Roof Leak Detection: Ridge Vent

A man caulking a ridge vent.
  • 2-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 1-50

Roof leak detection can be tricky. One potential source of a leak is a ridge vent, which runs the length of the roofline and is made of metal capping. It allows hot air to be vented out of your attic. At the same time, it permits cooler air to enter via the intake vents.

Air circulation keeps moisture from building up in the attic, prevents structural damage and a buildup of mold or condensation. It has the added advantage of saving energy and money on cooling your home during warm weather.

Shingles cover the area where the ridge vent is fastened down. If the fasteners are not secure, a strong wind may pull up the ridge cap and let rain or snow get into the vent, causing it to leak.

Step 1 - Inspect Your Roof

roof ridge vent

You should inspect your ridge vent annually. While you are on the roof, walk along the entire length of the ridge vent. Look to see if the fasteners are still in place. There should be a fastener every 18 inches. Most ridge vents have a plug at the gable end of the roof, so be sure it is there and secure.

Step 2 - Secure the Fasteners

If they are missing or loose, or your vent is coming away from the roof, the fasteners need to be re-tightened or replaced. Roofing nails don’t work very well and don’t hold up well to strong gusts of wind. Once you have secured the roof vent, put a polyurethane sealant on the fasteners to help prevent roof leaks.

Step 3 - Inspect the Attic

Go up to the attic during daylight hours. Keep the lights off and look up at the roof to see if there is any light coming through. Diffused light is normal, but a beam of light may be the cause of a leak. Then, use a flashlight to examine the ridge vent. Look for moisture or water stains. Water stains may be from an old leak.

Another good time to inspect the attic is when it is raining. Be sure to notice where the water is coming from, because it may be channeled from another area on the roof before dropping down into the attic.

Step 4 - Evaluate Air Circulation Problems

unfinished attic

If you don’t see any leaks, you may have a one-time problem with rain or snow being blown in by heavy winds. Another problem can be a lack of ventilation in the attic. If the air is not circulated, you may get a problem with condensation, which can sometimes mimic a roof leak.

Step 5 - Ask a Professional

If you still have leaks and cannot diagnose the problem, call a building professional. This person will often do an inspection of your site at a reasonable rate, hoping to do any repairs that are necessary. If you are unsure whether to trust the assessment, you can have an unbiased home inspector do a roof inspection. This is generally only warranted if the repairs in the estimate are costly.