Your Ultimate Guide to Roof Leaks Repairs

Obvious Signs of a Roof Leak

March 03, 2022 17 Read

Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home. It protects your family and property against outdoor elements such as rain, sleet, and other forms of precipitation. Your roof also acts as an ice and water barrier which ensures that your home’s interior is kept dry at all times. Roof vents are also responsible for making sure that you have proper air circulation within your home. Most roofs have roof rafters that are sloping in order to guide the flow of water caused by rain or frost melts to the sides of your home.

Installing a new roof is an expensive investment, however, with proper maintenance, this investment may last you a very long time. One way to ensure the long life span of your roof is to perform a roof leak repair if you observe early signs of roof damage causing a leaky roof.

Obvious Signs of a Roof Leak

Even if you are not a professional roofer, you can use your layman’s senses to detect signs that you have a leaky roof. Here are some of the things you have to watch out for.

Puddle of Water on Your Floors

If you walk into your home and notice a pool of water on the floor, this could mean that there’s a roof leak somewhere in your roof, or it simply might be your sump pump. If it smells like mold, though, then you have a roof leak. Monitor the area to see if the puddle goes away after time or not, as this will give you an idea of what is causing the dampness on your floors.

Sagging ceilings

If you have a sagging ceiling, or if your ceilings are a lot lower than they used to be before the roof leak, then you have a problem with your roof. If you have any furniture in front of windows where water is seeping through, get it out of the way immediately and cover up the area around the leaks with plastic cling wrap to stop leakage.

Ceiling stains from the inside

Leaks that penetrate ceilings can cause significant discoloration from within your home’s interior. That means that sometimes a light fixture might not be functioning properly and could even lead to short-circuiting unless it has been turned off before a water leak takes place. Once this happens, you might notice discoloration on the ceiling caused by moisture seeping through the cracks around lights and other fixtures. If this is the case, then you’ll need to remove the fixture immediately before it does any more damage.

Moldy or Musty Odor

A musty odor is another sign of a roof leak that is most likely caused by moisture seeping in from cracks around windows and doors. This problem can be further exacerbated by condensation within walls or in closets with back-to-back airflow. Once this happens mold will begin to grow, which is very hazardous to your health. Suppose you notice an unusual odor inside your home when it rains outside. In that case, there’s a good chance that there has been some water intrusion into your walls because of exterior problems with roofing materials.

If You Hear Water Dripping

Sometimes all it takes for you to hear leaking water when it rains is for you to be in the right place at the right time. If you happen to hear water dripping from your ceiling when it rains outside, that could mean that there’s a leak directly above where it sounds like the water drips. This can sometimes occur because of eroding and deteriorated mortar around fireplace flues and chimneys and/or blocked or incorrectly pitched gutters and downspouts not allowing rainwater to drain away from your home’s exterior walls.

Water Stains on Your Ceiling Paint

If you notice water stains along an interior wall or on your ceiling paint, then that means that damage has been done high up near your roof (probably somewhere around the attic). That might be the result of broken flashing or even a high wind, but it most likely means that you have some exterior roof damage that needs to be fixed immediately.

Mold or Mildew on Your Ceiling

Suppose you notice mold or mildew on your ceiling when there’s no dampness in the room where they are located. In that case, this indicates water infiltration coming from outside either through cracks in your exterior walls, behind your siding, or around windows and doors. Mold or mildew may also be caused by moisture entering from missing roofing nails or chipped roof cement. This can also occur because of back-to-back airflow between two areas with different temperatures.

Detecting Where the Roof Leaks Are

Suppose there’s a hole in your roofing material. In that case, some damage to your roof flashing or shingles, or just something that doesn’t look right from the exterior of your home, such as curled shingles, then you’ll need to use one of several common methods to determine the leak’s location. Here are some DIY techniques to find roof leaks.

Check for Roof Penetrations

Some of the most common locations for leaks to be found on a home’s roof are chimneys and stovepipes along with any penetration through your exterior walls such as vents or skylights. These penetrations can sometimes lead to unsightly stains inside your home and water damage just by letting it drip down into your ceiling area. Leaks from these types of penetrations typically need professional help because they’re difficult to access without causing serious damage by climbing onto your roof.

Check Your Attic Access

If you have an attic, you have a good chance of seeing where the hole or crack is that’s allowing water into your home. Just look up from inside your attic area and use a flashlight to spot it. If you don’t have an easy access point, then consider hiring a professional roofer with the necessary tools for the task.

Check Your Gutters

If you don’t have gutters that slope away from the sides of your house, then you could be looking at some significant water damage problem in the near future once those ruts from around each side after months and years of summer thundershowers and winter snow melts start to rot out your exterior siding and walls. Not only that, but not having gutters installed with a pitch can cause water to pool around the bottom of your roof, which is precisely where you don’t want it to be.

Check for Wind Damage

Roofs sometimes get damaged by high wind during storms and some of this damage may be hidden because it’s not seen or noticed right away due to blocked views or locations behind other objects such as trees, shrubs, and telephone poles.

