Realizing you have a roof leak is never fun. That spot on the ceiling usually evolves into a huge weekend project. First, you have to try to figure out where the leak came from and it’s never in the most obvious spot. Water travels in mysterious ways and that spot in your ceiling could be something as simple as a missing nail on the other end of your roof. It can take a lot of trial and error when determining the source of a leak.
Here are some tips to help you locate the source of your leak:
- Look for water marks and stains around wood frames
- If you are in the attic, turn off the light and see if you can spot any daylight shining through your roof or around pipes, chimneys, and roof-to-wall transitions
- While it’s raining or during a water test, use a flashlight in the attic to see if it reflects any water coming through
Once you locate the source of the leak, now it’s time to get to work. Repairing a leak can be a tricky process. You have to make sure to not damage any other parts of the roof while fixing the current issue. You also have to make sure that your repair will effectively fix the problem in the long run and not end up voiding your warranty.
If you feel up to the challenge, here are 7 ways to fix a roof leak. These are organized by your roof leak’s point of entry.
- Pipe Boot - If leak originated from a crack, rotted or torn roof pipe, buy a new vent boot and replace the old one. If the boot is in good shape but nails are missing – replace with screws that have rubber washers.
- Small Holes in Roof - Tiny holes in the roof are a bit harder to notice but over time they can cause leaks and rot damage before you even begin to notice an issue. Holes can be from a mounted antennae, missing nails or hail. Caulk and roof cement are temporary fixes and should not be used as a long-term solution. For a more permanent solution, replace the damaged shingle.
- Chimney Flashing - Old brick chimneys can crumble and wear over time. Use metal flashing under the old flashing to seal up the damaged area.
- Torn or Missing Shingles - Torn or missing shingles should be repaired and replaced quickly to avoid rain penetration. Use a pry bar to gently remove the nails with extra care to not damage surrounding shingles or roof deck. The shingle can be replaced with roofing nails and a water soluble/solvent sealant. Keep in mind that if you do replace your own shingle, you run the risk of voiding your warranty if the repair was made by someone other than a certified contractor.
- Blistering Shingles - If a blistering shingle is the source of your leak, gently break the surface of the blister, avoiding the roofing felt underneath. Soak up any of the water in the blister area and pat dry. Use roofing cement to cover the loose roofing material then secure with roofing nails along each side of the blister. Then recover the entire area with roofing cement, including the nail heads. Again, roofing cement is only a temporary fix. For a permanent solution, replace the damaged shingle.
- Valley Leak - If you discover your leak originated in a roof valley, this is a more complicated fix. A good solution is a new leak barrier along the valley and shingling over top. It’s best to contact your certified roofing professional before attempting that on your own.
- Clogged Gutter - Clogged gutters can also be the source of a roof leak. When debris is built-up, the gutter can no longer work as a proper drainage system. Water can start to pool in the gutter and backup under the shingles. Remove the clutter and ensure that your gutters are in good working order. If this could be an ongoing issue, consider talking to your roofing professional about installing leaf guards on your gutters.
An important note about caulk – Don’t rely on caulk to provide a permanent leak solution. The downside to relying on caulk to solve your issues is that it has limited movement capabilities. Houses are in constant motion of shifting and settling. Caulk also has limited weathering properties and can crack and split within a couple of years. Always look for a technical fix when possible.
To temporarily minimize the damage your leak can cause inside your home until a roofing professional can repair it, check out our blog - What To Do with a Leaky Roof until Help Arrives.
Of course, we always recommend letting a roofing professional handle any roof related issues. They are trained in this area and understand the science behind locating and accurately fixing a roof leak permanently.