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How to Identify a Roof Leak

Repairing a leak as soon as it starts is important, it could mean the difference between a small repair or a full roof replacement. The difficult part is finding where the leak is coming from.  The size of the leak could make a difference in the difficulty of finding it; smaller leaks are harder to locate but can cause the same amount of damage as a bigger leak.

Following the next steps will help you identify where leaks are coming from and prevent unnecessary work.

Locate the Tell-Tale Signs

Where do you see signs of a leak?

  • Is there water pouring through your living room?
  • Do you smell mold when walking past a certain place?
  • Or is there a creeping water stain on the ceiling?

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the leak is directly overhead. That’s because once water breaches the roof, it can spread virtually anywhere through the insulation and interior structure.

However, finding the leak will be much easier if you have a sense of where to start looking.

Check the Attic

Next check the attic. The attic is the part of your house that’s closest to the roof and you’re likely to find the source of any leaks.

Bring a flashlight with you if there isn’t sufficient lighting and check around the attic to detect leaks or signs of moisture.

  • Do you see any mold, mildew, dark stains, or wet areas?
  • Or can you smell mildew, mold, or rot?
  • Is any of the wood framing rotted, breaking off, or deteriorating?

Do a general check first. If you see signs of moisture, look closer at those areas. If you don’t, you’ll need to look at the entire attic with more scrutiny.

Check the Insulation

Now evaluate the attic’s insulation. Is it damaged or compromised in any way?

Look for:

  • discoloration
  • mold or mildew
  • sogginess

If you spot anything like this, move the insulation aside and look behind it.

Check the Vapor Barrier

The vapor barrier is a piece of plastic lining between the attic’s insulation and its drywall. Its purpose is to keep heat in and block excess moisture.

Leaks often show up on the vapor barrier and it’s easy to see any moisture or wet spots. However, it can be a lot of work to pull all the insulation aside to get to the plastic lining.

So, this is better done after you’ve found a compromised insulation section.

Check the Roof from Inside

Now, look at the interior side of the roof itself. If insulation is covering it, you might want to start by pulling away any areas that look damaged. Otherwise, use your flashlight to do a careful spot check.

Look for:

  • Damaged wood
  • Stains
  • Rot
  • Moist spots
  • Shiner nails
  • Loose vents or plumbing

Moisture spots and damaged wood are easy to see. However, shiner nails and loose vents can be a little more work.

A shiner nail is basically a misplaced roofing nail. This is when roofing installers miss the rafters or intended framing and end up driving nails into the attic. Shiner nails become entryways for small amounts of water to get through.

You can detect a shiner nail with your flashlight. If it’s cold outside, this will be even easier since condensed moisture will freeze over and make the nail appear white.

You should also check all the vents and plumbing that go to the outside. See if the seal is still tight on these. These areas can loosen over time and allow moisture to get in.

Check Under the Roof’s Eaves

Now it’s time to get outside. Start by checking the integrity of the roof’s eaves. If the overhanging ledge is damaged, water can leak through the sides of your roof.

The eaves can be damaged by flying objects. There are also vents here that can sometimes lose their seal or be vulnerable to animals.

  • First, look up and see if there’s any visible damage, tears, or openings.
  • Then grab a ladder and check out any vents that are here.

Check the Roof’s Surface

We don’t encourage homeowners to get onto their roofs, if you are going to get o a ladder please follow this ladder safety guide. If you feel comfortable doing so, get up on the roof and see if things look normal or okay. Anything that breaks the shingles’ integrity poses a risk for leaks.

Check the shingling for:

  • stains
  • lifting
  • broken pieces
  • gaps
  • green or dark growth

Issues like this need to be repaired right away.

While you’re doing this, check around the rooftop vents and any protrusions like the chimney or attic dormers and see if the seals around these are loosened. 

Spray the Roof with Water

A final step you can take is to spray or drench the roof with water and see where any water comes out. This will obviously result in more water getting into your house, so it should be used as a last resort.

You will need a partner for this. One person needs to be inside the house looking for leaks, while the other person hoses the roof down.

But you can’t just spray indiscriminately. This needs to be done by flooding specific areas of the roof in isolation.

You can start by spraying over the place closest to where your indoor leak is. Or just make your way across the roof. Be very careful to do this section by section so you can find precisely where the leak is.

Once you find the place, you can lift up the shingles in that area to see if the underlayment and structure beneath are water damaged, moldy, rotted, or broken.

Get Your Roof Repaired

Found the leak? It’s time to get it repaired. Get in touch with us and we’ll send a team right out to you.

And if you weren’t able to locate the source, all you have to do is ask us to find it for you. We’ll do an inspection, see what needs fixing, and get to work.At AGR Roofing and Solar , we’ve been repairing roofs in Omaha, Nebraska for over 20 years. We’ve provided quality, affordable roofing work to thousands of other homeowners. And we’ll do the same for you. Call us at 402-639-1218 or email us at [email protected].

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