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Question DetailsAsked on 1/1/2014

New roof leaking

I need advice from roofing pros.

I have a townhouse adjacent to two other houses. I had a new roof installed during the summer. It started to leak during the first major storm. My roofing company came over three times trying it fix it. It did not work. They are now saying that the leak comes from my neighbor's side, and need them to fix it. When I talk to my neighbor, they have no intention to replace or do any work on their roof, as they don't see any issues inside their house.

How can I assess if the leaking comes from bad work on the new roof or a damaged shingle from neighbor's side? Thank you very much!

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5 Answers


If this started right after the new roof was put on, it certainly initially sounds like the new roof is the problem is you did not have problems before. Unless the neighbor's roof extends over your living space (which would be awfully wierd for a townhouse or condo) it is very unlikely a leak in their roof will come into your place without also coming into theirs.

Sounds like you are not putting enough pressure on the contractor to prove he was actually fixing the problem when he came the three times. Did the contractor show you any proof that the problem is coming from the adjacent roof, like mold or rot in a wall leading down from the adjacent unit, or fresh water staining in the attic under the neighbor roof segment ? If you can get up into the attic (ideally during a sustained rain), follow your water leak back from where you see it in the house up into the attic and look for water staining and mold and track it back to where it starts - should normally be pretty clear which side it comes from. IF coming from the intersection of the two roofs (if there are at same level), then that junction would have been his responsibility to seal properly. I am guessing, just off the top of my head, he may have failed to properly install ice and water shield and step flashing at the edge where your roof meets the adjacent unit, in which case you leak would be coming down the party wall with the neighbor's unit.

If you want to get this fixed NOW, have one person with a BRIGHT flashlight (like a 6 volt lantern) watch where the leak appeared, or in the attic where there is staining if you can get there, while you spray the roof heavily with a hose to reproduce the leak. Be careful not to shoot it up under the shingles or tiles, and not to shoot it into fan vents or ridge vents - make it fall on the roof like rain. Usually a new roof leak, in most cases, is at the flashing - where a multi-level roof meets adjacent wall, or at roof jacks where there are roof penetrations, but if the ridge vent or valleys were done wrong it can occur there too. Usually new shingles or tiles or sheet metal roofing will not leak unless done terribly wrong.

You need to document this issue, and get it resolved before your roof warranty with the contractor runs out - typically 1 year, but sometimes less.

If you are able to take a few pictures and post them to this thread using the Answer Question button, and describe exactly where the leak is occurring and how that relates dimensionally to the roof as show in the pictures, maybe we can be more help regarding where it is most likely to be leaking. Pictures taken from up on the roof would be most useful, but if you are not up to that then the best zoom you can manage from the ground.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


LCD, thank you SO MUCH for the detailed comment and recommendation!! They are very helpful!

The leaking side of my house does not have an attic. It is a main bedroom with a vaulted ceiling, then connected to the main bathroom. The leak is showing up along the partway with my neighbor in the bathroom. There is a skylight in the middle of the bathroom which leaked before. As the roof was replaced, a new skylight was installed and does not leak any more. Could the new leak along the partway be somehow related to the skylight leak before?

I am awfully unhandy and won't be able to get up the roof to check. I am thinking about hiring someone to evaluate and find out the leak for me. I figured that I need some kind of professional report in any case if I want to confront either the roofing company or my neighbor. Shall I get a roof inspector or a roof contractor? Will the inspector be able to find out the leak? Roof contractors usually charge on their repair work; will they be willing to get paid to find out problems without fixing them?

Thank you again for your advice!

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9066750


Obviously just guessing here not being able to see it first hand, but I would think the skylight leakage issue would not travel across to the party wall - certainly not without moving quite a ways downhill before it could migrate that far, assuming we are talking a sloping roof, as it sounds like since you have a cathedral ceiling. I would doubt they are related unless the skylight is within a couple of feet to the party wall, especially as if the skylight were involved you would expect most of the water damage to be occurring right around or directly downslope from it.

One thing to look at, particularly if you have a telescope or binoculars (or can borrow from a neighbor) - on the side ofthe roof where the leak is, in good daylight but not blinding direct light on the area in question, look for missing or torn away from the party wall flashing (should look about like this if done right, with shingles - the party wall side should be tucked up behind the siding boards or panels, so you will see very little of it) -

if done improperly, over the siding instead of tucked under, then siding runoff will go right down behind it - like this (except this is a during-repair photo and would not look like that after job was done) -

but with brick or concrete wall, it is bent into a kerf or slot at the brick grout joints and looks more like this -


Also look for staining or water marks on the fascia (the face board or metal over the bottom ends of rafters), under the bottom edge of the shingles - both on your side of the party wall, and on neighbor's side. If the leak is running down under the shingles enough to reach and stain the fascia, most likely the leak is on the side where the staining is.

