If you have a roof leak, you’re not alone. A quick search on the internet will reveal that millions of people experience this problem every year. The good news is that there are several quick and easy ways to fix a leaky roof— temporarily, at least. Some common causes of roof leaks include:
- Hail damage
- Improper ventilation or insulation
- Wind damage
- Failed DIY repairs (oops!)
- Wear and tear
In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the most common methods for fixing a roof leak. We will also provide some tips for preventing future leaks and why you should rely on the professionals to fix it for good.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO FIND AND FIX A ROOF LEAK 💦
In order to both find and fix a roof leak, there are some vital tools you’ll need first. Some you may have lying around the house, and the rest you should be able to pick up at your local hardware store for pretty cheap.
- Camera (or smartphone)
- Garden hose
- Replacement shingles
- Roofing caulk
- Roofing nails
- Roof patch
- Work boots or non-slip shoes
Once you have all of your supplies, grab a friend— it’s time to get to work. We never recommend working alone, and for safety reasons, you should always have a buddy. Whether they are simply holding the ladder still or are just there for support should anything happen, never go it alone.
1) ROOF LEAK SIGNS TO LOOK FOR 👀
There are some obvious (and not-so-obvious) signs of roof leaks to look for. As you do a walk around your property, check for these tell-tale signs of a potential roof leak.
MISSING OR WARPED SHINGLES
If you notice any shingles that are buckling, curling, missing, or warped, this is a sign of potential roof damage and leaks. A strong wind storm can easily blow off shingles or bend them enough to cause a gap in their seal, causing a water leak. This might be the most obvious sign of a roof leak and allows you to act even faster to get it repaired.
CRACKED OR DENTED SHINGLES
In addition to warped or missing shingles, you should also look for any cracks or dents. These can also be caused by severe weather conditions— particularly hail— and can result in water seeping through the roof and into your home.
LOSS OF SHINGLE GRANULES
Asphalt shingles have a protective top layer of granules that help protect them from the elements and constant UV rays. Hail and debris can impact your shingles, causing these granules to come off.
This leaves the underlayers of your shingles exposed to the elements, which can allow further deterioration or water leaks. You may notice granule loss as discoloration on your shingles or you might find them in your gutters and downspouts after they’ve been flushed through.
MISSING OR CRACKED FLASHING
The flashing on your roof is intended to keep any areas where the roof meets a wall or roofing penetration like chimneys and vents from leaking. Flashing is also very exposed to the elements and is often one of the first things needing to be replaced on your roof. If it gets cracked or blown off during a storm, your roof becomes almost immediately susceptible to leaks along those vulnerable spots.
LARGE BRANCHES AND DEBRIS ON THE ROOF
If you have any large branches or debris that has fallen on your roof, this can damage your shingles and cause leaks. If a branch has pierced the roof itself, it’s important to get it removed as soon as possible to prevent further structural damage.
While these are some of the most common signs of potential roof leaks, keep in mind that not all leaks will be immediately obvious. If you’re unsure whether or not your roof is leaking, it’s always best to call in a professional for an inspection.
2) CHECK YOUR HOME’S INTERIOR, TOO! 🏠
You can also notice signs of a roof leak inside your home— in the attic, upper floor rooms, or near chimneys and plumbing pipes. If you notice any of these roof leak signs inside your home, you should call a roofer right away as these leaks have either been growing for months, or are big enough to cause immediate damage to your home’s interior.
WATER STAINS ON THE CEILING OR WALLS
If you notice any water stains on your ceilings or walls, this is a sign that water has already made its way into your home and is coming from the roof. These stains will usually be darker near the edge of the stain and lighten in color as they dry. Water stains are often accompanied by peeling paint or wallpaper, which is another sign that you have a roof leak.
SAGGING CEILING TILES
Some homes don’t have a standard drywall ceiling, but rather ceiling tiles that fit together as a unique feature on the ceiling. If your ceiling tiles are sagging or beginning to fall, this is a sign of water damage and potential leaks from the roof. This is especially true if the tile is discolored or warped in any way.
