American homes experience billions of dollars in property loss annually thanks to water damage. One of the biggest culprits you'll find causing this issue is leaking roofs. In fact, roofs make up 40 percent of all water intrusion issues that occur in residential and commercial buildings. This is a huge problem, so it's important to find roof leaks and fix them as quickly as possible. The following tips will help you do just that. But remember, do not take any unnecessary risks that are outside your comfort zone or experience, such as climbing a ladder or engaging with the roof structure.
How to Find a Roof Leak
The first step to fixing any roof leak is locating it. This can be surprisingly difficult. Water may be dripping from a single spot in your ceiling, but it doesn't mean the weak area causing your leaking roof is directly above it. It can take a little hard work to identify the area of your roof experiencing problems. Once you pinpoint the issue using these tips, though, repairs can often be performed quickly.
1. Investigate During Rain
There are times when you're aware of a leaking roof. There are other instances when you're surprised by a drop of water on your forehead while watching Game of Thrones. Either way, searching for the leak during a rainstorm is your best bet. This could be the easiest opportunity to spot water actually entering through the roof.
Once it starts raining, head up to your attic with a flashlight. Looking in the area of where your ceiling is leaking is a good starting point, but the water could be flowing down rafters. Trace the path of the water as it makes its way to the point where it's dripping into your living area. Mark this spot with a piece of chalk so you can find it once it dries up outside.
2. Simple Visual Inspection
People say that watched water never boils, and if you're waiting for it to rain, you might be experiencing the same luck. Fortunately, torrential downpours aren't necessary to spot leaks in your roof. Head up to the attic with a piece of chalk or other marking utensil in hand. Once there, start looking for dark or wet spots above you.
Both these are signs of water intrusion. Keep in mind that the darkest spot may not be where your leaky roof is originating. If there are flow lines, follow them until you get to the origin. This is likely your roof leak, so mark it with chalk to make finding it later easier. You should also look for mold. It will often develop in moist areas.
3. Look for Damaged Insulation
If you have insulation on your roof's underside, it can be helpful in finding where your leaking roof issue is coming from. Insulation deteriorates much more quickly than wood, and this deterioration is far more obvious. If you notice any damaged areas, remove that piece of insulation and all others around it. This will help you pinpoint the leak if it's flowing from a nearby area.
4. Check Flows on Plastic Barrier
If you notice that most your insulation is in pristine condition, you might start to think that a leaky pipe or other issue is at fault. This may still not be the case. Plastic barriers are often placed between insulation and the drywall in attics. Pull back insulation near the ceiling leak to see if there are any flow marks on the plastic. This can cause water to infiltrate far from where the leaking roof actually is.
5. Check Chimneys and Pipe Vents
Many people only think of drywall and shingles when they envision the parts of a roof. In reality, your leaking roof may not be due to issues with either of these structural features. Water will often enter your home through spaces in chimneys and penetrating pipe vents.
If you see flow marks or water entering near either of these, you might have an easy fix on your hand. The flashing around chimneys and vent pipes are one of the most common culprits for leaking roofs caused in these areas. They can also often be fixed without the help of a professional.
6. Check for Protrusions
Foreign objects are one of the most common and easily diagnosed causes of leaking roofs. If you see a nail or other object protruding from the underside of your roof, that's likely your issue. Don't rack your brain trying to figure out how it got there. Up to 70 percent of roof leaks develop from issues caused during construction. This makes it likely that the problem has long existed but grew worse over time.
7. Get Outside and Take a Look
There are going to be moments when you can't find the exact cause of a leaking roof from the inside. In these instances, head outside and take a look. It's fortunate that shingle damage can typically be seen from ground level without much difficulty. If shingles are missing, deformed, buckled or cupping, there's a good chance that's where your leaking roof is originating.
There are also some issues that are obvious on the exterior but cannot be seen from ground level. You'll need to grab a ladder and appropriate shoes to diagnose the problem. Don't get on your roof if its too steep. If you can safely walk around, though, head to the general area of where your ceiling is leaking.
Since leaks often flow from higher spots, start looking above where water is entering your living area and make your way down. Check shingles for cracks, holes, lifting or any other obvious damage.
8. Make Leaking Roofs with Fake Rain
Finding the damaged area causing a leaking roof can be difficult when it's not raining. Fortunately, you can create your own rainstorm. You'll need a water hose and either a family member or neighbor to help out. One of you will stand on the roof with a water hose while the other heads into the attic with a flashlight.
