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The Challenge in Diagnosing and Preventing Winter Roof Leaks

Are you suffering from winter roof leaks?

If you have a leak in the winter months and it is not being caused by an ice dam, there is another likely culprit:  attic condensation.

You may pay to melt an ice dam, only to see the damaging leak continue. What you’ll discover is an inside job: Water vapor from inside your home, which has found its way into your attic. As this warm vapor cools, the moisture condenses into damaging droplets all over the wooden surfaces. Picture a cold glass of water in the summer, with a film of water on the outside draining onto your table. That’s the interior of your attic. Eventually, enough condensation can cause visible leaks, rot, mold, and a host of other serious problems.

What causes attic condensation? Warm, moist air rises up from the living space below, and gets trapped in your attic space. Since it is much colder outside, when that air comes in contact with the cold underside of your roof deck you get condensation.

What should you do? First and foremost, you need good insulation in your attic, which minimizes the amount of warm air up there. The key is to make sure all of your attic’s surfaces are sealed or insulated properly. That will lessen the warm air that seeps into your attic from your toasty living spaces.

You may have other problems. Heating ducts may run straight through your attic, and if that duct isn’t insulated, it will transfer some of that heat into the attic. Also, your exhaust fans may vent into the attic instead of outside.

Those potential problems may add up to a lot of warm air. Your bathroom, in particular, is a great source for moist air, since you’re in there taking steaming showers and then venting it every time you run the fan.

Keep in mind that water damage caused by attic condensation can be just as harmful to your home as ice dam leaks are – sometimes even worse because the damage is slower to accumulate. Attic condensation is quieter and initially less obvious. Your roofing beams and decking may slowly rot away and develop mold that can spread into the rest of your home. Sadly, many homeowners only investigate when their your roof starts sagging and they develop respiratory problems.

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