Trying to stop roof leak damage can be one of the most aggravating headaches for homeowners. There can be so many different causes of a roof leak, and yet, it might be causing a ceiling leak in an entirely different part of the house. How are you supposed to know where to start looking? To stop roof leaks in their tracks, you need to know how to trace them back to the original source.
How do you know you’ve got a roof leak? Well, ceiling leaks and water marks that streak down your walls are a pretty clear sign that your roof is letting water into the house. Or, more severely, you may have a strong stream of water dripping directly down through your ceiling, puddling on the floor and causing some serious water damage. You want to stop roof leak damage as quickly as possible, so if this is what’s happening, you should call a roofing company immediately.
You might be tempted to just cover over the leak, or keep buckets under the running water, because you’re getting a roof replacement in a couple of years anyway. But failure to stop roof leak damage fast will cause more expensive problems than you’ll want to deal with.
Finding the Leak
Check out the roof and see if there are any patterns of water stains that seem to stop suddenly before the edge of the roof. This can be an easy way to tell if water is dripping down the rooftop and then into a leaky opening.
It’s pretty uncommon to find a leak right in the middle of a square of roofing that’s otherwise undisturbed, even on roofs that were installed a long time ago. You’re more likely to find punctured or cracked roofing materials along the edges of roof vents, the chimney, plumbing apparatuses, or dormers. If it protrudes from the base roofing materials, then the seals around it are at risk of springing a leak under duress or after lots of wear and tear.
The next thing you can do is get up into your attic with a bright flashlight and check around the undersides of your roof. If you see any water marks, stains, or black streaks, then water is getting under your roof. Find the opposite side of the affected area on the roof’s exterior to narrow down the exact location of the leak.
Leaks can be very, very small. You may need to enlist a friend or family member to work with you to find the leak (which you should always do if you’re working up on your rooftop anyway). If you’ve tried out our recommendations so far and you can’t find the source of your ceiling leak, then you can try the roof soak method.
This is exactly what it sounds like: you’re going to soak your roof with a lawn hose while your partner waits for water to run from the spot where you found the leak in the house. Run the water over a portion of your roof for 7-9 minutes, and if the drip inside hasn’t appeared, slowly move your hose across the roof and soak another portion of the house.
Once the drip appears, you’ll be in the ballpark of your roof leak. Allow the roof to dry, and then closely inspect the surface where you caused the drip to happen. Don’t worry, if you don’t see anything right away, removing the shingles in the area you’ve identified can reveal damaged roofing materials below. (NOTE: removing roofing materials may be an activity better left to a professional roofer)
It’s possible that the ceiling leak is in a completely different part of the house from where you’re actually trying to stop roof leak damage. You can check between the insulation in your attic and the drywall of your ceiling for any signs of water flow, especially if you have a vapor barrier above your ceiling. Openings for things like chandeliers where the barrier is cut out tend to attract running leaks.
One other interesting cause of small roof leaks is condensation on the nails in the shingles. When the roof is being installed, if a nail is driven into the roof and misses the frame, it will protrude into the attic below. As the temperature changes and becomes different between the outside and inside of the attic, condensation will form on the tip of the nail, which will then drip down to the ceiling below. You can identify these nails easily; they’ll be discolored and possibly even rusted. Fortunately, this is an easy fix; grab some strong pliers and clip off the excess portion of the nail.
Leaking Roof Vents
As previously mentioned, one of the common locations to find a roof leak is around the vents coming out of the roof. Leaking roof vents are among the more common sources of roof leaks, but they can be a little easier to spot than others. Roof vents have small rubber “boots” that form water seals around the openings they create in the roof. If these boots become damaged and worn, they simply stop serving their purpose, and need to be replaced. Fortunately, this can be done without having to replace the leaking roof vent outright.
In winter climates, ice dams pose a big leak risk to your roof, too, especially if you live under partial cover where your roof is often a different temperature in different places. Ice dams can cause water to pool on along the lower edges of your roof up against the gutters, where it can weaken the roofing materials below and seep into the house. Ice dams can be tricky to repair and sometimes require the outright replacement of shingles in the affected area.
Don’t try to remove ice dams by hacking away at them with a pick-axe as many are tempted to do; all you’ll accomplish is more damage to the shingles that are already at risk. Ice dams are best left to professional roofers to handle, as even many of the popular chemical solutions you may read about can cause cosmetic or even structural damage to your valuable roof.
One of the best things you can do to avoid the problems associated with roof leaks is simply conduct routine roof maintenance. Get annual roof inspections before the cold season, and keep your roof free and clear of any debris. Regular maintenance and inspection can be the difference between a roof that lasts a lifetime, and one that dies on you after a couple of decades because of constant wear and tear.
Make sure that water is able to freely flow down the pitched sections of your roof. If your gutters are backed up, it can lead to excess water soaking your roof during heavy rain and snowfall. Spend a little time up on your ladder to make sure your roof is nice and clean all year long.
If you’re having a problem trying to stop roof leak damage, then call your friendly neighborhood roofing contractors at Gotcha Covered Contracting. We can find the source of any leak and make the repairs you need to stay dry. If you find a ceiling leak in the house, don’t delay; water damage can be devastating and can cost thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs. We’ll give you the peace of mind to know that your home is protected.