Exactly how to Determine the Source of a Ceiling Leaking
Finding the source of a ceiling leak is quite similar to constructing a puzzle. You may assume it’s simple enough, but finding where water is entering into the home or apartment might just be an exercise in trial and error. Where the water gets in the house may not be at the cause of the leakage. Water pursues the easiest path until it reaches the lowest point or obstruction throughout that course where it starts to pool and leak. A comprehensive assessment and getting rid of the most obvious causes is a great starting point when you really want to find the origin of the leak in your ceiling.
Figure out if the leak crops up only during bad weather or is a regular issue storm or shine. If the leak dries out between storms, this is a good evidence that the leak begins somewhere on the roof. The leak most likely comes from a plumbing water supply line if the leak is consistent when it shines or storms.
Inspect the water leaking from the ceiling. There’s a great possibility it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture if the water appears fresh. If the water is unclean or stains the ceiling, the source might be a leak in the roof.
Get to to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place where the ceiling is moist between roof joists. You will need to take off any padding in the pathway 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 in the attic and note any locations where sunlight shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the gap. This will definitely really help you find and repair the hole from atop the roof.
Take a look at the inside of the attic ceiling for water stains or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its origin. Make note of the area if there are no obvious cavities, as water could be getting under roof flashing and causing the leak.
Check out the roof’s exterior. Use a ladder to gain access to the roof.
Check out flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protuberances. Note if there are any wind-lifted, bulging or raised shingles as leak sources.
Analyze all locations of the roof where two different building materials meet, such as between exterior siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or affected components as causes of ceiling leaks.
Check gutter systems and downspouts for clogs. Backed up discharge water can get underneath flashing and trigger a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other proper safety equipment
Every year check your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and nearly anything that projects through the roof. Yearly repair and maintenance in the spring, fall or summer helps to prevent wintertime leaks.
Work safely when using a ladder. 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 drops from the roof. Use the appropriate safety equipment.
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 pinpoint and stop your ceiling leaks.
Spotting Your Leak
Wet flooring and brown or dark-colored splotches on your ceiling are common signs of a leak. Leaking ceilings can also cause bubbling paint and wet walls. Address the problem immediately if you notice any of these signs. Ignoring leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Pinpointing Your Leak’s Origin
The origin 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 great 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 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 find 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 moisture 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
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 origin 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 showers and toilets are likely to blame. To double check, recreate the leak by running your shower or toilet and then checking the open ceiling for leaks. If you see water dripping, you’ve identified the cause of your leak.
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 check your ceiling leak. Call a pro if the leak persists.
Shower Leaks: Spray water along your shower door and inspect 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.
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 do away with your leak. Call a pro if you continue to have leaks. Sometimes this is a sign of other plumbing problems.
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. 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. Once the wet drywall is removed, take a look at the piping for obvious signs of damage. Water can run along wires, beams, and pipes, 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.
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, ascertaining 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. It’s best to have an experienced professional get on your roof and in the attic (if applicable) to better determine 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 building up or leaking 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 examination and 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 develop and cause dampness in the home, most 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.
Moisture in a crawl space can also be a factor. The dampness 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. 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 Avoid 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. Draw a circle with a pencil around the stain, and see if the spot grows after a few very good rainfalls. If it doesn’t, you’re most likely pretty safe to move forward.
There are many things we, as house 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 service provider:
• 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 broken 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 rains.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable contractor to assist in diagnosing the cause of your problem. 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 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 collected water. This will lessen the repetitive dripping sound.
Next, take an old screwdriver, locate the center of the bulge where water is collecting and puncture it right in the middle. It might seem strange to punch a hole in your ceiling to eliminate 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 gathers and pools.
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. As you may already recognize, unfortunately if your roof is actively leaking due to weather, a roofing expert can not repair the leak until that weather has stopped.
An experienced roofing expert 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. Examining 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. 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 sunlight shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, rotting, flaking, broken, blistering, or buckling 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 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 issue. Both danger and the probability of structural erosion increase if unaddressed. Regular examinations 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.