The best way to Determine the Origin of a Ceiling Leak
Water follows the easiest path until it reaches the lowest point or obstruction along that path where it begins to pool and leak. A comprehensive evaluation and doing away with the most obvious causes is a great starting point when you want to find the origin of the leak in your ceiling.
Determine if the leak happens only during the course of bad weather or is a regular issue rain or shine. If the leak dries out between storms, this is a very good evidence that the leak starts someplace or other on the roof. If the leak is regular when it shines or rains, the leak most likely comes from a plumbing water supply line.
Take a look at the water trickling from the ceiling. If the water seems fresh, there’s a very good probability it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. If the water is unclean or stains the ceiling, the origin might be a leak in the roof.
Get to to the attic and, with a flashlight, locate the place exactly where the ceiling is soaked between roof beams. You will need to clear away any insulation 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 dampness.
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 assist you repair the hole and find from atop the roofing system.
Examine the inside of the attic ceiling for water spots or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its origin. Make note of the area if there are no obvious gaps, as water might be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Inspect 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. Inspect 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 causes.
Look at all locations of the roof where two separate components meet, like between exterior siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or destroyed materials as causes of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for obstructions. Backed up discharge water can get underneath flashing and cause a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other appropriate safety equipment
Annually check out your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and anything that protrudes through the roof. Annual maintenance in the summer, fall or spring helps to protect against winter leaks.
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 Fix Your Leaking Ceiling
In addition to being an eyesore, leaking ceilings can cause major problems around your home. Here’s how to find and stop your ceiling leaks.
Spotting Your Leak
Wet flooring and dark-colored or brown splotches on your ceiling are common signs of a leak. Leaking ceilings can also cause bubbling paint and wet walls. Address the challenge immediately if you notice any of these signs. Overlooking leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Finding Your Leak’s Cause
The source of your leak will identify 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 storm 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 determine the location of your leak. Brown or unclean 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 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 content or signs of damage. If the top of the insulation is wet, the leak is likely located above your insulation in the roof or wall.
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:
Gain access to your roof and check the leaking area. Sometimes plugging roof leaks isn’t DIY-able. Leaks in unusual locations or related to major structural damage are best left to the pros.
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 identify 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 beams, 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 examining the open ceiling for leaks. You’ve found the source of your leak if you see water dripping. Here’s how to repair leaking bathroom fixtures.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by inspecting your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. If you don’t notice any damage, run your bath or shower and examine 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 missing or old, 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. If the leak persists, call a pro. This could be the sign of a more serious plumbing issue.
Shower Leaks: Spray water along your shower door and examine your ceiling. Dripping water will confirm a faulty shower door seal. Install a shower door sweep– most designs snap onto your door– and run silicone caulk along the base of your shower. Run a line of caulk along its base if your sliding shower door track is leaking. Call a pro if your leaks continue. This could be the sign of further plumbing issues.
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. You could have a bad seal if you see a leak. Replace your wax seal to do away with your leak. If you continue to have leaks, call a pro. Sometimes this is a sign of other plumbing problems.
Your home’s plumbing lines can break or corrode 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. 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. It’s a common misconception that the leak originates from directly above that area when there’s a stain on the ceiling.
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 determine 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 build-uping condensation, causing the water to drip. This happens quite often, leading to a misdiagnosed roof leak. Your service provider should be able to spot this during the examination and recommend an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your home
If your house is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole-house humidifier that is set too high, condensation can build up and cause moisture in the home, particularly your attic.
Keep in mind, whole-house humidifiers should not be set at more than 30 percent, per manufacturer guidelines, to avoid this issue.
Wetness in a crawl space can also be a factor. The wetness 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 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 Help 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. Draw a circle with a pencil around the stain, and see if the spot grows after a few very good rainfalls. You’re most likely pretty safe to move forward if it doesn’t.
There are many things we, as home 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 contractor:
• Look for broken 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 fractured 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, particularly with wind-driven rains.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable specialist to assist in diagnosing the cause of your challenge. Most roof checkups 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 begins or come home to it, it is important that you take immediate action to avoid further damage to your home.
Contain the Leak
If you find water dripping from a bulges or discoloration in your ceiling, it’s likely that water is pooling on the other side of that bulge or dark spot. Grab a bucket, trash can, or some other container and place it under the site of the drip or suspected leak.
Next, take an old screwdriver, locate the center of the bulge where water is accumulating and puncture it right in the middle. Though 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 build-ups 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. If you can’t reach it, or feel unsafe doing so, it would be best to immediately contact a roofing professional. 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 professional 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 problem.
An experienced roofing professional will check your roof both from the exterior of the roof itself as well as the inside of your home, typically through the attic. Taking a look at the underside of the roof sheeting can show signs of water damage, however it is not a foolproof method so checking out the roof for damage is needed.
Dangers of Waiting
It is important to act quickly when it comes to a roof leak. Leaky roofs never fix themselves or get better on their own. If the leak isn’t bad yet, even. Get it fixed now. Often we hear from property owners that they noticed a stain on their ceiling or possibly some bubbling for awhile but thought it wasn’t serious. Avoidance and ignoring will not fix a leak in your roof. Many times by the time you notice damage within your home it is already too late. The National Roofing Professionals Association highly recommends examining your roof twice a year, in the fall and spring. Here is what to look for to prevent a fixable issue from turning into a damaging and costly repair:
On the inside, you should look for:
- Dark spots
- Spots where outside sunlight shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decaying, peeling, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Obstructed or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around vents or chimneys
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. If unaddressed, both danger and the probability of structural erosion increase. Regular inspections 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.