How to Fix Roof Leaks in Your Home

If have you seen any water staining on your ceiling or walls you probably need to fix a roof leak. Finding the exact location of the leak may be difficult, but usually fixing the roof leak can be done with little time and effort and at a reasonable expense.

Roof leaks require fixing as soon as they are discovered. If not they can lead to serious problems like mold, rotted lumber, ruined insulation, and damaged drywall. The costs associated with fixing roof leaks are minimal IF they are addressed when they are first noticed.

mold in closet from roof leakMold in closet from roof leak

Finding The Leak

Start with inspecting the roof. Look for any missing shingles. Next see if anything has penetrated the roof. Things like branches can cause holes in shingles and plywood sheeting. Penetrations you wouldn’t necessarily give thought to include any plumbing stacks or roof vents. Inspect the areas around chimneys and dormers. Check everything that comes up out of the roof or causes a change in the roofline. These are the most common places where a leak takes place. And remember, the actual leak may be several feet any direction from problem areas you may find.

If you can access the attic, that is the next place to look. Use a flashlight to look for any staining. You may find dark water tracks and staining on structural materials. Damaged or moldy insulation may be visible below the leak.

damaged roof shinglesDamaged roof shingles

Use a helper. Have one person go up on the roof with a garden hose while the second person remains in the attic or in the room where the evidence of the leak is. Start below any suspected problem area and run water down the roof. Slowly work your way up the roof while the second person watches for any drips to occur coming through the roof. Go slowly and take your time. It’s a slow process.

If the garden hose approach doesn’t bring you any results it may be time to remove a few shingles from the suspected area. As you remove them you may find water stains or moldy roof felt. Be cautious! If the leak has been occurring for a long time the wood underneath the shingles may be weakened and rotted.

Fixing Small Roof Leaks

repair roof leakReplaced stack boot
  1. Plumbing Vents: The vent boot is usually a square or rectangular piece of tin or plastic with a rubber “boot” that surrounds the vent. The rubber deteriorates with age and leaves a gap between the boot and the vent pipe. If this is the case the vent boot should be replaced. Gently pry out the nails securing the boot to the roof using a flat pry bar. Slide the new boot under the shingles above and over the shingles bellow it. Attach the boot using rubber-washed screws. Apply a roof sealant around the exposed edges of the new boot. Sometimes a nail securing the vent boot to the roof has pulled loose or is missing. In this case, simply reattach the boot with a new screw.
  2. Roof vents: Inspect all of the roof ventilation vents for damage. Look for holes, broken seams or any other kind of damage to the vent. To fix this roof leak, replace the vent. You might be tempted to apply caulking around the vent, but this would only be a temporary fix and who wants to do things twice? Use the same technique to remove and replace the roof vent as you would to replace the plumbing boot.
  3. Dormers and walls: Missing siding or trim boards along side of dormers or walls can be the source of your leak. Caulking in these areas can crack open over time allowing water to penetrate. There is flashing around any dormer or wall that protrudes from the roof. Remove any old caulking in these areas and replace it with new. If any siding or trim boards are missing or show signs of decay and rot, replace them.

Fixing Complicated Roof Leaks

  1. Ice Damming: Ice dams form when water freezes in gutters and roof valleys (areas where two rooflines meet) and then allows water to flow backwards up under the shingles. The best solution is to make sure the gutters are not clogged before colder weather sets in. But if damming is occurring, the way to fix the roof leak is to remove enough shingles to expose the wood. Then install a water barrier under the affected areas and replace any removed shingles and flashing.
  2. Step Flashing: Step flashing is used along side any wall that meets a roofline with part of the flashing placed under the shingles. The flashing itself consists of one or more pieces of tin (in most cases) and are secured with nails and the exposed edges are sealed with caulk. If a piece of flashing is missing or the caulking is cracked, water will run behind it. Fix this roof leak by replacing any missing flashing and/or recaulking the flashing.
  3. Small holes from removed mountings: If you have had a satellite dish or TV antenna removed there will be small nail or screw holes where they were placed on the roof. Simply filling the holes with caulk isn’t enough to prevent leaks. Using a piece of flashing, slide the flashing under the singles where the holes are. Make sure the flashing goes under the shingle with the holes and also under the shingle just above the one with the holes. Secure the flashing with screws with rubber washers.
  4. Leaks around chimney flashing: Chimney flashings usually have many bends and angles when first installed. Also there will probably be more than one piece of flashing used. Look for gaps, cracks or other damage to the flashing. Fix this roof leak for the short term by using new caulk; the long-term fix would be to completely replace all of the flashing surrounding the chimney.

Need Help Fixing Roof Leaks?

Working on roofs is not for everyone. Working in high places can be dangerous. Every year more than 10,000 people are injured from falls. If you need help with fixing roof leaks call 877-960-0491 day or night. Experienced professionals can answer questions or provide the proper assistance with fixing any type of roof leaks.

Additional Reading:

Slate Roof Leaks - How to find an repair leaks in slate roofs.

Chimney Leak Repair - Common causes of chimney leaks, how to find the leak, simple repairs the homeowner can do themselves.

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Written by Mark Huey.