A new roof is a serious investment of time and money. This is understandable, after all it is one of the most important parts of your home. With the right roof, you can keep your property and its inhabitants safe and secure — not to mention dry! — for decades. It can therefore be frustrating to find yourself mere months after installation asking, “why is my new roof leaking?”.
There are various reasons that a roof might be leaking. However, many of these tend to revolve around issues that occur after they’ve been installed for many years. When you’ve only recently constructed your roof, it certainly shouldn’t yet be subject to rot, rusting, pests, or sagging.
So what might be behind a leak in your brand new roof? Let’s examine a few of the potential culprits.
The Quick Solution
If your new roof is leaking, you need to contact the roofing contractor that installed it. It may be the case that some of the materials are faulty, or have been inadvertently installed incorrectly. Most reputable installers will have some form of warranty system, which provides you with protection should there be defects with the product or workmanship errors. Giving your installer a call is usually the quickest, most cost effective way to figure out why your new roof is leaking and have it taken care of.
If you installed your roof yourself, it’s still worth getting a contractor to come out and take a look. You don’t have the same experience and expertise, and they will be better placed to detect the leak using technology, like Electronic Leak Detection (ELD) meters and infrared thermal cameras. That said, if you’re committed to understanding the reason for the leak yourself, first, there are a few areas you can look into further.
The Pitch is Too Shallow
If you find yourself asking, “why is my new roof leaking”, a good place to consider first is the pitch of your structure. This is the angle at which your roof is positioned on your building. The pitch is an important metric to consider because it is calculated during the design process to ensure that rainwater and snow can run freely from the roof toward the gutter. If the pitch is too steep, you’re unlikely to suffer from a leak. However, if the pitch is too shallow, water can collect in areas of the roofing, pooling together in a way that soaks through the roofing material and underlayment.
So, how do you know if your pitch is too shallow? Firstly, you need to understand how pitch is determined; which is by how many inches a roof rises vertically for every 12 inches of its depth. For instance, if the roof slope went upward 7 inches for every 12 of depth, the pitch would be defined as 7:12. While there are State and Federal regulations for pitch, most go by the International Residential Code (IRC). This has recommended minimums for various roofing materials.
For metal roofing, the required pitch depends on the type of construction. But this ranges between 1.25:12 and 3:12. Asphalt shingle minimum pitch sits at around 2:12. Clay and concrete tiles are usually between 2.25:12 and 4:12. While slate tiles must be a minimum of 4:12. If your roof slope is lower than these pitches, this could be the reason your new roof is leaking.
The Material Has Been Damaged
When your roof is new, you don’t tend to expect it to start leaking due to general wear and tear. Therefore, one of the most common reasons why your new roof is leaking is because the material has sustained some external damage. If this has started immediately or soon after installation, this may have occurred during the construction process. If you’re installing a tiled roof yourself, it can be easy to inadvertently tread on the tiles incorrectly and cause cracks.
Alternatively, this may be the result of adverse weather. Most types of roof have some form of weatherproofing precaution, but that doesn’t make them impervious to debris impact or falling tree branches. It’s worth taking some time to inspect the surface of the roofing material to establish whether any of the components have become damaged.
The Flashing is Not Correct
With any roof, particularly one that has various structural elements — chimneys, ventilation, and valleys among them — you need to have functional flashing. This aspect of your roof directs rainwater away from traditionally vulnerable areas and toward the slopes that lead to the gutters. Without flashing, rainwater would gather in flat areas, leading to leaks and potentially rotting. When fitted by a professional and maintained correctly, flashing can have a lifespan of decades. However, if it is installed incorrectly, it can very quickly lead to unexpected leaks.
If you installed the flashing yourself, this is not an unusual error. Indeed, it may have looked correct to begin with. However, without expert knowledge it’s possible that it has been fitted in a way that didn’t account for expansions and contractions during changes of temperature. This can lead to the flashing to warp and buckle. Not to mention that elements — like multiple peaks — that require custom pieces of flashing to be cut can be particularly challenging as a DIY installer.
There are Shiners
If you installed your roof yourself, or had some friends over to help, there are a variety of errors that can occur. Some of these might seem inconsequential at the time but can lead to you asking why your new roof is leaking. One common issue is the presence of shiners.
This is when the person installing the roof has used nails that are too long. The result of this is the tip of the nail penetrates through the structure and is left exposed. When the cold weather arrives, this tip can become frozen, starting to drip when it defrosts as the temperature rises. Over a cold winter this can lead to leakages and water damage.
Your Gutters Are Clogged
A leak in your new roof may not be caused by a roof fault at all. You might have perfect flashing and well sealed tiles, but something as simple as your gutters being blocked with too many leaves can be problematic for your roof. This is because the gutters are designed to draw water away from your roof and toward the drainage area. If clogs prevent water from draining away this can build up and sit on your roof, where it can cause rotting and leak through over the course of a season or so.
As such, it’s important to keep an eye on the condition of your gutters. It can be too easy to put off this chore but it’s a key form of protection. Clean them out regularly, particularly after storms or during the fall when leaves and debris are most prevalent. A little regular care here can prevent damage to your new roof.
If you find yourself asking “why is my new roof leaking?” it most often comes down to whether there were problems with the installation. The wrong pitch, flashing issues, and shiners are generally the result of a lack of expertise leading to the poor decisions being made during construction. However, even new roofs can also be subject to accidental damage and gutter clogs. Whether you’ve been able to locate the leak or are still unsure, teaming up with a professional roofing contractor can help you get the problem detected and addressed quickly and correctly.