How to Find the Cause 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 inspection and removing the most obvious causes is a good beginning point when you want to identify the origin of the leak in your ceiling.
If the leak comes about only during bad weather or is a consistent challenge showers or shine, identify. This is a good evidence that the leak starts somewhere on the roof if the leak dries out between storms. The leak most likely comes from a plumbing water supply line if the leak is steady when it storms or shines.
Take a look at the water dripping from the ceiling. If the water seems fresh, there’s a really good probability it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. The source might be a leak in the roofing if the water is unclean or stains the ceiling.
Access to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place precisely where the ceiling is soaked between roof beams. You will need to remove any insulation in the pathway of the leak. If there is a plumbing line near the leak, such as the supply line for a swamp cooler, check the line for leaks or moisture content.
Look up at the ceiling at the same time in the attic and note any spots where sunlight shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the hole. This will really help you repair the hole and find from atop the roof.
Check out the inside of the attic ceiling for water discolorations or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its source. Make note of the area if there are no visible holes, as water may be getting under roof flashing and causing the leak.
Examine the roof’s exterior. Use a step ladder to gain 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 out 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 causes.
Analyze all places of the roof where two different materials meet, like between exterior siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or ruined materials as causes of ceiling leaks.
Check gutter systems and downspouts for blockages. Backed up drainage water can get underneath flashing and create a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Require
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other ideal safety equipment
Each year examine your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and anything that protrudes through the roof. Yearly repair and maintenance in the spring, summer or fall helps to prevent 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 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. Overlooking leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Finding Your Leak’s Cause
The origin of your leak will determine 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 really 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 determine the location of your leak. Clear dripping is usually the sign of an interior plumbing leak.
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 dampness 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
Once you know the general location of your leak, it’s time to find the exact origin 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 cause 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 showers and toilets are likely to blame if your leak is directly below your bathroom. 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 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. If you see water dripping, you’ve identified the origin of your leak. 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 take a look at your ceiling leak. If you see drips, you’re likely suffering from a faulty drain gasket. Remove your old shower drain (most unscrew with a tub tool or channel-lock pliers) and check out 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. If the leak persists, call a pro. This could be the sign of a more serious plumbing problem.
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.
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 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. 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. Check out the piping for obvious signs of damage once the wet drywall is removed. Water can run along wires, pipes, and beams, so you may have to search for the source. 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. If you’re unsure how to perform this task, call a pro. 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. 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, determining 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.
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 find out 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 build-uping or leaking 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 checkup and strongly 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 build up and cause moisture in the home, most notably 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 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 gutters and downspouts cleaned.
4. Ice dam
Walk the perimeter of your home to check for areas where ice may have built up 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 Protect Against 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.
There are many things we, as property owners, can do to be vigilant in the fight against roof leaks. You can examine 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 fractured 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 especially with wind-driven storms.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable specialist to assist in diagnosing the cause of your problem. Most roof inspections 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 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 build-uped water. This will lessen the repetitive dripping sound.
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. The entire ceiling could collapse if water collects and pools.
If you are confident you know where the leak is coming from and can safely get to the origin, 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 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 expert 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 take a look at 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 taking a look at the roof for damage is needed as well.
Dangers of Waiting
When it comes to a roof leak, it is important to act quickly. 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 homeowners 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 Specialists 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 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 ordinarily just signs of a much larger issue. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your professional about the condition of your roof routinely.