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Avoiding dripping roofs

Dripping Roof Featured | BRE Group

By Rupert Pool, Principal Consultant, BRE Building Technology Group.

Dripping from roofs into the rooms below is often caused by a build-up of condensation in the cold roof voids, rather than by leaks which may initially be suspected.

At BRE we regularly investigate roofs from which water is dripping into the rooms below. Often a leak is suspected, particularly as the drips sometimes coincide with periods of bad weather. But our investigations frequently reveal that they are actually caused by condensation build-up in the roof space, which leads to water running downwards and dripping out. To prevent this, the amount of water vapour entering a cold roof void must be controlled.

The causes

In typical pitched roofs and flat roofs, problems can occur when water vapour permeates the internal finishes and insulation, faster than it can be ventilated out through the roof covering. This is particularly important when:

  • The roof covering is impermeable, such as a bituminous membrane or sheeting.
  • The ventilation of the space beneath the roof covering is restricted, for example where eaves vents are obscured by insulation.
  • The amount of water vapour coming through the internal finishes is particularly high, such as above kitchens, bathrooms, or swimming pools, or where the internal finishes have been compromised by the installation of spotlights.

Solutions

Problems can be avoided if the internal finishes include a vapour control layer on the ‘warm side’ of the insulation or if adequate ventilation is provided on the ‘cold side’ of the insulation. Condensation risk calculations can be carried out to determine if there will be a build-up of condensation for a particular roof design in a particular geographic location.

Ventilation of a flat roof through the eaves
Ventilation of a flat roof through the eaves.
Ventilation of a pitched roof, preventing loft insulation blocking the ventilation path at the eaves.
Ventilation of a pitched roof, preventing loft insulation blocking the ventilation path at the eaves.