Roof Leaks

DEAR MIKE: The last time it rained, I noticed a small stain on my ceiling. I have an asphalt shingle roof and I'm guessing that I have a roof leak, but I don't know quite how to go about fixing it. Please give me some guidance. -- Ruben L.

DEAR RUBEN: Roof leaks can be one of the toughest problems to diagnose and to fix. I personally hate roof leaks. They always seem to be somewhere other than where you think they are.

Ceiling stains can be the result of several things, one of which is a roof leak. It sounds like you have a roof problem since the leak only occurs when it rains.

The stain on your ceiling may be the result of a roof leak directly above it, but maybe not. The actual leak may be occurring farther up the roof, running down a rafter, and finally dripping down on the ceiling where you see the stain.

You have two choices: call in a roofer, or grab a flashlight and a ladder.

If you like to be tortured, then grab your flashlight and head to the attic. It is especially helpful if you can get in to the attic while it is raining and see the leak as it happens.

The stain on your ceiling will give you the starting point. Look on the underside of the roof with the flashlight. Look for stains and follow them to the point of origin.

Check roof penetrations where vents come through the roof. Pay close attention to where the roof meets walls or valleys.

When the roof changes directions or meets another part of the roof, flashing is installed. Flashing is a typical cause of a roof leak. If you don't have any experience with flashing, leave it to a pro.

Go up on the roof and look for problems. Curling or damaged shingles will be pretty obvious. If you have a lot of curling shingles, it may be time to bite the bullet and pay to have your roof replaced.

If you don't have a lot of experience with roofing, stay away from it. About the only project you may want to tackle is replacing an asphalt shingle.

Asphalt shingles are nailed at the rear of the tabs and the shingle laying over it covers the nails. Underneath the shingle is a strip of roof sealant that holds each tab to the shingle beneath it. So as each course of shingles are installed over the previous one, they are nailed into place so that the exposed tabs cover the nails of the previous course.

You must first remove the damaged shingle. You have to break through the roof sealant strip to free the tab. Use a stiff putty knife and slide it both underneath the damaged shingle and on top of it. Use a sawing motion to cut through.

Stick a pry bar under the nail heads and goose them out of the shingle. Do the same thing for the shingle directly on top of the damaged one, and pull out the damaged shingle. You can buy replacement shingles at a home center or, for a variety of colors, go to a roofing wholesaler.

Slide the new shingle into place by lifting up the tabs of the shingle above it. Use galvanized roofing nails and secure the shingle by gently lifting the tabs on the shingle above it and nailing it into place above the tab slots.

Buy some roof cement (the kind you use in a caulking gun) and squeeze a bead onto the new shingle where the tabs from the shingle above it will lay. Push the tabs into the cement and hope this solves your problem. 

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