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Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 09-25-2006, 12:07 AM   #1
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Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by d
... my parents suffered from a problem roof for years ... only to discover the hard way that the leak was indeed from a water pipe. (when the pipe finally burst, it was clear that for those many years a slight dripping from an upstairs bathroom had been finding its way to the other side of the house which was but one story.)
I'll split this post off because I'm bragging feeling relieved that our own roof leaks may finally be plugged.

They started ten years ago when the roofer recycled some old flashing along one wall-- the flashing looked like it had been used for target practice with shotguns. Every once in a while a heavy rain would hit that wall from an unusual angle, back up the flow, and seep through the flashing holes into the cavity above our kitchen ceiling. It didn't happen very often, but after a half-dozen years it finally worked its way through the ceiling drywall and announced itself.

Over the next two rainy seasons we tried to figure out the problem. Every time we thought we'd cleared the flowpaths or patched the right crack, the next rainstorm would prove us wrong. Finally, in desperation, we started reading home improvement roofing books and decided to check the flashing. Once we pulled up a couple shingles it was obvious. $5 of flashing and two afternoons of labor took care of it.

We stopped the kitchen leak but a smaller leak became apparent in the ground-floor familyroom. That one's been with us for three years of troubleshooting, including re-coating the lanai's Brai torch-on roof. We even caulked a couple cracks in the second-story siding and caulked all the way around the second-story picture window. No joy.

While I was caulking one last crack on a trim board, we think my spouse found & solved the problem. She noticed that the drain holes on the second-story picture windows were plugged with a couple decades' worth of gunk. Rain would hit the window glass, drip down to the frame, and puddle on the outside until it seeped down through the sill & into the wall. She cleaned them out with cotton swabs and now the stain on our familyroom ceiling is drying out. One or two more heavy rainstorms and we'll declare victory!

We used the island's best roofer for the roof coating and they never brought up the windows. I can't imagine how many roofing contractors (and thousands of dollars) we would have gone through before discovering THAT solution.

I bet that if we'd thought to check the drain holes before doing anything else then we would've saved ourselves a lot of labor...
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 09-25-2006, 09:20 AM   #2
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Pro's consider caulk a backup system. A proper job shouldn't even need caulk to not leak. Also to find leaks, try to think like a drop of water.
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 09-25-2006, 09:26 AM   #3
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

A few months ago I added about 12" of blow-in cellulose insulation in our attic. I like a lot of the features of this stuff (compared to fiberglass), but it will absorb water, potentially a lot of water, before wetness appears on the ceiling. Added to the fact that our ceiling is plaster over drywall, and the fact that our roof is probably 20 years old. and I'm very interested in learning right away if I have a leak.

It's very messy/difficult to crawl around in the attic I'm accepting any tips/ideas on how I might detect a roof leak in the early stages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by riskaverse
. Also to find leaks, try to think like a drop of water.
"Be the drip"
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 09-25-2006, 10:52 AM   #4
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
the flashing looked like it had been used for target practice with shotguns.
You're not saying there were actual holes in the flashing, right?

-------------

I've been through this game a few times. Sometimes taking the hose up onto the roof can help, although it takes a while for the water to soak through things.
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 09-25-2006, 01:10 PM   #5
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
A few months ago I added about 12" of blow-in cellulose insulation in our attic. I like a lot of the features of this stuff (compared to fiberglass), but it will absorb water, potentially a lot of water, before wetness appears on the ceiling. Added to the fact that our ceiling is plaster over drywall, and the fact that our roof is probably 20 years old. and I'm very interested in learning right away if I have a leak.
It's very messy/difficult to crawl around in the attic I'm accepting any tips/ideas on how I might detect a roof leak in the early stages.
Good luck with thinking like a drip-- like Samclem says you have to be up there when it's dripping.

We rented a 70-year-old house (with a 30-year-old 2nd story addition) like that in San Diego. It rains so rarely that roof leaks are almost ignored, but once or twice a year homeowners would really regret that attitude.

Our leak in that house came from a joint between stucco & siding where the drip edge hadn't been properly caulked. Rain was seeping in the top, under the joint into the 2nd story attic, down the wall, along a roof joist (under the cellulose insulation), and spreading out along the ground-floor study ceiling. The only way we solved that mystery was to go attic-crawling at night in February. Again the whole problem was fixed with a few feet of caulk. I don't think any of the insulation ever got wet enough to see the symptoms.

I don't think I've ever noticed a roof leak before it's stained a ceiling. In an insulated attic it's probably even more hopeless, but at least you could check the sheathing & trusses for water stains... pretty hard to tell if it's not already raining.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
You're not saying there were actual holes in the flashing, right?
Oooh yeah-- many.

