Spring Water Problems

It’s time to start getting your home ready for spring.

Part 2:  Leaking roofs are the second biggest problem. 

Most roof leaks are caused by roof slope or metal flashing.  As a MN home inspector for the past 27 years, I have found these conditions are seldom addressed until becoming a problem.  What I mean is until a homeowner sees interior water stains they assume nothing is wrong.  This is seldom true.  Small amounts of invisible roof moisture can be more destructive than large water events, such as storm damage.  Why, because as water is absorbed into the wood cells, decay and fungal growth begins to take hold.  The longer this condition exists the more apt it is to develop into something substantial

Roof shingles are designed to shed water.  This means if there are obstructions in the free flow of water off the roof, it will most likely develop into a leak.  This is a design issue and many times the homeowner does not have a choice about the proper slope of their roof.  But they do have a choice about the type of material to install on the roof.  There are low slope and flat roof materials that are designed to be waterproofing membranes.  And when there is a design problem with the roof, the proper and more expensive materials should be used.  A good inspector can advise you on this matter.

Roof flashings are the most overlooked key component to keeping water out of the attic.  When re-roofing, contractors are not required to replace the metal flashings on the roof.  This is a poor choice.  Additionally, many low budget roofers are not qualified to install new flashings correctly.  As an inspector this is one of the biggest problems I see day in and day out.  When you see black tar on the roof, you know you have a problem.

This spring it may be a good time for you to check your roof…before it’s a problem.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

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Moisture Problems – Gutters (Part 6)

Large volumes of water discharge off a home’s roof and can compound a basement or crawl space moisture problem. Depending on the roof design, the amount of water can often be too much for even a yard that is properly graded away from the house. Sometimes we need to add gutters and downspouts to the roof eaves. However, all roofs do not need gutters, in fact, most do not.

Building code does not require a house to have gutters

Controlling roof drainage is important, but it is never a substitute for proper grading. Too often frustrated homeowners look for the quickest and easiest fix to a basement moisture problem. When landscaping and hardscaping is too difficult or too expensive they look for a short cut. The easy answer is to install gutters, but roof drainage is always secondary to correct earth grading. So, if the landscaping and hardscaping are positively sloped away from the house and the foundation is still damp or wet then adding gutters to the roof is essential. Gutters will manage the surface water coming off the roof and, if properly installed, harmlessly drain it away from the foundation.

So how would a homeowner or real estate agent know when a home should have gutters?

The design of the house is the most common indicator. Homes that most often need to control roof drainage to stay dry have any one or all of the following characteristics:

• Steep roof pitch
• Roofs with valleys
• No overhangs or small roof overhangs

These house styles dump huge amounts of water directly on the foundation which, depending on the type of soil, will saturate the earth adjacent to the walls. These wet soils will hold moisture on or adjacent to the foundation which will eventually migrate towards and run down alongside the basement or crawl space walls. Gutters with the proper extensions will direct this water away from the house.

Understanding that all homes do not need gutters to stay dry…then what could be worse than a roof that needs gutters and doesn’t have any? How about a roof that has gutters with no or short downspout extensions…why?