fro leaks in your roof. Safety is key and everything else can follow so it’s important to be careful and pay attention to the signs. Thanks for posting.

  50. Anne

    Thanks for these excellent. The tpo roof of my office is undegoing it’s yearly maintenance. proper maintenance is very important to prevent roof leaks. A leaky roof can create a lot of headache for us and it can damage the house itself. So it is very important to prevent roof leaks.

  51. Gaston Montminy

    It’s true that a leaky roof isn’t usually the thing people want to have to worry about when it comes to maintaining a house. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the most pressing issue. I appreciate the list of things that commonly cause leaks. I’ve had troubles with my chimney in the past. It’s definitely a good thing to get taken care of before you’re in the middle of a rainstorm. Thanks for the article!

  52. Nathalie Garnier

    As the article explains, roof leaks can be much harder to find than one might think, as the source isn’t always near where the problem is detected. My husband recently spent hours on the roof trying to find where the water was getting in and ultimately had to call a professional. Ever for the professional, it took a fair amount of time to find the source, and it wasn’t even close to where my husband had been looking.

  53. Phillius Thomas

    No one in my neighborhood takes care of their gutters. It’s a bit odd that they wouldn’t know what you are supposed to do with the gutter. I guess, with some people, if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.

  54. Jimmy

    Really useful article, some great tips. Really great to finally see some info on how to prevent leaks, not just spot them once they happen!

  55. Gaston Parizeau

    I certainly could have profited from reading these tips several months ago, when I had a leak in my roof that required some repair work. What I had neglected is what the last tip talks about, maintaining my gutters. I, unfortunately, forgot to clear them regularly and they got fairly clogged with debris, causing the aforementioned problems.

  56. Jim Sanders

    Making sure your roof is well maintained will save you from doing major repairs from water damage later. It’s exactly like your car analogy, if you don’t ever change the oil, the thing’s going to stop working some day. Thanks for the article.

  57. gary birtles

    It is very true that most people underestimate the importance of their gutter. What they don’t realize is that the gutter plays a huge role in reducing the risk of water damage on a roof. If a gutter is damaged, clogged, and neglected, the result can be a roof leak. This ends up costing money they may have not even needed to pay.

  58. Ashley Reed

    After we had to replace our whole roof, we decided that the best way to keep it up and running was to check on it. My husband or I will go up onto the roof every three months, sweep it clean, and check for any damaged shingles. It’s helped up spot problems with the roof early on, so we could get it fixed before it got too serious.

  59. Kelsey Higgins

    Thank you for the great tips! The last house my husband and I lived in had a leaky roof and we dealt with the repercussions of it for the entire time we lived there. It’s nice to know where to look and what to look for in order to ensure that we don’t face the same problem in our current house. I’ll have to make sure to keep an extra close eye on the chimney!

  60. Megan

    These are some great points. I never really thought of the fact that a leaky roof doesn’t necessarily mean a broken roof. I guess it could also mean a problem with the attic. Also I totally agree that it’s important to pay attention to the gutters on a roof. If they don’t work correctly, rain water might not drain right, and that could definitely lead to roof problems. Awesome article.

  61. Mark

    Great post, roof leaks can be untimely and you need to take care of them as soon as possible! If you don’t you could end up with more damage in the long run!

  62. Kings Gutter Guards

    Yeah, so much damage is caused from people not cleaning out their gutters on a regular basis. If your gutters leak the first place to check is the downpipes around your home because sometimes a tennis ball or something else could simply be blocking your downpipes.

  63. Phillius Thomas

    I didn’t realize that having your roof in good repair and leak free also will keep out a bunch of critters. It’s a good thing to know when you have a ton of bugs in the area. All the tips I can get on that I will take.

  64. Ronald Bryan

    Jason, I never thought about the skylight as a point where leaks happen a lot. My sister has one in her home, and she has been having leaks recently. Maybe she should find a contractor to fix it for her.

  65. Davey Hiltzs

    I didn’t think that replacing the gutters could have had that kind of a difference. We’ve been dealing with leaks for a few weeks now and it’s about time that we take care of them all. We’re thinking of just replacing the roof in and of itself. We’d much rather though, just fix things up and save ourselves the money. New roofs aren’t cheap these days.

  66. Carl Cantrell

    Thanks for sharing these tips. Whether we like it or not, even well-built roof will eventually wear out. It is best to regularly inspect your roof, gutter and other stuff at your house to prevent further damage and to save you tons of money for hiring a home maintenance professionals. Thanks again and advance happy new year to you!

  67. Scott

    Besides animals and acts of Mother Nature. There’s no need for inspections on the roofs I do. I recommend replacing pipe flange in 10 to 15yrs. The rubber gasket on the flange will deteriorate before roof needs to be replaced.;)

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