How to Spot Roof Leaks

Your home should be warm and dry, a safe haven against the storms of the world. However, if your roof is older, or you’ve been battered by storms, or even if you were the victim of shoddy construction, your home might not be as snug and dry as you expect. Roof leaks are insidious – a seemingly small leak can cause major damage. And what’s more, they’re very hard to detect until the damage has already been done. What should you know about spotting roof leaks? Here’s a brief guide to get you started.

Locate Water Stains

Often, the first sign that you have a need to fix roof leaks is water staining your ceiling or where the celling and a wall meet. Dark spots are a good sign that water’s collecting on the material, and the most likely place for that water to come from is from a leak in your roof (unless you have an older home, and the water pipes are in the ceiling, but that’s an entirely different problem).

Once you spot water stains on the ceiling, it’s time to head outdoors so you can get a look at the roof’s exterior. Find a location where you can look uphill from the leak’s location. Look for signs of damage, including punctures, torn or missing shingles and the like. If you can’t get a good look, you’ll need to head into the attic to investigate. Look for the marks of water running down the inside of the roof and follow them to their source.

Less Obvious Leaks

Before you can fix roof leaks, you have to find them. The problem is that some leaks aren’t from obvious sources. Your shingles might be in perfect condition, and there might be no debris or other damage to your roof. Where do you turn then? In these instances, you can look for less obvious sources of your leak. Look in places like:

  • Plumbing vents – Check for loose or missing nails and torn rubber
  • Chimneys – Check for damaged flashing, missing rubber or damaged seals
  • Roof vents – Check for cracked seals or damaged vents
  • Complex roofs – If your roof is more complex than a two-sided structure, check for missing flashing where walls and roof sections join
  • Roof-mounted windows – Check for damaged or cracked caulking around dormer windows and other roof-mounted features
  • Mounting holes – If you’ve had something like a satellite dish mounted on your roof, make sure the mounting holes are covered over
  • Step flashing – Step flashing can move very easily, allowing a significant amount of water into your roof

Know When You Need Help

While you can repair roof leaks easily enough if they’re small and basic, some leaks will require the help of a professional. Make sure you contact an experienced roofer to help repair major leaks, or to identify leaks that you can’t spot on your own. Look for a roofer with significant experience, and that uses high quality materials and techniques to repair leaking roofs.

The Most Common Causes of Roof Leaks

Most of us think that roof leaks only affect older homes. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. While older homes have a greater chance of experiencing leaks if they haven’t been maintained properly, any home’s roof can be subjected to leaks. And once you have a leak, even a minor leak, the damage starts compounding. A little water is all that’s necessary for mold and mildew to thrive in your attic or even in the ceiling itself. Cost repairs are the best-case scenario then.

The first step to defending your home from the possibility of roof leaks is to know the most common causes. This allows you to not only take immediate action if you spot water damage, but to be proactive about roof maintenance and help avoid leaking roof repair completely.

Common Sources

Punctures – One of the most common causes of roof leaks is puncture damage. You’ll see this most often after a storm rolls through, but that’s not always the case. Limbs and other debris can easily punch through the roof and cause serious damage while allowing water into the home. Sometimes, you won’t even realize it’s happened until you inspect the roof.

Step Flashing – You’ll notice this where walls join the roof (think dormer windows). Step flashing can come loose (or not be nailed down in the first place). It can easily slide down the pitch of the roof, leaving an unprotected gap through which water can flow into your ceiling.

Mounting Holes – We mount an awful lot of stuff to our roofs these days. Antennas, satellite dishes and more take up that space, and they all have to be mounted securely to the roof. What happens when you take that dish down, though? If the mounting holes aren’t filled in properly or, better yet, covered over with new shingles, you’ll find that you have a major source of water.

Missing Shingles – This is once again a more common thing to see after storms or high winds. It takes surprisingly little to first lift and then tear a shingle from your roof. If it’s just one shingle, there’s no real need to worry, but several shingles can cause a nightmare in terms of roof leaks.

There are numerous other causes of roof leaks, as well, including missing caulking around dormer windows, damaged flashing around chimneys and more. Regardless, once you’ve spotted the problem, you need to repair roof leaks immediately.

Not handling roof leak repair as soon as possible can create serious problems. Mold and mildew can spread very quickly, and the warm, damp environment between your ceiling and the roof is ideal for just that. You’ll also find that on top of mold and mildew remediation, you need to replace sheetrock, and possibly even roof supports in some severe cases.

The best defense is to know the most common causes of roof leaks, and then to regularly inspect your roof. Repair damage immediately, and keep your roof in good repair.