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How to Fix Roof Leaks

How To Maintain Your Roof And Stay Leak Free This Winter

Our largest asset is our home and no part of the structure is more important than our roof. So just how often should I check my roof? The truth is that
every home is different and the maintenance required for each depends on any number of factors such as proximity of trees, distance from beaches, age of the home and condition of the roof itself. Most importantly though is definitely inspect your roof space before the wetter months.

Most homeowners however, do not check their roof often enough and by the time we get the call, it is to fix a leak instead. Once water gets inside your roof space, there isn’t much to stop it from damaging the ceilings or in the worst instances flooding the home.

So, what do I look for and what do I need to inspect my roof? All you really need is a sturdy ladder and a good pair of eyes. Listed below are the most important items to check and what you can do to protect your investment.

Ridge Capping: The ridge caps secure the top tile joins along the entire roof top. These caps are secured on a bed of cement and covered with a minimum 5 mm thick pointing compound. It is important to check the integrity of the bedding/ pointing and reapply when needed to ensure that the ridge stays attached and waterproof during storms and strong winds.

We use Oz Flex and Elastomax products, these products are both made in the same factory by a local manufacturer/ supplier and are specially designed to meet Australian standards. Both of these products are highly flexible acrylic pointing compounds with excellent adhesion properties designed for long-term durability under harsh conditions and they come in a variety of colours to match your existing tile colours.

The pointing should be reapplied whenever there are signs of cracking under the ridge lines and re-cemented whenever the ridge line has moved or the ridge caps have become loose.

Ridge Pointing
How Pointing Should look.

Roof Tiles: The tiles themselves are the second most important item and should be free of fractures and breaks. Small breaks at the foot of the tile are not as important as a crack through the top, middle or overlap, If you only have minimum tile spares, a roofing silicone can offer you some cover until you can source some new ones (note: silicone should only be used on the top of tile surfaces and should not block any water channels or exit points as this may lead to roof leaks).

If you have any tile breaks in the first, second or third row of tiles from the ridge down, you should call an experienced roof repairer to replace these because removing them and replacing them requires the removal of the ridge capping and bedding underneath. Any tile breaks that you do not have spares for can also be swapped out for tiles in the bottom gutter row because these tiles generally sit above eave sheets that are designed to be more resistant to water than plasterboard on the internal ceilings of you home.

There is no substitute for the correct tile and matching profile. Simply remove a tile and flip it over, the tile manufacturer and profile is usually stamped on the back. Just be aware that some tiles are made in different sizes, so when in doubt bring a tile with you when you go to source new ones.

Change A Broken Roof Tile
Broken tile under hip, needs ridge cap removed to replace.

Valley Trays and Secret Gutter Trays: Sheet metal trays sit in the valleys on every roof and are covered by rows of cut roof tiles on either side or attached to parapet walls. The trays are ‘v’ shaped with 15 mm lip edges under the tiles and are designed to channel water, but over time the weight of the tiles can squash these edges down flat allowing water to bypass the channel and spill into the roof. Any leaf litter or rubbish caught in the valleys can also block the flow of water and should be cleaned often, along with your gutters.

Valley trays should be inspected yearly to ensure that the edges are proud and the tray is free of rust and debris. They may also require packing underneath to support the tray, ensuring they do not buckle under the weight of heavy rainfall, this is most common on trays attached to walls as one side is not always adequately supported.

New valley trays should be installed whenever there are signs of rust, the lip edges are flat or the tray is buckled. A valley tray should rest flat against the valley boards underneath and be supported all the way to the gutter to move water efficiently.

Roof Leak Spot
Example of secret gutter tray blocked with debris causing roof leak.

Chimneys, Flues and Flashings: All roof fixings and protrusions through roof tiles or tin sheeting must have the sealants checked for splits, holes or failure of their bonds. Small gaps can allow water to seep into the roof space and create heavy drip spots on the ceiling. All sealants should be checked and topped up to prevent this occurring and the use of grey roofing silicone allows the applicator to easily see any gaps when applying. Obviously clear silicones should be used when applying to visible protrusions, but usually most protrusions are where they cannot be seen from the ground.

