Exactly how to Pinpoint the Source of a Ceiling Leaking
Finding the cause of a ceiling leak is very similar to assembling a puzzle. You may perhaps assume it’s simple enough, although finding precisely where water is coming into the home may be an exercise in trial and error. Exactly where the water gets in the house may not be at the cause of the water leak. Water follows the easiest route until it reaches the lowest spot or obstruction throughout that course where it starts to pool and leak. An extensive assessment and getting rid of the most obvious causes is a very good beginning point when you really want to determine the source of the leak in your ceiling.
Figure out if the leak occurs only during bad weather or is a continuous problem storm or shine. If the leak dries out between storms, this is a really good indication that the leak begins someplace or other on the roof. If the leak is constant when it showers or shines, the leak most likely comes from a plumbing water supply line.
Take a look at the water trickling from the ceiling. There’s a really good chance it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture if the water appears fresh. The origin might be a leak in the roof if the water is unsanitary or stains the ceiling.
Gain access to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place exactly where the ceiling is damp somewhere between roof joists. You will need to get rid of any insulation in the way of the leak. If there is a plumbing line near the leak, for instance, the supply line for a swamp cooler, check the line for leaks or moisture.
Look up at the ceiling while in the attic and note any spots where sunlight shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the space. This will definitely help you find and repair the hole from atop the roofing system.
Check out the inside of the attic ceiling for water discolorations or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its origin. Make note of the area if there are no obvious cavities, as water may be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Examine the roof’s exterior. Use a step ladder to get to the roof.
Start at the top of the roof and work down. Check valley flashing, gaskets around plumbing vents and utility entrances. Check flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protuberances. Look for any shingles in need of repair. Note if there are any wind-lifted, bulging or raised shingles as leak origins.
Go over all regions of the roof where two separate materials meet, including between home siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or damaged materials as sources of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for blockages. Backed up drainage water can get beneath flashing and cause a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Require
- Plastic straw
Safety line and other relevant safety equipment
Each year inspect your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and almost anything that protrudes through the roof. Annual repair and maintenance in the spring, fall or summer helps to reduce the chances of wintertime leaks.
Word of caution
Use rubber-soled shoes when accessing the roof. Tie off a safety line on something secure to break any falls from the roof.
How to Repair Your Leaking Ceiling
In addition to being an eyesore, leaking ceilings can cause major problems around your home. Here’s how to identify and stop your ceiling leaks.
Spotting Your Leak
Leaking ceilings can also cause bubbling paint and wet walls. Ignoring leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Determining Your Leak’s Cause
Finding the location of your leak isn’t always easy. Here are three clues that will help you pinpoint the origin of your leak.
Leak Frequency: Drip frequency is a really good indicator of your leak’s location. Dripping that coincides with rain is usually a sign of a leaking roof. Your leak is likely plumbing-related if you notice a steady flow of water.
Leak Color: The color of the water dripping from your ceiling will also help you identify the location of your leak. Clear dripping is usually the sign of an interior plumbing leak.
Insulation Dryness: Attic insulation will also help you pinpoint the source of your leak. Gain access to your attic and feel the top of the insulation covering the leaking portion of your ceiling. If it’s dry, your leak is below your insulation. Look and remove the insulation for moisture or signs of damage. The leak is likely located above your insulation in the roof or wall if the top of the insulation is wet.
Fixing Your Leak
It’s time to find the exact source and fix it once you know the general location of your leak. Here’s how:
Roof Leaks: Begin by looking for obvious signs of roof deterioration. Use a wire to mark any holes or cracks so you can find them on the outside of your roof. This will help you identify the affected portion of your roof during repairs. Check your attic ceilings and walls for water stains or trails if there’s no obvious damage. Trace any sign of running water back to its source and mark the area. If there is no visible damage, the cause of your leak is likely due to a challenge with your flashing, shingles or vent gaskets. Gain access to your roof and check out the leaking area. Replace any damaged or deteriorated areas. Sometimes plugging roof leaks isn’t DIY-able. Leaks in unusual locations or related to major structural damage are best left to the pros. Tackling major repairs can cause additional leaks and threaten the safety of your home.
Plumbing Leaks: Your home is filled with pipes, which can make pinpointing the cause of your plumbing leak difficult. Here’s a quick look at the most common causes of plumbing leaks and how to fix them.
If your leak is directly below your bathroom, plumbing fixtures like toilets and showers are likely to blame. To double check, recreate the leak by running your shower or toilet and then checking out the open ceiling for leaks. If you see water dripping, you’ve pinpointed the origin of your leak.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by checking your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. If you don’t notice any damage, run your bath or shower and take a look at your ceiling leak. You’re likely suffering from a faulty drain gasket if you see drips. Remove your old shower drain (most unscrew with a tub tool or channel-lock pliers) and take a look at your gasket. If your drain’s gasket is old or missing, replace it with a new one. If you don’t have a gasket replacement, you can also use plumber’s putty to create a seal. Call a pro if the leak persists. This could be the sign of a more serious plumbing issue.
Shower Leaks: Spray water along your shower door and inspect your ceiling. If your sliding shower door track is leaking, run a line of caulk along its base. Call a pro if your leaks continue.
Toilet Leaks: Toilets use a wax seal to connect your toilet to your home’s plumbing system. Over time, these seals can age or break due to a loose toilet. To check your seal, flush your toilet and then examine your ceiling. If you see a leak, you could have a bad seal. Replace your wax seal to remove your leak. Call a pro if you continue to have leaks. Sometimes this is a sign of other plumbing issues.