Climb up onto Your Home’s Roof

If you’re comfortable enough with heights then climbing onto your roof might be worth the risk in order to check all of its surface areas more closely for any types of potential problems. Most roof leaks are caused by missing or damaged shingles so keep a lookout for them when you are checking your roof.

Check Your Roof Cement

A common problem with asphalt shingles is water damage because of cracks in the roof cement that holds them down. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to check appropriately spaced areas around your entire roof. You’ll be able to see if any leaks are coming from that area or not by closely looking at it. You can then go ahead and repair the crack if necessary, but you should expect to let the cement dry before making repairs to allow for proper adhesion.

Check Your Roof’s Flashing and Pipe Boots

Flashings are pieces of galvanized steel that are installed around edges, chimneys, and other vital parts of your home’s roofing system. Flashings prevent water from seeping under them and into your home, where it can do damage by rusting gutters or damaging the foundation. They also help prevent wind damage, so check for any damaged flashing before using a sealant to help cover it up.

How to Repair Missing or Damaged Asphalt Shingles

Most common roof leaks repairs involve damaged or missing shingles. If this is the case, you might be able to address the problem yourself instead of calling for a professional roofing contractor immediately. However, when choosing the DIY roof leak repair route, you have to be careful in the repair process.

The best time to determine where a roof leak is located is when it rains, but the best time to repair a roof leak is when it is not raining. Therefore, it is best to pinpoint the location of your roof leak during a rainy day and perform your roof repair once the sun comes up.

When undergoing a roof leak repair project, you will need materials that include a roll of tar paper, a utility knife or a putty knife, a hammer, a pry bar, roofing nails, and a fair amount of roof sealant.

Here are the steps to follow if you want to replace damaged or missing shingles.

Step 1. Remove All the Damaged or Curled Back Shingles.

The easiest way to pry them off is using a pry bar and putting it under the edge of the shingle, then pushing it down into the roof while pulling upon them with your other hand. Most often than not, you can straighten and reattach curled shingles by applying roofing cement under the curled edges with a caulk gun. Straightening shingles will save you some money from having to buy replacement shingles. However, if the shingle is curled beyond straightening, replacing it with a new shingle is best.

Step 2. Clear the Area Underneath Removed Shingles.

Cut the nail heads that are left by the damaged shingles. Scrape the roofing cement underneath the shingle you removed to allow you to apply a new layer for the new shingle.

Step 3. Check Neighboring Shingles.

Most often than not, a damaged or missing shingle will also affect the surrounding shingles. Remove shingles that are damaged within the area of the leak. Removing shingles next to the damaged one will give you a better look at the extent of the roof leak.

Step 4. Attaching Roof Replacement Shingles.

You can now attach a new shingle to seal the roof leak. Proceed to nail one end of the shingle using a hammer and nails. Nail the damaged or missing shingles every six inches (about 1/3 of an inch from each other). If you removed neighboring shingles, you could reattach them as well.

How to Repair a Leaking Roof Caused by Damaged Flashing

When roof water leaks are caused by damaged flashing, it is best to hire a roofing contractor because the task can be delicate and tricky if you’re not well-versed in the field. However, there are basic steps that you need to take when repairing your leaking roof due to damaged flashing.

Step 1: Clean the Roof’s Aluminum Flashing

You have to clean the roof’s flashing by using a putty knife or any other flat-head tool that you can find around your house (toothbrush, plastic scraper, etc.). This step is crucial because contaminants like rust or paint might interfere with the adhesion of the new sealant for your roofing repairs. You can use a wire brush to remove rust or dirt on the flashings' surface.

If the surface is painted, you will need a paint scraper and some turpentine oil to achieve satisfactory results.

Step 2: Prepare the Roof Flashing

You have to prepare the roof flashing before attaching a new sealant because any contaminants will make it difficult for the new sealant to connect to it. To prepare the flashing, you have to scrub its surface with a wire brush or a steel wool pad using turpentine oil as a solvent. You can also use a coat of primer on the roof’s flashing to help your roof repair stick more securely.

Step 3: Apply the Flashing Adhesive

Fashing adhesive can be purchased at any home improvement store. Please read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before starting your roof repair job because it may vary depending on the brand, i.e., self-leveling or not, etc. Use a putty knife to apply the sealant using a trowel and roller. After, you have to leave it for 24 hours before putting the flashing back on the roof.

How to Repair a Leaking Roof Caused by Pipe Boot Failure

A pipe boot failure is one of the most common causes of roof water leaks and damage to your property. There are many ways to fix a leaking pipe boot, but first, you have to identify where the problem lies.

Step 1: Identify Where the Problem Lies

A pipe boot failure usually occurs at three points: the upper or lower rubber boot or even the pipe itself. You have to start your roof repair job by identifying where the problem lies. Take a ladder and carefully inspect each part of the boot until you find out exactly where water is entering your property from. Check for any punctures, cracks, tears, or missing parts, as well as broken nails and damaged shingles near your roof’s flashing.

Step 2: Sealing the Pipe Boot

The most common cause of a leaky roof is damaged or missing shingles near the flashing. You have to remove the roofing nails, peel back the roofing felt, and install a new metal flashing with drip edge parts. To fix any damage on both boots, you have to use a pry bar and a hammer to remove them.

