The best way to Find the Cause of a Ceiling Leaking
Water follows the easiest path until it reaches the lowest point or obstruction along that path where it begins to pool and leak. A thorough evaluation and getting rid of the most obvious causes is a very good starting point when you want to determine the source of the leak in your ceiling.
Find out if the leak comes about only in the middle of bad weather or is a consistent problem storm or shine. This is a great indication that the leak starts somewhere on the roof if the leak dries out between storms. If the leak is steady when it storms or shines, the leak most likely comes from a plumbing water supply line.
Inspect the water dripping from the ceiling. If the water seems fresh, there’s a good chance it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. If the water is unsanitary or stains the ceiling, the origin might be a leak in the roof.
Gain access to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place where the ceiling is soaked in between roof joists. You will need to take out any padding in the path of the leak. If there is a plumbing line near the leak, like the supply line for a swamp cooler, check the line for leaks or moisture.
Look up at the ceiling while at the same time in the attic and note any places where sunlight shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the gap. This will certainly help you repair the hole and find from atop the roof.
Examine the inside of the attic ceiling for water stains or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its cause. Make note of the area if there are no obvious gaps, as water might be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Check out the roof’s exterior. Use a ladder to get to the roof.
Check out flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protuberances. Note if there are any wind-lifted, bulging or raised shingles as leak sources.
Look at all spots of the roof where two different components meet, such as between home siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or ruined materials as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check rain gutters and downspouts for obstructions. Backed up discharge water can get underneath flashing and trigger a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need
- 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 just about anything that extends through the roof. Annual maintenance in the fall, summer or spring helps to prevent winter leaks.
Use rubber-soled sneakers when accessing the roof. Tie off a safety line on something secure to break any falls from the roof.
How to Fix Your Leaking Ceiling
In addition to being an eyesore, leaking ceilings can cause major challenges around your home. Here’s how to identify and stop your ceiling leaks.
Spotting Your Leak
Wet flooring and brown or dark-colored splotches on your ceiling are common signs of a leak. Leaking ceilings can also cause bubbling paint and wet walls. If you notice any of these signs, address the issue immediately. Ignoring leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Pinpointing Your Leak’s Cause
The cause of your leak will find out how you fix it. Finding the location of your leak isn’t always easy. Water can travel considerable distances before eventually dripping and pooling. Here are three clues that will help you pinpoint the origin of your leak.
Leak Frequency: Drip frequency is a good indicator of your leak’s location. Dripping that coincides with showers 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 find the location of your leak. Brown or dirty water is usually a sign of a leaking roof. Water making its way into your home from your roof picks up dirt and other impurities along the way. Clear dripping is usually the sign of an interior plumbing leak. Water leaking from pipes won’t attract as much dirt and grime.
Insulation Dryness: Attic insulation will also help you identify the origin 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. Remove the insulation and look 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 cause 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 determine the affected portion of your roof during repairs. Take a look at 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 cause 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 deteriorated or damaged 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 source of your plumbing leak difficult. Here’s a quick look at the most common sources 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. Survey your bathroom to determine your fixtures’ drains in relation to your leak. Mark off the affected portion of your ceiling and remove it to get a better look at your leak. Be sure to avoid cutting into studs, wires and other pipes. Remove the damaged, drywall section and look for signs of leakage. Water damage should be centered around the faulty fixture. To double check, recreate the leak by running your shower or toilet and then checking out the open ceiling for leaks. You’ve pinpointed the cause of your leak if you see water dripping. Here’s how to repair leaking bathroom fixtures.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by examining your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. If you don’t notice any damage, run your bath or shower and check 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 inspect your gasket. If your drain’s gasket is old or missing, replace it with a new one. You can also use plumber’s putty to create a seal if you don’t have a gasket replacement. 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 analyze 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 get rid of your leak. Call a pro if you continue to have leaks. Sometimes this is a sign of other plumbing problems.
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? In fact, it may not be your roof leaking at all.
At times, identifying the cause 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. It’s best to have an experienced contractor get on your roof and in the attic (if applicable) to better determine where the leak is coming from.
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 dripping or leaking
Plumbing pipes are often in your attic and may either be leaking or building up condensation, causing the water to drip. This happens quite often, leading to a misdiagnosed roof leak. Your contractor should be able to spot this during the assessment and highly recommend an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your home
If your home is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole-house humidifier that is set too high, condensation can build up and cause dampness in the home, most 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.
Dampness in a crawl space can also be a factor. The moisture 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 service provider to assist.
3. Clogged gutters and downspouts
If your gutters are clogged, water has nowhere to go but in! 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 gutters and downspouts cleaned. It’s best to check them every few months.
4. Ice dam
When water from the ice and snow melts, it will more than likely leak right into your home. It simply means, as with clogged gutters, the water has nowhere to go but it in.
Use Roof Melt Tablets to Prevent Ice Dams
Find out what to do when winter storms dump snow and ice on your roof and in your gutters.
Check for these roof repairs
Turns out it was a roof leak? Wait to repair your home’s interior. Draw a circle with a pencil around the stain, and see if the spot grows after a few very good rainfalls. You’re probably pretty safe to move forward if it doesn’t.
There are many things we, as house owners, can do to be vigilant in the fight against roof leaks. You can check your home for the following things before having to call a roofing contractor:
• Look for split or missing shingles. If you have to get on the roof, safety.
• Peak at your skylight while on the roof or from inside. Look for broken seals or broken edges.
• Check attic insulation level. Insulation and ventilation are very important in allowing your home to breath, reducing the risk of condensation.
• Look for loose or damaged siding. Water can often enter the area causing a leak, most notably with wind-driven showers.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable specialist to assist in diagnosing the cause of your issue. Most roof assessments 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 pail, 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 lessen the repetitive dripping sound.
Next, take an old screwdriver, locate the center of the bulge where water is accumulating and puncture it right in the middle. It might seem strange to punch a hole in your ceiling to eliminate a leak, the new hole will allow the water to drain smoothly and relieve pressure on the rest of your ceiling. If water build-ups and pools, the entire ceiling could collapse.
Cover the exterior surface with a large tarp if you are confident you know where the leak is coming from and can safely get to the cause. If you can’t reach it, or feel unsafe doing so, it would be best to immediately contact a roofing specialist. Many credible roofing companies offer emergency tarping services. As you may already know, unfortunately if your roof is actively leaking due to weather, a roofing service provider can not repair the leak until that weather has stopped. The tarping service will act as a temporary fix to minimize the damage inside your home until your roofer can fix the challenge.
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. Examining 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.
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 ignoring will not fix a leak in your roof.
On the inside, you should look for:
- Dark spots
- Spots where outdoors sunlight shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decaying, peeling, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Blocked or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around chimneys or vents
If your roof is fewer than 15 years old, it can probably 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 typically just signs of a much larger challenge. Both danger and the probability of structural erosion increase if unaddressed. Regular checkups are your best defense against a leaky roof. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your service provider about the condition of your roof regularly.