interior of a home affected by a roof leak

What to Do if Your Roof is Leaking: Quick and Effective Solutions

Few homeowner experiences are as unsettling as discovering a leak in your roof. Whether water stains are spreading across your ceiling or water has already infiltrated the drywall and is dripping into your living space, a roof leak demands immediate attention.

Ignoring this issue can potentially lead to significant and costly water damage, compromising the structural integrity of your home. This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to effectively identify and temporarily address roof leaks.

Jump to the temporary fixes now or continue reading.

My Roof Is Leaking – What Should I Do?

You technically should call a local roofing company because most will be willing to tarp your roof and then come back for a quote after the storm. Your insurance will likely reimburse you for this tarping service and if you have water damage, it is almost certain you will hit your deductible during repairs so why endure needless damage?

Feeling brave? Don’t have insurance? If you are not going to call a professional, your immediate action depends on what you are capable of safely doing. If the storm is bad and there is lightning, don’t do anything outside, wait for the storm to subside!

If you can climb ladders, start with identifying the leak. If you have a single-story home and own a large tarp, you can jump to the tarping section.

Equipment You will need

  • Prybal or trowel
  • Tarp or peice of sheetmetal
  • Cap nails

Identifying the Leak

Before attempting any repairs, accurately identifying the source of the leak is crucial. We’ll start by assessing the signs of water damage and then tracing the leak’s origin. To do this right, you really need to have access to your attic. Grab a tape measure, high-powered LED flashlight, and a sturdy step stool, chair, or small ladder.

Please don’t do this alone!

  • Gain access to your attic and using the flashlight look for dripping water
  • Determine how you will find the position of the leak from the outside. I suggest counting which joists the leak is between, and measuring the spacing between two joists above your head.
  • Head to the roof next and start looking for the damaged shingle or soft spots in the area you identified from the attic.

You can skip to the temporary fixes section if you are short on time.

Assessing Signs of Water Damage

When searching for signs of a leak from the inside, pay attention to water stains on the ceiling or walls, which may appear brownish and expand with water accumulation. Moisture or dampness on surfaces is another indicator. Inspect the attic for moisture in the insulation, peeling paint, or stained or bowing plywood, as these can suggest a point of entry for water.

Water stains on ceilings are a common sign of a compromised roof.

Tracing the Source of the Leak

Locating the exact entry point of water requires a systematic approach. Start by examining the attic, using a flashlight to look for dampness or water stains on the wood and insulation. If the attic is inaccessible or the leak’s origin is unclear, conduct a water spray test.

Simulate rain using a garden hose while someone inside checks for drips, working from the lower part of the rooftop upward to isolate the leak. Remember, water can travel along roofing materials or framing before dripping, so the source may be some distance from the visible water damage.

Once the problem area is found, you have two options – use a piece of sheet metal to cover the leak or use a tarp.

Immediate Actions to Minimize Damage

When dealing with a leaking roof, swift action is crucial to prevent extensive damage. Here are concrete steps to contain the water and apply temporary fixes before professional repair.

Containing the Water

First, catch the water using any available containers or plastic totes to prevent it from spreading across the floor and damaging furniture. If you notice a bulge in the ceiling, this suggests water pooling. Carefully puncture the ceiling with a screwdriver to relieve pressure and allow the water to drain into a container below.

Safety Tip: When puncturing a bulging ceiling, wear protective eyewear and have someone hold the container below to catch the water. Avoid standing directly below the bulge to prevent potential injury.

Temporary Fixes

If it’s raining but you feel it’s safe to get on your roof, here are two options popular among DIYers.

Fixing a roof leak with sheet metal

Fixing a roof leak with a Small tarp

For minor leaks after a few dry days, roofing cement or caulk can be applied using a putty knife to seal the affected area temporarily.

What I’ve seen some people do is take something flat like sheet metal and place it over the leaking area and slide it under the shingles above the leak. If you don’t have a tarp and it’s just a small area that appears to be leaking, this method allows for the least damage to the surrounding shingles.

Tarping A Leaking Roof The Right Away

Many people make the mistake of tarping over a large area of the roof and applying nails over a large perimeter. Unless you are expecting a full roof replacement for a single leak, you probably don’t want to do this. The goal is to cover just the area around the leak.

