April Showers don’t only bring May flowers! Each year I recieve numerous calls from my customers who are sure that they have a roof leak. The symptoms are always the same, “I have water leaking into my home above the window”, or “the paint is peeling in the corner of my bedroom”. The damage has already been done, it is my job to uncover the mystery as to the cause of the problem and solve it.
Arriving at the home, at first glance everything looks normal. There are no shingles missing or damaged, all the vents are in place and installed properly. Where is this problem coming from???? Upon closer inspection the answer is very clear. The good news is that the home owner does not have a roof leak, the bad news is that a half hours worth of work last fall could have saved the home owner several hundred dollars worth of work now. The problem is simply clogged gutters and downspouts! The leaves from those beautiful trees that kept us in shade all summer long, have fallen and clogged the gutters! Often the home owner spent hours clearing all the leaves from their yards, lining the street with a grand display of those ugly brown paper leaf bags, only to ignore the most important area that the leaves have gathered in!
As the leaves begin to fall off of the trees, floating and fluttering their way to their final resting places, a line of destruction has begun. Some take the direct route, landing squarely in the gutter, others choose to land on the roof, only to be washed into the gutters by the gentle rains of fall. How they get there does not really matter, it is that they are there that is the problem.
So how does a small little leaf make its way into causing a roof leak? Its really a chain reaction, that soon turns into a train wreck inside your house. As the leaves build up in your gutters, the rains of fall wash them down to the area of your downspout. It doesn’t take much to soon block the opening and basically turn your gutters into little ponds. In the fall when the temperatures are still hovering above the freezing mark, often the ponds will slowly soak through the plugged downspout and you will not notice a problem. However, as the temperatures begin to fall below the freezing mark, ice is formed in the gutters that seals them tighter than your bathtub drain. As the winter progresses and we have minor thaws and freezes, this ice begins to build up, and eventually pushes its way up and underneath your shingles! We refer to this as an “Ice Dam”. Just as those beautiful ice sculptures hang down from your gutters each spring, they are also pushing there way up and under your shingles, waiting patiently for the spring thaw to release them! So you see, the April showers can bring more than May flowers!
While the good news is that the home owners do not have a leaky roof, the bad news is that a little work in the fall could have avoided the problem all together. They of course have a couple of days of putting up with the drywall contractor repairing the damage and the painter smelling up their house to think about it! Really that is in the best case, we all know that water or moisture in closed warm places breeds mold!! Nothing good has ever come of having your walls and ceiling full of mold!!!
While the problem is huge, the solution is in an ounce of prevention! After all of the leaves have fallen off of your trees, before you clean the leaves off of your yard, clean them all off of your roof and clear all of your gutters! A ladder and a pair of rubber gloves does the trick for me, with the help of the trusty leaf blower. If you are comfortable walking on your roof, use the blower to blow all the leaves off the roof and into your yard. If the leaves are dry, the blower will even do a good job of clearing the gutters for you. If they are wet, the rubber gloves and a little elbow grease will be needed. There is one other step that I use to insure that my gutters and downspouts are clear. Before I put the hose away for the year, I turn it on and let it run off the roof into the gutter at the farthest point from the downspouts. Let it run for 10 minutes or so to be sure that nothing is clogged and that all is working properly. Of course if you are not able to walk on your roof safely, or even feel the slightest bit unsure of yourself trying this, please hire it done. Most lawncare companys will do this for you!
In short, a little bit of work in the fall can save you many headaches!