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Winter Roof Leaks: What You Should Know

March 1st, 2020 BY First American Roofing

When it comes to winter roof leaks, sometimes you may think you have one, but it’s really something else! Today we’re covering what is or isn’t a roof leak and how to tell.

If you believe your roof is leaking, but there’s no snow on the roof, and there’s no rain outside, it’s probably not a roof leak.

When it comes to roof leaks, a diagnosis is vital before attempting to fix anything on the roof.

The first question we ask customers complaining of a leaky roof is where do you see the water stains?

If the stains are near the outside, by an exterior wall, they are likely from an ice dam. Walk around your house and take a look at the roof. Do you see ice in the gutters? Any icicles? Lack of snow further up on the roof, but more at the bottom?

These symptoms are likely due to an ice dam. What happens is, since the snow cannot shed off properly, it leaks through your shingles and into the walls, which causes those stains near the outside of the ceiling. If you are noticing this now in the springtime, it could be a slow drip or remnants from what were ice dams along your gutters.

Multiple Small Stains Throughout the Ceiling

Do you see numerous small stains, almost like splatters, across your ceiling? This is very likely not a leaky roof. That’s simply condensation from cooking, cleaning, pets; you name it! Condensation gets into the attic and cannot exhaust out of the attic. So, in the winter months, that moisture turns to frost, then when it warms up, it melts and drips back down to the roof floor, causing those multiple drips and stains on your ceiling.

Your Bathroom Fan is Dripping or Leaking

If you notice your bathroom fan is leaking, you may think you have a roof leak near your fan. This is not the case.

What is actually happening is moisture gets up into the fan or vent hose, freezes in the winter, and as it melts in the spring, it drips back down through your bathroom fan. This is giving the illusion of a roof leak but is just moisture and condensati0on making its way back down.

You See Condensation on Your Skylight

Another common issue we get calls about is condensation on skylights. If you have skylights and they are dripping water, it’s likely because there is excess moisture in the home, not a leak in the skylight or roof.

Do you have a humidifier built into your furnace? If you do, you need to make sure it is always set relative to the temperature outside. If you have it set to 40-50% on a cold day, that is going to create a lot of moisture build-up inside your home—that is way too humid. If you notice condensation on your windows or skylights, then you have excess moisture in your home, and you should turn down that humidifier.

These are the most common things we hear from people that think they have a leaky roof. But it usually turns out to just be consequences of ice dams and condensation in the attic, bathroom fan, or your home.

In more cases than not, we end up not diagnosing an actual roof leak, but another issue related to condensation or recurring ice dams.

To find out more about how we use home performance testing to fix or prevent these issues, head to our website, or give us a call at 608-783-3101.

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