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Roof Leaks – Why Do They Occur? How Can You Stop Them?

Many home and business owners neglect roof maintenance until a leak is encountered. By the time the leak is outstanding though, the time, effort and expense required to rectify the problem is much greater than if action was taken beforehand. Therefore, knowing a little about what causes leaks to develop can be a real help in stopping the issue before it becomes serious, and can save property owners a lot of money in the long-run.

The first step in learning about roof leaks is to know a little about roofs of themselves, with the built up asphalt roof being a good example as it is the most common type of roof. This type of roof consistors of 3 or 4 layers of asphalt sheeting that has been bonded together with tar. The cover sheet, or top roof layer, of most built-up asphalt roofs is covered with a fine mineral granule that is embedded into the asphalt during the manufacturing process. This colored mineral serves as a protective barrier between the cover sheet asphalt and the weather.

8-10 years is the typical life-span of a built-up asphalt roof. During this time, regular maintenance is required to re-seal rooftop penetrations such as skylights, vent pipes and roof vents. The normal maintenance for these areas involves the application of plasticized cold asphalt. The problem with these treatments, along with other petroleum based roofing products, is that they are rapidly out-gas into the atmosphere over the course of a few years. What is left behind is brittle, non-flexible and most often permeable by moisture.

When this happens, the protective mineral barrier on the top layer starts to come off. As the asphalt starts to becomes exposed, it is subjected to UV rays from the sun, and general wear and tear from other types of weather, such as rain, hail and snow. This causes the breakdown of the asphalt to be accelerated; not just the top layer, but those under it too. It is around this time that property owners will start to notice that their roof is not as it should be.

So, what can home and business owners do to prevent their roof getting in this state? Firstly, they should inspect their roof and its coating at least every year. Secondly, they should regularly (every 12-18 months) apply a non-petroleum based protective treatment, which will prevent the need for any wide reaching repairs suddenly arising.

If a leak has already led to the need for expensive repairs to be carried out, property owners may want to look at using modern durable and energy saving solar reflective roof coating systems. These offer a cost effective solution and require much lower levels of ongoing maintenance.

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