Why Does My Roof Leak During the Winter?


“My roof is leaking!”

You made it through spring rains, summer storms, and blustery autumn winds. Why is your roof leaking now that it’s winter? Does a leak mean that you have to replace your roof?

The good news is that there are a few relatively minor reasons you may notice water on your walls or ceilings during the winter that don’t indicate serious roofing problems.


Step 1: Identify the Source 

Sometimes, it’s relatively easy to tell where and how water is leaking into your home. If you have staining along an exterior wall, it could indicate you have water coming in as a result of seasonal ice damming along your gutters and eaves. If you have dampness on walls near your chimney, it’s a good bet that you’ve got a poor seal around the flashing where the chimney penetrates the roof.

Other times, though, it seems impossible to figure out where or how water is coming in, especially if you have moisture over a large area or towards the interior of the home. An upstairs ceiling that is generally damp can be a result of exhaust venting into the attic rather than to the outside of the home (common in many older homes). The excess humidity buildup in the attic can cause attic condensation that seeps through the ceiling, causing moisture and discoloration. Moisture on a ceiling or wall that’s near the center of the home, far away from exterior walls, could be caused by a plumbing leak or condensation around poorly insulated pipes.



Step 2: Assess the Damage

Once you’ve identified where the water is coming from, assess the extent of the damage. By the time you notice a leak, it’s possible that water has been infiltrating your home for many weeks or months. Long-term seepage and moisture can cause mold and mildew, which can be a hazard to your family’s health and aggravate breathing problems. Significant moisture infiltration through your home’s roof, walls, and ceilings over a long period of time can cause the framing of the house to rot, threating its structural integrity. If the framing of your roof has suffered significant moisture damage, it many need to be repaired or replaced before a new roof can be installed. This is why it’s vital to inspect your roof regularly and have any damaged areas repaired immediately, before significant problems arise.



Step 3: Find & Implement a Solution

Leaks around roof penetrations like chimneys, dormers, and vents can often be fixed by replacing flashing and repairing the seals between the protrusion and the roof. A professional roofer can usually complete these repairs relatively quickly and easily, even in the winter. If your problem is caused by attic condensation, removing and replacing or supplementing the insulation in your attic and installing appropriate ventilation systems can provide a solution (and improve your home’s energy efficiency, lowering your heating and cooling costs). Improving your attic insulation will also help prevent ice damming. Heat cables may be another solution for particularly problematic areas of your roof where ice tends to build up and cause winter water infiltration. Plumbing leaks should be addressed by a licensed, experienced plumbing professional, who can find and repair a localized leak.



Although it’s not the most ideal time of year to do so, you can replace your roof in the winter! If your roof is leaking or allowing moisture to infiltrate your home, repairing or replacing your roof immediately can help prevent more serious (and costly) problems later. Contact the roofing professionals at Hedrick for a roof inspection and estimate. Our experienced roofers serve homeowners all around Ames, Huxley, and Des Moines—all year long.


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