Precisely how to Identify 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. A thorough checkup and getting rid of the most obvious causes is a very good beginning point when you want to pinpoint the origin of the leak in your ceiling.
Find out if the leak occurs only in the middle of bad weather or is a continuous challenge storm or shine. If the leak dries out between storms, this is a very good evidence that the leak starts somewhere on the roof. If the leak is steady when it shines or rains, the leak probably comes from a plumbing water supply line.
Analyze the water seeping from the ceiling. If the water appears fresh, there’s a good possibility it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture. The cause might be a leak in the roofing if the water is unclean or stains the ceiling.
Gain access to the attic and, with a flashlight, locate the place where the ceiling is wet between roof studs. You will need to get rid of any padding in the pathway 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 in the attic and note any areas where light shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the hole. This will definitely really help 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 cavities, as water might be getting under roof causing the leak and flashing.
Inspect the roof’s exterior. Use a ladder to gain access to the roof.
Take a look at flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protrusions. Note if there are any wind-lifted, bulging or raised shingles as leak causes.
Review all regions of the roof where two separate components meet, including between exterior siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or affected materials as causes of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for clogs. Backed up drainage water can get beneath flashing and result in a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need To Have
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other proper safety equipment
On a yearly basis examine your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and anything that protrudes through the roof. Yearly maintenance in the summer, fall or spring helps to prevent wintertime leaks.
Word of caution
Use rubber-soled sneakers 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 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.
Determining Your Leak’s Cause
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 very good indicator of your leak’s location. Dripping that coincides with rain 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 identify the cause 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
Once you know the general location of your leak, it’s time to find the exact cause and fix it. 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 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 toilets and showers are likely to blame. 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 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 examining the open ceiling for leaks. You’ve pinpointed the origin of your leak if you see water dripping. Here’s how to repair leaking bathroom fixtures.
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. 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. Run a line of caulk along its base if your sliding shower door track is leaking. Call a pro if your leaks continue. 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. You could have a bad seal if you see a leak. 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 break or corrode and cause leaks. It’s likely the result of a faulty pipe if your leak isn’t below any major appliance or fixture. 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. Check the piping for obvious signs of damage once the wet drywall is removed. 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.
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? It may not be your roof leaking at all.
At times, figuring out 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 contractor 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 leaking or accumulating 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 checkup and recommend an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your house
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 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 moisture content 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
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 gutters and downspouts 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 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 really good rainfalls. You’re probably pretty safe to move forward if it doesn’t.
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 broken 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 broken edges.
• Check attic insulation level. 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, especially 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 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 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 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. If water build-ups 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 origin, 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 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. 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 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 overlooking 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 Contractors 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 spots
- Spots where outdoors sunlight shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, decomposing, flaking, broken, blistering, or buckling shingles
• Clogged 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 typically just signs of a much larger problem. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your service provider about the condition of your roof on a regular basis.