The vast majority of homes in Houston and the surrounding communities are topped with composition shingles. (Still referred to simply as asphalt shingles by many.) So most roof repairs tend to be composition shingle repairs.
(‘Lifetime’ roofs however like metal and synthetic are common along the coast, especially right on the water.)
Composition shingles are ‘composed’ of asphalt and fiberglass. They’re by far the easiest type of roof to install and also to repair.
Fortunately most roof leaks are pretty straightforward, and can often be quickly and readily traced to the source by a pro.
Leaky roofs in Houston and along the Gulf Coast in general are caused by a variety of reasons, including poor installation, cheap material, general wear and tear, and of course storm damage.
The ideal roof (as far as leaks are concerned) is a simple straight-up gable design, like those sprawling one-story ranch homes – without any so-called ‘penetrations.’
Penetrations are things like chimneys, skylights, exhaust vents, and even roof walls. Most roof leaks, and ultimately roof repairs, tend to be around penetrations because water congregates (albeit temporarily) in these areas as it travels down and off the roof. Likewise with ‘valleys.’
By the way, roofs should be kept free of piled-up leaves and pine needles for this reason.
Steep roofs have a great advantage in that water rolls off the roof quickly.
Besides penetrations, exposed and popped-up nails are a common problem. The former is caused by sloppy nailing and the latter is a result of a nail hitting a void in the wood decking. For these reasons nail guns aren’t recommended for composition shingles.
It’s always a good feeling, when you have a roof leak or other roof-related problem, when your roofer comes out and declares that a simple (or even complex) repair will do the trick, and you won’t need a whole new roof.
But did you know you can have a roof leak for years and never even know it?
It’s true. In fact roughly half or more of the composition shingle roofs we remove here in the Houston area have at least some rotted wood due to some protracted undetected leak. Even if the house is still relatively new.
What happens is the plywood decking and the insulation ends up soaking up all the water. The wet wood can lead to mold and mildew and eventually rots, attracting termites and other insects (especially in humid areas).
But don’t panic. Most roof repairs in Houston cost less than you might think and can be done in a day, bad wood replacement and all.
One way to locate longstanding hidden leaks is by walking your roof periodically, looking for suspicious sags, dips, and depressions.
Assuming your roof is easy to walk (not steep). Check especially around the penetration-type areas mentioned above. Better still, have an experienced roofer do this for you – they’ll check the roof for other possible problems at the same time.
The point is to see if any depressed areas feel unusually spongy compared to the rest of the roof. If an area feels firm to the ‘step’ then it’s probably ok. (Very large sags and dips that tend to be visible from the ground, but are firm, are usually not a problem.)
Right after a hard rain is a good time to check your (non-steep) composition shingle roof. Make a mental note of any areas that tend to ‘pond’ – areas that are still holding small amounts of rain water even after most of the rest of the roof has dried.
You can also look for hidden leaks after it rains by scanning the attic with a good flashlight. Check for wet spots (but not natural plywood stains, which can fool you). Watch your head when lowering an attic ladder, and don’t step through the ceiling!
NEVER climb on a wet roof though. Wait for one of those drenching Houston summertime showers where the sun burns everything dry quickly. Plus, avoid steep roofs and two-story roofs unless you know what you’re doing.
And never get on a roof if you’re not steady with a ladder or comfortable with heights, and especially if your wife (or husband, or kid) is standing below you frowning, arms firmly crossed, with an “I told you so” look on their face.
Finally, some honorable mention (weird and rare) miscellaneous causes of leaks and roof repairs in the Houston area and the entire Texas Gulf Coast.
- Once in a blue moon condensation can build up on a pipe inside an improperly vented attic and mimic a roof leak (so don’t seal off attic vents in the winter, especially here in the humid Houston area)
- Occasionally some penetrations (like metal exhaust pipe vents) can leak a bit from vertically blown rain in a really bad storm
- Curious or hungry or thirsty animals can sometimes dig a hole in a composition shingle roof and even chew away heavy lead pipe vent covers
- We’ve repaired our share of serious roof damage from lightening strikes here at Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
- Windows of course can and do leak, and we’ve even seen water enter one particular house through a tiny area of peeled wall paint!
- Tree branches can scrape and damage composition shingles, or even pierce a roof during a fierce storm
If you need help please give our family roofing business a call at 409-925-8843 or 281-534-3521. And for lots more roofing info please visit our website.