Don't Get Wet: Get Control of Your Leaky Roof

There are few home repairs in more need of an immediate fix than a leaky roof. A roof leak is more than just annoying; it can lead to severe water damage and even threaten the structural integrity of your home. If your roof leaks, it is important to take care of it immediately.

It is also important to regularly check your home for evidence of leaks or water entry. Look especially for water stains on ceiling tiles, mold and other evidence of moisture. If you find any signs that water is entering your home, locate the lead from the inside of the home and then take the steps necessary to repair the leak in the roof.

In order to locate the source of the leak, follow these steps:

  • The most obvious place to look for a leak is just above the evidence of water damage. Look above the leak for water stains, mold, wet insulation or other signs of water leaks.
  • Also check underneath the roof for any moisture or mold around plumbing vents, chimneys or other points of entry. Check also at any points where the roof planes intersect, and near the dormers.
  • If the source of the leak is not near the moisture spots inside there could be a problem with the roofing material. Keep in mind that water may travel a long distance, following its path before passing through the roof into the home.
  • Take your measurements from inside the home and use these measurements to guide you from the outside. Be sure to measure horizontally from the center of the sidewall and down from the ridge.

After you have located the source of the leak, it is important to take immediate steps to mitigate the damage and repair the source of the leak. To deal with a leaking roof, take the following steps:

1. In order to control where the water will fall, attach a piece of string near the stream of water and then let that string dangle into a bucket. The water should follow the string, thus minimizing further water damage.

2. Drill a hole in the ceiling in order to allow the water to flow through. This will prevent the water from spreading along the top of the ceiling, thus preventing the ceiling from becoming saturated with water. A ceiling that is allowed to become saturated poses a danger of collapsing.

When you are ready to start work on repairing the leak in the roof, follow these steps:

1. Use the measurements you made previously indoors to start your initial observation of the exterior roof. Using binoculars or a ladder, look for places where there might be missing shingles or other obvious problems with the roof. It is important to follow common sense safety precautions anytime you work on a roof, including not walking on a pitched roof when it is wet.

2. From the ladder or using the binoculars, look for debris such as leaves and other materials that could be impeding the downward flow of rainwater. This debris often accumulates in the valleys or next to dormers or other areas of roof penetration. Remove the debris if you can reach it safely.

3. If there is ice or snow on the roof, an ice dam could have formed at the lower edge of the roof, and this ice dam could cause water to back up under the roofing materials. If you can get to this ice dam safely, it should be removed.

4. If you can safely get close enough, check out the metal flashings on the roof for any signs of corrosion, and for open joints where they connect to the chimney. If corrosion is found, it can be patched, but the only long term solution is to replace them.

5. When examining the roof, pay close attention to any spots that are covered in black flashing cement, as this generally indicates a previous leak repair. Look also for cracks or small holes which may occur in the roofing material. Applying flashing cement to those holes will provide a temporary fix until a more permanent fix can be applied.

6. Also look at the attachment points for satellite dishes, antennas and other objects which may be nailed or screwed onto the roof. You can place a dab of flashing over each fastener if needed.

7. If you have determined that the leak is located in the middle of the roof, check for any damaged or missing shingles. For wood roofs, check for any cracked, chipped or warped shakes or wood shingles. If the roof is flat or almost flat a close inspection may be needed to locate any damaged or worn shingles.