How do I know if my roof is leaking? What do I do if I find a leak? How can I locate a leak on my roof? Finding a leak in your home can cause frustration and anxiety. However, there is a simple step by step process that will help you know what to do when you find a leak, how to locate it's source, and prevent further damage.
Is My Roof Leaking?
It is important to keep in mind that if you find a sign of water damage in your ceiling or wall, it does not necessarily mean that your roof is leaking. The problem could also be the result of leaky plumbing or even condensation. If you find water damage on a ceiling that is not directly below the roof, you may want to consider these other possibilities as causing the leak.
Even if you find sign of water damage in your attic, these signs may not equate to a current leak. For example, if your house is 50 years old, it would have had two or three layers of roofing, and the leak could have occurred anywhere during the life of either roof. A water stain on the roof's rafters is often what sets off an alarm with the building or home owner, but is far from a comprehensive evidence of an existing leak.
To determine if your roof is leaking, check the water damage during a rain storm or while snow is melting on your roof. If the damage shows up within 5 hours of recent rain or snow activity, it is probably the result of a roof leak. If the damage occurs outside of this 5 hour range, you may want to have the area checked by a plumber.
With any leak, water can build up and put a heavy amount of weight on your ceiling. If you see a bulge in the sheet rock or paint of the affected area, you will want to drain the water to prevent the sheet rock from collapsing and causing more damage to your home. Simply put a bucket under the affected area and poke a hole in the sheet rock with a 16 penny nail to drain the water.
How to Locate a Leak
Once you are confident that your roof is leaking, you can call a certified roofing contractor to locate and repair the leak. If you would like to find the source of the leak yourself, we have provided a step by step guide.
Through this process, remember that water runs downhill. If moisture penetrates the roof, it sometimes travels down and even diagonally in both directions before finding it's way through the underlayment. Once through the underlayment, it needs to find a seam in the roofs sheathing. Then, the water will either drop to the ceiling's insulation or travel down a rafter. Once the moisture is on the ceiling, it will usually soak up some insulating before finding it's way to the sheet rock or plastering ceiling material. About 90% of the time, the leak will manifest itself in a joint in the sheet rock.
To find a leak:
Determine how many roof layers is on your home. If your pitched roof has only one layer, it is much easier to find the source of the leak.
Locate the area where the leak is manifesting itself inside your home.
Transfer this area up to the roof. Is it coming through a penetration such as a pipe, ventilation, swamp cooler, chimney, or skylight? The majority of roof leaks come in around penetrations. Look within 5 feet uphill of the affected area, although it can be as far as 10.
If you locate a penetration within this area, look for problems with the flashing. These are usually very simple repairs.
If there are no penetrations within this area, look for blown off shingles, torn shingles, and nails coming through. Also, pay close attention to valleys, as these areas tend to leak as well.
If you are able to locate a leak in the flashing, you may be able to repair this yourself if you have some knowledge in roofing and can secure the necessary materials.