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Question DetailsAsked on 2/28/2016

Six windows in a sunroom, one corner window leaking from the top. Could my ridge vent be the problem?

I have a 14 x14 sunroom addition to my home. We have had an issue with one particular corner window leaking from the top. This past summer we replaced the 20 year old roof, still had the issue when it rained, called the roofer back out and they checked their work, drip edge, etc. I called another contractor that does siding and he took all the siding off the back wall of the sunroom that included the leaking window, sealed all three of the exposed windows, re-did the Tyvek wrap, and put the siding back up. It still leaks. I called them back, and they caulked around the top of the specific window. During the next rain, it still leaked.

The question I have is about the ridge vent on this 14x14 roof. The room itself is a valted ceiling (same angle as roof line), no attic or anything above ceiling. The only thing I can think of is the rain gets into that ridge vent from wind and travels at the angle of the roof to that corner window. Is that possible? Is there a need for a ridge vent?

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3 Answers


Yes it can - as can condensation due to inadequate attic ventilation which then leaks when it thaws out. Using the term "attic" here as relating to the minimal space between the roof sheathing and the insulation that is presumably in there.

Can run down the underside of the sheathing till it hits something that causes it to drop - nails penetrating the sheathing, fire blocking, eave screening are common drip-off points. The latter could cause it to drop down into the inside of the wall.

It can also drip off high up, then run down through the insulation to the top of the ceiling drywall - soaking and staining and at times even collapsing it if it does not have vapor barrier on top of it, which it should in any area with winters. If there is vapor barrier it would run down on top of that till it hit a penetration - commonly the edge of the vapor barrier at the outer wall, then run down into the wall under the drywall.

Because you said nothing about water staining on ceiling or drywall, I am going to assume (if water is coming in that way) that you have vapor barrier in the "attic", and that your sunroom windows reach almost all the way to the ceiling - so if water is getting into the top of the wall in the "attic" it could come down in the wall and pop out indoors at the top of the window without wetting/staining overhead drywall, which would normally be the first sign of this.

A pity that much effort and expense has been gone to without FIRST finding the actual cause of the leak, because should not have been hard to diagnose:

1) if occurs only shortly (hours to a day or so) after days of very cold weather (probably below 10-20 degrees outside air temp) followed by a warming, or cold weather with sunny, roof warming days - then frosting from humid indoor air getting up in there would be a suspect cause - confirmable or could be ruled out by getting up to the eaves with a BRIGHT flashlight and looking for frosting and wetness on the underside of the roof sheathing and framing - especially after a significant period of cold weather when heavy frosting would be very obvious. Note - a light haze of frosting is common and evaporates without causing dripping or a flow - but a frost layer that pretty much conceals the sheathing can do this. Obviously, if leak occurs in non-freezing weather, this one is out.

2) if occurs when there has been only vertical rain - no chance of it blowing in at the top of the window, then an exterior wall or window seal/flashing leak would be ruled out. If occurs in driving rain only, that would be a strong indication - spraying the outside of the house at top of window could have confirmed it. When the siding was pulled off and the windows reflashed it is a pity that window was not taken out - could have seen WHERE the staining in the rough opening was, and tracked the water to where it was getting at the window - from outside flashing, from leaking window itself (though not that it leak is coming off TOP of the outer frame), or down in the wall. Openign up the tyvek ABOVE the window and pullingout any insulation would have shown the same thing - would have clearly demonstrated if it was coming down from the "attic".

3) if under flashing (like a valley or such) hosing the roof could have proven or disproven a flashing failure cause - though since you say at corner of room, that is unlikely unless you have a zero-overhang roof in that area.

4) ridge vent leak - again, using a STRONG light (I use 6V lantern type with halogen bulb) looking in from eaves could have seen if there is wetting in the attic (sheathing or insulation) indicating that. Since you say a corner window, my first guess would be maybe the ridge vent is short and does not cover the entire ridge cutout in the sheathing, cutout was taken all the way to the gable end (should not be), has missing shingles over it at the end (if shingle-over rollout-type without its own waterproof cap), or that it is missing an endcap so blowing rain is getting right into the vent. If not at a corner I would have been looking for a leaking end joint between sections of ridge vent.

