Exactly how to Determine the Cause of a Ceiling Leaking
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 evaluation and removing the most obvious causes is a really good starting point when you want to determine the source of the leak in your ceiling.
If the leak happens only during bad weather or is a continual issue showers or shine, identify. 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 related water supply line if the leak is constant when it rains or shines.
Take a look at the water trickling from the ceiling. There’s a good chance it comes from a leaking plumbing line or fixture if the water appears fresh. The source 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 precisely where the ceiling is damp between roof beams. You will need to take out any padding in the path of the leak. If there is a plumbing line near the leak, like the supply line for a swamp cooler, check the line for leaks or dampness.
Look up at the ceiling at the same time in the attic and note any spots where light shines through. Insert a plastic straw through the space. This will definitely assist you find and repair the hole from on top of the roof.
Inspect the inside of the attic ceiling for water spots or trails. Follow the water trail or stain to its source. Make note of the area if there are no apparent gaps, as water might be getting under roof flashing and causing the leak.
Check 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. Inspect flashing around chimneys, dormer vents or other roof protuberances. Look for any shingles in need of repair. Note if there are any wind-lifted, bulging or raised shingles as leak causes.
Go over all places of the roof where two different materials meet, such as between exterior siding, shingles or flashing. Look for corroded or damaged materials as origins of ceiling leaks.
Check gutters and downspouts for obstructions. Backed up drainage water can get underneath flashing and result in a ceiling to leak.
Things You Will Need To Have
- Plastic straw
- Step ladder
Safety line and other ideal safety equipment
Annually take a look at your roof and re-tar or use roof cement around plumbing vents, attic dormer vents, chimneys and anything that extends through the roof. Annual repair and maintenance in the summer, fall or spring helps to reduce the chances of wintertime leaks.
Work safely when using a step ladder. Confirm the step ladder is planted securely before climbing. When accessing the roof, Use rubber-soled shoes. Tie off a safety line on something secure to break any tumbles from the roof. Use the appropriate safety equipment.
How to Fix Your Leaking Ceiling
In addition to being an eyesore, leaking ceilings can cause major challenges around your home. Here’s how to find and stop your ceiling leaks.
Spotting Your Leak
Wet flooring and dark-colored or brown 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.
Pinpointing Your Leak’s Source
The origin of your leak will ascertain 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 good indicator of your leak’s location. Dripping that coincides with storm 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 find the location of your leak. Clear dripping is usually the sign of an interior plumbing leak.
Insulation Dryness: Attic insulation will also help you pinpoint the source 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 moisture content or signs of damage. 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 origin 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 causes 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 pinpointed the origin of your leak. 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 out your ceiling leak. Call a pro if the leak persists.
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 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, inspect the piping for obvious signs of damage. Water can run along beams, pipes, and wires, so you may have to search for the cause. 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, ascertaining 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. It’s best to have an experienced professional 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 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 leaking or dripping
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 contractor should be able to spot this during the inspection and recommend an HVAC company who can help.
2. Condensation inside your home
If your home is not properly vented, insulated or has a whole-house humidifier that is set too high, condensation can develop and cause moisture content in the home, most 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.
Moisture 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 build up of debris in your gutters. Our best advice is to simply keep those gutters and downspouts cleaned.
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 very good rainfalls. You’re most likely 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 service provider:
• 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 split 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 especially with wind-driven showers.
Remember, when in doubt, call a reputable professional to assist in diagnosing the cause of your issue. Most roof assessments 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 gathering and puncture it right in the middle. It might seem strange to punch a hole in your ceiling to prevent a leak, the new hole will allow the water to drain smoothly and relieve pressure on the rest of your ceiling. If water gathers and pools, the entire ceiling could collapse.
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 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 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 issue.
An experienced roofing specialist will inspect 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
It is important to act quickly when it comes to a roof leak. Even if the leak isn’t bad. Dodging and disregarding will not fix a leak in your roof.
On the inside, you should look for:
- Dark areas
- Spots where outside sunlight shines through
On the outside, you should keep an eye out for:
• Missing, warped, rotting, flaking, broken, blistering, or twisting shingles
• Clogged 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 typically just signs of a much larger challenge. Be vigilant, search for leaks, and talk with your specialist about the condition of your roof routinely.