How to Determine the Source 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 thorough inspection and eliminating the most obvious causes is a really good beginning point when you want to identify the cause of the leak in your ceiling.
If the leak happens only during bad weather or is a continuous challenge rain or shine, determine. 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 related water supply line if the leak is constant when it showers or shines.
Take a look at the water seeping from the ceiling. If the water appears fresh, there’s a great chance it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. The origin might be a leak in the roofing if the water is unsanitary or stains the ceiling.
Get to to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place precisely where the ceiling is moist somewhere between roof beams. You will need to take off any padding in the way 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 at the same time in the attic and note any spots where sunlight shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the opening. This will assist you find and repair the hole from atop the rooftop.
Check out the inside of the attic ceiling for water spots or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its cause. Make note of the area if there are no apparent cavities, as water could be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Check the roof’s exterior. Use a step ladder to gain access to the roof.
Inspect flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protrusions. Note if there are any wind-lifted, protruding or raised shingles as leak causes.
Review all places of the roof where two different building materials meet, like between siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or destroyed components as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for blockages. Backed up drainage water can get underneath flashing and create a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need To Have
- Plastic straw
Safety line and other proper 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 almost anything that protrudes through the roof. Yearly repair and maintenance in the spring, summer or fall helps to prevent wintertime leaks.
Word of caution
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 determine and stop your ceiling leaks.
Spotting Your Leak
Leaking ceilings can also cause bubbling paint and wet walls. Ignoring leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Determining Your Leak’s Cause
Finding the location of your leak isn’t always easy. 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. If you notice a steady flow of water, your leak is likely plumbing-related.
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 pinpoint 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
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 identify the affected portion of your roof during repairs. Check out 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 origin 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 inspect the leaking area. Replace any damaged or deteriorated 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 causes of plumbing leaks and how to fix them.
If your leak is directly below your bathroom, plumbing fixtures like showers and toilets are likely to blame. To double check, recreate the leak by running your shower or toilet and then examining the open ceiling for leaks. If you see water dripping, you’ve pinpointed the source of your leak.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by examining your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. Run your bath or shower and check out your ceiling leak if you don’t notice any damage. 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 your gasket. Replace it with a new one if your drain’s gasket is missing or old. 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 get rid of your leak. Call a pro if you continue to have leaks.
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. Check out the piping for obvious signs of damage once the wet drywall is removed. Water can run along joists, pipes, and wires, so you may have to search for the origin. Remove the damaged section with a wide pipe cutter once you find the faulty piping. Be sure the blades are rated for your piping’s material. Measure and install your new section of piping. If you’re replacing a copper pipe, be prepared to solder. 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.
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, figuring out 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 specialist 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 accumulating 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 assessment and strongly recommend 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 develop and cause wetness 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
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
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 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 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 check 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 first. Be sure someone 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 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, most notably 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
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 container, 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 decrease 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. If water build-ups 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. As you may already recognize, unfortunately if your roof is actively leaking due to weather, a roofing specialist can not repair the leak until that weather condition has stopped.
An experienced roofing professional will inspect your roof both from the exterior of the roof itself as well as the inside of your home, typically through the attic. Inspecting the underside of the roof sheeting can show signs of water damage, however it is not a foolproof method so examining the roof for damage is needed.
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 house owners that they noticed a stain on their ceiling or possibly some bubbling for awhile but thought it wasn’t serious. Avoidance and disregarding 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 Contractors Association strongly 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 outside light shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decomposing, flaking, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Clogged 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 commonly just signs of a much larger challenge. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your service provider about the condition of your roof routinely.