Hidden roof leaks for home buyers

With all the rainy weather we’ve been having, you may be put off from doing your usual house-hunting; however adverse weather is exactly the right time you should be inspecting.  The best light isn’t always good when you’re buying real estate. No matter how deep you’ve fallen in love with a house or apartment, you will want to know its flaws and damages; and, just like bad weather brings out the worst in people, bad weather can do the same for real estate.

Despite the roof being the vital part of the home, it often escapes the scrutiny of the home buyer as it is out of sight, out of mind.  Even though any existing problems would usually be picked up in a building inspection, your own inspection in torrential rain is a guaranteed way to see the property, warts and all.

Just because a leak is found doesn’t mean the whole roof has to be replaced. Most of the time, roof leaks occur because the sealing around vents or flashing on the chimney has deteriorated or hasn’t been installed correctly. Replacing the flashing or sealant, simply and cheaply, will often solve the problem.  However, being aware of any potential leaky roof problems gives you a bargaining chip when negotiating a price on the property.

Often when homes are sold, a fresh coat of paint is used to cover long term tell-tale water stains on the interior ceiling and walls, or in the case of a metal roof, a fresh coat of paint on the exterior could suggest a quick artificial makeover on a rusty roof.  The cost of repairing water damage by a leaking roof on plaster, especially lath and plaster in older homes, can run into thousands of dollars and is usually discovered after people move into their new home and experience the first heavy downpour. This damage can be caused by a simple lack of maintenance in clearing out guttering or downpipes which cause the water to back up and enter the home.

Apart from the appearance of the roof, it is also vital that inside the roof cavity is inspected for structural soundness.

Following major storms and heavy rain, leaky roof problems can lead to dangerous situations where water can penetrate walls, roof linings, and insulation, leading to the growth of mould and deterioration of the home. People who put off having leaks fixed could be putting themselves and their families at risk, especially if the water was likely to enter the electrical system or appliances.

Roof Checklist

  • Check guttering and downpipes are clear of fallen leaves, sticks and other debris.
  • If there have been storms or high winds look for broken or cracked roof tiles, loose ridge and valley tiles allowing bird and possum entry as well as water leaks.
  • Check that corrugated iron sheets are in good condition and well attached.
  • Ensure valley and eaves guttering are free from holes and rust. Even small holes can create large leaks often making extensive replacement necessary.
  • Make sure flues and chimneys are structurally safe and the flashings around them are secure against water penetration
  • Check inside the roof space for water stains or pinholes of light indicating holes in the roof or flashings.

It might surprise you to learn that in all Australian States and Territories, other than Queensland, literally anyone can do a home inspection, with no need for any licence, qualifications, experience, insurance or building fault knowledge!   So make sure you choose the right person to inspect your potential new home – a qualified, experienced inspector who will provide a comprehensive report that complies with the Australian Standards; and who has adequate insurance cover, particularly for professional indemnity.

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