Your home’s plumbing lines can corrode or break and cause leaks. If your leak isn’t below any major appliance or fixture, it’s likely the result of a faulty pipe. Soldering mistakes can lead to fires, serious burns, and additional leaks.
If you notice water damage on the ceiling or other signs of a leak, don’t assume it’s your roof.
As the snow melts, our company gets calls all of the time from customers who have a roof leak and think they know exactly where the water is coming in– usually because there’s a water mark on the ceiling or wall. But, did you know roof leaks and the cause of water damage are actually hard to diagnose? It may not be your roof leaking at all.
At times, ascertaining the origin of a water leak can be difficult. When there’s a stain on the ceiling, it’s a common misconception that the leak originates from directly above that area.
But, water travels. When there’s a leak present, water may be traveling down from another area of your home, dripping onto the ceiling, causing you to believe that’s the location of the leak. If applicable) to better ascertain where the leak is coming from, it’s best to have an experienced service provider get on your roof and in the attic (.
There are other factors to consider as well. Water on your ceiling may be the cause of a variety of things. Regardless, a leak can cause serious issues inside your home.
1. Water pipes leaking or dripping
Plumbing pipes are often in your attic and may either be leaking or accumulating condensation, causing the water to drip. This happens quite often, leading to a misdiagnosed roof leak. Your specialist should be able to spot this during the evaluation and highly recommend an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your house
If your house is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole-house humidifier that is set too high, condensation can develop and cause dampness in the home, especially your attic.
Keep in mind, whole-house humidifiers should not be set at more than 30 percent, per manufacturer guidelines, to avoid this issue.
Moisture in a crawl space can also be a factor. The moisture content is invisible and eventually rises through the home, stopping at the roof deck, creating condensation. The use of a sump pump, pea gravel, and other products can help, but contact a professional specialist to assist.
3. Clogged gutters and downspouts
Water has nowhere to go but in if your gutters are clogged! Gutters must be properly maintained so water (and ice in the winter) doesn’t back up with the debris.
Consider gutter guards to prevent build up of debris in your gutters. Not a fan of gutter guards? Our best advice is to simply keep those downspouts and gutters cleaned. It’s best to check them every few months.
4. Ice dam
Walk the perimeter of your home to check for areas where ice may have accumulated this winter season. When water from the ice and snow melts, it will more than likely leak right into your home. This doesn’t mean your shingles are bad. It simply means, as with clogged gutters, the water has nowhere to go but it in.
Use Roof Melt Tablets to Prevent Ice Dams
When winter storms dump snow and ice on your roof and in your gutters, find out what to do.
Check for these roof repairs
Turns out it was a roof leak? Wait to repair your home’s interior.
There are many things we, as property owners, can do to be vigilant in the fight against roof leaks. You can take a look at your home for the following things before having to call a roofing service provider:
• Look for fractured or missing shingles. Safety first if you have to get on the roof. Be sure somebody is holding the ladder. Wear the proper attire– shoes with rubber soles are best.
• Peak at your skylight while on the roof or from inside. Look for broken seals or split edges.
• Check attic insulation level. State minimum (in Indiana) is 13 inches. Take a ruler with you, pop your head up and measure. Insulation and ventilation are very important in allowing your home to breath, reducing the risk of condensation.
• Look for damaged or loose siding. Water can often enter the area causing a leak, specifically with wind-driven storms.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable professional to assist in diagnosing the cause of your problem. Most roof evaluations are free of charge.
My Roof is Leaking– What Do I Do and the Dangers of Waiting
No one ever wants to find water leaking from their ceiling. Whether you are home when the leak starts or come home to it, it is important that you take immediate action to avoid further damage to your home.
Contain the Leak
It’s likely that water is pooling on the other side of that bulge or dark spot if you find water dripping from a bulges or discoloration in your ceiling. Grab a bucket, trash can, or some other container and place it under the site of the drip or suspected leak. You may even want to consider propping up a board inside the container so the drips hit the board and not the gathered water. This will decrease the repetitive dripping sound.
Next, take an old screwdriver, locate the center of the bulge where water is build-uping and puncture it right in the middle. It might seem strange to punch a hole in your ceiling to stop a leak, the new hole will allow the water to drain smoothly and relieve pressure on the rest of your ceiling. The entire ceiling could collapse if water accumulates and pools.
If you are confident you know where the leak is coming from and can safely get to the cause, cover the exterior surface with a large tarp. As you may already know, unfortunately if your roof is actively leaking due to weather, a roofing expert can not repair the leak until that weather condition has stopped.
An experienced roofing professional will check out your roof both from the exterior of the roof itself as well as the inside of your home, typically through the attic. Inspecting the underside of the roof sheeting can show signs of water damage, however it is not a foolproof method so inspecting the roof for damage is needed as well.
Dangers of Waiting
It is important to act quickly when it comes to a roof leak. Even if the leak isn’t bad. Avoidance and disregarding will not fix a leak in your roof.
On the inside, you should look for:
- Dark areas
- Spots where outdoors sunlight shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decomposing, flaking, broken, blistering, or buckling shingles
• Plugged or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around vents or chimneys
If your roof is fewer than 15 years old, it can most likely be spot-repaired instead of requiring a total replacement. Just remember that a small leak will not go away– it will only get worse.
Roof leaks are commonly just signs of a much larger issue. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your contractor about the condition of your roof regularly.