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Problems float to surface after so much rain

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

It has rained some, you might have noticed. And rained, and rained and rained some more.

I asked Craig Madans, founder of the service network HOCOA, what kinds of calls his home repair folks tend to get when it rains for what seems like 40 days and 40 nights.

He didn’t miss a beat. Not a blink. He said, “Well, they come in two-by-two.”

After I quit laughing he said that service calls during long rainy spells are about what you’d imagine. Mostly they’re about roof leaks, flooding crawl spaces and yard drainage.

Here’s a soggy reminder: Heavy rain doesn’t cause roof leaks – it makes them impossible to overlook. A passing afternoon shower might not dump enough water to cause a stain on your ceiling. It’s over quickly, and then everything dries out until next time. What we’ve endured recently, well, it finds those holes and cracks and lets you know about them.

It might be a stretch, but the heavy rains could be doing us all a collective favor by pointing out all those leaks.

Madans said roof leaks tend to be caused by missing shingles, failed caulking around flashing and cracked plumbing vent boots. That’s the same advice other experts have offered over the years. If you have a leak, start looking for it in one of those places.

Remember that the leak in the roof might not be directly above the spot on your ceiling. Water can run along rafters and the underside of the roof sheathing before dripping. It won’t run directly uphill, home inspectors have told me, but it sure can take some creative routes in other directions. If you discover a ceiling stain or wet insulation, check nearby flashing and plumbing vents first.

We have some experience with old, cracking plumbing vent boots at our house. When the first one started leaking, I figured that the others weren’t far behind. They were all the same age, and all on the hot southern slope of the roof.

Sure enough ...

You don’t even have to go up on the roof to check the boots. Do it from the attic. If you can see bright sunlight between the PVC plumbing vent and the flexible boot that’s supposed to fit tightly around the pipe, that’s not good.

Here’s another reminder: If you hire someone to fix a leak, ask him to check other potential problems. “Hey, he has his 40-foot ladder,” said Madans, who founded HOCOA ( 20 years ago. “Get him to clean the gutters and change the outdoor spotlights while he’s up there.”

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