There is something very basic and psychological about our need for shelter in winter.
Yes, it’s the practicalities about keeping warm and dry but it’s also much more fundamental than that. We all feel the need to simply ‘shut out’ the worst of weather.
That’s why little is more demoralising than seeing water coming in the roof.
True, problems can be fixed but that’s often very expensive and delays can be incurred. It’s always better to avoid roofing problems by identifying the symptoms and getting them resolved before they become serious problems.
Keep in mind too that some home insurance policies may contain conditions relating to your obligation to keep your property in sound order.
Gutters, downpipes and drains
The indications of problems ‘waiting to happen’ in these areas are usually easy to spot.
Signs of rust, flaking paint, holes, brown patches and overflows, all suggest ‘something is up’ and that immediate attention is required.
An incredibly common problem is when all these things that are designed to carry away water, actually become blocked by leaves, twigs, animal deposits and so on. The water just can’t run away and it will find another way of escaping – often into your roof spaces or foundations.
Autumn (after leaf fall) and early winter is a classic time for troubles here, so even if it means getting cold and wet, you really should make the effort to get a ladder and clean everything out. If you’re not happy on ladders, spend a probably modest amount to get someone to do it for you.
Brown patches on ceilings and walls
This is another classic symptom that water’s getting in somewhere.
If it’s a ceiling, then it probably means that it’s either an underfloor pipe or perhaps water ingress from your roof. Sometimes there’s no obvious sign as to where the water is coming from and to make things worse, it might also be intermittent.
It’s unlikely to go away on its own though so you may need to lift floorboards and hunt for the cause.
In the case of patches on or around fireplaces, it’s a fair bet that the water is coming in down or around your chimney stack. A common culprit is the ‘flashings’, which are strips of lead or more commonly today galvanised zinc. They serve to make the spot where the chimney stack joins your roof as waterproof as possible.
They’re very liable to wear and tear though and letting in rain as a result. Get them checked and repaired if required, though as this is roof work, use a professional unless you have good scaling/roof ladders and safety equipment (plus a head for heights).
Your roof should be inspected every year in autumn to prevent damage in a harsh winter, and a good starting point is the loft.
A lot will depend upon whether or not you have insulation behind your tiles or slates. If you can see them, there clearly shouldn’t be any daylight showing through. Look particularly carefully around those chimney stacks.
If you can’t see the tiles/slates, look at your insulation for any signs of brownness or damp. Even if it hasn’t penetrated to the inside of your home yet – it will! You really need to get it fixed before the worst of the weather arrives.
External roof inspections
For some homeowners, this is the only real way to check the roof because inside the loft, insulation has made its fabric virtually invisible.
Once again, remembering the above caveats about safety, you should look at your roof area. Warning signs include:
- mould growing on the roof – not serious usually but it should be cleaned off;
- moss – potentially much more dangerous as it holds water and can get heavy, thereby adding stress to your roof;
- slipped tiles/slates – they require attention before they become a problem;
- brown or flaking seals around loft windows – urgent repair here is necessary;
- split or cracked pointing (the cement and mortar) around the chimney stack – this is another classic route water will follow and this really needs to be fixed before any heavy frosts arrive.
Try to get all of the above jobs done before it gets really wild once winter sets in!