How to Find and Fix a Roof Leak
Avoid permanent damage to your home with this complete guide
Read Time: 7 min
Oct 3, 2020
Oct 3, 2020
If you notice your roof leaking you need to contact a roofing professional immediately. Roof leaks can lead to irreparable damage and expensive repairs. While you wait for professional repairs you can prevent the spread of damage by patching the leak or placing a bucket to catch any water dripping to protect your floors.
How can you tell if you have a roof leakThe most obvious signs your roof is leaking are water stains on your ceiling or a drip of water coming from your ceiling. If you notice the signs of a roof leak, it’s time to act – fast. A roof won’t repair itself and what appears to be a minor leak can quickly become a major problem causing permanent damage to your home.
Signs of a Roof LeakThere are some signs of roof damage that are visible from the exterior of your house. Exterior signs of potential leaks may help you catch the damage before a leak starts.
Exterior signs of a roof leak include:
- Water spots under the roofline
- Plant growth on the exterior walls
- Debris in your downspouts
- Missing shingles
Interior signs for your roof leaking include:
- Water stain on ceiling
- Mold or moisture on walls or ceiling
- Dripping from ceiling, consistent or irregular
What are common causes of a roof leak?Cracks can be caused by weather or even by people walking on the roof too much. Any number of things can cause a roof to leak.
The most common causes of roof leaks are:
- Cracking in the shingles
- Vent booting
- Water entering your chimney
- Build-up of ice on your roof
- Improperly installed skylights
- Attic moisture
- Clogged gutters
How to find the leak?The location of a water spot on your ceiling isn’t always the location of the actual leak. Water can drip down the roof and rafters to a lower point before dripping onto the ceiling below. The best time to find a roof leak is when the water is actively dripping. This way you can see where the water is coming in. While it’s raining, take a flashlight up into the attic since the light will reflect off the water. If it’s not raining, you can use a garden hose to get the roof completely wet. If there is a water spot on the ceiling below, you can follow the water drop from this location to its source. You can also look for active drips coming in from the roof. Once you’ve pinpointed the leak’s location, measure the distance from the leak to the peak of the roof and to a gable end. You can use those measurements to locate the location of the leak on the outside of the roof once the roof has dried. For example, if you know the leak is five inches from the peak and two feet from the gable end of the house within the attic, when you go out onto your roof, you can measure down five inches from the peak of the roof and two feet in from that same gable end to pinpoint the exact location of the leak.
How to identify the cause of the leak?Once you’ve identified the location of the leak, the cause is usually visible at the leak location. For example, cracking or a hole may be visible. If there isn’t an obvious cause of the leak at the location you measured, check further up the roof. Sometimes water can leak behind the shingles before getting into the attic.
Do You need to find the source of the leak?In order to repair the leak, you’ll need to find out exactly where the water is coming into the house. If the location of the leak isn’t pinpointed, the entire roof may need to be replaced to fix the leak. If you can’t find the source of the leak on your own, a roofing professional can inspect your roof before repairs to identify the cause.
Need help with a roof leak?
Can you fix the leak yourself?Some roof leaks can be fixed by you, the homeowner. But it depends on the type of roof, your DIY skills, and whether or not you’re afraid of heights. Professional help may be required for roofs with more severe or a steeper slope. Fixing a leak yourself is only advisable if your skills are advanced. Amateur repairs done improperly may cause more damage over time. Even if you decide to risk doing a repair on your own, you should have a roofing professional assess the state of the roof after your repair to ensure no further damage was done and the original source of the leak was completely resolved.
What to do to stop the leak?The leak may only be completely stopped when the roof is repaired, but there are some temporary measures you can take to minimize the damage. If you’re handy and the rain has stopped, you can put a temporary patch on the leak. If you’re not handy, you can still try to contain the leak and prevent it from causing too much damage within your house using a bucket or trash can.
How to contain the water?Place a bucket or trash can underneath the drip, moving any furniture or possessions out of the way. Then, take a screwdriver and puncture a hole in the ceiling in the center of the bulge. Poking a hole in your ceiling may seem counterintuitive, but it will help relieve the pressure on your ceiling and prevent it from collapsing.
How long can you wait to contact a professional?The longer a leak goes unrepaired, the more damage it can cause. Therefore, it’s essential to address the problem as quickly as possible. Keep in mind: Contractors cannot come out to repair your roof while it is raining, so make sure you take precautions to contain the leak as best you can then call a contractor to make an appointment for when the rain stops. Even if the leak stops you should still contact your roofing professional. Some leaks with appear to have stopped and ‘fixed themselves’ but will pop up again later. This then leaves your roof at risk of steady, long-term water damage.
What to look for in a contractor?Before you call a contractor out to repair your roof, you should first check for these things:
- Check to make sure the contractor has their own insurance.
- Don’t hire someone who just happened to be “in the area” after a big storm.
- Hire a local contractor with a good reputation in your community.
- Make sure they communicate with you and are willing to put contract details into writing.
Ready for a new roof?