determining the cause of a roof leak

Old 06-16-03, 01:13 PM
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Exclamation determining the cause of a roof leak

I'm on the board of a homeowner's association in Atlanta GA. One of our units has had a roof leak for several months now. We have hired two different roofing companies who have made over 6 attempts to fix the leak. We have spent thousands of dollars, but the roof continues to leak. Attempted solutions include removing and repairing roof decking, resealing the flashing, removing and rebuilding the entire chimney, adding a cricket and finally replacing the chimney pan. But again, the roof continues to leak.

These roofing companies seem to be taking a trial-and-error approach and making very little effort to determine the cause of the leak. Can anyone tell me if there are ways to manually test for a roof leak without waiting for the next downpour? The obvious answer is spray the roof with a hose, but we have had more than one roofer tell us that this does not accurately recreate what happens when it rains. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Also, if anyone is a reputable roofer in the Atlanta and you are willing to back your work with a written guarantee to fix this leak, our association will gladly give your company the contract for this job - and any future work we can provide.
Old 06-16-03, 07:48 PM
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Roof leaks

Roof leaks can sometimes be mysteries. A small opening in the roof covering in an obscure place can cause a trickle that will drizzle across your roof and come in some place far from the source of the problem. Of course, most of us think that the source is just above where the leak trickles through the ceiling. It is not always so. Patching. Patching around flashing and flanges. This will not always work. Sometimes the problem is where a roof joins another portion of the structure. Patching that flashing will not always solve the problem.

The only way to resolve the problem is to rip off the entire roof and replace roofing, damaged deck board, flashing, and flanges around vents and flashing around chimneys. That means starting from scratch.

I once lived in a home that had a flat roof addition for a family room. The tin roof leaked. I sealed every seam, sealed around chimney, and double sealed the flashing where the roof joined the main house. It did not leak after every rain. I had covered every square inch of that roof. And, this little person got tired of climbing ladders with buckets and trowels to inspect and patch. No possible way it could leak after all my hard work, yet it did. Fortunately, my husband got transferred and the leak was behind me. If I had had the money, I would have ripped off the roof and started from scratch. And, it remains a mystery to this day.

The only way to assure a roof will not leak is to completely reroof. Remove old roofing inspect decking and replace any damage. Replace all flanges and flashing.

Get at least 3 estimates and go with a licensed and professional contractor. Hire one that has liability and workers' compensation insurance. Request certificates and call agencies to see if insurance is current. Get references and call and/or go see their work. Liability insurance will protect you if work is not done properly and if they damage your property in the process of the installation. Workers' Comp covers any injuries that may occur while they are working on your property. Your property insurance will not cover workers injured on your property.
Old 06-16-03, 08:45 PM
bungalow jeff
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You mentioned rebuilding the chimneys. Have the entire chimeny linings been inspected? Deteriorated flues leak and the water travels across framing to come into the house in odd areas, causing many to assume a roof leak.

Good luck.
Old 06-17-03, 05:20 AM
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Roof Leak

Thanks to twelvepole and bungalow jeff for your responses. It sounds like our next step might be reroofing the entier unit.

bungalow jeff, to answer you question: the "chimney" is not a brick chimney, but is really just a stucco frame with vent pipe. Our community's fireplaces are gas. As i mentioned the chimney pan has recently been replaced and the rest of the "chimney" and ventilation seems to be in good condition.

Getting back to my question regarding testing the leak - does anyone know if using a garden hose and a spray nozzle to test a leak is a viable? If we do replace the entire roof, we would like to know if the leak has been fixed PRIOR to the next downpour.
Old 06-17-03, 10:35 AM
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I have used a hose with limitted success. The trick is to start at the low part of the roof and work up and dump enough water and wait long enough for water to find its way to the interior. If you don't dump enough water or wait long enough before you move up the roof, you may get a false indication of where the leak is. How do you know how much or how long? Unfortunately, you don't.

I sure would try the hose approach before re-roofing the whole thing. And the one roofer was right, it does not accurately recreate what happens during a rain, but it's sometimes better than trial and error.

Old 06-18-03, 04:32 PM
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You have gotten alot of good advice. I would just add one thing to Bruce's hose approach. Have someone (usually a small person) crawl up into the crawl space in the rafters, with a good flashlight. At some point on some rafter or truss or roof sheeting, drops have to appear, this is usually the area of a hole. Also is it everytime it rains or just when the rain is from a certain direction ?
Hang in there, and we may be able to save you some money.

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