Roof leaking slowly. Sanity going a little faster.
February 2, 2018 11:21 AM   Subscribe

My 2009 composition shingle roof has a couple of leaks causing small wet spots on the ceiling drywall. I’m turning myself in knots trying to figure out short vs long term fixes in a wet Seattle winter.

It started last summer, but a roofer patched a nail hole and it stopped. Now it’s back and a second roofer’s patch has only slowed the leak. The most recent roofer also let on that the 2009 roof didn’t include plywood over the shiplap boards, which will often void the shingle warranty as it leads to exactly this type of premature failure. Googling whether plywood is needed over shiplap gets mixed opinions, however. It also sounds like there are more nails that look to start leaking soon. Attic area is not very accessible.

I’ve emailed the original installer but gotten no response as yet. I’m also getting bids on an entirely new roof, this time being sure to include the plywood layer. As you can imagine, this is CRAZY expensive. Anyhoo, my questions:

1. Is it reasonable to expect the original installer to do anything after all this time? I don’t see an explicit warranty on any docs I can find (I had a newborn at the time, my organization was crap), but he did say to email if any problems ever arise.
2. Is it wise to contact my home insurance? I’m leery of being accused of not responding sooner, though the ceiling damage is still minor. Would they be of any help with the original roofer? My pipe dream would be to get a proper new roof and have them pay for it.
3. Any other short-term fixes beyond tarping the roof? It would be at least a few weeks until any new roof could go on, even if I signed a contract today, and even getting a callback is rare at this point.

My stress skyrockets anytime it rains more than a drizzle, which is OFTEN in February. Anyone dealt with a similar situation? My blood pressure thanks you.
posted by sapere aude to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
 
Man, I feel you -- we had a drip for several years and several roofer visits before somebody realized there was no flashing between our house and the adjoining townhouse (facepalm). The worst is that the water can be getting in somewhere else and running down to drip where you see the spots.

A few thoughts: (1) after you fix the roof, get somebody to make you a hatch into the attic -- even if it's just big enough to stick your head up from inside a closet or something, it will allow flashlight access, so you can see the source of any future leaks (which we hope you won't have!). (2) it doesn't hurt to contact the original roof installer, if you know who it is -- being able to trace a history might resonate with him and at least get you a free sealing of all nail holes and other protrusions. (3) you can look at the terms of your home insurance -- there may be exclusions for things like wear and tear, builder misbehavior, etc.; you can also call in just to ask the question. (4) can't think of anything short-term other than, as I said, somebody with a bucket of sealer going around all the chimneys and other holes in the roofing material, to do what they can. not sure anybody will do that if they're doing the whole thing later -- your house is unlikely to turn to mold over a couple of weeks if it's survived this long.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Do you have an attic? Do you have buckets? We had a leak that started about 3 months before we were planning to get a whole new roof (and 3 months before rains tended to slow). My husband got up there with a bucket and I tapped on the underside of the ceiling where the leak was and he was able to see where and why it was coming in and put a bucket in place. Then you have to worry about the bucket filling up....

I think phoning the roofer and asking him to come help with your roof is a good bet. Maybe be willing to pay him and not worry so much about getting it for free. If it was an option to go for full plywood and you declined, there may not be a warranty to stand by.
posted by amanda at 12:19 PM on February 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


1. Maybe, consult #2 first
2. Yes, just call and talk to your agent like you're a person with a problem and some questions.
3. If it's any consolation, I live in a NIMBY neighborhood with some houses that are older, likely were inherited, and are sometimes in subtle disrepair. One of these houses across the street from me tarped their roof for at least 3 years. The world didn't end.
posted by rhizome at 12:23 PM on February 2, 2018


Update: The attic is somewhat accessible; it's low-pitch and filled with 18" of blown in insulation, however. The leaks are happening near the front edge of the house, so there's effectively no reasonable access there.

Thanks for the responses.
posted by sapere aude at 1:03 PM on February 2, 2018


Well, where the leaks show up don't necessarily mean that is where they are.

If you had a contract with the roofer, their paperwork should have provided some level of guarantee. But, likely less than 5 years, with the shingles themselves likelt 20-30. But if it's a nail versus the shingles.. yeah.

But I'd call the roofer and say it's leaking and see where that leads.

Otherwise, tracking down the exact leak location is difficult on your own. If the second roofer found it, then a patch should have done the job.

You could also double-shingle the roof, or strip the section leaking and just re-do that. But that presents its own issues. The flex seal stuff doesn't work. Tarping will.
posted by rich at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


As for your leakage, I'd stretch on the blue tarp until you can get a new roof in place.

It's expensive (unless you are married to Mr. Fixer-Upper, then get ready to climb the scaffolding) but a metal roof will be there after you die. Really, I am sitting under a 50-year roof that I helped install, and it is so much better than dealing with missing composite shingles during the first 25 years of ownership.
When the wind dies down, our next lakeside cottage project is laying out a plywood deck over the metal joists, then fastening roofing to the metal perlins. To my surprise, there will be no roofing plywood. Hey, I'm just labor, not the architect (Mr. Fixer-Upper).
Don't walk on the metal roof.

When you reroof, can you strip the roof down? With our metal roof we needed to take off the shingles and replace some plywood to prevent cupping over some of the older material.
We used Ice and Water Shield at the roof edges (it sticks) and regular tar paper over the rest, and caulked all the tar paper nails as we went. Then we fastened in each long strip of metal.
There's a trick to it, but it fastens up much quicker than composite shingles. We did shingles twice, and the lakeside cottage will be our third metal project. We are talking a couple of weekends for amateurs to do a metal roof, with gutters and multiple levels.
Get an experienced metal roofer if you go that route. Check with your house insurance about a discount. Check about Energy Star tax credits and rebates.
posted by TrishaU at 11:24 PM on February 2, 2018


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