Contractors differ on roof leak

lostinthewoodsAugust 2, 2009

So I have an intermittent roof leak, and three contractors came by to look at the situation. I am in Upstate New York and we've gotten a ton of rain recently. They were unable to gain access to the attic crawl space. All made their opinions based on looking at the roof and location of leaking in upstairs room.

Contractor No. 1: Nothing looks bad on the roof, Leak obviously is in the flashing around your chimney, based on the location of leak on top floor.

Contractor No. 2: Ditto. Also says that flashing around chimney looks bad and at one time says "no flashing", though a guy who he brought with him says that there is flashing. He sends the guy onto the roof with a hose, and they pour water onto the flashing around the chimney for about five minutes. No leak in upstairs room, but this guy says that doesn't prove anything because he might have to do that for "two hours" to get any water in upstairs room.

Contractor No. 3: Sees no problem with flashing. Sees gap in roof shingles on other side of roof, and says that is probable source of water, as very possible water traveled from that point. Says appears to be a "fluke" because of record rains, is not causing damage or mold because of attic fan, I should just watch it and call him if it gets worse. May not recur (though it does the other day, when we get massive rains that cause flooding nearby). Says roof in good shape. Points out to me that what he has told me is not in his financial interest (which is true).

So who do I believe? Contractor No. 1 is reputable contractor. Contractor No. 2 was recommended to me by a guy I know, but I'm suspicious as he had no business card to give me. Contractor No. 3 is a respected building contractor well known in area.

I hate the idea of a recurrent leak in the roof, but I'm not exactly flush with cash and my temptation is to choose door No. 3.

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In all honesty, there's no way to make a true assessment without an actual survey. However, I think the gap in the shingles has always been there and hasn't caused a problem before now. The flashing around a chimney is an area that requires periodical inspection and maintenance which most homeowners overlook. If the caulking or other sealant where the flashing touches the chimney has separated, water can get behind it and with the volume you are getting, eventually find it's way inside the roof. If getting on the roof is not a problem for you, you can reseal the flashing for pennies. If not getting on the roof is appropriate for you, here's what I would suggest....since the flashing probably needs maintenance, have the guy that suggests that is the problem do the work......with a written guarantee that will fix the problem. If it turns out not to be the problem, he can fix the problem at his own expense.

If I were forced to make an assessment....I personally would suspect the flashing.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 5:22PM
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No, I had the flashing inspected etc. a couple of years ago. Can't go up and inspect it myself: too steep and I;m too old.

It's hard to describe the gap--not really in the shingles. Ehh... I don't have the technical background. I raised that point with Contractor No. 3, and his view was that the water may just be coming in now because of the rain we've been having.

I just wonder if anyone's gotten a "fluke" appraisal on a roof leak in the past.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 9:02PM
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You say that it only leaks during a really hard rain. This tells me that the problem is that somewhere the water is backing up, pooling and going uphill to get in under the shingles. These kind of problems are very hard to find without being able to get access to the attic. You say that there is no access, so where it is actualy leaking is going to be at best an educated guess. Finding a contractor that will guarantee this kind of repair is going to be really difficult. Some of us may be crazy but we are not stupid! Why is the, in your words "attic crawl space" not accessible? Perhaps the most sensible thing to do would be to open up the ceiling in the affected room and take a look and find where the water is coming from. Then the repair will be obvious. Repairing a hole in the ceiling is going to be a lot cheaper than going from guess to guess to guess to stop the leak.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 11:34AM
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Open the area that has the problem and install a permanent access to the area. Screwing around with hypotheticals due to a lack of access makes no sense.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 4:16PM
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