Each piece of flashing down a 15-foot stretch of roof/wall had at least three or four holes in it. They were either recycled from an earlier roof or the roofer's crystal methamphetamine habit was interfering with his aim. There was one nail in each piece of flashing and the holes just let backed-up water seep under the roofing felt.

New flashing was easy to buy & cut & install. The real pain was pulling the siding off the studs and tracing the water stains to make sure tht we didn't have a more serious problem. (Then, of course, "as long as it's been taken apart", we added reflective foil insulation to the studs, cleaned up the whole void, wrestled the siding back on without messing up the flashing, and painted everything.) I was pretty pissed off at how ridiculously tedious & difficult the whole thing was but a few months later we had 40 consecutive days of rain from that direction and I was darn glad we'd stuck with it.
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 09-25-2006, 06:06 PM   #6
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

DH says that caulk, even properly installedl caulk, is temporary.
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 10-09-2006, 09:55 AM   #7
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
I bet that if we'd thought to check the drain holes before doing anything else then we would've saved ourselves a lot of labor...
We had a huge Kona rain last night, like a firehose leak check. Everything's dry.

Now it's time to teach our kid about painting ceilings with Kilz!
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 10-09-2006, 10:34 AM   #8
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

For others painting a ceiling . . .
A lot of older homes don't have a proper vapor retardant barrier in the ceiling (under the insulation), which results in a lot of moisture migration into the attic, where it condenses on cooler roof parts and causes mold/rot. "BIN" brand primer/sealer (get the laquer-based stuff--and it does STINK during aplication, keep the windows open ad take breaks outside periodicaly) applied two coats thick forms a very good semi-vapor impermeable barrier (approx .5 perm), and is a lot less trouble than puting plastic down under already applied insualtion.

This is of major benefit to folks in cool and very cool climates. In addition to avoiding rot/mold, if you've got a good vapor barrier you can cut down on the amount of attic ventilation, which can save some money.

Now, in Hawaii, I'm not sure about the value of this. I would think in your hot/humid climate you'd put the vapor retardant barrier on the outside of the insulation (closer to the warm/moist outside air). So, using BIN as a vapor barrier isn't such a big deal. I suppose you could paint the underside of the roof deck with it before inserting unfaced fiberglass batts, but doing things a different way would likely be much easier.
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 10-09-2006, 11:17 AM   #9
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
We had a huge Kona rain last night, like a firehose leak check. Everything's dry.

Now it's time to teach our kid about painting ceilings with Kilz!
Funny talking about roof leaks as I found one here in my new home yesterday when I returned to NC from up north. Water thru the heat stack . Looks like a bad job of flashing and shingle work by the mexican subcontractors who built this home here in NC.

But I am shocked that the builder is sending the roofer out get this Tuesday, tomorrow! And they say people down south work slow!!
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 10-09-2006, 11:19 AM   #10
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy888

But I am shocked that the builder is sending the roofer out get this Tuesday, tomorrow! And they say people down south work slow!!
I'd wait and see if he actually shows up before changing any geographic stereotypes...

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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...
Old 10-09-2006, 12:55 PM   #11
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Re: Roof leaks we've known & loved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
Now, in Hawaii, I'm not sure about the value of this. I would think in your hot/humid climate you'd put the vapor retardant barrier on the outside of the insulation (closer to the warm/moist outside air). So, using BIN as a vapor barrier isn't such a big deal. I suppose you could paint the underside of the roof deck with it before inserting unfaced fiberglass batts, but doing things a different way would likely be much easier.
What is this "insulation" you speak of? Just kidding.

You're right. Most of the homes tack the vapor barrier right onto the exterior studs without any insulation in the walls (why, that would cost money). Very few homes are currently built with any radiant foil insulation on the roof or in the attic to keep the heat off the ceiling. Then people add huge clay-tile heat sinks roofs with whole-house air conditioning (plus jalousy windows) and can't understand why their electric bills are $250/month.

The leaky ceiling is in our familyroom, a very cheap lanai enclosure that probably has its ceiling drywall screwed to 2x4 joists. It's overlayed with plywood and a slightly sloped Brai torch-on roof. The ceiling is already starting to show a number of cracks & taped joints moving around, so when the bunny goes to his great reward we're going to give this room a thorough renovation, including a cathedral ceiling to match the livingroom and extended eaves to keep the rain off the windows.

Local builders are just starting to use insulation in green homes. We retrofitted our radiant foil but it's easy to add to fanfold insulation and may be part of rigid foam by now.

Last weekend we toured a $1.4M Cypress Point executive model home in Ewa Beach. This is the hottest part of the island-- at sea level & absolutely flat-- and even in October it was over 90 degrees without a breath of wind. The home had all the decorator extras but we didn't see a lick of insulation (does exterior stucco count?) and again it had a heavy tile roof heating up the second floor. But if you're paying that much for an Ewa Beach home then you don't care what your electric bill is...
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