The best way to Identify the Cause of a Ceiling Leakage
Finding the cause of a ceiling leak is very similar to assembling a puzzle. You may perhaps believe it’s straightforward enough, however identifying precisely where water is entering into the home may be an exercise in hit and miss. Exactly where the water comes into the home or apartment may not be at the cause of the leakage. Water follows the simplest path until it gets to the lowest spot or obstruction along that path where it begins to pool and leak. A thorough assessment and eliminating the most obvious causes is a very good starting point when you really want to pinpoint the cause of the leak in your ceiling.
If the leak crops up only during bad weather or is a continuous problem rain or shine, ascertain. This is a good evidence that the leak begins someplace on the roof if the leak dries out between storms. The leak probably comes from a plumbing related water supply line if the leak is regular when it shines or rains.
Take a look at the water seeping 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 unclean or stains the ceiling, the source might be a leak in the roof.
Access to the attic and, with a flashlight, find the place precisely where the ceiling is watery between roof joists. You will need to take out 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 dampness.
Look up at the ceiling while in the attic and note any spots where light shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the gap. This will definitely help you repair the hole and find from on top of the rooftop.
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 apparent gaps, as water may be getting under roof flashing and causing the leak.
Inspect the roof’s exterior. Use a step 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 origins.
Analyze all spots of the roof where two different components meet, such as between siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or ruined materials as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check rain gutters and downspouts for clogs. Backed up drainage water can get under flashing and result in a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Require
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other ideal safety equipment
Annually examine your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and just about anything that protrudes through the roof. Annual maintenance in the summer, spring or fall helps to reduce the chances of wintertime leaks.
Work safely when using a step 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 tumbles from the roof. Use the appropriate safety equipment.
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 find 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. Overlooking leaks can lead to structural damage and mold and mildew growth.
Finding Your Leak’s Source
The origin of your leak will figure out how you fix it. Unfortunately, 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 great indicator of your leak’s location. Dripping that coincides with rain 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. Brown or unsanitary 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 identify the cause of your leak. Gain access to your attic and feel the top of the insulation covering the leaking portion of your ceiling. Your leak is below your insulation if it’s dry. Look and remove the insulation for wetness 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 inspect 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 origins 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. Survey your bathroom to pinpoint 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 joists, 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 checking the open ceiling for leaks. If you see water dripping, you’ve determined the source of your leak. Here’s how to repair leaking bathroom fixtures.
Bathtub Leaks: Begin by examining your bathtub or shower insert for cracks. If you don’t notice any damage, run your bath or shower and examine your ceiling leak. 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 examine your gasket. Replace it with a new one if your drain’s gasket is old or missing. You can also use plumber’s putty to create a seal if you don’t have a gasket replacement. 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. You could have a bad seal if you see a leak. Replace your wax seal to get rid of your leak. If you continue to have leaks, call a pro. 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, determining the source 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 specialist 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. 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 gathering 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 assessment and suggest an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your home or apartment
If your home is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole-house humidifier that is set too high, condensation can build up and cause moisture content in the home, 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.
Dampness 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 buildup of debris in your gutters. Our best advice is to simply keep those gutters and downspouts cleaned.
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 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.
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 fractured or missing shingles. If you have to get on the roof, safety first. Be sure somebody 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 loose or damaged 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 challenge. 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 gathering 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 accumulates 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. 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 service provider 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 service provider will take a look at 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 inspecting the roof for damage is needed.
Dangers of Waiting
It is important to act quickly when it comes to a roof leak. Even if the leak isn’t bad. Avoidance and disregarding will not fix a leak in your roof.
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, decaying, peeling, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Plugged or slow-draining gutters/downspouts
• Loose material or wear around chimneys or vents
It can probably 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 challenge. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your contractor about the condition of your roof regularly.