As to inspection and tracing the leak - unfortunately, a report or repair by another contractor would be unlikely to be believed by the initial contractor, and would probably only carry equal weight if you went to small claims court - though photos of where the water staining was would certainly sway that. To win that battle you would probably need an architect or engineer's report (a building inspectors report might suffice, but would carry less weight), which would mean $200-350 for that PLUS $200+ to have a roofer there at same time to do the actual roofing inspection tearoff and replacement (because the removed material has to be put right back to prevent MORE leakage) - so I am afraid you would be putting a lot of money into inspection with nothing immediately to show for your money.

Did your roofer visually inspect your neighbor's roof for obvious damage, from your side of the roof ? Did he say SPECIFICALLY where on the neighbor's side he thought the leak was coming from ?

Unfortunately, the "right" or definitive way to track this is to start where the leak is appearing in your house, and using a fiber optic scope (1/2" holes) or tear out drywall on the wall or ceiling to track the water staining back to where it comes from - either the party wall or the roof sheathing. Then, if in the party wall, its facing would have to be torn into to see if the water was coming from your side or the neighbor's. Assuming that your neighbor's roof is at a different level than yours, the most likely place for the problem is at the flashing at the edge of the roof where it hits the party wall (see photo links below). If your roof is lower, then probably a poor flashing job by your contractor. If yours is same level, then probably a failure to weave your shingles or tiles (assuming shingles or tiles) in with the neighbor's to make it seamless. If yours is higher, a tougher problem to figure out where it is leaking. The fact you had no leak before the reroof certainly makes it sound like your reroof was the source of the problem somehow - offhand I would say 90% chance - having a neighbor's roof start to leak right after yours is replaced seems like too much of a coincidence.

Four possible feasible approaches I can see, in order I would choose:

1) IF the contractor was bonded, do letter as indicated below but to his bonding company, filing a claim against his bond and demanding they make good on the work, with a copy to the contractor - use certified return receipt or registered mail on both, depending on which method is considered legal delivery in your state. If in doubt or you can't find it, use registered.

2) It sounds like you are getting into a potentially expensive situation here - so a suggestion. Talk to your homeowner's insurance company - they may provide or at least be able to suggest an inspector and new roofer, and may also help you go after the contractor or his bonding company (if he was bonded) to recover the cost of repair rather thann pay it out of insurance coverage, which is likely to be in the $250-1000 range (a ballpark guess), PLUS several hundred more in drywall repair and painting to repair the inspection holes.

3) Go with a home inspector with roof construction experience, choose a roofer, and require in your contracts with them that they coordinate and that the inspector be on site when the roofer tear into the roof (and maybe the wall or ceiling near the roof interface where the leak shows) and that he documents the conditions and the leak path and the source, as the roofer tears into it and then repairs it. Now, the tough part - whether to use a roofer or a general contractor - because a GC would have faster access to both a roofer and to a siding person and drywall and painting contractors or employees, if you end up tracking the leak into the siding on the party wall. Hopefully your insurance company will help you out with this issue and take the lead - they commonly will to maximize possibility of getting the cost of the inspection and repair out of the original contractor.

4) Go with an architect or engineer's report, expecting you will be suing - a pricey and risky approach, particularly since you are talking probably less than $1000 repair cost.

Whichever way you go,, I would start off with a letter to the first contractor indicating his failure to repair the problem in 3 visits, so you are going with another source to investigate and fix the leak, and will be filing a claim against him for the cost.

Good Luck - obviously, this is a no win situation - more of a minimize the loss and get it fixed situation.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Towhouse party walls can be tough depending on what type they are and there certainly does exist the potential for a leak to start on your neighbors side and go sideways, under your roof system, and into your home.

Some systems are easier to address and plan for than others. We had a similar situation where a leak was coming in on a party wall between two standing seam roofs and the leak was found to be originating at the neighbors home.

Can you post up a picture of the roofline so that we can see what you are dealing with?

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


First sorry to hear you are having issues with your new roof, and more sorry to hear the contractor you choose is not standing behind his work. So my first question will be is the roof in question on your townhouse that is leaking one slope with the neighbors roof? If so did they cut a straight line or weave the shingles together? If it's not a seem issue then it's a flashing issue. Does your city require permits? If so you can report the roofer to the city and they will put some pressure on him to do the repair. I also would call the BBB, and the States Attorneys Office which will also put pressure on the contractor to fix it. If they don't respond and repair it then Hire another roofer and then take the other roofer to small claims court to get the repairs cost back for the outside as well as the inside.

Best Of Luck

Richard Jeziorski

Liberty Roofing & Siding Inc.


Answered 6 years ago by LibertyRoofing

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