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The 5 Main Ways Your Roof Can Start Leaking

While roof leaks can show up anywhere and it may seem like there are all sorts of different causes, they can be broken down into these 5 main categories.  Once you understand each of these, you’ll know what to look for when examining your own roof for potential problems.

1. Misapplication of roof installation

If you get a new roof and it wasn’t installed correctly, it’s common for leaks to show up within months or a year.  Misapplication errors usually don’t take forever to reveal themselves, but when they do show up it can be a big problem.

Sometimes it’ll only be one small component that was wrongly installed (like the edge of a series of step flashing), but it can be a much larger systemic problem (like overdriven nails on the entire roof).  The former can be fixed by repair, but the latter means you’ll need a whole new roof.

2. Penetrations

Much of the roofing industry is designed around creating penetrations in the roof and then securing them such that no water gets through.

This is why shingles overlap as you move down the roof structure.  They all have nail penetrations in them that will cause leaks if exposed to water, but the overlapping of the shingles means the water sheds down them into the gutters instead.

Nails are not the only penetrations in a roof.  Chimneys, skylights, vents, and pipes are all penetrations that can develop leaks.  The material used to flash these can deteriorate over time, especially pipe boots, and it’s common for leaks to arise in those locations.

3. Age and deterioration

If you’ve been lucky with your roof, it hasn’t developed any leaks until it’s at end of life where the shingles themselves deteriorate.  This is usually in the form of balding, malformation, shingle loss, and revealing of the fiberglass inside the shingles.

If you’re at the point where any of these signs show up, it usually means that anywhere and just about everywhere on the roof is liable to form a leak, and you need a replacement sooner than later.

4. Heavy rain traffic or slowly traveling water in valleys or low sloped areas

Valleys often leak first for the simple reason that lots of debris and rainwater are funneled to them.  This means that over time the deterioration of the area is higher than the rest of the roof.

It’s best practice to keep valleys free of debris, and when you get a new roof installed, for your contractor to pay extra attention to valley installation, which often includes extra special underlayment like GAF WeatherWatch Leak Barrier and metal flashing.


Leaks caused by condensation aren’t technically leaks, but they still show up in the house as if they are.  The roof cause of condensation is having an attic that is too hot relative to outside temperature.  This condition is created by improper insulation and ventilation.

If you notice moisture or rotting wood in your attic, or your roofing shingles appearing like they are being pushed up from the inside, it can mean your attic and roof have ventilation and condensation issues.

The fix can be simple, but isn’t always.  Regardless, not fixing the problem can lead to a tremendous amount of damage, where you have to replace the whole roof and most of the wood substrate.

If you live in the south Puget Sound of Washington State and have developed a roof leak, please call us at (253) 544-3651 or fill out our quick estimate form.

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