Finding a Roof Leak

Finding a roof leak can be quite a challenge even if you know how to go about it. Water, once it gets beneath shingles or inside flashing, can travel along the roof deck for quite a distance before it finds an opening to leak into an attic or into your living space.  The good news is that once found, most roof leaks can be easily fixed.  In this roof guide we give tips you can use for finding a roof leak and putting an end to it!

Spotting Obvious Leaks

Give the roof a brief visual inspection first.  It may be obvious why a leak has occurred.  If there are missing roofing material or if a heavy branch off a nearby tree has poked a hole in a shingle, cracked a tile or torn the rubber boot around a vent stack, you’ve probably found your problem.  If it’s nothing that easy, continue with these tips.

Start at the point the water is showing itself inside your home or attic and work toward the peak in your efforts to find it.  The source of the leak will never be lower down the roof than where it is showing itself.

From inside the house, measure the distance from where the water is getting in up to the peak and to the nearest exterior wall.  Then go to the roof and locate that spot.  Use every precaution possible when getting on a roof, and if you have any concerns at all, call a roofer to do the work.

Once you’ve located the spot on the roof that corresponds with where the leak is showing itself, look for the nearest location toward the peak where flashing or a rubber boot is in use.  The rubber boots used around vent stacks have a lifespan of 15-20 years tops.  In very sunny climates or on homes that don’t have good attic ventilation, they can deteriorate much more quickly than that and crack, providing access for water.  Flashing is another common source of leaks.  Look for flashing that is loose or has slipped.  Look for gaps between the flashing and a chimney.  When a house settles, the chimney can move, causing gaps.  This is quite common.  Fix problems you find.

If still not located, begin to check the field of shingles, tiles, slate or whatever roofing material you’ve got.  Look closely for nails that have worked their way out, leaving a hole.  Look for hard-to-spot cracks or gaps. Look for a tile or shake or shingle that has shifted even slightly.  Repair any of these problems. This may take a while and you’ve got to be patient.

Fixing the Leak!

The things we’ve listed account for nearly 100% of roof leaks.  The chances are very good that if you’ve carefully checked all of these things, you will have found your problem and been able to fix it.  Replace damaged or gapped flashing or rubber boots.  Don’t try to fix the problem with roof cement or caulk.  It won’t work for very long.  Replace damaged shingles, shakes, slates or tiles.

Once you think you’ve got the problem fixed, set a sprinkler on the roof near the peak and turn it on.  Let it run for at least 15-20 minutes because sometimes it takes that long for water to get into the problem and work its way to where it becomes evident.  The reason to use a sprinkler and not just wait for the next rain is so that you can control the process.  You don’t know how big that next rain storm will be and spending a day or so catching leaking water in a bucket up in the attic and emptying it so your drywall/flooring/cabinetry, etc. doesn’t get ruined isn’t much fun.  Secondly, if you’ve fixed the problem and it passes the sprinkler test, you’ll have the peace of mind that the issue is solved and those rain clouds won’t look nearly as foreboding.

Conclusion, and Your Tips for Finding Roof Leaks

Once in a while a pesky leak develops that nearly defies being located.  It’s not often, but if you run into one, give your roofing contractor a call and have them take a look.  They’ll do many of the things you did but they’ve got trained eyes to know exactly what to look for.  Again, most leaks, though hard to find are easy to fix, and you should have a dry home again very soon.


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