Reasons For Leaks

Reasons For Leaks
December 19, 2023

Note well, use proper safety precautions when working on your own home or property, the below is for information purposes only and are not instructions to guide a property owner on how to proceed with repairs or maintenance.

There are a lot of reasons for water intrusion inside a structure.  The assumption is usually “it’s the roof.”  That is going to be true often, but not always. Simple observations can narrow down a leak source.

Many times the leak is appearing to come from the roof.  J&J Roofing offers free estimates for property owners, and for people who do not own a property but are having it inspected, we also have an inspection and report service for $385.00 on most properties (more on very large properties or complexes of properties, but we would tell you this cost before you hire us).  You can click here for the free estimate form, or you can click here to request an inspection and report.  This article goes into data about other leak sources.

If there is no plumbing located above the leak source, we can rule out plumbing.  Before you assume this is the case, make sure the attic or void above the leak does not have plumbing running through it.  Sometimes a property owner is unaware of plumbing lines in the attic.  It’s understandable: if you have zero reason to go in your attic, you may have never gone into your attic.  Know where all your water lines are, so you can either include plumbing as a suspect, or exclude it.  We don’t advise anyone do inspections or work if it is not safe for them to do so; consult and hire professionals as needed.

Another way to exclude the roof and suspect plumbing is if it has not rained for a while but suddenly a leak is showing up.  It’s extremely rare that a leak from rainfall is going to take weeks to show up.  If it’s a multi-story structure, and the leak is not showing up on the top story, it’s probably not the roof.  Yes, water can move down a wall or along a conduit and appear on a lower story, but this is rare.  The vast majority of the time, a leak on the ground floor of a multi-story building, it’s plumbing.

On the ground floor, it’s not always plumbing when the leak is at ground level.  There is an entire industry devoted to detecting and preventing ground level leaks.  There can be issues with drainage, slope, foundation, doors, sliding glass doors, flaws in the exterior walls, or simply openings.  In such a case you are going to see water typically only up to as high as 18” from ground level (water can travel upwards a bit, particularly in wood).  Roof leaks don’t magically leave the top level alone and teleport to the ground and start seeping upward.  Basement leaks, while rare in California due to a lack of basements, are virtually always going to be either a ground level leaking situation, or a plumbing situation (e.g. the water heater).

Related to ground floor is the subject of doors and thresholds.  Water can leak through these.  Similarly the other possible culprit are windows.  Sometimes it’s as simple as multiple people being in a home and not knowing others leave windows or doors open during rainstorms.  The location of the water intrusion will of course inform you as to whether or not it might be a window leak, door or threshold.

Condensation can make it seem like you have a leak.  This can happen in kitchens or bathrooms where a lot of steam can occur, this can happen in a home with a vaulted ceiling where the ceiling experiences large shifts in temperature over the night and through daybreak.  Inadequate attic ventilation or insulation can contribute to condensation inside the home on the ceiling.  Make sure you have adequate ventilation and insulation before ruling this out.  Try to air your house out periodically and see if this helps.

When in doubt, it might be the roof, so have a qualified roofer come observe and assess.  They will be assisted by being shown where in the structure the water is getting in.  It doesn’t have to be an active leak – the stain is typically enough.  So if you repair leak damage, take care to note where the damage was so you can point it out to an inspector.  While the reason for a leak can sometimes be obvious, there is a chance that not being able to see the water intrusion will prevent the roofer from being able to assess the situation accurately.  It can also cause them to require you “throw money at the problem”, since you leave them little choice but to broadshoot the issue, meaning they will propose to repair a number of things, not knowing for sure which one of them will remedy the issue.  So while privacy is often valued by a property owner, realize you might be costing yourself time and aggravation if you chose to not let the roofer inside for the few minutes it takes to see where the water is coming in.  We understand that it can be uncomfortable to have a stranger come into your private property.  Hire companies with established reputations to ensure you are dealing with a responsible professional. J&J Roofing only hires experienced professionals with good reputations, and have to pass a background check before we hire them.  We know they are our ambassadors to our potential customers, so we also care who is getting to go inside your home, even if just for a few minutes.

J&J Roofing is available to investigate roofing issues, click here for a free estimate (which sometimes can be resolved with a roof check-up service, your technician will let you know if this is an option), or click here if you are interested in buying a property, are going to be conducting inspections and wish the roof to be professionally assessed.