Roof Leaks Can Be Funny

Keep your gutters clear of leaves.

A roofer tells his bar buddy how he fixed a roof leak, and the story goes like this.

“Owner shows me a leak in the kitchen ceiling on the first floor, and I ask him is there a leak on the top floor, and he says no, so I ask him if there is a bathroom above the kitchen, and he says yes, so I go upstairs and fix the leaky toilet!”

With that, the roofer’s bar buddy buys another round of drinks.

This story is true, and while it may be funny, it goes to show that roof leaks and the source of roof leaks can be difficult to find and repair, and they are definitely not funny. While in this case it wasn’t a roof leak, you never know where roof leaks might come from.

Always keep your roof clear of debris.

Roofers are a lot like plumbers and have to know how to find leaks and how to fix them. Water is our enemy! It’s not easy to fix leaks, and while we strive for 100-percent repair rates we lose sleep and have nightmares trying to achieve it.

Think of that. If a quarterback completes 60 percent of his passes he gets a big contract. If a baseball player hits .300, he is going to be in the All-Star Game. Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest NBA player, said that he failed half the time because he only shot 50 percent from the field. If we achieved those rates we would be out of business.

Striving for complete success is no easy task. We know how difficult emotionally it can be for our customers with leaky roofs, and that it can be a financial drain, so we always take our work seriously.

So, let’s talk more about roof leaks, how to prevent them and where to find them. Here are some tips from Roofing 101 on how to prevent leaks:

  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean and free of debris. An overflowing or clogged drain can create leak nightmares. This August we had many emergency calls with this problem, which was exacerbated by the excessive rain.
  • Make sure the seals on roof vent pipes are secured and free of gaps.
  • Skylight seals where the glass connects to the frame, and flashing where the frame connects to the roof, should be secured and free of gaps.
  • Check chimney flashing and chimney mortar and caps.
  • Seams on a metal or membrane roof are often weak points that should be checked.
  • HVAC roofing penetrations and wiring can be a cause of roof leaks.
  • Check overlapping seams on parapet walls and wall caps.
  • Rusty, worn-out spots on metal roofs can be a problem.
  • Slate tiles and shingles or turret roofs need to be secured.
  • Built-in gutters below the turret often wear out or have pooling water which can cause problems.
  • Tops and flashing of trapdoors/hatches are often a major cause of leaks.
  • Window seals should be checked for cracks and gaps.
Have your roof pipes expertly checked for cracking.

What can you do with your new-found knowledge? You can check out some of these things on your own, but getting on a roof and walking around can be dangerous even for experienced professionals. You should also find a good, experienced roofer with expertise in working on the types of roofing structures common to Capitol Hill rowhouses, and have all of these items inspected every year or two.

Let me close with my “Squirrel in the Crawl Space” story. Sometimes I forget my flashlight when I have to inspect the crawl space of a house for leaks or access the roof through the hatch in the crawl space. Bad idea! You never know what you might find up there in the dark, including a terrified squirrel that jumps on your arm!


Tom Daniel is owner and general manager of R. Thomas Daniel Roofing LLC and is the third generation of the family to provide roofing services to Capitol Hill families. Tom was born on Capitol Hill and supports numerous community organizations. For help with your roofing needs he can be reached at 202-569-1080, 202-544-4430, or