How to Pinpoint the Cause of a Ceiling Leakage
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 assessment and eliminating the most obvious causes is a good starting point when you want to pinpoint the origin of the leak in your ceiling.
Figure out if the leak manifests only in the middle of bad weather or is a regular issue showers or shine. If the leak dries out between storms, this is a great indication that the leak starts someplace on the roof. The leak probably comes from a plumbing water supply line if the leak is steady when it shines or storms.
Take a look at the water seeping from the ceiling. If the water appears fresh, there’s a very good chance it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. If the water is dirty or stains the ceiling, the cause might be a leak in the roof.
Access to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place exactly where the ceiling is wet between roof beams. You will need to take off any insulation in the way of the leak. If there is a plumbing line near the leak, for example the supply line for a swamp cooler, check the line for leaks or moisture content.
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 opening. This will definitely help you repair the hole and find from on top of the rooftop.
Check out 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 visible gaps, as water could be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Examine the roof’s exterior. Use a step ladder to access 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 protrusions. Look for any shingles in need of repair. Note if there are any wind-lifted, bulging or raised shingles as leak origins.
Review all spots of the roof where two separate materials meet, including between house siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or destroyed components as causes of ceiling leaks.
Check gutter systems and downspouts for clogs. Backed up discharge water can get under flashing and result in a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need To Have
- Plastic straw
Safety line and other proper safety equipment
On a yearly basis take a look at your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and almost anything that extends through the roof. Annual repair and maintenance in the fall, summer or spring helps to protect against wintertime leaks.
When using a step ladder, work safely. Confirm the ladder is planted securely before climbing. Use rubber-soled shoes when accessing the roof. Tie off a safety line on something secure to break any tumbles from the roof. Use the appropriate safety equipment.
How to Repair Your Leaking Ceiling
In addition to being an eyesore, leaking ceilings can cause major challenges around your home. Here’s how to determine 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. Overlooking leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Pinpointing Your Leak’s Source
The origin of your leak will find out how you fix it. Unfortunately, finding the location of your leak isn’t always easy. Water can travel considerable distances before eventually pooling and dripping. 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 find the location of your leak. Clear dripping is usually the sign of an interior plumbing leak.
Insulation Dryness: Attic insulation will also help you determine the origin of your leak. Gain access to your attic and feel the top of the insulation covering the leaking portion of your ceiling. Your leak is below your insulation if it’s dry. Look and remove the insulation for wetness 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 origin 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 find the affected portion of your roof during repairs. If there’s no obvious damage, check out your attic ceilings and walls for water stains or trails. 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 an issue 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 origin of your plumbing leak difficult. Here’s a quick look at the most common origins of plumbing leaks and how to fix them.
Plumbing fixtures like toilets and showers are likely to blame if your leak is directly below your bathroom. Survey your bathroom to pinpoint 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 joists, 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 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 checking your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. If you don’t notice any damage, run your bath or shower and inspect your ceiling leak. Call a pro if the leak persists.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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, identifying the source 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.
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. 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 examination and highly 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 wetness 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.
Wetness 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 contractor 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 buildup of debris in your gutters. Our best advice is to simply keep those gutters and downspouts cleaned.
4. Ice dam
Walk the perimeter of your home to check for areas where ice may have accumulated 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 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.
There are many things we, as homeowners, 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 specialist:
• Look for fractured 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 cracked 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, most especially with wind-driven storms.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable professional to assist in diagnosing the cause of your challenge. Most roof examinations 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
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 building up 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 builds up 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 source, 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 contractor 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 specialist 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. Even if the leak isn’t bad. Dodging and disregarding will not fix a leak in your roof.
On the inside, you should look for:
- Dark spots
- Spots where outside light shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, rotting, flaking, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Blocked 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 typically just signs of a much larger issue. Both danger and the probability of structural erosion increase if unaddressed. Regular evaluations are your best defense against a leaky roof. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your professional about the condition of your roof regularly.