Exactly how to Pinpoint the Cause of a Ceiling Leaking
Determining the source of a ceiling leak is very similar to assembling a puzzle. You might think it’s easy enough, but finding precisely where water is entering the house might be an exercise in hit and miss. Exactly where the water gets in the property may not be at the origin of the water leak. Water pursues the simplest path until it gets to the lowest spot or impediment throughout that path where it starts to pool and leak. When you prefer to pinpoint the origin of the leak in your ceiling, a thorough assessment and eliminating the most obvious causes is a really good starting point.
If the leak crops up only during bad weather or is a consistent problem showers or shine, find out. This is a really good evidence that the leak begins somewhere on the roof if the leak dries out between storms. If the leak is steady when it shines or storms, the leak probably comes from a plumbing water supply line.
Take a look at the water leaking from the ceiling. If the water looks as if fresh, there’s a great probability it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. The origin might be a leak in the roofing if the water is dirty or stains the ceiling.
Get to to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place exactly where the ceiling is drenched in between roof joists. You will need to take off any insulation in the path 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 at the same time in the attic and note any spots where light shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the space. This will certainly help you find and repair the hole from atop the roofing system.
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 apparent gaps, as water might be getting under roof flashing and causing the leak.
Examine the roof’s exterior. Use a step ladder to gain access to the roof.
Examine flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protuberances. Note if there are any wind-lifted, protruding or raised shingles as leak causes.
Look at all spots of the roof where two different components meet, like between home siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or destroyed components as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check gutter systems and downspouts for clogs. Backed up drainage water can get beneath flashing and cause a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Require
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other relevant safety equipment
On a yearly basis check out 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. Yearly routine maintenance in the spring, fall or summer helps to reduce the chances of winter leaks.
Word of caution
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 problems around your home. Here’s how to identify 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 issue immediately if you notice any of these signs. Disregarding leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Pinpointing Your Leak’s Source
The origin of your leak will determine how you fix it. Unfortunately, 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 very 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 pinpoint the location of your leak. Unsanitary or brown 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 determine the cause of your leak. If the top of the insulation is wet, the leak is likely located above your insulation in the roof or wall.
Fixing Your Leak
Once you know the general location of your leak, it’s time to find the exact cause and fix it. Here’s how:
Gain access to your roof and inspect 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 origin of your plumbing leak difficult. Here’s a quick look at the most common origins 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 determined the origin of your leak.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by inspecting your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. Run your bath or shower and examine your ceiling leak if you don’t notice any damage. 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. 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 inspect 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. If your sliding shower door track is leaking, run a line of caulk along its base. 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. If you see a leak, you could have a bad seal. Replace your wax seal to get rid of your leak. If you continue to have leaks, call a pro. Sometimes this is a sign of other plumbing challenges.
Your home’s plumbing lines can break or corrode and cause leaks. It’s likely the result of a faulty pipe if your leak isn’t below any major appliance or fixture. Remove the affected drywall to gain access to the affected area. It’s best to use a small, handheld saw to clear away wet drywall. Larger saws can damage wiring and other piping. Take a look at the piping for obvious signs of damage once the wet drywall is removed. Water can run along pipes, wires, and joists, so you may have to search for the cause. Once you find the faulty piping, remove the damaged section with a wide pipe cutter. Be sure the blades are rated for your piping’s material. Measure and install your new section of piping. Be prepared to solder if you’re replacing a copper pipe. Soldering requires working with flammable materials. Call a pro if you’re unsure how to perform this task. Soldering mistakes can lead to fires, serious burns, and additional leaks.
Don’t assume it’s your roof if you notice water damage on the ceiling or other signs of a leak.
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, determining the source 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 professional get on your roof and in the attic (if applicable) to better ascertain 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 leaking or dripping
Plumbing pipes are often in your attic and may either be leaking or collecting 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 suggest an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your house or apartment
If your house is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole-house humidifier that is set too high, condensation can accumulate and cause moisture content 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.
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 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. Our best advice is to simply keep those downspouts and gutters cleaned.
4. Ice dam
Walk the perimeter of your home to check for areas where ice may have developed this winter. 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 Protect Against 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 really good rainfalls. You’re probably pretty safe to move forward if it doesn’t.
There are many things we, as property owners, can do to be vigilant in the fight against roof leaks. You can check out your home for the following things before having to call a roofing professional:
• Look for broken 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 split edges.
• Check attic insulation level. 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 storms.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable professional to assist in diagnosing the cause of your challenge. 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 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 build-uping 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. If water accumulates and pools, the entire ceiling could collapse.
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 expert. 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 issue.
An experienced roofing contractor 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. 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 as well.
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. Even if the leak isn’t bad yet. 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 overlooking 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 Service providers Association highly recommends checking out 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 areas
- Spots where outdoors light shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decaying, flaking, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Obstructed or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around chimneys or vents
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 usually just signs of a much larger challenge. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your professional about the condition of your roof regularly.