The Five Most Common Problem Areas of a Roof System

Hand taking leaves out of gutter
Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Although a roof system can suffer a multitude of issues, below are the five most common roof component problems a roof is susceptible to. These common roof issues are also reasonably easy to identify and repair on your own. Please remember however that if you are uncomfortable accessing your roof safely or feel that this type of work is beyond your skill set contact a professional roofing contractor.

Fascia

Fascia is an architectural term for a band running horizontally and situated vertically under a roof edge. In simpler terms, it’s a roof trim - or the front board along your roof line. It typically consists of wooden boards or sheet metal. So, picture the vertical finishing edge that connects to the ends of rafters, trusses and the area where the gutter attaches to the roof.

The primary function of fascia is to protect by acting as a layer between the edge of the roof and the elements of the outdoors - especially water. It also protects the interior of your building from weather damage by blocking its entrance into the structure. Fascia also plays an aesthetic role, creating a smooth, even appearance for the edge of a roof. Moisture is the number one cause of problems with your fascia so be sure to look for signs of rot or damage and contact a roofing contractor immediately if you notice an issue.

Soffit

Soffit comes from the French word for “formed as a ceiling” and the Latin term for “to fix underneath”. Can you guess where your soffit is? The exposed surface beneath the overhanging section of a roof eave or the finished surface below the fascia and rafters is called the soffit.

Vented soffit has small holes that provide air circulation so it can cycle to the vents and draw heat and moisture away from the house.

It plays an important role in helping to ventilate the attic and prevent rot in the sheathing and rafters. Most soffits are made from vinyl because it is a water-resistant and cost-effective material. It helps regulate the temperature in your attic and through the rest of your home making it a comfortable place to live. Look for cracks, holes and rotting to avoid an easy entrance for water or insects and small animals.

Flashings

Flashings are components used to seal roof system edges, perimeters, penetrations, walls, valleys, drains and any other area where the actual roof covering is interrupted or terminated. The primary function of flashing is to help seal any voids in the roof system where water may enter making these prime areas for leak causes if not checked regularly.

The material is usually aluminum or galvanized steel and, depending on the type of roof you have, is most likely in the valleys, around the chimney and even around dormer windows or skylights. Weather and oxidization are the most common culprits for flashing deterioration but it is possible that flashing can just simply come loose. Most professional roofing contractors cut and shape their own flashing from sheet metal but many flashing pieces today come pre-formed and can be applied without much difficulty using caulking or roof cement.

Gutters

Gutters are designed to keep water away from your building’s foundation and to protect the structural integrity. It is imperative to keep your gutters doing their job properly as they are highly susceptible to water and debris buildup causing mold and mildew under your roof.

Fortunately, the most common gutter problems can be fixed by the homeowner. The number one problem is when a gutter and downspout get so backed up with debris they become useless. Excess weight of leaves, twigs and standing water can cause them to sag and pull away from the fascia. If they are sagging, this is usually a problem with the hangers. Hangers are the hardware that secures the gutters to the fascia. They can deteriorate over time or may be spaced too far apart to support the full weight of the gutters. Hangers are a cheap fix.

If your gutter has leaks or holes, sealing them by caulking the joint or filling small holes from the inside with gutter sealant is another cheap fix. Larger holes will require a patch.

Be sure your gutters are pitched toward the downspouts for water to flow properly. The general rule is a minimum of a quarter inch slope for every 10 feet. If there is standing water, you most likely do not have enough pitch. Keep your downspouts extended four to five feet from the house, otherwise water will find its way into your basement. Gutter extensions are inexpensive and will preserve your foundation.

Shingles

Shingles roof systems offer great protection but are prone to discoloration and curling. Areas of missing or broken shingles can leave underlying wood susceptible to rotting, holes and other damage. They can also buckle if they were not adequately ventilated during installation.

Discoloration is an indication of a roof leak and small spot can grow into a gaping hole in your ceiling. Curling is caused by a lack of ventilation, high nails or improperly installed fasteners. They look unsightly and are an open invitation for water seepage. If you have missing shingles, water, snow and ice are hitting your roof square on, which is a direct route to rot. Check your roof often and make repairs or replace shingles as necessary.