After removing one of the boots, dry it thoroughly using cloth and fans before applying replacement adhesive. Inspect its interior for any existing damage or missing items such as nails or flashing pieces for the other boot. Replacing the rubber collar is relatively straightforward, but you have to be careful not to damage any areas near the opening.

How to Patch Roof Leak on Steel Roofing Material

Patching the roof is easy if you have the right tools and materials. However, you have to make sure that you are using the right technique on your temporary fix or any water may seep through again.

Step 1: Prepare the Area

First, you have to clear the area and make sure that there is enough ventilation. All repairs must be done during dry weather. Work on a cool surface to prevent yourself from getting burned by the hot tar or asphalt, i.e., wear gloves and protective glasses.

Step 2: Cut a Patch

Make a patch with steel flashing using tin snips or a sheet metal blade. Cut it rectangular in shape and at least one inch wider than the hole on your roof. You have to make sure that its dimensions do not exceed half of the shingle width and height and keep in mind the possible expansion of asphalt when exposed to heat.

Step 3: Clean Out the Hole

You have to clean out the hole using a drill and an appropriately sized bit for your patch. You also have to make sure that the interior is smooth, free of any damage or debris, and dry.

Step 4: Place the Patch

Place your steel roofing patch over the hole you’ve cleaned out earlier. Nail it down securely on both sides with roofing nails. A self-sealing asphalt adhesive can also do the trick for you if you are looking for a bit of an easier solution.

Fixing a Leaking Roof While Raining

If you find yourself with a leaking roof during the rain, you cannot do any extensive repairs to it until the weather calms down. Until the rain subsides, what you can do is to get buckets to collect water droplets. However, if water is flowing like it does when you open your tap, then you should evacuate your home immediately since running water through your roof is an indication that the damage to your roof is severe.

Trace and Mark the Source of the Leak

Don’t worry, you can easily fix a roof leak even if the source is difficult to identify. First, you have to trace the direction of the water flow until you find where it starts entering your home. If there are multiple leaks on or around your roof, then start by checking those that are closest to the outdoors first.

Prepare the Materials for Repairs

If you see that you have a minor roof leak, then you can prepare yourself for a DIY fix by heading to your hardware store and getting the necessary materials for a roof repair. The typical tools you will need for a minor roof repair are a mallet, a shingle ripper, and a pair of tin snips. Likewise, you will need roofing cement, a utility knife, and nails with wide nail heads. Purchasing shingles and roof sheathing should be done after you have thoroughly checked the extent of the damage to your roof.

How Much Do Roof Leaks Repairs Cost?

Roof leaks repair costs vary depending on the size and type of roof, the material used, and how much damage there is. Generally speaking, a homeowner can expect to spend between $150 and $400 for a minor leak. A major leak with structural damage may cost more than $1,000. It’s also important to note that it may be difficult and costly to find the source of a roof leak. The good news is that leaks can often be prevented with proper roof maintenance.

In most cases, minor roof leaks don’t cause extensive damage so it’s not necessary to call a professional roofer. In fact, there are several things you can do yourself for small repairs. Look for loose or missing shingles or cracks in the flashing along the base of the chimney. If you have slate, tile, or metal roofing materials that are prone to rusting, you’ll probably need to replace old nails and screws that hold them down.

Finally, if your roof is leaking around skylight windows, there may be an issue with the window flashing. Replacing these materials can be costly, especially if they require structural repair, so it’s best to call a professional roofer for this job.

When You Should Call a Professional Roofing Contractor for a Leaky Roof?

A leaking roof is one of the most frustrating problems for a homeowner, but it may also be one of the simplest to fix. Many homeowners are tempted to simply ignore small roof leaks, either because they don’t know how to fix a leaky roof or because they are too busy with work and family responsibilities.

However, if you leave even minor damage unattended without even a temporary fix, it can quickly morph into a much more expensive problem. Even worse, many homeowners who wait too long to fix their roofs when a leak appears often find themselves with a roof in such poor condition that hiring a professional roofing contractor to repair it is the only practical option. Oftentimes, these homeowners will find themselves in need of a new roof to replace their severely damaged one.

Since most roofs can have a temporary fix without tearing up major its major sections you should hire a professional roofer to fix your leaky roof if:

  • You have one of the older roofs that fixing it yourself is dangerous.
  • Your roof’s pitch is too steep for you to work safely on.
  • The leak is causing serious damage to the interior of your home.
  • You are afraid you might fall off the ladder while trying to temporarily fix the roof yourself.

Before calling for professional help, try running up on your roof and using binoculars to inspect the exterior of all the visible parts. Look for signs of sagging, curling, or damage to shingles and any other indicators that a problem might exist somewhere, but be very careful. Roof decks, ladders, and roofs are not meant for short people. Even if you’re an avid DIYer with no fear of heights, you should have a professional look at your roof if it’s more than four or five stories high.

Remember, being up on the roof might be the only way to catch some problems early on, but you should always call for a roofing professional’s help because they are the experts in fixing roof leaks. Not only can they spot potential problems in their initial inspection, but they will also have the training and equipment needed to fix them safely and correctly.