Love Your House?

Pooling water and leaks around hatch tops and sky lights can damage underlying materials.

Of course you do! But true love requires a commitment. Under your roof is your home, most people’s most valuable asset. You can easily see when the paint or drywall inside your home needs to be redone, when you need new carpets or flooring, or when you need to replace your front stairs. But you probably can’t see the roof and have no idea what the condition is from year to year. You need to make sure the roof is properly maintained to protect that most valuable asset!

It’s not just the roof to worry about. What about the skylights, chimneys, hatch tops, flashing, wall caps/parapets, gutters and drains, HVAC systems and ducts? All of these appendages and penetrations can cause problems and are a source of water entry if not properly maintained. Having them inspected and maintained at least annually is a good rule of thumb.

Here are some warning signs to be on the lookout for:

  • A roof over 10 years old
  • Interior water stains or dampness visible on ceilings or walls
  • Cracks in drywall
  • Loose attic insulation
  • Water stains in crawl space or attic
  • Water overflowing gutters in rain

Some homes have roofs that are uneven due to the original construction, especially many Hill homes built in the 1960s and 70s. These roofs often leave pooling or ponding water after rain that can take weeks to dry out. Excess water is a major stress to the roof. Recently we inspected a roof on Ninth Street near Eastern Market that had pooling water on more than half of the roof. This is a problem!

Most homes on Capitol Hill have flat or low-slope roofs. A main reason for failure of such roofs is lack of knowledge about how to maintain them, or lack of maintenance. On a flat roof, damage from a leak often goes unnoticed for a considerable time as water penetrates and soaks the decking and insulation and underlying structures such as an attic or crawl space. This can lead to extensive damage from the rot which often develops and if left untreated can weaken the roof structure and create mold problems. One problem with maintaining flat roofs is that if water does penetrate the covering barrier, it can travel a long way before causing visible damage through stains, dampness, and the like.

Another common reason for failure of flat roofs is lack of drain maintenance when leaves and debris block water outlets. When water freezes in winter it can expand and break up the roof surface.

Often overlooked in roof maintenance is cracked and loose mortar between brick joints on chimneys, where water can enter the house. While we all love skylights, old ones are often a problem too. The glass cracks, the joint between the glass and the frame wears out, flashing fails. Something else to worry about! And hatch tops (sometimes called trap doors) almost as often as skylights can be a source for water damage.

There is more, but let’s summarize. Homeowners should regularly have inspections and if necessary maintenance work done to roofs, chimneys, skylights, hatch tops, wall caps/parapets, flashing and gutters, and drains. You want to uncover hidden future costs and protect you most valuable asset!

Tom Daniel is owner and general manager of R. Thomas Daniel Roofing LLC and is the third generation of the family to provide roofing services to Capitol Hill families. Tom was born on Capitol Hill and supports numerous community organizations. For help with your roofing needs he can be reached at 202-569-1080, 202-544-4430, or tom@rthomasdanielroofing.com.


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