Here's our “Top 10” causes of roof leaks, followed by a gallery of photos of roof defects that are leaking or will start leaking soon:

1) Poorly installed or missing flashings

2) Incorrect installation of the roofing material

3) Temporary repairs with mastic or caulk

4) Backed up gutters.

5) Improper deck over roof or low slope roof used as a deck.

6) Bolted-thru satellite dishes, solar systems

7) Damaged plumbing boots

8) Trees scraping roof

9) Impact from falling large tree branch or hail

  1. 10)Roofing material deterioration

©2013 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection. Comments or suggestions? Send them to

  To learn more about how to recognize when it’s time to replace your roof, go to our blog: How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?

   If you want to understand the difference between an “architectural” and a regular shingle roof, see our blog: What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof?

   For information on the average lifespan of different roof materials, go to our blog: What’s the average lifespan of a roof?

    Want to know what an inspector looks for when evaluating a roof? Turn to our blog: What do you look for when you inspect a roof?

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.


Temporary repairs to roof damage with roofing mastic typically fail within a year.

Older shingles begin to break away at the bottom edge when a gust of wind lifts them up.

Even a tree branch that is gently brushing against a shingle roof will eventually destroy the shingles in that area.

When flashings start to rust through, pin-hole leaks begin.

The acidity created by leaf debris on a low-slope shortens the life of the roof.

Sloppy nailing of roof shingles causes problems like this.

When the edges of the roof shingles begin to curl up, your roof is pretty much over with.

The flashing around plumbing vents that extend through the roof is called a “boot.” When they deteriorate, as in this photo, minor leakage around the vent pipe begins.

All the nailing of a shingle roof should be buried under an overlapping shingle. This photos shows “face nailing,” which is another cause of roof leaks.

Roof-to-wall flashings are very important where a wall rises above an adjacent roof. Here, the lack of a “kick-out flashing” at the bottom of where the roof and wall meet has allowed water to be funneled behind the wall.

Certain types of flat roofs are designed to allow standing water, called “ponding” in the roofing trade. But a large area of deep ponding will cause premature deterioration of the area under it.

If lifting up the front edge of a roof shingle is effortless, the roof is at the end of its serviceable lifespan. Any significant storm event will rip off the shingles.

When the tar in a “tar and gravel” roof deteriorates, it cracks apart in the pattern called “alligatoring,” and signals that the roof is ready to be replaced.

Poorly installed and cheap skylights always leak.

Backed-up gutters create leak problems at drip edge of a roof over time.

Diverter strip at edge of roof over walkway has caused standing water that seeps under shingles behind it

More blog posts about similar subjects:

  1. I’m buying a ‘50s house with a “gravel” roof. Is the roof going to be a problem.

  2. How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?

  3. What’s the difference between “composite” and regular wood siding?

  4. Should I buy a fixer-upper?

  5. What is the cost difference between asphalt shingle and metal roofing?

  6. What’s the difference between a gable roof and a hip roof?

  7. What is roof pitch?

  8. Should I put gutters on the house?

  9. What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

  10. What is the minimum pitch of an asphalt shingle roof?

  11. What are the most common problems with older houses?

  12. What is causing a foggy haze on my windows?

  13. Why does my insurance company want a roof letter?

  14. What’s the difference between an “architectural” and a regular shingle roof?

  15. I saw some staining on the ceiling. Do you think the roof is okay?

  16. What are the pipes on my roof?

  17. What does “lack of tab adhesion” in an asphalt shingle roof mean?

  18. How can I make my roof last longer?

  19. How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home?

  20. What are the roof sheathing requirements for a roof replacement in Florida?

  21. What is the difference between galvanized and galvalume metal roofing?

  22. What is an H-clip?

  23. Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

  24. Why is it a mistake to replace and roof not replace its flashings?

  25. What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?

  26. What is a “square” of roofing?

  27. How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles?

  28. What is an SPF roof?

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