Have you ever noticed a water spot on your ceiling and not know where it came from, so you start your own investigation into the source?  I know some of us might feel the spot and notice it isn’t wet and shrug it off and move on to more pressing matters.  Some of us might take it a step or two further and look up at the roof to see if there are any missing shingles or call in a friend or handyman to take a look as well.  If no shingles are missing or blown up, we again may move on and push the spot out of our mind.  But as this article found on Angie’s List by Jane Lamy suggests, there are unexpected dangers of a leaky roof and it is important to investigate and find the cause of all water damage.

Water damage is serious business.  Be on the lookout for roofing leaks before they ruin your home and safety.

There are many different household problems that can be procrastinated. However, a roof leak repair should take the highest priority on your list of home maintenance issues.  Roofing leaks can develop for a variety of reasons:  improper roof installation, wind or storm damage, and lack of maintenance.  Keep in mind that most roofs are only meant to last 20 to 30 years so it could simply be time to replace your roof.

So why is even a small roof leak so critical for our entire household?  Most homeowners think a leaky roof is just a structural problem, but it can actually pose many more safety and even health risks.  Constant water intrusion will eventually work down from the attic area to the very foundation of the house, causing plenty of costly damage on the way.  Here are some of the less-obvious ways a roof leak can damage your home.

Attic and ceiling damage–The initial dangers of a roof leak are damage to the attic area and items stored there.  If there is no attic, or the size of the leak is really big, it will damage the interior ceiling.  Affected ceiling paint will darken and ceiling plaster may bubble and expand.  The leaking water also will damage paint and plaster on nearby walls.  You can also expect damage on ceiling-mounted lights and fans.

Interior mold and mildew issues–In the longer term, one of the most serious consequences of a leaking roof is mold and mildew growth.  Mold can spread throughout the home’s structure, to the HVAC system and then to the rest of the house through the vents where it can invade carpets, furniture and even clothing.

Black mold is the most common type resulting from chronic water intrusion.  Toxic black mold growth is rare, but even non-toxic black mold attacks wood framing, ceiling tiles and wall and floor coverings.  Mold is difficult to get rid of, and it is rather costly.

Health concerns from mold–Mold and mildew can lead to serious health issues, especially for those with high sensitivity, including nasal congestion, rhinitis, inflammations and asthma, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.  Mold spores continue to produce once it’s present and will lead to allergic reactions, asthmatic symptoms, and more serious health problems.

Fire hazard from water damageIf your electrical wiring is present in an attic or ceiling, a leaky roof could pose a fire threat from shorted wires.  It is highly recommended to turn off electricity to the area that’s affected and have an electrician examine it.

Slip and fall hazard–A severely leaking roof can cause water to puddle on the floor.  This may not seem like a huge risk, but if you have an active family, and especially if you have children who like to run, you need to get that water mopped up to prevent human spills.

Higher utility bills and wasted energy–High utility bills are another side effect of a leaking roof, as water intrusion is detrimental to the insulation in attic area.  Your cellulose or fiberglass insulation becomes saturated and it takes a long time for it to dry out.  If a roof leak repair is put off for a long time, chronic water intrusion will deplete the insulation significantly and your home will lose hot and cool air, resulting in higher utility bills.

Compromised structural integrity–The most obvious consequence of a leaking roof is the damaged rafters, ceiling joists, wall framing and even fascia boards and exterior trim can become victims of water intrusion.  Chronic roof leaks lead to wood deterioration and weakened, rotten roof framing causes serious problems that require assistance from a professional contractor.  You can also face expensive wood framing repairs if water leaks down into ceiling joists and walls.

Spongy and weak water-damaged wood can end in peeling paint, damaged ceilings, and buckled wall coverings.  Structural damage is inevitable if there is a serious and long-standing roof leak.  That means that a good chunk of deteriorated ceiling could give way and fall, damaging anything underneath.  You would surely hate to find your laptop or television under a collapsed ceiling, but it would be even worse if you were under it.

Article written by Jane Lamy, marketing manager of United Contractors LLC which provides contractor services in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and published on Angie’s List.com on September 11, 2014.