If the wind is minimal, you could get by with weighing the tarp down with heavy objects. Ensure the tarp extends over the roof’s peaks and is properly anchored so no water gets below the tarp.

When wind is an issue, you may need to use nails. As shown in the video above, lifting a few shingles above the leak and placing the top of the tarp under those shingles is the best way stop a leak without having to nail the tarp over the ridge. You will have a much easier time with your insurance company or roofer if you don’t go damaging good shingles.

Pro Tip: Cap nails are the proper way for anchoring a tarp since the keep the nail from causing a new leak.

Here is a hypothetical solution if you can’t get on the roof (and are still unwilling to call a professional for help). Tie individual 20ft lengths of twine to all four grommets on the end of the tarp. On one corner, attach the twine and then throw the whole roll of twine over the roof so you can pull the tarp onto the roof from the other side of the house. Then tie down all four ends of twine to the ground with tent stakes.

While temporary fixes can provide immediate relief, it’s crucial to seek professional assessment and repair to address the underlying issues and prevent future leaks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What temporary fixes can be applied To My Roof before professional repairs are made?

For minor leaks, you can temporarily seal the affected area with roofing cement or caulk applied using a putty knife. If the leak is more significant, stretching a tarp over the leaking area and securing it tightly with nails or weights can provide temporary relief until professional repair.

Are roof leaks covered by homeowners insurance?

Most homeowners insurance policies cover roof leaks resulting from sudden and accidental events, such as severe storms or falling debris. However, leaks caused by long-term wear and tear or lack of maintenance may not be covered. It’s essential to review your policy or consult with your insurance provider for specific coverage details.

What should I do if my roof starts leaking during a heavy rainstorm?

During a heavy rainstorm, your priority should be to contain the water and minimize potential damage. Place buckets or containers to catch the water and consider puncturing any bulging areas in the ceiling with a screwdriver to relieve pressure. Avoid attempting temporary repairs during the storm, as it can be unsafe. Once the storm has passed, take immediate action to apply temporary fixes and seek professional assistance.

How much does it typically cost to repair a leaking roof?

The cost of repairing a leaking roof can vary significantly depending on the extent of the damage, the roofing material, and the complexity of the repair. Minor repairs, such as patching or replacing a few shingles, may cost a few hundred dollars, while more extensive repairs can range from $1,000 to $5,000 or more, depending on the size of the roof and the specific issues.

Can I use products like Flex Seal to repair a leaky roof, and how effective are they?

Products like Flex Seal, which are liquid rubber sealants, can provide a temporary fix for minor roof leaks. However, they are not intended to be a permanent solution and may void your roof’s warranty. While they can be effective in the short term, it’s recommended to seek professional roofing repair or replacement for a long-lasting solution.

I cannot afford to fix my leaky roof. What options do I have?

If you cannot afford a professional roof repair or replacement, there are a few options to consider. You may be able to secure a loan or financing from a roofing contractor or explore government assistance programs for low-income homeowners.

Additionally, some nonprofit organizations or community groups may offer assistance or resources for home repairs. As a last resort, temporary fixes like tarps or sealants can buy you some time until you can secure the necessary funds.

What are the first steps to take when you discover a leak in your roof?

The first steps include containing the leak internally by placing buckets or containers under drips and removing valuables from the area. Externally, assess the roof to locate the source of the leak, taking safety precautions if you need to climb onto it.

How can you identify the exact point of leakage on your roof?

Look for signs such as water stains, mold, or dampness on ceilings and walls inside your home. On the exterior, check for missing, damaged, or aged shingles; cracked flashing; or sealant failures around penetrations like chimneys and vents.

What long-term preventative measures can help avoid future roof leaks?

Long-term prevention includes regular inspections and maintenance by professionals; keeping gutters clean and well-maintained; ensuring proper attic ventilation and insulation to prevent ice dams; trimming tree branches that could potentially damage your roof; and repairing minor issues promptly before they turn into larger problems.

Additional Resources

For further information or assistance, consider the following resources:

Similar Posts