How to Find the Cause of a Ceiling Leak
Finding the cause of a ceiling leak is comparable to putting together a puzzle. You might possibly think it’s simple enough, however finding where water is coming into the home may be an exercise in hit and miss. Exactly where the water comes into the property may not be at the cause of the water leak. Water pursues the simplest route until it reaches the lowest place or barrier along that path where it starts to merge and leak. A thorough assessment and eliminating the most obvious causes is a great beginning point when you really want to find the cause of the leak in your ceiling.
Determine if the leak comes about only during the course of bad weather or is a continual challenge showers or shine. This is a very good indication 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 consistent when it shines or showers.
Examine the water dripping from the ceiling. There’s a good probability it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture if the water appears fresh. The cause might be a leak in the roof if the water is filthy or stains the ceiling.
Gain access to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place where the ceiling is drenched between roof studs. You will need to get rid of any padding 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 dampness.
Look up at the ceiling while in the attic and note any locations where light shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the space. This will definitely assist you repair the hole and find from on top of the roofing system.
Check the inside of the attic ceiling for water blemishes or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its cause. Make note of the area if there are no visible spaces, as water could be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Examine the roof’s exterior. Use a ladder to gain access to the roof.
Check flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protrusions. Note if there are any wind-lifted, protruding or raised shingles as leak causes.
Analyze all places of the roof where two different components meet, including between house siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or damaged materials as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for blockages. Backed up discharge water can get beneath flashing and create a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need
- Plastic straw
Safety line and other appropriate safety equipment
Every year take a look at your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and almost anything that protrudes through the roof. Annual maintenance in the fall, summer or spring helps to prevent wintertime 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 challenges 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. If you notice any of these signs, address the issue immediately. Ignoring leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Finding Your Leak’s Origin
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 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 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 determine the origin 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 origin and fix it once you know the general location of your leak. Here’s how:
Gain access to your roof and examine 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 toilets and showers 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 found the origin of your leak.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by checking your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. Run your bath or shower and check 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 old or missing. 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 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.
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 get rid of your leak. Call a pro if you continue to have leaks. Sometimes this is a sign of other plumbing issues.
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. 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? In fact, it may not be your roof leaking at all.
At times, figuring out 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.
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 leaking or build-uping 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 assessment 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 accumulate 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.
Moisture content 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 service provider 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 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
Walk the perimeter of your home to check for areas where ice may have accumulated this winter. 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. Draw a circle with a pencil around the stain, and see if the spot grows after a few good rainfalls. You’re probably 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 service provider:
• Look for cracked 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 notably with wind-driven storms.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable specialist to assist in diagnosing the cause of your problem. Most roof evaluations 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 accumulating 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 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 source, 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 expert. 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 challenge.
An experienced roofing contractor 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 the underside of the roof sheeting can show signs of water damage, however it is not a foolproof method so checking 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. Even if the leak isn’t bad. 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 Service providers Association highly 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:
- Dark areas
- Spots where outdoors light shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decomposing, peeling, broken, blistering, or buckling shingles
• Clogged or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around vents or chimneys
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 commonly just signs of a much larger problem. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your specialist about the condition of your roof routinely.