How to tell where a leak in your roof is coming from, and how to fix it.

You are lying in bed and look up at the ceiling. There it is… a dreaded brown spot, a roof leak.   It was not there last week before that big rainstorm and now here it is.  You know it is not something you can wait on. Water damage turns from a small repair to a big expense really quickly.

First thing is to determine where the source of the roof leak is coming from and stop additional water before mold grows, or worse yet the ceiling collapses.

If you are comfortable getting onto your roof, you may be able to do this repair without a roofer.  However, it is not as easy as walking up and looking in the area above the leak.

It is that darn gravity that makes things difficult. Water is running down into the house and has a lot of things to travel on. The leak may end up in one spot where the roof damage is not even close.  This is why.

When water enters it likes to roll down something. That something is often rafters or trusses.  From there, it can hit electrical lines or air conditioning ductwork and travel down these, until finally it drips onto your ceiling. You may have seen instances where light fixtures fill up with water, this is why. The fixture is not a water magnet. Water is just traveling down the wiring into the fixture itself.

When you inspect your roof, you are first looking for missing shingles.  If you don’t see the obvious, start looking for nail pops. Nails that are over-driven or under-driven will work themselves naturally out of the plywood due to expansion and contraction with the heating and cooling of the weather.  Overtime, theses nails will “pop” up through the shingle creating a hole for water to enter. This is normal and occurs on most all roofs over time. If it is a nail pop or a missing shingle, you can fill the nail pop with silicone or roof tar, and replace a shingle. That is fairly simple.

Vent pipes that have rubber boots often deteriorate due to UV exposure before the roof life comes to an end. When this happens, you can tape or tar the boot, as a temporary repair, until you can change out the boot or have a roofer change it out for you. If it is metal pipe boot, you may be able to tar or caulk around the pipe to stop the water.

When it gets difficult is when there are problems with the roof flashing. Flashing is the metal that is installed under the shingles where they meet any opening. It is the most common area for water to enter. Chimneys, skylights, and head walls are the most common areas for flashing, and therefore, leaks.  To fix this tar and caulk will only be VERY temporary and will most likely make a mess because it is over a larger area. Even if the area has never leaked before (even for years and years), now that is leaking is most likely will not stop. Once water finds a way to enter it will keep traveling the same channel.

To make these repairs, your perfectly good shingles will have to be pulled up in that area, so that new flashing can be installed.  This is a job for a roofer. I would not suggest a “do it yourself” fix. You want to do it once, and do it right.

So a nail pop, missing shingle or a metal boot can be repaired pretty easily, but once you start messing around with flashings, you should call a professional.