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Question DetailsAsked on 12/22/2015

Can I repair a leak in my roof in the winter?

Have a leak in the ceiling of the bathroom. Need to check the roof for the leak. Can I safely lift the shingles to check for the leak in the cold of winter?

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2 Answers


My gutter covers require the installer to lift the shingle to slide a cover between the shingles on the overhang. We can do it in the dead of a Nebr winter but we are not really bending the shingle. I do not think it is a good idea to lift a cold, brittle asphalt shingle in most areas to seal a leak below it.

I suggest most leaks are not below a shingle but rather were the shingle meets a foreign object, like a vent stack or a wall. Sealing the shingle to the object can be accomlished with a roofing sealant available at Menards, Lowes, etc. The secret to caulking in winter time is to heat the sealant in the tube. Perhaps placing tube on furnace duct so air heats pre cut tube inside of home then climb up ladder and seal area keeping the sealant warm and easily caulk able. Geocel in brushable can is heatable with can open on stovetop in bed of warm but not boiling water. Use throwaway brush to spread clear sealant, Voila no more leak.

Jim Casper

ps for ideas on my gutter cover see below


Answered 4 years ago by jccasper


Better than letting it leak all winter and possibly cause mold, rot, or ceiling collapse - or if in cold area, dangerous ice weight buildup in the attic.
You can heat the shingles with a hair dryer or electric heat gun (on low) to a wrm (70-90 degree) temperature, if dry outside. However, unless lifting to look at the condition of adjacent flashing, it won't help - shingles are double-layer, so to actually see underneath to the water barrier you have to remove strips of shingles - lifting a tab just shows the upper half of the shingle row below it. As JC said, FAR more common for leaks to be due to flashing / interface leakage than shingle leakage. Except with cracked wood shingles/shakes (where a crack can line up over the joint below the underlying course) I have NEVER found a leak through the shingle field (as opposed to at interface or flashing or penetration) where the shingles were not missing or visibly significantly damaged / cracked / aged to mush, or leaking at a hole from a missing nail. Since you said in ceiling of bathroom, the ducting and roof penetration would be especially suspect if close to the fan. Four highly likely causes, the first three of which at least you may be able to eliminate yourself - or possibly be able to tie down exact cause if you can get in the attic to see around the roof penetration - 1) if it has already been quite cold where you are, could be the ducting through the roof is disconnected or rusted, so moist air is getting into the attic and condensing or frosting, them dripping down and coming through the bathroom ceiling. 2) ditto to cold conditions above, but condensing/frosting on the cold metal in an uninsulated duct to the roof from the fan and running down INSIDE the duct, coming out at the fan or at the bottom joint right at the edge of the fan mounting box. 3) rain splashing into a vent hood whose draft flapper is stuck/rusted open, or rusted out vent hood 4) leaking penetration flashing or roof jack (the stand-up cone flashing around pipes and ducts) Obviously, the first two require a quite cold attic - commonly below 20 or so for noticeable drips to form, and commonly (if frosted) gets worse if you run the fan for an extended period because it melts out the built-up frost very quickly. The latter two - #3 you might be able to tell with binoculars if you don't like getting on the roof with a flashlight, #4 can be tough because depending on where leak is can come down around the edges of the cutout opening under the vent hood, through the wood sheathing below the hood, around the outside of the ducting, or inside the ducting. But, obviously, #3 would only happen when raining and probably either hard pounding (splashing) rain or blowing, #4 requires a wet roof (rain or melting snowpack). Leak location can of course be other than right under the leakk too - as leaks commonly run down the underside of the sheathing or bottom edge of joists, or drop onto the top of the ceiling and flow across vapor barrier till they find an opening to come down through.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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