5) On the need for a ridge vent - assuming your construction looks like the last image in this article on ventilation -

then yes, you need eave openings and ridge vent to allow air to pass over the insulation or you can get the condensation/frosting shown in the article and discussed above. Also, any penetrations need to be sealed - which also means any ceiling recessed lighting needs to be totally airtight sealed can type, though these would cause your problem only in sub-freezing conditions, as mentioned above - but can lead to mildew, mold, rot regardless.

If you cannot get good enough access in from the eaves at that area (which of course means removing any soffit cover and bending back any insect screening), it may also take removing that section of ridge vent looking for any leak source there in the process, and then looking carefully for wet wood or insulation, water staining, wetness or staining at the bottom of the insulation or bottom edge of the rafters, insulation bulking or sagging causing blockage of airflow, etc. By looking carefully in the rafter bays above the window, looking both at underside of sheathing and rafters/trusses, insulation, and underneath the insulation, for as long as this has been going on you should be able to see water staining and maybe mildew, mold and/or rot where the water has been coming down in, and track it back to its source.

One other method - using a thermal infrared camera (insulation and energy audit and roofing contractors sometimes have them, or rentable for under $100/day at Home Depot and tool rental places) or even use an App (built-in on newer iPhone/iPads) to temporarily retune a cellphone or tablet to the near-infrared to scan (when leaking or immediately afterwards) for where there is a temperature difference showing on roof or ceiling/wall - should, especially in colder weather, show the colder areas relating to heat loss through wet materials. Can't speak to other brands but newer Apple devices are good enough to detect areas of missing or wet insulation, though not in great detail like a true infrared camera does.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


In response to the previous answer from LCD: Thank you so much for the detailed response. I suppose that for a homeowner it is difficult to determine who to contact first for this type of issue. Window installer? Siding installer? Roofer? I suspected the roof vent only because it seems a little 'wide' at the opening (the screen material seems to jut out a little beyond the shingle edge - wish I could attach a photo). There is no ceiling or wall staining just a leak when it rains, only on one window of the two (there's one on each side of the room), at the top. There is a trapezoid-shaped window above this leaky one (one of those on each side of the peak). I'll inverstigate the possibilty of it leaking from the trapezoid with a hose when the weather breaks.

Answered 4 years ago by gmw


Well - if able to check out the insulation/top surface of ceiling in the "attic" and it is wet, then has to pretty much be coming from up the roof a ways - so the ridge bent would e a possibility. Roofer would be contractor for that, if applicable.

BTW - the mesh type rollout ridge vent commonly sticks out a bit from under the ridge cover shingles - as long as the ridge shingles (or plastic cap) are basically centered on the ridge and intact, a bit of stickout is sloppy but should not hurt.

OK - the plot thickens - I thought this window was right up under the roof. If you have another window above it, then THAT one (MR Trapezoid), or the top frame of the one leaking, becomes the prime candidate. Could be the actual window leaking (in which case there should be water or staining or dried watermarks between the panes (if multipane) or along the inside of the outer seal as viewed from inside, or possibly even on the inside of the frame.

Could be a siding flashing issue or window flashing or seal. Siding flashing failure generally (hopefully) keeps the water on the outside half of the wall. Window flashing fail commonly puts water alongside the frame or coming in the top of the frame, which is what your case sounds more like, maybe, So - Window contractor would be your normal vendor for this.

One other thing - for whatever reason, trapezoidal and especially triangular windows seem to develop a lot more seal leaks around the glazing units - probably due to uneven expansion and contraction because of the odd shape, so I always suspect them in a case like this.

Since another contractor already reworked the windows, that SHOULD have taken care of flashing or frame perimeter problems - if done right, so I would thing window seals are next place to concentrate. if you try the wetting from outdoors it might work - but unless you can get up to the inside of the windows and watch for water it might take a bunch (hence wet wall or even floor) to see it pop through, so don't get carried away with the hose. Light spray, starting at top of bottom window and gradually working up to see where it starts - bearing in mind may take a minute or three to penetrate from the outside, so safer if possible to check it out when mother nature is wetting the windows - though not as convenient, depending on work schedule.

Good Luck

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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