MUSTY SMELL IN THE ATTIC
If your attic smells musty, it’s likely there is mold or mildew growth from a roof leak or from trapped moisture. A poorly ventilated attic can cause this, but roof leaks also can— so be sure to investigate more thoroughly.
BULGING INTERIOR WALLS
If you notice any spots or warping on your interior walls, this is a sign that water may have already made its way into your home. Check for any stains, discoloration, or bubbling paint as these can all be indicative of water damage.
HIGHER-THAN-NORMAL ENERGY BILLS
If you’ve noticed a sudden spike in your energy bills with no change in your energy usage, this could be caused by a hole or crack in your roof that’s letting heat escape. Not only will this lead to higher energy bills, but it can also let water and cold air into your home, which can cause further damage.
3) SIMULATE RAIN TO FIND HIDDEN LEAKS ☔
If you’re seeing potential signs of a leak but can’t pinpoint it to patch it, you can simulate rain by running a hose on your roof and having a buddy inside the attic watch for any interior drips. This can speed up the process of fixing your leak fast but does risk causing more damage if you run the water for too long. To safely try this technique you should:
- Have a few people help.
- Use very grippy shoes or boots to ensure you don’t slip on a wet roof.
- Place the hose at the roof’s ridge and let it flow down like rain.
- Check your gutters for leaks while you’re at it by running water through them.
If your friend helping you does see a drip in the attic, you can examine that specific section of shingles more closely. Look for things like:
- Cracked or missing shingles
- Water stains or pooling water
- Rotting wood beams
- Loose or missing nails (shingles will lift easily)
- Loose flashing, vents, or plumbing boots
4) IF YOU’RE UP FOR THE CHALLENGE, MAKE THESE REPAIRS 🧰
If you’ve found the source of your leak (yes!) and feel confident making repairs yourself, here are some quick fixes you can do to patch up your roof until a professional can take a look:
- Use duct tape or heavy-duty tarps to cover small holes or cracks: Stopping the water leak in its tracks is the best way to mitigate further damage while you wait to repair or patch the hole. For smaller holes, you can buy pre-made flashing patches that are very DIY-friendly.
- For widespread damage, use a piece of plywood to cover the hole in addition to a heavy-duty tarp. Nail or screw the tarp into the plywood, but be sure not to puncture your roofing material. If you’re using multiple tarps, overlap them by at least six inches.
- Replace any damaged shingles you find: If it’s a leak caused by a faulty shingle, get rid of the nails and scrap away the old roofing cement. Then apply fresh cement to the area and nail the new shingle overtop. (If you have many damaged shingles, leave this one to a professional.)
- Reapply roofing caulk or flashing: You may see a leak coming from vents, chimneys, or window edges. In these areas, attempt to replace the caulk around the flashing. New caulk will help fill any gaps and new flashing will immediately secure that portion of your roof against leaks.
- Fix plumbing boots or roof vents: The base of your chimney or plumbing pipes come out through the roof and are covered with a rubber “boot.” Over time, these can crack and cause leaks. You can temporarily fix this by slipping a piece of metal flashing under the boot and nailing it in place (again, best done by a professional).
5) GET A PROFESSIONAL ROOF INSPECTION 🕵️
If you don’t feel confident making repairs yourself, or if the damage is widespread, your best bet is to call a professional roofing contractor. They will be able to quickly assess the situation and provide you with options for moving forward.
A quick fix for a roof leak may seem like an easy solution, but it’s important to remember that these are only temporary. The best way to fix a roof leak is to get a professional inspection and, if necessary, complete repairs as soon as possible. Ignoring the problem will only cause more damage in the long run. Contact a roofing contractor today for more information.
SKIP THE DIY AND HIRE MARS RESTORATION
We love a homeowner who embraces DIY fixes and projects around the house— but when it comes to your roof, we always recommend hiring a professional. Failed repairs can not only make problems worse, but can void warranties and deny insurance claims. So why not work with a roofer who knows what they’re doing, instead?