As the temporary roof dweller sprays down the roof section by section, the individual in the attic will need to pay close attention. This simulation of a downpour is just as effective as waiting out a thunderstorm. Whoever is in the attic should mark the damaged spot as soon as they see water start flowing through.
9. Bring in a Home Inspector
If finding the epicenter of a leaking roof was so easy, there wouldn't be thousands of articles online explaining how to do it. The simple fact is that this is a difficult process that's occasionally easy due to sheer luck. If you cannot pinpoint exactly where a roof leak is coming from – or if it's unsafe for you to do so – your best bet is to call a home inspector.
These professionals are trained to seek out issues with homes. It's why real estate agents, sellers and buyers all hire them on occasion. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find any homebuyer who doesn't get an inspection upfront. Since you already know a leaking roof is your problem, they can focus on discovering the underlying issue and any other potential problems.
How to Fix a Leaking Roof
Once you know you have a leaking roof, repairing it becomes your top priority. The fact is that the issue will only get worse over time. In fact, around 20 percent of allinsurance claims are linked directly to water intrusion. That makes it the second most frequent insurance claim filed in the U.S. While repairing a leaking roof may require a professional, these few tips may also get the job done.
1. Roof Vent Pipe Repair
Sun exposure and heat can cause the materials around a roof vent to degrade. If the issue appears minor (e.g. raised shingle, small crack), flexible roof sealant can be used to correct the problem. If the vent pipe boot is damaged, though, you can simply slide another on top and use sealant to hold it in place.
If you notice damage with the vent pipe boot, flashing and shingles surrounding it, you'll need to replace the whole thing for best results. In fact, it may be easier simply removing the surrounding shingles even if there's no serious damage if everything else needs to be replaced.
2. Leaking Roof Vent Repair
Roof vents are meant to keep out moisture, but driving rain can sometimes overwhelm them. If this becomes an issue, you can shape metal screen wire into an appropriate shape and use it to keep out rain. Flexible roof sealant can also be used if the problem rests with loose shingles, flashing, gaps or holes around the vent. If the vent is simply worn out, you'll need to replace it along with the shingles that surround the area.
3. Repairing Leaking Roof Around Chimney
Locating the cause of a leaking roof around a chimney can be difficult. The bricks or mortar that make up the structure could have cracks. The chimney crown or cap could also be damaged in some way. The underlying issue will play a huge part in how you handle the problem.
If there are loose shingles, holes, raised flashing or other obvious issues, a little flexible sealant may be all that's necessary. If real damage has occurred to either the flashing or surrounding shingles, however, they'll likely need to be replaced.
In some instances, a leaking roof may be caused by debris buildup in the area. Installing a chimney cricket can help with this. If there are cracks or other damage to your cap or crown, the fix could be as simple as a replacement.
4. Replacing Shingles
Regardless of the specific area your leaking roof is coming from, replacing shingles is one of the most common repairs. You'll need to remove some of the tabs in the shingles above the damaged area. You can loosen the adhesive and remove nails and the shingles by using a claw hammer.
You'll need new shingles, adhesive and roofing nails to replace the damaged area. After putting the new shingles into place, you can use the adhesive or shingle cement to seal them and any other areas that appear loose. You can find a detailed description with images on fixing your leaking roof by replacing shingles here.
5. Leaking Roofs from Clogged Gutters
Not all leaking roofs are evidence of serious underlying issues. If your gutters or downspouts become clogged, water buildup can get under your shingles or eaves and leak into your house. The fix for this issue can be as simple as cleaning out debris and installing a gutter shield.
In some instances, though, damage can be more serious. If there is a large amount of single granules present or gutters have become deformed, you may end up needing to replace these items altogether.
6. Hire a Roofing Professional
Many roof leaks only require modest repairs. Replacing shingles, for instance, is much simpler than it might sound online. If your leaking roof doesn't look like an easy fix, though, it's better to call in a professional. Failure to do so could create more damage that requires further repair.
Additionally, roofers are ideal if you feel uncomfortable with heights or the roof is simply unsafe to climb. These professionals have tools to keep them grounded regardless of a roof's pitch. Unless you do this for a living – which is unlikely since you're reading this article – you probably don't have these tools around. And even if you can get them, they require training to use.
The main point here is to avoid causing any further damage or potentially injuring yourself.
Leaking Roofs Cannot Be Ignored
There are numerous issues that can cause a leaking roof. Fortunately, finding the damaged area can prove simple if you know what to look for. Repairing the issue can be a bit more difficult, but finding the leak yourself could save money if you need to call in a professional. The important thing to remember is to get any roof leak repaired immediately. Failing to do so can lead to much bigger problems over time.
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