Roof Leak Repair, 8 Things You Can Do While Waiting for the Repairman

So your roof has sprung a leak! What can you do to stem the flow of water while waiting for a roofer to make repairs?  Here are 8 quick fixes that, while not permanent, will help prevent water damage to the roof deck and to the interior of your home. They address the most common leaks that occur on roofs.

1. Cover the Leaking Area with a Tarp

Tracing a leak can be very difficult. Start in your attic, if you have one, and find where water is coming in. You know that even if that isn’t the exact spot the roof is failing, the spot will be further up the roof from it and in the general direction vertically. Once the leak is found, cover the roof from slightly below the leak. Make sure the tarp extends over the ridge of the roof. If you have to layer tarps, put the lower one on first and secure it. Then, overlap the upper one by at least 18 inches.

2. Find the Leak and Tar It

If you can locate the leak, perhaps a missing or damaged shingle, get a can of high-grade roofing tar and cover it well. Press the tar into any holes or cracks for the best seal. Spread the tar several inches in every direction beyond the leak.

3. Use Flashing Over a Hole

Let’s say a large, heavy branch fell on the roof and put a 2”-4” puncture in the roof. That’s too big for tar. Instead, get a piece of roof flashing – it’s cheap and available at all the home improvement stores – and some roofing cement. The tar might also work for a few days to a week. Slide the flashing up beneath the nearest shingle or shingles above the damaged spot and cover the hole. Use the roofing cement or the tar to hold it in place.

4. Repair Flashing with Roofing Cement

If damaged flashing around a chimney or against a second-story exterior wall is the issue, use quality roofing cement to fill the gap. Check it in 24-48 hours for settling and fill as needed.

5. Replace a Cracked Wood Shake

You’ll need a new wood shake for this, available at the local building supply store. In a pinch, you can cut a temporary shake out of O.S.B. or plywood. Remove the damaged wood shake. You may have to split it and pull it off the nails used to install it. Do it gently so you don’t damage surrounding shakes. Next, slide the new shingle into the slot left by the old one. When it’s ½” from being all the way into position, drive a couple of roofing nails into it at an angle neat the top. Then, place a block of wood at the bottom of the shingle and use a hammer to tap the block, pushing the shake into place.

6. Remove an Ice Dam

If your roof is leaking from a combination of old shingles and an ice dam near the eave, removing the ice dam can stop the leak while you’re awaiting repairs. Shovel away excess snow and then chip away at the ice with a hammer and screwdriver. As you get down near the roof, go slow. Switch to hot water to melt the last inch or so of ice rather than risk damaging the roof with the hammer and screwdriver.

7. Tar the Entire Roof or Section

For a small roof or roof section that is generally deteriorating, consider getting a couple gallons of roofing tar and spreading it over the entire roof. Use a stiff broom like a corn broom with short bristles. In cool weather, keep the tar inside near a heat source until you’re ready to spread it on. It will spread more smoothly.

8. Repair a Vent Boot with Tar

If the source of the leak is a cracked rubber boot around a vent, tar should do the job short-term. First, cover the crack with good-quality duct tape. Then, cover the area with tar an inch or so beyond the edges of the tape.

NOTE: If tropical storms or hurricanes occur where you live, consider putting together a hurricane preparedness kit ahead of time. It should include several large tarps, fasteners for the tarps, step flashing and roofing tar or cement. Purchase the materials well-ahead of time because as storms approach, home improvement stores often get short on these supplies.

Then, if the storm damages your roof, you’ll be able to cover the compromised areas quickly to prevent secondary damage from rain. Make sure the high winds of the storm have stopped before you consider getting on your roof. Think safety first. Your insurance will pay for the damage, so it’s not worth risking your life.

If you don’t know whether or not a storm has caused damage to your roof, it might be wise to have the rood inspected, especially if neighbors are reporting problems with their roofs following a heavy storm.

One of these 8 ideas for roof leak repair should help you stop a leak until the roofer can fix it. Choose the one that makes sense under the specific circumstances and give it a try. But remember, always proceed with extreme caution and good, sturdy ladders when working on any roof!

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