8 Big Problems Caused by a Leaky Roof

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated December 17, 2021
Child watching the rain from a rooftop window
Photo: portishead1 / E+ / Getty Images

A leaky roof is more than a mess—here are the dangers lurking beneath the soggy surface

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When it rains, it pours, and when it pours and the roof of your home starts leaking, that’s when you’ve got a serious problem. A leak in your roof can work its way down from the top of your home to the very foundation itself, where it can lead to rot, decay, and serious structural damage. 

Whether it’s age, weather conditions or other catastrophes, leaks in roofs are inevitable and can cause more danger than you probably expect. That’s why it’s so important to have a local roof repair company inspect it as needed, and repair it when required. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers your leaky roof could be causing.

1. Damaged Ceilings and Attics

The first place water goes when your roof leaks is straight into the ceiling, and then into your attic, should your home have one. If you have an unaddressed leak in your roof you can expect water to damage the contents of your attic and also darken, stain, and damage the ceiling.

2. Insulation Damage

As water leaks into your home, starting at the roof and then leaking into the attic, it can seriously damage any insulation you may have inside your roof. The water causes the insulation to clump, making it virtually ineffective in keeping warm or cool air inside your home, depending on the season. Be sure to regularly inspect your roof so you can stop damage before it escalates.

3. Mold and Mildew

A leak in your roof can inevitably lead to a serious mold or mildew problem. That mold and mildew doesn’t just indicate where the water has gone, either. Mold spores in water-damaged homes can even pass through the HVAC systems, leading to serious illness for people with allergies, asthma, environmental sensitivities, and compromised immune systems.

4. Sagging Drywall

Drywall is commonly used to divide spaces within the home during the construction phase of the process. You shouldn’t expose drywall to water, but when you’ve got a leaky roof, that’s exactly what happens. Too much water can cause your drywall to sag, buckle, or fall apart.

"Get a roof inspection done by a professional if you see cracked or missing tile, lifted/curling shingles, degranulation of shingles, or weeds/plants growing on the roof,” says Ryan Westfall, vice president of Westfall Roofing in Tampa, FL.

5. Fire Hazards

Water and electricity do not mix. When you realize you’ve got a leak in your home and you know that your attic contains wiring, make sure that a local professional electrician examines the damage. This precaution keeps you safe from shocks, and your home safe from any potential errant sparks flying that could cause a fire.

6. Slip Hazards

A slippery floor is a parent’s nightmare, and a leaky roof is almost a guarantee that you’re on your way towards one. Leaks from your roof into your home can cause puddles, making slippery patches that are sure to slip up everyone who comes across them.

7. Energy Inefficiency

We already mentioned the effect that water damage has on insulation, but damaged installation caused by a leaky roof can also lead to another problem: energy inefficiency. If your insulation isn’t doing its job, you’re going to wind up using more power and losing more power. This is bad for the environment and bad for your wallet.

8. Compromised Structure

Even the strongest homes are susceptible to the rot that comes with water damage. What starts as a small leak in your roof can develop into a systemic failure of your home’s foundation—all that water can leak down to your foundation levels and start rot that can make it unstable. Stop leaks in their tracks before they become even bigger problems. 

Leaking water can also cause damage to:

  • Paint and plaster on walls

  • Ceiling-mounted lights and fans

  • Insulation

  • Rafters and ceiling joists

  • Wall framing

  • Fascia boards

  • Exterior trim

  • Floors

  • Furniture and personal belongings

If you have spotted a leak in your roof and you’re worried about the damage it could be causing, do not hesitate to contact a roofing professional in your area. What might on the surface seem like an easy fix could be the sign of a bigger problem.

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