How To Prevent Roof Leaks

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Roof leaks are the most common and frequent types of repairs homeowners need.

A leaking roof can cost at least $2,000-5,000 in major house repairs, if there is damage to the interior of your home.

While you can throw money at the problem and try to fix your leaky roof, the best course of action is to prevent roof problems from happening in the first place.

Learn what you can do to make sure your new roof lasts a long time, and remains leak-free.

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1. Spend more on installation = save over the roof’s lifetime

Typically, most people do not see their roof when they wake up and make their first cup of coffee. As a result, many neglect it before, during and after replacement.

According to NRCA, a roof constitutes only 3% of the total house cost. This is another reason why many do not invest into high quality installation or timely repairs.

Usually people hold out for as long as they can, waiting for the leaks and damages to become serious enough to warrant action. At that point, they are in a hurry, there is no time to research and hire a quality contractor, and the desire to save a few extra bucks often backfires in the long run.

However, when it starts to leak, the damages amount to thousands of dollars, whereas a new roof costs on average $6,500. And even if the insurance covers some repairs, homeowners usually spend at least $2,000 out of pocket to fix damages.

On top of that, most roofs usually have 2-3 major leaks during their lifetime, and after the first occurrence, insurance DOES NOT cover damages any more.

In my opinion, spending extra $1,000-2,000 on a roof when you replace it, will often make it LEAK FREE for its intended lifespan. But the sticker shock “scares” homeowners into going for the cheapest or second cheapest option.

Think of it this way: If you had to change an AXLE on your car – would you put a cheap replacement part or the one made by the manufacturer? (FYI, axles get a lot of use, and are critical to a car’s operation and safety.

If you would chose the “cheap” part, you don’t have to read below 🙂

If you answered “made by manufacturer part” these tips are for you!

2. Do ice dam prevention BEFORE ice dams occur

If you live in the northern regions, it’s very likely that your roof will have ice damming. I’m in Boston and in the last 5 years we had 2 winters with a lot of snow that caused many ice dams. We were getting 50 – 100 calls / day for 2-3 weeks in a row, just for ice dams.

Holy Huge Ice Dams

However, it’s not difficult to prevent this issue. You can have an “Ice Belt” (metal panels along roof edges) installed for an extra $1500-2000. Another alternative is a built – in ice melting system for $2500-3000.

Ice Belt Metal Panels:


3. Proper roof ventilation is KEY

In the southern states, condensation and ventilation are big issues that affect roof performance and longevity. Yet, many homeowners who try to save a few bucks neglect these important areas.

The main reason is that ventilation problems will only surface as leaks occur a few years down the line, and many people want to save money TODAY, even if it means loosing a lot more money later on.

Over the course of a few years, poor roof ventilation results not only in leaks, but also in more serious and expensive problems, such as rotted plywood. At that point, the entire roof must be removed and the substrate completely replaced, costing thousands of dollars, and a whole lot of stress.

All of this could be avoided by spending an extra $750-1500 on quality ventilation during the initial installation.

4. Upgrade to a metal roof

Standing Seam Metal Roof on a Colonial Style Home

It’s true that a metal roof costs more than asphalt shingles. However, in some cases the price difference is not as huge as some people think, while the benefits are numerous.

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For example, a corrugated type R-panel metal roof costs only 20-30% more than 30 year roof shingles, and is relatively easy to install. Consider what you get for this extra investment:

  • Ice dams should never be an issue
  • ventilation is easy to setup
  • panels will never cure, “cook” or dry out and become brittle, such as regular shingles
  • Yes, the exposed fasteners pose a potential problem, but if you have them retorqued (re-fastened) every 5-7 years, they should never leak.

    In the grand scheme of things, the upgrade will only cost you $1200-1500 extra on an average roof.

    Think about it this way. One major roof repair costs more! One minor repair costs $400-500.

    So it’s better to spend extra $1,500 upfront, and never worry about leaks again.

    If you want better looks, metal shingles are your economic architectural metal roof alternative. These cost about 70-80% more than 30 year shingles, but they will easily last 50 years! I don’t even mention that when properly installed, they should never ever leak!

    Some of the best metal shingles to consider are:

    Oxford Shingle manufactured by Classic Metal Roof Systems

    Granite Ridge Metal Roof Shingles produced by Gerard USA

    Advanta Shingle made by Atas International.

    5. Choose the right roof components

    Roof components

    For the sake of your roof – don’t try to save a few bucks by buying cheap materials – it is so not worth it!

    Here is what you need to focus on:

    – Since you are replacing your roof anyway, use a better underlayment (I recommend and ALWAYS use GAF DeckArmor).

    – Get the right shingle product. Not all shingles are made equal, and major manufacturers have specialty products that are the best match for particular geographic locations, weather conditions and other specific and unique needs. For example, Atlas Roofing makes special hail – resistant shingles, that are designed to withstand the impact of a 2 inch size hail stone.

    – If you have a flat roof, go with an IB Roof instead of EPDM rubber.

    – Always remove old roofing! This, combined with DeckArmor will usually double the lifespan of your roof!

    – Replace rotted plywood, because if you don’t, your roof can easily blow off.

    Trust me – it’s not fun having to replace your roof twice in 5 years or less! Spend the extra $1500 and have a roof that will last you an extra 5 years, and without leaks. $300 / year is not expensive. You are probably spending more on some useless subscription right now.

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    Author: Leo B
    For over 20 years Leo has run a successful roofing business in New England, specializing in metal roofing, as well as cool flat roofing technologies. Having replaced and installed hundreds of roofs in New England, Leo has first hand experience with pretty much every residential roofing material and roofing manufacturer available in the US.
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    8 comments on “How To Prevent Roof Leaks

    1. We have had customers attempt to piece out our work and cut costs by trying to push the limits in the past and it has always ended bad with them. Now at this point we just say no to those types of customers, their too much headache for the work. This was a great article!

    2. Great post, wondering if there is much of a discussion about gutter guards and other gutter protection systems? Check out how to install a quality metal gutter guard system that can handle the heaviest of tree debris.

    3. I’ve definitely run into some subcontractors that try to get away with the cheapest shingles possible. In the end, you’re going to have a happy customer and a better roofing job by going with quality materials. Totally agree. Great article, thanks

    4. Spending more up front to save more over the long run = most true statement I’ve heard in a long time. If only I could get more of my clients to believe this.

    5. Oh My Gosh!! That picture with the ice is freaking crazy!! I’ve seen some bad ice storms up here in Ohio, but nothing like that, haha. Where do you guys operate at?

      I also totally agree with your point #5. So many times i’ve had customers want to take the cheap route and i just try to convince them that going cheap could have been one of the problems from the beginning!

      Keep up the good work!

    6. I agree, many roofers do install the cheapest shingles. Mainly because the customer feels that better quality shingles are not worth the extra bucks. This leaves roofers no choice, but to install the cheapest shingles, upon client’s request. It is very frustrating to have a customer, who does not really understand the value of having quality materials and professional labor when repairing or replacing their roof.

    7. I agree that using cheap materials is not worth it when getting my roof replaced or repaired. I wouldn’t want to have to worry about cheap products not keeping my roof waterproof. Spending a little extra money now will definitely help save frustration and a bigger expense in the future.

      1. Good point Cheryl

        Unfortunately, many roofers will install cheapest shingles possible – sometimes even “thirds” or expired shingles that have been at distributor storage for 2-3+ years. ..

        In the end, consumer is the one who is paying for theses “cost cutting measures” …

        At the same time, many homeowners often want the lowest possible price and then some, so they end up with a roof that lasts 3-5 years and then complain … its a very complicated situation …