Toilet plumbing pipes, chimney flue hats and any lead flashings should have the surrounding tiles removed to inspect the top of each flashing. The uppermost part of the flashing should have a small lip rolled up under the tile to prevent any pooling water from being driven under the tile. Also fractures and splits in the lead flashings can be siliconed up, swapped out (lead rolls are very expensive) or replaced using cheaper materials. It is important to check that these types of flashings are supported properly by the tiles underneath, because any sagging will eventually lead to leaks.

Broken tile under chimney flue and flashing, invisible from above and roof leak culprit. This is why it is important to get a professional.

Tin Sheeting: Sheeting requires much less maintenance than tiles, but when it comes to problems is usually more costly due to the labour involved to remove entire sections to inspect. Roof sheets are fixed down with 14-gauge 65 mm tek screws with a weatherproof washer designed to stop any water seeping down the threads. These screws should not be loose, rusted or missing these rubber washers and if removing sheets, it is best practice to replace with completely new ones.

Fibreglass and Polycarbonate sheeting requires specially designed tek screws with larger diameter rubber washers when installing and this should be taken into consideration when inspecting the roof to ensure that the correct fastener was used. Each sheet overlaps the other (if installed properly) with the overlaps facing away from any prevailing winds preventing water from being pushing underneath.

The profile of the sheeting should match the pitch of the roof and amount of water to be handled. Polycarbonate sheeting and corrugated profiles should never be used on pitches lower than three degrees because of their inability to hold large quantities of water. Also sheeting should be turned up in the pans of the sheeting at the high ends to prevent water from dripping past the edges. All top ridge flashings should be silicone sealed at the joins.

Fibreglass Sheeting Replacement
After: Fibreglass sheeting to replace Polycarbonate on low pitch.

Gutters: Gutters should be cleaned out regularly, the silicone joins topped up and inspected for rust in the pans. Gutter clips should be in place roughly one every meter of length and down-pipe entries into the back of the gutter inside eave linings should be inspected to ensure the cut-in matches the height the gutter.

The back of the gutter height is 60 mm and when down-pipes are cut in the installer cuts a flap to bottom of the pan to install the down-pipe which is 45 mm high and they usually leave the top open. This creates a low point at the back of the gutter above the down-pipe of 45 mm instead of 60 mm and any water in the pan over this height will leak into the top of the eave lining above the down-pipe entry. Best practice is to install a strip of tin over the top of the down-pipe to match the height of the back of the gutter and silicone the entire area, this ensures that the maximum gutter height in the pan remains at 60 mm.

Leak Into Eaves
Downpipe entry into back of gutter, note the gap above the downpipe and around the edges not sealed properly.

Any long runs of guttering servicing large sections of roof without enough adequate exit point, have the ability to overflow into the eaves. Where staining is present on eave sheets after heavy rainfall, it may be that another exit is required in the form of a down-pipe or gutter ‘pop’. This is common around patio areas when ‘A frames’ have been installed and attached to existing house gutters only designed for the original roof. When planning this type of patio, it is important to install large box gutters to handle more water and any professional building company should advise you of this.

Downpipes: Downpipes are an important way to move excess water away from the gutters and should be inspected to ensure they are not blocked. An easy way to check this from the ground is to give them a tap and listen to the sound, bearing in mind that hidden sections in the eave linings should be checked for rust and blockages as well.

Tell-tale signs of problems can be staining around the entry of the downpipe into the eave sheets from below as this can indicate leaks from the back of the gutters (as spoken about above) or leaks from the ninety-degree bend in the downpipe itself. If the downpipe is showing signs of rust in the eave section, this should be replaced before any damage to the eave sheets can occur.

How to install a downpipe in Australia
Down-pipe being installed inside eaves.

When the entire roof ridge line is pointed and sealed, all broken tiles are replaced, valley trays, gutters and down-pipes are clear and all protrusions from the roof are sealed, your roof will work as it was designed. This is how to ensure that your home stays free from leaks during the oncoming winter months.

If you have any questions, roof leaks or if you require a comprehensive roof inspection then give Working Class Hands a call today on 0414 985 605.