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Looking For Problems With Your Roof

Prevention is Best
The basic thing to remember regarding your roof is this: look for trouble before it looks for you. This may mean venturing up into your attic's overhead hatch or your home's crawl space once or twice a year and battling cobwebs and goodness knows what other creepy things that may be up there. But roof leaks are sneaky – they often show the bad taste of being subtle for a long time, dripping only a bit at a time so that the damage remains largely invisible if you don't bother to look. Over time, the drip leads to damage, including rot and mold, that will grow quietly worse until you suddenly have a swimming pool in the middle of your bedroom.

Look For Trouble
After a nasty downpour, go up into the area of your home just under the roof and look for signs of wetness, rot or mold. Note that wet spots may not be directly under your faulty shingle: water travels down to its lowest spot before it drips, thus you may need to trace it upward to locate the source.

If you're lucky enough to spot where the leak has occurred and intend to repair it immediately, drive a 16-penny nail directly into the center of the leak so that you'll be able to find it once you climb onto the roof. If that isn't practical, you'll have to measure vertically from the roof's interior peak and horizontally from a landmark like the wall or chimney.

If you have a chimney, particularly a brick one, pay special attention to the area where it meets your roof. If you find water seeping or draining from your chimney, that is usually a sure sign that you have a leak.

Inspect Your Roof From Outside
Of course, investigating problems from the outside (which is also important as a preventive measure and should be done once a year before the weather turns ugly), requires you to ascend a ladder and climb on the roof itself. You may reasonably not want to do this, especially if your roof has a steep pitch (upward angle). If heights give you the creeps, there is no shame in hiring a pro to do inspections for you. In fact, four out of five people surveyed considered it less embarrassing than be rushed to the emergency room.

Once up there, look for cracked, torn, bald or missing shingles (if you have binoculars, you can use them to help limit your need to climb all over the roof). Really inspect those areas where the roof meets corners, such as chimneys, dormers, angled sections and roofing and vents, because they are by nature the most prone to leaks.

If the weather is too miserable for you to fix the leak now, call a pro and let him risk his neck. If you really want to do it yourself, wait for better weather and make an enemy or your best friend by asking him or her to spray the suspect area with a garden hose, beginning from the bottom of the area and working his way up toward the roof ridge, while you crawl around in your attic crawl space and wait to get dripped on.

Even if your roof looks fine after inspection, remember that wind and rain in combination wreak havoc on your home, because wind can easily force rain under your shingles, where only the felt is left as protection. Once the felt gets wet enough, it will leak. Gee, that old apartment is seeming better all the time...

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