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The leak in our bathroom ceiling



Ah, the joys of homeownership.

Remember the peeling paint in the bathroom ceiling that I mentioned last week? The peeling paint that I felt certain was due to humidity from the shower and lack of adequate ventilation? Well, I was wrong. The paint is peeling because we have a leak in the roof.

It seems to be a small leak, but it’s a leak nonetheless.

Monday morning, I noticed that there was a tea-colored water stain in the area where the paint had peeled. “I don’t like that,” I thought, and I snapped a photo.

The leak in our bathroom ceiling

I drove up to the family box factory, where my brother and I spent several hours waiting for Mom to be discharged from the hospital. While we waited, we sorted through her paperwork to be sure we had everything in order. We updated her personal-finance records. We chatted about the future.

In the end, Mom was not released from the hospital on Monday, so I drove home in the heavy rain. When I arrived, I checked the water spot in the bathroom ceiling. Had it grown? It had.

The growing leak in our bathroom ceiling

So, I ventured into our attic for the first time.

Crawling around in the dark, I managed to locate three roof leaks. None of them were extreme — there was no water pouring in anywhere — but all were most certainly leaks.

Yesterday morning, I climbed on the roof to see if I could locate the sources. I could not. Although I helped install a roof once long ago — back in 1993! — I’m no roof expert. I poked and prodded at the shingles, but I couldn’t find any obvious damage. (The source of a leak, of course, isn’t always where the leak manifests. The damage could be upslope and running under the shingles before it finds a spot to drip.)

Because our attic had no walkways (meaning that in order to move around up there, I had to move from joist to joist), I bought ten cheap boards at Home Depot. I hauled them up the ladder and into the attic, then nailed them down in order to make it somewhat easier to move through the cramped space. After that, I moved in to get a closer view of the leaks.

Ultimately, I decided there are two (possibly three) problems:

  • There is a very small leak — a seep? — coming from the chimney. This is likely due to problems with the flashing, which the home inspector had called out in August. This seep wets a rafter, but I can’t find any signs that it ever drips. The insulation and joist below weren’t wet, and I can’t find anything inside the house that would show previous problems.
  • The larger leak, the one that spurred all of this, is near a solar tube. The wettest area is near the downslope part of the solar tube, which makes sense, but the upslope part of the roof is wet too. To me, this indicates that the leak could be above the solar tube — or that the entire area around the cut-out is problematic.
  • The third problem spot is about twelve inches downslope from the solar tube. This might be a third leak, but it might also be residual run-off from the bigger leak upslope. I don’t know.

After three hours mucking around with the roof, I came inside to do research on the interwebs. Is this something I can fix myself?

I decided that while repairing leaks is theoretically non-difficult, it’s not something that I’m qualified to tackle in the middle of Oregon winter. If this were summer and I had time to mess around with the shingles, fine. I’d try it. But it’s not summer. It’s a very wet winter (as always), and I’m afraid that if I began to tinker, I’d make things worse.

I called the experts.

The man who answered the phone at the roofing company asked me some questions about the issue. “This doesn’t sound too bad,” he said. “We’ll send somebody out tomorrow or Thursday. If this is as simple as it sounds, he should be able to fix it in an hour or two.” I sure hope so! There’s a $250 charge just for coming out (which includes the first hour of work), then it’s $130 for each additional hour. Plus materials, of course.

While I know that things like this happen with houses — especially older homes like ours — I can’t help but be a little distraught. We just sold a home that needed constant repairs (although never on the roof, funny enough), so I have a bit of PTSD. These roof leaks are probably a minor one-time blip. I get that. But the cynical side of me worries that this is an ill omen.

When we bought this house, Kim and I talked about future changes we’d like to make. There’s not a ton to do, but there are a few larger upgrades we’d like to tackle.

We hate the carpeting in the bedrooms, for instance. It’s an off-white that stains easily and shows every bit of dirt and debris. Yikes. I wanted to replace the carpeting before we physically moved in. Kim convinced me not to. In retrospect, we should have done it.

The biggest project we’d like to tackle is remodeling one (or two) of the bathrooms. We have three bathrooms but no bathtubs. Because Kim and I both like to soak, this is a nuisance. Now that we’ll have to repaint the ceiling in the hall bathroom, I’ve begun toying with the idea of taking the opportunity to actually remodel that room this summer — and to do it myself. It would be a challenge, no doubt, but I think it might be fun.

We’ll see…


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