Exactly how to Determine the Cause of a Ceiling Leak
Finding the cause of a ceiling leak is similar to putting together a puzzle. You may think it’s simple enough, although locating precisely where water is entering the house may be an exercise in trial and error. Precisely where the water goes into the house may not be at the cause of the leakage. Water pursues the easiest pathway until it reaches the lowest spot or barrier throughout that path where it starts to pool and leak. When you really want to find the origin of the leak in your ceiling, a thorough examination and doing away with the most obvious causes is a great beginning point.
Find out if the leak crops up only during bad weather or is a continual challenge showers or shine. If the leak dries out between storms, this is a good indication that the leak begins someplace or other on the roof. If the leak is regular when it showers or shines, the leak most likely comes from a plumbing water supply line.
Inspect the water dripping from the ceiling. There’s a really good probability it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture if the water appears fresh. If the water is filthy or stains the ceiling, the source might be a leak in the roof.
Gain access to the attic and, with a flashlight, locate the place precisely where the ceiling is soaked in 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 instance 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 areas where sunlight shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the hole. This will assist 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 cause. Make note of the area if there are no obvious holes, as water could be getting under roof flashing and causing the leak.
Check the roof’s exterior. Use a step ladder to get to the roof.
Inspect flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protuberances. Note if there are any wind-lifted, standing out or raised shingles as leak sources.
Go over all places of the roof where two different components meet, such as between siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or damaged components as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for clogs. Backed up drainage water can get underneath flashing and cause a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need To Have
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other relevant 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 projects through the roof. Annual routine maintenance in the fall, summer or spring 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 determine 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.
Pinpointing Your Leak’s Cause
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 pooling and dripping. 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. 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 find the location of your leak. Brown or filthy water is usually a sign of a leaking roof. Water making its way into your home from your roof picks up dirt and other impurities along the way. Clear dripping is usually the sign of an interior plumbing leak. Water leaking from pipes won’t attract as much dirt and grime.
Insulation Dryness: Attic insulation will also help you pinpoint the source 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 find the affected portion of your roof during repairs. If there’s no obvious damage, take a look at 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 a problem with your flashing, shingles or vent gaskets. Gain access to your roof and examine 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 toilets and showers 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 pinpointed 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 examine your ceiling leak. 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. 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. Call a pro if the leak persists. This could be the sign of a more serious plumbing problem.
Shower Leaks: Spray water along your shower door and examine 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 remove 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 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. Take a look at the piping for obvious signs of damage once the wet drywall is removed. Water can run along beams, wires, and pipes, 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. 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. 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, determining the origin 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. If applicable) to better find out where the leak is coming from, it’s best to have an experienced professional 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 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 professional 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, particularly your attic.
Keep in mind, whole-house humidifiers should not be set at more than 30 percent, per manufacturer guidelines, to avoid this issue.
Dampness in a crawl space can also be a factor. The moisture 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
Walk the perimeter of your home to check for areas where ice may have developed 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 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.
There are many things we, as homeowners, 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 specialist:
• Look for fractured or missing shingles. If you have to get on the roof, safety first. Be sure somebody is holding the step 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 cracked 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 rains.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable specialist to assist in diagnosing the cause of your problem. Most roof checkups 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.
Next, take an old screwdriver, locate the center of the bulge where water is build-uping and puncture it right in the middle. 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 collects 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 know, unfortunately if your roof is actively leaking due to weather, a roofing professional can not repair the leak until that weather condition has stopped.
An experienced roofing service provider will examine your roof both from the exterior of the roof itself as well as the inside of your home, typically through the attic. Checking out the underside of the roof sheeting can show signs of water damage, however it is not a foolproof method so inspecting the roof for damage is needed as well.
Dangers of Waiting
It is important to act quickly when it comes to a roof leak. 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 home owners 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 taking a look at 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 spots
- Spots where outdoors light shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, rotting, peeling, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Plugged or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around chimneys or vents
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 usually just signs of a much larger challenge. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your service provider about the condition of your roof on a regular basis.