How to Determine 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. An extensive checkup and removing the most obvious causes is a really good starting point when you want to identify the source of the leak in your ceiling.
If the leak comes about only during bad weather or is a continual problem storm or shine, identify. This is a really good evidence that the leak starts someplace 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 shines or storms.
Examine the water seeping from the ceiling. If the water looks as if fresh, there’s a good chance it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. The cause might be a leak in the roof 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 drenched in between roof joists. You will need to remove 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 content.
Look up at the ceiling while at the same time in the attic and note any locations where light shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the gap. This will definitely assist 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 noticeable spaces, as water may be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Check out the roof’s exterior. Use a 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 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 origins.
Look at all areas of the roof where two different building materials meet, including between exterior siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or damaged materials as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check gutter systems and downspouts for clogs. 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 relevant safety equipment
On a yearly basis inspect 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 routine maintenance in the summer, spring 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 issues around your home. Here’s how to pinpoint 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 Source
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 good indicator of your leak’s location. Dripping that coincides with showers 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 pinpoint 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 source 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 content 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 source and fix it. Here’s how:
Gain access to your roof and check out 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 source of your plumbing leak difficult. Here’s a quick look at the most common sources 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 find 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 beams, 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 taking a look at the open ceiling for leaks. You’ve determined the cause of your leak if you see water dripping. Here’s how to repair leaking bathroom fixtures.
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 check 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 take a look at 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. If your leaks continue, call a pro. 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 eliminate 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 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, joists, 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. 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. 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 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. If applicable) to better ascertain where the leak is coming from, it’s best to have an experienced service provider get on your roof and in the attic (.
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 leaking or dripping
Plumbing pipes are often in your attic and may either be accumulating 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 inspection and suggest 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, specifically 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 contractor 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 buildup 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 Prevent 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 inspect your home for the following things before having to call a roofing professional:
• 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 fractured 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, particularly with wind-driven rains.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable professional to assist in diagnosing the cause of your challenge. 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 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. 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 decrease 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. 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 gathers and pools.
Cover the exterior surface with a large tarp if you are confident you know where the leak is coming from and can safely get to the source. If you can’t reach it, or feel unsafe doing so, it would be best to immediately contact a roofing contractor. 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 specialist 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 challenge.
An experienced roofing expert 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 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. Even if the leak isn’t bad yet. 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 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 Specialists Association strongly recommends inspecting 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:
- Darker areas
- 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
• Clogged or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around chimneys or vents
It can most likely be spot-repaired instead of requiring a total replacement if your roof is fewer than 15 years old. 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. If unaddressed, both danger and the probability of structural erosion increase. Regular evaluations 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.